Alexandra Cavallo | 12.10.2014 | Issue #6/7
Every so often, Ms. Cavallo, the Everyman's critic, craves a truly heinous spread of overwrought processed eats, the kind usually saved
for the poignantly deplorable moments in this crazy show we call life.
She strikes out with the heroism and conviction of a purer, more naive soul, and is kind enough to share her field-notes with this publication.
‘Tis the season for overconsumption and bloated bellies. Between the endless rounds of holiday parties, pitchers of eggnog and stress-eating, most of us emerge from the most magical time of the year a little (a lot) paunchier. So, of course, here at Mise HQ we decided to take all that yuletide gluttony to the next level. That level being the entire IHOP Holiday Hotcakes menu, in one sitting, because...well, because why the fuck not? That would be three towering stacks of IHOP’s limited edition pancakes: Caramel Bon Bon, Raspberry White Chocolate Chip and Pumpkin Cheesecake, respectively. All of them approximately the size of Frisbees and, we surmised, just about as edible. As the writer tasked with scaling this particular mountain of whipped cream soaked diabetes-bait, I was obviously psyched out of my mind.
I enlisted a friend for the 2014 Holiday Pancake-Palooza — safety in numbers being the general idea. I’d need someone there to call 911 (or put me out of my misery) should I slip into a sugar-induced food coma or suffer from anaphylactic shock. She [name redacted to protect the innocent/ashamed] had some understandable reservations.
“Does IHOP serve alcohol?” she wondered, brow furrowed in concern. They did not, I told her, but they did have milk, juice and an entire menu of holiday-flavored hot chocolates, which would nicely complement our breakfast-for-dinner sugar orgy. Furrows deepened and she suggested that, perhaps we might get our holiday hotcakes to go; we had all that wine at her apartment, after all. I conceded her point, and we struck off for the nearest International House of Pancakes.
It was a cold and snowy December night, prime weather for filling one’s guts with roughly 4,000 calories worth of pancakes. The scene upon arrival was just the right amount of depressing. IHOP’s neon mood-lighting glared off the giant, slick plastic menus, and the bald heads of a few senior citizens hunched over mounds of moderately priced American comfort food. “You want… all of the flavors. To go,” the nonplussed waitress said slowly, clearly wondering just what exactly we were up to. “Nothing good,” our eyes assured her, as we confirmed that yes, indeed, we’d take all the holiday hot cake flavors she had, plus all the various accouterments and syrups, and make it snappy, thanks. About $12, and 15 minutes later we were back on the road, giant bag full of steaming Styrofoam in hand.
IHOP pancakes do not travel well.
What greeted us upon opening the first lid bore no resemblance to the cheery stacks of colorfully trussed pancakes we’d pointed out on the menu. I poked gingerly at one large, flaccid saucer. Rivulets of melted whipped cream dribbled off its borders and pooled impotently in the corners of the box. These appeared to be the Caramel Bon Bon pancakes. The IHOP staffers had included three extra containers of some sort of beige, sugary side sauce, one of which I dumped atop a cake with gusto. We dug in.
The Cinnamon Bon Bons tasted like...sugar. And, vaguely, like pancakes, though the faint, pleasant griddle undertones were almost entirely drowned out by an overwhelmingly saccharine, caramel-like flavor. My dining companion chewed gingerly, her face mostly inscrutable, and washed it all down with half a glass of Malbec.
“Almost inedible!” she concluded. I suggested we move on to the Pumpkin Cheesecake pancakes, which were by now quite cold, and congealing into three large, rubbery discs. The “cheesecake” filling was sandwiched between the ‘cakes in goopy, sticky layers and both looked and tasted exactly like what I’d just slathered all over my Cinnamon Bon Bons. We chewed in silence, dipping large slabs of vaguely pumpkin-flavored dough into a frothy mixture of liquid whipped cream, unidentifiable beige side-goop and IHOP’s signature Old Fashioned Pancake Syrup (by far the best tasting item on the menu, thus far). “Less inedible!” I told her, when I’d gotten it all down. She agreed, and our eyes slid to Box #3 in shared trepidation. We popped the lid with the resigned air of soldiers marching off to certain death. For all we knew, we were. I burped confidently and finished off the rest of the red wine for courage. Thusly armed, we pressed on.
Luckily, we’d saved the best for last (best, here, meaning the “least inedible!”). The Raspberry White Chocolate Chip pancakes, though ice cold and no longer the consistency of pancakes as I have always understood them, were rather nicely flavored. Topped with generous mounds of syrupy raspberries and tiny white chocolate chips, these holiday hotcakes tasted more like pancakes and less like plastic masquerading as sugar than the other pancakes, which I guess is as good as it gets when it comes to take-out IHOP pancakes. Or maybe that was the wine speaking. We might never know.
Stuffed but not satisfied we convalesced on the couch, trying not to look at the sticky, empty containers, or each other. Seconds passed, then minutes. We polished off a bottle of white wine.
“I might make some pasta,” my dining companion announced.