Originally, I had intended to name this blog ”The Gluttonous Gourmet.” Unfortunately,my chosen name has been preempted, I suspect by some aspirant who neither shares my gastronomic philosophy nor my ability to consume food in quantities worthy of our chosen appellation.
Rest assured, there is only one real Gluttonous Gourmet, and I am He. The others, wannabes that they are, could never finish my plate, not to mention the one that comes after it. The only reason I don’t challenge my preemptive namesake to an eating duel at a large table in a favorite restaurant is that I want to savor the taste of my food and the gradual bulging of my body bloating to fullness in and over its chair. You won’t find this Gluttonous Gourmet eating fifty-seven hot dogs in thirty-nine seconds. Even in abundance, food is to be savored when devoured. Why inhale food so quickly that you can’t enjoy its scent? Not only should food be savored, but the act of gluttony, as well.
As a gastronome, I base my (w)holistic approach on the assumption that quality and quantity deserve equal consideration when determining whether a dish is worthy of consumption and a restaurant worthy of a return visit from the Gluttonous Gourmet.
In 1992, the only true Gluttonous Gourmet made his first visit to The Cheesecake Factory, in Coconut Grove. As frequently happens, the waiter expressed strong doubts that yours truly could consume his entire order of Spicy Cashew Chicken and a Bacon Cheeseburger with fries. “You don’t know how big the portions are,” the waiter politely cautioned me through a mustache reminiscent of a 1970s porn star.
“I don’t care how big the portions are, unless they’re too small.”
“If you can eat that order, I’ll give you dessert on the house.”
“You’re on,” I said, feeling the spread of my knowing grin. Those with lesser appetites, proverbially speaking, bite off more than they can chew.
The Cheesecake Factory’s portions were, then as now, noteworthy, and posed a reasonable challenge even for a man of my gargantuan appetites. The Spicy Cashew Chicken, breaded and piled high over a bed of rice that an average-sized person could sleep in, was worthy of inhalation and almost on a par with comparable dishes served in the very best Asian restaurants. The Bacon Cheeseburger ranked among the best and bulkiest this mouth had ever swallowed. The fries, however, were thin, and hard enough to resemble overweight potato sticks. Despite this shortcoming, the Cheesecake Factory had proved itself worthy of many return visits.
“I can’t believe you ate all that,” the waiter said.
“If you want me to make you believe it, you’ll have to pay for the second course, as well as the dessert. May I have your dessert menu?”
Adam's Peanut Butter Cup Fudge Ripple cheesecake was the flavor I chose from a list that made Howard Johnson’s twenty-eight flavors seem paltry by comparison. Its combination of flavors made this reviewer a new devotee of cheesecake, other than the kind found in men’s magazines.
The waiter was so impressed that he brought the manager to my table. "You ate two whole meals and a dessert,” the manager said. I’m impressed.”
“Would you like to bet that I can eat another cheesecake? I asked him, contemplating a free plate of Chocolate Mousse Cheesecake as a worthy second serving.
The manager grinned, turning his face almost bashfully to one side before saying, “I’m more than impressed” and offering me a hand to shake.
I pulled his hand to the emptied plate and tried to place a portion of it on my fork. Before I could get a taste, six waiters dragged me out of the restaurant. “I’M STILL HUNGRY!” I protested as my body rolled down the steps to the street level of CocoWalk.
No doubt they thought my final action was excessive. They failed to realize my madness had a method. Not only did I get the free desert, but through the process of ejection, I got two free meals as well.
I picked myself up off the walk and prepared to visit Coral Gables.