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Food Challenges for the Super Hungry, Super Competitive or Super Cheap

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I recently read a story on Neatorama about a restaurant that's making customers sign a waiver before eating anything doused in their signature hot sauce made with savina peppers. It's similar to the challenge at Buffalo Wild Wings "“ a customer who wants to try "The "Blazin' Challenge" has to sign a waiver and must finish 12 of the hottest wings offered in less than six minutes.

This made me think about other restaurants that offer their patrons a prize for finishing a certain helping of food. I hesitate to post these, because as soon as my husband sees the list he will take it as a personal challenge. Nevertheless, below are a few places where you can get your meal for free "“ if you're up to the challenge of horking down ten percent of your body weight in half an hour.

The Beer Barrel Belly Buster
Denny's Beer Barrel Pub
Clearfield, Pennsylvania

If you scoff at the idea of a quarter pounder, maybe Denny's 15-pounder will wipe the smile off of your face. The 20-inch patty comes on a 17-inch bun and includes two onions, a whole head of lettuce, 25 slices of cheese, three tomatoes and lots of mayo, mustard, relish and ketchup. If you and a friend can get the whole thing down in three hours or less, you'll get the $30 burger for free.

Apparently that wasn't enough for Denny, though. Just last year, he introduced the 123-pound burger. That's not a typo. One hundred and twenty-three pounds. It'll set you back $379, but you get 80 pounds of meat, a pound of lettuce, ketchup, relish, mustard and mayo, 160 slices of cheese, five onions, 12 tomatoes, two pounds of banana peppers, 33 pickles and, of course, a 30-pound bun. [Image courtesy of Offroaders.com.]

12-Egg Omelets
Beth's Café
Seattle, Washington

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Looking for a hearty breakfast (and skyrocketing cholesterol)? Look no further than Beth's Café in Seattle. They serve omelets in two sizes there "“ six eggs for the light eater, 12 eggs for the truly hungry. The omelets come with all-you-can-eat hashbrowns, too. (Note: no prize at this place, just an impressive bullet point to add to your eating resume.) [Photo courtesy of the Official Wedding Website of Jeff & Lisa.]

The Texas King
The Big Texan Steak Ranch
Amarillo, Texas

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The Texas King is a whopping 72 ounces of steak. That's four pounds. It will set you back $72, unless you can finish the entire meal "“ which includes the steak, a buttered roll, shrimp cocktail, a salad, beans and a potato "“ in which case it's on the house. More than 7,000 people have succeeded at the challenge since it started in 1960. Frank Pastore, pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, finished the entire meal in nine and a half minutes in 1987, which is the record so far. It wasn't his first finish, though, just the fastest "“ he had completed the challenge six times prior to that.

Here's a video of someone attempting:

Continue reading...

Belly Buster Challenge
Pizza Party (formerly Pizza & Pipes)
Santa Clara, California

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There are some pretty stringent rules to enter the Belly Buster Challenge (a 20" pizza). Here's a sampling:

"¢ One person must eat ONE BELLY BUSTER pizza made with cheese and two toppings in one hour or less
"¢ Entire pizza must be eaten including the crust
"¢ You may consume water or any other beverage
"¢ We will supply water, you pay for any other drinks
"¢ No dipping the pizza in the beverage
"¢ You must keep the pizza down until all the pizza is consumed
"¢ Management is the sole judge of completion of the challenge
"¢ If you can't keep it down YOU CLEAN IT UP
"¢ You may not win more than once

But the reward is great: for eating a whole 20" pizza in less than an hour, you get your entry fee back (half the price of the pizza), a t-shirt, a picture immortalizing your efforts on the wall at the restaurant, a certificate and a free extra large pizza every month for the next year.

You can read about one man's 37-minute triumph over the Belly Buster (and two of his friends) here. You can also watch video of it here. Alas, champion competitive eater Joey Chestnut doesn't live too far from Santa Clara and came in to break the record again. His time? A mere 15 minutes.

Monster Burritos
Pinata's Mexican Grill
Bethpage, New York

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Yeah, two burritos doesn't really sound like they would be too much of a challenge to eat, even given a time limit. But when the burritos are three pounds each, the story kind of changes. Pinata's has a Wall of Shame for those who fail in their attempt and a Wall of Fame for those who succeed. From what I can tell, only two pictures reside on the Wall of Fame, and those two pictures are apparently of competitive eaters "“ "Krazy Kevin" Lipsitz and Don "Moses" Lerman.

Finally, here's one that doesn't offer you a prize for finishing, but sounds pretty interesting anyway:

Cold Sweat Ice Cream
Sunni Sky's
Angier, North Carolina

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Spicy ice cream? Yep. So spicy, in fact, customers have to sign a waiver before they even taste it. It's mixed with three types of pepper and two types of hot sauce. One of the first customers to try it had to go to the bathroom pretty much immediately and throw up. He's had it several times since then and hopes to go for the record "“ 14 ounces in one sitting.

And here's a fun video of a morning show DJ attempting to eat a cup of Cold Sweat. Warning: there is an emergency trip to the bathroom involved at the end.

Do you know of any other extreme eating challenges? Ever been a part of one?

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Pop Culture
The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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