Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gustaf's Challenge

Five small bites of pizza crust.

That’s all that stands between my Swedish friend Gustaf Lunnergard and the Ruckus Pizza Challenge Wall of Fame.  

The challenge entails consuming a colossal 24-inch pizza with two veggie and two meat toppings in one hour or less. More than 130 have attempted it; only four have prevailed.

Nearly 20 friends and colleagues gather to watch and support Gustaf.  He chooses his toppings wisely: spinach, basil, Canadian bacon and chicken. The challenge begins at 1:06 p.m. on Thursday.

A lean runner with the metabolism of an Olympian, I presume Gustaf has a better chance than most of slaying the challenge. I have also seen him consume massive amounts of food in short amounts of time. Did I mention that Gustaf might weigh 135 pounds soaking wet?

“I’m really hungry!” Gustaf pronounces. Just then, the pizza arrives. “Are you kidding me? He has to eat that whole thing?” one friend asks when seeing the enormous size of the pizza.

Ten minutes into it, Gustaf has tossed down nearly three pieces of the eight placed before him. “You’ve got this!” one friend says confidently. I nod in agreement.

At 1:21 p.m., he tears into his fifth piece, on pace to shatter the existing record of devouring a behemoth pie in only 31 minutes.  Gustaf is in the zone, slowing down just long enough to wipe his mouth with a napkin and elicit an occasional belch.

At 1:35 p.m., however, just after polishing off six and a half pieces of pizza, Gustaf utters these troubling words: “I’m feeling pretty full.” A brief look of doubt comes across his face.

Gustaf takes the next 15 minutes to rest. According to Ruckus managing partner Ryan Pilz, no one has ever completed the Ruckus Challenge in more than 40 minutes. In other words, speed is of the essence.

Gustaf is in danger. He has 16 minutes left to finish the last one and a half pieces. “I have no more room in my stomach,” Gustaf admits.  He stands. He paces back and forth. He unbuttons his pants. Nothing seems to help.

Somehow, though, with just six minutes left, Gustaf finds another gear. He manages to choke down another piece, leaving him just half a piece to go.

Hope abounds!

“Gustaf, you have just three minutes left,” I tell him. “You are so close!”

He breaks the remaining partial slice into six smaller pieces.  He hoists one bite of crust to his mouth and chews.  Suddenly,  Gustaf’s face is awash with terror. He nearly vomits.

Gustaf then races to the restroom, disqualifying himself from completing the challenge. It is the closest near-completion in the history of the Ruckus Pizza Challenge.  

Gustaf gave it his best effort.  “I want to try again someday,” he told me Friday, just moments before catching a plane back to Sweden.  

Here’s hoping he will get another opportunity. Next time I’m confident he’ll be victorious.

Photo courtesy of Bethany Kay

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Paging Restaurant Owners & Managers

This post is dedicated to all the restaurant owners and managers out there. Why? Because I see an unfortunate widespread problem with about 70 percent of the restaurants I visit, including a fairly new one I visited this weekend.

The predicament: No managerial or owner presence. Take Aviator Smokehouse in Fuquay-Varina, for example, the restaurant where I dined for lunch on Sunday. To be fair, the hostess was polite and seated my group quickly. Likewise, the waiter greeted us soon after we got settled, and he managed to provide above-average service.

Food was brought to the table within 15 minutes of ordering. Drinks were refilled several times. The bill was correctly figured and promptly delivered.

The one glaring omission: Nary a manager or owner in sight. Nobody came by for a courtesy “How was everything today?” quality control spot-check. Here’s the thing: the restaurant wasn’t that busy. How hard would it have been for Joe Manager or Susie Owner to stop by our table for, oh, I dunno, 30 seconds? What a shame.

Please don’t think I’m picking on one singular restaurant. Similar scenarios play out at lunchtime all over the Triangle and beyond. In an effort to end on a positive note, at least the fine folks at Stone Walls in Banner Elk, a superb steakhouse where I dined Thursday evening, “get it” when it comes to superior customer service. The manager came by our table at least twice to ensure our dining experience was satisfactory.

So, to all the rest of you restaurant managers and owners out there in dining land: please take that extra step and check in with your patrons. Some of us really do care about this.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Monkey Brain

Yesterday I ate monkey brain for lunch.

Before you think I’ve gone off the deep end and committed a heinous dietary taboo, let me explain. Monkey brain is the curious name of a signature sushi appetizer at Cary’s Yuri Japanese Restaurant ( This culinary delight features copious amounts of avocado along with lightly fried crabmeat and spicy tuna. It’s also absolutely scrumptious.

Yuri is possibly the most underrated eatery in the Triangle when it comes to places to procure quality sushi. I’ve blogged about it previously, but an encore post is appropriate because Yuri is just that deserving. Imagine a posh, serene Asian emporium where you can escape from the heat and stress of work and enjoy a magnificent dining experience. Yuri won’t disappoint.

Here’s a Lunchboy proclamation for you: The top-selling Ahi Tower is the best item on the menu—and the finest sushi fare I’ve tasted—bar none. This culinary creation comprises avocado, tuna, crabmeat, and three types of caviar all served on a huge glass plate with spicy sauce. Check it out and let me know what you think. I’m confident you’ll love it. In fact, when you go, be sure to tell Thomas, the owner, that David from Cary Magazine sent you (he doesn’t know me by my blogger alter ego).

*Photo credit: Jay Joyner

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Random Sunday Musings

Just a few things that are on my mind at the start of a new week:
Sweet & Savory Brilliance— I’m not a big frozen pizza fan, but Leave it to DiGiorno to introduce a hand-tossed style pizza and a dozen break-and-bake Nestle chocolate chip cookies in the same box. Somebody in product development deserves a raise for concocting this great combo.

Chick-fil-A Kudos – Man, this is one fast food eatery that “gets it” when it comes customer satisfaction. Not only did Mrs. Lunchboy and I enjoy a free dinner Friday night. All we had to do was go to the website and then print out and don the cut-and-tape-on cow costumes. Even more impressive, I scored a free chocolate milkshake! How? “Because you are dressed like a cow,” the cheerful male employee said as he gave me my 16 ounces of hand-spun goodness.  I totally didn’t expect a complimentary dessert. Needless to say, Chick-fil-A’s stock just went up in my eyes.

Key Lime Perfection – If you like key lime pie (my favorite summer dessert!), you must drag yourself over to Ruckus Pizza, Pasta & Spirits in Cary and get a slice of chef Tucker’s life-changing-good treat. Read more about it in my exclusive dish piece in the July/August edition of Cary Magazine:

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Surprised at Kroger

This may sound crazy, but the sushi at Kroger grocery store is quality stuff. At least the sushi at the Fuquay-Varina and Cary Kroger stores, that is.
Before you roll your eyes in disbelief, hear me out.

Unlike most supermarkets, Kroger actually employs bona fide sushi chefs. You know, the kind that wear the full-on Mr. Miyagi garb and wield knives sharper than Casey Anthony’s legal defense team.

Whether you choose the spicy tuna, salmon or California roll, you’ll get nine pieces of flavorsome goodness for only about $6. Soy sauce, wasabi and ginger are also included.

Be sure to go between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to get the best selection. Oh yeah, it’s also made fresh daily.

So, next time you see me going into Kroger, you’ll know it’s not to pick up a gallon of milk.  I’ll be heading to the deli section with my chopsticks.