Monthly Archives: July 2009

More fun than a barrel of…hot dogs?

I have to be honest and tell you all that I was NOT looking forward to the 4th of July weekend this year.

Bill's competitive eating has taken him across the country in search of entry into the ONE BIG CONTEST - the Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, held on the 4th of July at Nathan's Famous in Coney Island, NY. Now Bill doesn't do well enough in qualifiers to get into the contest. He hasn't broken 20 yet, and the lowest number that won a qualifier this year was 22, I think.

As a background, each eater can compete in 3 qualifying contests, and if they win one (first place only), they get to go to the BIG SHOW at Coney Island. HOWEVER, Bill has competed in about 15 or so contests this year, which included his 3 Nathan's qualifiers, and other contests such as pork rinds, oysters, clams, asparagus, ice cream and crawfish. He drove to most of them - he's been to Metropolis, IL, somewhere near Toledo, OH, to Stockton, CA, New Orleans, LA, Detroit MI and a slew of local contests in New York and New Jersey. He's logged about 8,000 miles this year and still has the Krystal circuit coming up.

All that to say that the organization to which he belongs (IFOCE) decided to honor him and asked us to come to Coney Island so they could make the presentation at the contest. All they told us was that he was being honored - no mention of what for. Knowing the Sheas as we do, in case it was something terribly embarrassing, he asked what the honor was for, and they called it recognition of all the time and miles he'd put in toward contests.

So off to Coney Island we went.

Being the showman he is, George Shea brought Bill onto the Nathan's stage and introduced him as the eater who had traveled to all 15 Nathan's qualifiers, logging 21,000 miles and 385 hours "for the fans". The award? "Biggest Carbon Footprint". The trophy stands almost 3' tall and has a gas pump handle attached to the top. It's the FUNNIEST thing I've ever seen and it was SO much fun to see Bill get the award!! The eaters were all very supportive and loved that he finally has been recognized for his dedication to the "sport".

The entire weekend was a load of fun - moreso than I expected! We had 2 lovely nights at the W Hotel at 49th St. and Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, he had unlimited access to the eaters' area of the contest venue, and as "Friends and Family", I had access to a special viewing area reserved for us. I could actually SEE most of the contest and was shoulder to shoulder with people I knew and who understand that it's a show! Most considerate bunch of fans I've ever watched a contest with.

But, as the new Dos Equis ad says regarding the 2-party system, it's the AFTER party you want to go to. And what a party it was! The eaters, including #1 and #2, are the NICEST bunch of people you'd ever want to meet, and they can drink nearly as much as they eat!! Funny, funny, funny! Lots of comraderie and knuckle-bumping, trash talking, hugging, and alcohol consumption. So worth every minute we spent there. I hope we get the chance to do it again, either as Friends and Family, or when Bill finally breaks the 20 and gets into the BIG ONE.

Places of note: The W Hotel. Just DON'T touch the minibar unless you intend to eat/drink what you touched! It's on sensors, and you move it, you pay for it. Imagine the horror of one of our friends when his 3-year old son stripped the top of the mininar in one tantrum. Oops! (The management understood and didn't charge.) Make sure to take a shower (the shower head is AMAZING and the water pressure is incredible!!!), but don't drink at the hotel. Average price for a drink - $16.

Eat a burger and fries at the Emery Bar in the Benjamin Hotel on Lexington (I think...about two blocks away from the W) - $11 for the burger and $4 for the fries, but spend the $4 and GET THE FRIES!!! I've never had a better burger and fries in my LIFE! Same goes for the mojito, but that was pricey - $14 - and not as large as I would have liked. But what it lacked in size, it made up for in flavor and kick.

Get wings and sliders (I recommend the lamb ones) at Redemption Grill at 53rd and 2nd. The wings were TO DIE FOR!!! Big, huge wings, beautiful bleu cheese and plenty of celery and carrot sticks. YUM!! Drinks are OK there, but again - liquor is really pricey out.

So here we are, home again, and back to the grind - with my Friends and Family Pass hanging on the wall to remind me what a great time it was.