I exercise so I can eat whatever I want. Never has that been more true than on Saturday when we ran the first ever running food marathon.
When food marathons started thirteen years ago there was never any intention of running. The “marathon” portion of the title only referred to the sheer quantity of food consumed and the length of time spent eating. So when I was finally called out last month by Cathy from GastronomyBlog.com on whether I was a runner or not, I was struck with worry. Despite the name I am certainly not a runner- I hate running. Cathy, a high school and college cross country runner, obviously was as serious about the “marathon” part of the name as the “food” part. And thus the sixth blogger mashup marathon was born… with actual, real running.
The plan started as a beach side run, for weather and terrain reasons. Somehow it ended up being a streets-of-the-San-Gabriel-Valley, ultra-carb, end of August, heat-wave marathon with the added bonus of brush fires (because LA smog isn’t bad enough). Six restaurants (mostly Chinese) spread over five miles of gridded suburb (mostly flat) were mapped for our foot assault. Foodbuzz funded the event for the 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Posts series. Mattatouille drove the pace car and documented in still and motion photography. Participants included the Astronomer some Gastronomy readers, bloggers HC from LA and OC Foodventures (who runs as well as he eats) and Sook from Yutjangsah.
We all met up at the first stop, Dean Sin World. Despite the other names on the sign the pictures below are in fact from this wonderful restaurant.
The first thing we ate was Wine Brew, a noxious concoction of hot wine with chunks of egg and mochi-esque tapioca. This was absolutely not what I signed up for at 9:30am on a Saturday. This was the only dish of the day that I didn’t enjoy. The xiao long bao, beef tendon and delicious Lion’s Head Soup were much closer to what I expected from the day.
I was nervous at this point because the first stop of a food marathon usually doesn’t have so much food. Pace is the most important aspect of a normal food marathon and we still had five miles to run…
Stop number two was a very short distance away. We arrived at Mama’s Lu a mere five minutes into the run.
This was one of the top places on my list of SGV restaurants to try so I was thrilled. A wonderful and appropriate documentary about noodles was playing on the flat screen TV behind our table as we ate scallion pancakes, fried pork dumplings and Shanghai rice cakes.
The pancake was phenomenal and will garner a repeat visit. I look forward to trying the rest of the menu.
And that’s when the running started. At this point we’d eaten more than a breakfast’s worth and the just-under-two-mile run was about to begin. In sweltering heat, with salt-filled stomachs we ran towards the blazing hills.
101 Noodle Express was another list-topping SGV restaurant I’d wanted to try and was our third stop. The steamed pumpkin and shrimp dumplings were superb, with a much softer stuffing then most dumplings. The dan dan noodles were tasty but it was the Shandong beef roll that took its place as one of the top dishes of the day.
Barely recouperated, we only had a street-crossing-jog to the next strip mall stop, Bamboodles. A recent recipient of Jonathan Gold accolades, Bamboodles is known for the unique way in which their noodles are made (as seen in the documentary at Mama’s Lu). They also have a $1 special, which was fish balls On Saturday. On that front you get what you pay for.
For the other dishes, they are worth ten times their price. The spinach-based noodles were perfect. The tiny, flavor-packed spicy wontons were so good I could have eaten fifty of them- if I wasn’t in the midst of a ridiculous run, of course.
The next stretch of molten asphalt was gonna be the toughest. Four restaurant’s down and almost two miles left to the next stop, Kingburg Kitchen. Disregarding the atrocious heat we powered through, knowing more succulent fried pork dumplings lay in wait.
Kingburg Kitchen was less crowded than some of its neighbors. Although their air conditioning probably wasn’t that great, it felt like an arctic hurricane after our run. We opted for cold dishes: tofu spaghetti and beef tendon with bean curd. Nothing special on either front but the fried dumplings were outstanding. Another dish that will require a second non-running visit.
The highlight was the Kingburg pancake, which was like a Chinese pretzel donut. At this stage I knew the bulk of the running was behind us and I was in good shape. I could have eaten a lot more. We only had a little over a mile to the final stop, which was frozen yogurt at Blue Cherry.
Although they have Beijing-style yogurt, I opted for the traditional Pinkberry-style choice with strawberries and chocolate chips.
I have to thank Cathy and Foodbuzz, as I never would have gone through an event like this on my own. It easily could have been called The Gastronomy Foodbuzz Food Marathon. And I might be crazy but I’m doing it again. Stay tuned for the next border-crossing running food marathon…