From ice cream to tacos to a 5-pound breakfast, eating challenges abound in the Inland Northwest

click to enlarge From ice cream to tacos to a 5-pound breakfast, eating challenges abound in the Inland Northwest
Erick Doxey photos
291 Brewhouse's "Kitchen Sink" ice cream challenge.

Staring at the four softball-sized scoops of ice cream before me on a wooden platter, covered in whipped cream, chocolate sauce and toppings, I had one thought: "Why did I pitch a story about eating challenges?"

I was about to attempt the 291 Brewhouse "Kitchen Sink Ice Cream Challenge," which gives competitors 10 minutes to finish the above-described concoction. I chose this challenge because I'm a vegetarian and the others I found involved copious amounts of meat. But also, an ice cream challenge can't be that bad, right?

I later learn that around 40 people have tried the Kitchen Sink challenge with only five or six succeeding.

Before my attempt, I looked up advice, finding an article by Randy Santel, founder of foodchallenges.com, called "How to Win an Ice Cream Challenge." Perfect.

Santel's first tip is to keep ice cream choices simple, if the restaurant hosting the challenge doesn't pre-select flavors. Luckily for me, 291 Brewhouse in Suncrest (about 30 minutes northwest of Spokane) lets challengers select their own.

Some choose four scoops of one flavor, explained Corinne Betzendorfer, who manages 291 Brewhouse with her fiancé, Christian Olson, while others choose four different flavors. Keeping Santel's advice in mind, I selected two scoops of huckleberry ice cream and two of vanilla. While the chocolate peanut butter cup and cookies and cream were appealing, I thought the extra chunks would lead to extra chewing, and I had to save time where I could.

Betzendorfer then topped the ice cream with whipped cream, my choice of chocolate sauce (you can choose one sauce or a mix of chocolate and caramel) and pieces of Oreo cookies and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.

Once my Kitchen Sink was complete, Betzendorfer and Olson walked me through my spoon options. I could use a standard plastic spoon, they said, but those could break under the weight of the ice cream, so that option was out. I could use a long metal spoon, the kind you might use to scoop the remnants of a milkshake from the bottom of the glass, but the spoon's bowl was too small, reminding me of another of Santel's tips.

"The easiest way to fail a food challenge is to simply take small bites the entire time," he writes.

In fact, Santel recommends bringing your own spoon or asking for a large spoon. I didn't have to do either, as Betzendorfer and Olson offered me what I can only describe as a utensil more shovel than spoon. Following in a previous competitor's footsteps, I could also forgo the spoon completely, grab gloves and use my hands.

Not wanting to make a complete fool of myself, I chose the shovel/spoon over the gloves. It would be embarrassing to use but perfect for the challenge.

Betzendorfer kindly offered to monitor the timer and agreed to give me a five-minute warning.

click to enlarge From ice cream to tacos to a 5-pound breakfast, eating challenges abound in the Inland Northwest
A shovel-like spoon definitely helps.

From there, I began eating. As I scarfed down the first scoop of delicious huckleberry ice cream, I was bummed I wouldn't actually be able to enjoy this sweet treat. But then I remembered another of Santel's tips — "Your main #1 priority is to win, and enjoying the challenge is secondary priority #2" — and got back to work.

Turns out your brain shuts off when attempting an eating challenge. For 10 minutes, all I knew was ice cream. I know I made small talk with Betzendorfer and Inlander photographer Erick Doxey in between bites, but I can't remember what was said.

It felt like ages before Betzendorfer gave me the five-minute warning, and at that point, I'd say I was about halfway through, which gave me renewed energy.

Could I actually do this?

Well, no, I couldn't. At about the seven-minute mark, I started to get a brain freeze and slowed down. When Betzendorfer counted down the final 10 seconds, I'd say I had the equivalent of one of the original scoops of ice cream on my plate. Three out of four ain't bad.

Defeated but proud of myself for trying, I felt very sticky. Both Betzendorfer and Olson, as well as two women dining in the restaurant, said my effort was impressive, which helped me leave with my head held high.

Driving home, I wasn't worried about the dairy as much as I was worried about the volume. I've never eaten so much so quickly. Unbuttoning my jeans on the way home helped, and lying around in a post-sugar rush daze once I got home did, too.

I'm hoping to return to 291 Brewhouse soon so I can actually enjoy a meal there, but I'll likely avoid looking at the ice cream station. For my stomach's sake.

If you're interested in the Kitchen Sink Ice Cream Challenge, heed the advice Olson shared, which can be applied to any of the region's other eating challenges: "Come hungry."

INLAND NORTHWEST EATING CHALLENGES

291 BREWHOUSE KITCHEN SINK ICE CREAM CHALLENGE
$15
291 Brewhouse, 5978 Highway 291, Nine Mile Falls
Finish four scoops of ice cream plus toppings in 10 minutes and win a 291 Brewhouse shirt. No advanced notice needed.

EPICASAURUS 5-LB BURGER AND FRY CHALLENGE
$45 or free if completed
EPIC Sports Bar, 100 N. Hayford Road, Airway Heights
Eat a 4-pound, triple-patty burger with bacon, cheddar, pepper jack, Swiss, fontina, EPIC burger sauce, lettuce, onion, pickle, tomato on a house-made sesame bun and a pound of EPIC fries in 25 minutes and win a shirt and a photo on the Wall of Fame. No advance notice needed.

EPIC BREAKFAST TRASH CAN CHALLENGE
$45 or free if completed
EPIC Sports Bar, 100 N. Hayford Road, Airway Heights
Eat a 5-pound breakfast including four pancakes, eight French toast sticks, 1.5 pounds of loaded hash browns, 10 scrambled eggs, six sausage links and six bacon strips in 25 minutes and win a shirt and a photo on the Wall of Fame. No advance notice needed.

THE JUNKYARD BURGER CHALLENGE
$40 or free if completed
The Junkyard Drinks and Eats, 6412 E. Trent Ave.
Eat a Junkyard Burger with two beef patties and toppings like bacon, macaroni and cheese, a fried egg, onion rings and a pineapple ring, plus 2 pounds of fries in 40 minutes. Don't complete it? Your picture's going on the Wall of Shame. Advance notice preferred but not required.

THOR'S HAMMER EATING CHALLENGE
$85 or free if completed
The Bearded Ginger, 8125 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley
Finish a large beef shank, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, BBQ beans, chicken wings, mozzarella sticks and your choice of french fries, tater tots or jo-jos in under an hour and get your picture on the Wall of Fame. At least 48 hours notice required.

BORRACHO'S TACO CHALLENGE
Pay by the taco, or free if completed
Borracho, 211 N. Division St.
Eat 25 tacos (your choice of beef, chicken, al pastor, etc., just no fried tacos) in 30 minutes and win a shirt and your name on a plaque in the bar. No advance notice needed.

Riverfront Eats @ Riverfront Park

Tuesdays, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Continues through Aug. 20
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