In some serious need of protein, my latest fight with food has brought me to Durant's (2611 N. Central Ave., 602-264-5967), the storied steakhouse and hallowed Mecca of meats.
For those seeking red meat revelation, Durant's offers the 48-ounce Porterhouse Steak -- a three-inch thick slab of beef that would fit in perfectly, attached to the side of Fred Flintstone's car. There's no time limit and you're not required to ingest any additional sides or appetizers. Just eat the meat like a good caveman, in a single sitting, all by yourself. Complete the task and you get your name engraved on a brass plate affixed to one of several polished wooden plaques indicating membership in the illustrious Porterhouse Club.
Durant's, a Phoenix institution since the '50s, started the Porterhouse Club in 1996. The names of 1,224 members spread across 51 plaques currently adorn the walls, with several more years' worth of victorious eaters' monikers in storage. These are dedicated eaters; at $83.25, the Porterhouse Challenge isn't one taken lightly.
But who can put a price on immortality? With visions of my moniker emblazoned forever in gold, I make my monetary commitment and order the Porterhouse. I get mine medium-rare -- the only way to cook a steak -- and play the waiting game.
My table soon fills with appetizers: veggies, shrimp bisque and bread soaked in olive oil and topped with roasted garlic. Against my better judgment, I dive right in. If eating these tiny appetite-whetters is the reason I'm unable to finish the steak, I'll consider it totally worth it -- they're exquisite. I don't know if I've ever had a creamier, more flavorful bisque.
The main attraction arrives twenty minutes later, looking like something you would feed your pet Tyrannosaurus. Forty-eight ounces of glorious beef, smoky-brown and scarred with sear marks that scream tastiness.
For the record, a porterhouse is sort of an oversized T-bone cut from the short loin, with filet mignon on one side of the bone and New York strip on the other.
Eager, I dive into the filet side first. It's juicy, tender, and the outer layer has the perfect balance of crisp texture and the smoky, charred flavors of the Mesquite grill.
However, I soon realize the difficulties involved in cooking a two-inch-thick steak to perfection. As I near the middle of the first cut, the center of the meat becomes redder and redder. If this is medium-rare, I'd half-expect them to plop a still-breathing cow on my plate if I asked for anything more lightly-cooked.
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Still, it's a delicious cut of beef, if a bit chewier and bloodier than I'd like. Twenty minutes after I begin, I power through and polish off the last gristly bits of the filet.
Ryan, spiteful of the way he was portrayed during the last food challenge he unwisely attempted, decides to punk me. "Eat the greens," he says. "They're supposed to help with digestion." I shrug and take a bite, chewing thoughtfully, and Ryan can't suppress his laughter any longer. "It's garnish, dude!" he manages through giggles. Joke's on him; the greens were refreshingly grassy, revitalizing my palate for the second half of my steak.
Another twenty minutes fly by, and I'm impressed with myself. The 48-ounce porterhouse was hardly a challenge; it was easy. I even had room for my mashed potatoes.
Keeping it classy, I give the server my full name for the plaque: Zachary Dean Fowle. She tells me it'll be ready in six weeks -- plenty of time to start saving up for another giant steak.