Crazy Legs Conti, the world’s eleventh-ranked competitive eater and bon vivant about town, describes his diet as “benign gluttony — everything in moderation, including excess.” He has tried the master cleanse — but only to prepare his lower intestines for one of fifty or so eating competitions each year. During his eight years as a gurgitator, his weight has remained more or less the same, until last summer. “I found myself jogging only to donut shops,” he says. Now, though, he’s training for the New York City marathon and, of course, for the Nathan’s hot-dog-eating contest, where he aims to popularize “reverse bunning.” Before you decided whether to order your next ballpark frank with an inside-out bun, you might want to read what Conti ate this week.
Friday, May 16
As the purchasing director of Robert's Steakhouse and the Penthouse Executive Club, I’m there when it’s closed during the day. I’m a modern day Tantalus — so close, but yet so far. However, I get free milk and shot glasses are always in reach. At 10 a.m. to get a sense of calm in my stomach, I channeled serotonin and tryptophan in one shot glass of whole milk.
My roommate Tim “Eater X” Janus, ranked fourth in the world, makes the rounds of five different grocery stores each day. He discovered that for two weeks only, the grossly overpriced assembly line sushi bar at Whole Foods was offering a fifteen buck all-you-can-eat special. I rushed down for my lunch hour, but the belt was rigged slow. All I could get down was (number of pieces in parenthesis):
Spring Roll with peanut sauce (2)
Salmon Canape (2)
Ikura Canape (2)
Brooklyn Roll (cream cheese – shouldn't it be called a Philly roll?) (3)
Eel Roll (3)
Spicy Tuna Canape (2)
Salmon Sushi (2)
Spicy Tuna Roll (3)
Shrimp California Roll (3)
Seared Salmon Temari (2)
Ikura Temari (2)
Shrimp Mejata (2)
Salmon Avacado Roll (3)
Eel Roll (3)
Spicy Tuna Roll (2)
Ikura Canape (2)
Ikura Temari (2)
Around 5 p.m. at White Horse Tavern I had three Anchor Steams, one Irish Coffee, and a handful of onion rings. I had already done the Dylan Thomas special with sushi instead of whiskey so this was a light stop.
Since I don't have cable I had to head to an enemy-territory sports bar to watch my Boston Celtics. At the Riviera, the bar food seemed to have gone the way of the Knicks — soulless chicken wings, crappy nachos, bland penne ala vodka. And four Sam Adams. The Celts lost — not even the apple cobbler and cheesecake could cheer me up.
Saturday, May 17
I shared 1/2 of a Superheeb from Russ & Daughters. It’s simply the greatest bagel of all time. It costs nine dollars — I can only afford one quarterly, but it’s worth it. I also had half of a whitefish salad, half of a smoked salmon, and horseradish cream cheese with wasabi flying fish roe. It was like all the goodness of the ocean smacking against a tasty shoreline of bread.
At 11 a.m. I had two bowls of Honey Toasted Oats with real strawberries — real, as in freeze dried and tiny.
Each year at the start of hot-dog season, I go to the source — the original Nathan’s. I have one dog plain. I am anti-condiment. I eat the dog and stare at the Wall of Champions with the countdown clock ticking until high noon, July 4th. Since I don't have to dunk the buns (yet), I opt for 44-oz. Coors Light as my alternative beverage. Plus it's great for the walk to L&B Spumoni Garden. Sadly, the L (Ludovico Barbati) recently passed away but his memory clearly lives on in the tomato sauce. I shared one slice round, one slice square, one medium spumoni. Clearly the square is the way to go and the Spumoni is the highlight.
I’m always trying to check off my NYC pizza list so I planned two stops. At Di Fara I landed the choice spot at the counter where you can watch the master at work. Mr. DeMarco looks like the head elf in Santa's workshop. He is a one-man operation (vertically integrated perfection) and the pizza is an abstract painting of rare beauty. And the taste seals it. I ate four slices and took one home for bronzing.
Late night, I had air-popped popcorn with Old Bay Seasoning. I was still reeling from how good the Di Fara pizza was.
Sunday, May 18
I had some Community Blend Coffee from New Orleans made at home. Best coffee in the universe.
I had breakfast, lunch, and dinner at 2 p.m.: 14 slices of pizza in ten minutes. Eater X and I scheduled a rare technique-training session for the upcoming 3 Brother's Pizza World Championship. Home training is discouraged on the circuit for safety reasons, but I needed to figure out the fastest way to eat a slice then extrapolate. Eater X picked up a stack of $8, 18-inch pies from a place on St. Marks. Since no dunking is allowed, I decided to eat crust first, folding the pizza like an accordion. Bad technique. My folding led to no interplay between the sauce and cheese as a lubricant and my efforts seemed like I was eating four inches of cardboard. I dejectedly walked the leftover pies to Renewal, the shelter on the Bowery, where they were pleased as punch at my consumption shortcomings.
Dessert was 1/4 of a pistachio cupcake from Crumbs. I was dehydrated from the pizza so I drank seltzer, water, and any other liquid in the house.
Monday, May 19
Still full from the day before, I waited until 11 a.m. for coffee and a naval orange from the bar back station at work. I had a watermelon competition the next day, so I was trying to eat as little solid food as possible.
At 4 p.m. I opted for yogurt, apples, granola, and flaxseed.
My dinner companion and I headed to B&H. I was desperate to order the French toast, but knowing I would need mind over stomach matter the next day, I had simply a cup of split pea soup.
At 11 p.m. I stopped my stomach's rumbling with two bowls of Quisp Cereal.
Tuesday, May 20
I never knew I had a life goal of becoming a character in a video game until I showed up at the Nintendo Store in Rockefeller Center at noon. I think the WiiWare game might replace celery as the number one lose-weight-while-you-eat scenario. I was competing against Eater X in six minutes of actual watermelon eating followed by two minutes of virtual watermelon eating (as our avatars).
I stole a move from Eater X’s playbook and in the closing seconds took one bite out of a large slice. We both ate fifteen slices (roughly 8 pounds) but my buzzer-beating bite gave me the victory.
The video emulates actual pro eating. Much to my dismay, and the pleasure of every media outlet, I suffered an urge contrary to swallowing. Eater X, victorious.
Oddly enough, I felt hungry, as if the watermelon had simply expanded my belly and sent fructose through my blood stream. My neurotransmitters jumped the synapse and were all cheering for meat. I had watermelon flavor fatigue. At Robert's Steakhouse "family meal" is served each day for the staff. I had two pieces of lasagna and salad, but passed on the pork chops, creamed spinach, and French fries — call it portion control.
At 7 p.m. I headed to B&H for my reward meal and ordered the French toast I denied myself the night before. Breakfast for dinner isn't just Paulie Bleeker's favorite — I savored every bite of golden brown milk-and-egg-soaked goodness.
Later I headed to Professor Thom's, the Boston bar, for the Celtics Game. The Nachos are giant — fully loaded with jalapeños the size of Kevin Garnett. I was also drinking my favorite German Smoked Beer, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier— the Urbock varietal. It literally tastes like liquid bacon.
Wednesday, May 21
I started my day off with Irish steel cut oatmeal and coffee from the Pom Pom Diner. I also opted for a toasted hero with imperceptible butter — the toaster at Pom Pom is set to perfection.
I’ve taken up yoga to help center the stomach and learn rhythmic breathing. Hardcore yogis are probably appalled that I’m practicing “Pranayama” in order to eat more hot dogs. At the studio is a healthy buffet left over from an earlier catered event. I have chicken salad, greens, and red skin potatoes. Namaste and buffet — a perfect symbiotic relationship.
A few years back, I ate 91 cocktail wieners to raise money for a permanent home for Coney Island USA’s sideshow and museum. At this year’s fundraiser, I stuck to the vegetable passed hors d’oeuvres. I chatted with Julie Atlas Muz while munching on sautéed asparagus and I took one bite of a red caramel apple that I handed off to Gotham Girl Roller Derby Queen, Suzy Hotrod.
At midnight at the Cobble Hill Cinema I had a bucket of popcorn and a small soda.
Thursday, May 22
On short notice I was required for the Today Show. Kathie Lee played the game while Eater X and I ate…watermelon. Deja Chew. As a Major League Eater, one has to be ready to gorge at a moment's notice.
Live TV is always chaos, especially when morning talk show hosts enter the spray zone. [This is what happened]. Eater X and I wiped out the green room — he focused on sweets, while I pocketed the breakfast burritos, turkey wraps, and a kiwi.
Despite sneaking out of work to eat off-premise, I was rewarded with a victory meal at my place of employ. Chef Jayson Margulies knew I was hinting towards the Porterhouse for two (for myself) but steered me towards the New York Strip Bone In, along with lamb chops, asparagus, a shrimp cocktail, and onion rings. It looked as if half the cow was on the plate, and I was thankful for the sacrificial offering.