We never thought we'd say it, but this week's essential journalism comes in the form of magnificently-recapped breaded congealed cheese consumption. And it is spellbinding.
Gawker writer Caity Weaver tasked herself with a challenge: test the boundaries of the new TGI Friday's Endless Appetizer promotion (wherein one can order "starters that don't stop" for the bargain price of $10). The starter of choice? Mozzarella sticks. Her editor upped the ante by offering her a week's vacation if she stayed until 1:00am – a full 14 hours after the restaurant opened.
Weaver heartily accepted the terms, settled into the TGI Friday's Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn outpost, and began her arduous pursuit.
Her first impressions certainly didn't bode well.
"11:34 a.m. My first plate arrives. The mozzarella sticks are golden, dense, and huge. Each one is greater than the width of two of my index fingers. As a frequent and enthusiastic consumer of mozzarella sticks, I estimate that these are about twice the standard size. They are softly cuboid, not cylindrical, for reasons I assume are obscure and related to the maximally efficient, foolproof method by which they are packaged, shipped, and cooked. They arrive in herds of six, lightly dusted with shavings of "Parmesan" and "Romano" and flakes of parsley. (Over the course of several orders, this coating will become increasingly patchy, as TGI Friday's and I stop standing on formality.) An order normally costs $7.50, which means I will have to eat at least two in order for TGI Friday's Endless Apps to qualify as a "good deal." Each plate of six contains 1,100 calories.
They taste like g--damn garbage."
She immediately regrets her decision, but it's too late to turn back. The over-sized deep-fried inmates have clearly begun to run the asylum when – after only an hour – she defaults to playing a Trivial Pursuit QR code game on her table's ketchup bottle.
12:41 p.m. Because in my regular life beyond the walls of this TGI Friday's I am more concerned with science and the secrets of philosophy than trivial pursuits, I don't do so hot. I correctly identify "What rhymes with hug me?" as a line from the 2013 single "Blurred Lines," but I have no idea what number Thomas Kinkade frequently incorporated into his paintings (5282).
Two hours in, the view from her booth is looking even bleaker.
1:30 p.m. I g--damn hate these f--king mozzarella sticks. The more of them I eat, the more I feel like I can taste every ingredient. Ingredients include: cardboard left in a hamster cage in the sun; acid.
1:35 p.m. For the first time, I heave.
The philosophical questions begin three hours in.
2:35 p.m.? Is it possible that man was not meant to ingest infinite quantities of mozzarella sticks?
And, at four hours, paranoia.
3:32 p.m. Paranoia seeps in. I send a text message to Max to ask if the offer of a free week's vacation is "a trick somehow," since Gawker Media has no formal vacation policy. He responds, "Nope." I write back, "If it's a trick, I will be your enemy for life." He says "Would never trick you." It's definitely a trick.
Alas, at almost five and a half hours, hope springs eternal!
4:50 p.m. It occurs to me that I will be able to make a wish at 11:11. I start looking forward to 11:11.
Will she be kicked out by a staff unprepared to practice what their marketing gimmick preaches? Will she succumb to mozzarella byproduct poisoning before she reaches the 14-hour mark? Will we, the reader, be driven vicariously insane by her slow descent into Parmesan-dusted madness?
We implore you to read Weaver's brilliant time-stamped recap, replete with photos and cringe/guffaw-inducing anecdotes and observations, to answer all those burning questions, along with several others you never knew you had regarding TGI Fridays employee, customer, music, food and menu intricacies. This is some Hunter S. Thompson-level restaurant reportage. Truly, we are living in a golden(-fried) age of journalism.
I think we can all agree that Weaver is a consummate professional and deserves a Pulizter, or at the very least a lucrative contract with Pepto-Bismol – not only for undertaking and recapping this story in hilarious, witty fashion, but also for imploring (via the comment thread on her piece), "For those asking if this adventure has ruined mozzarella sticks for me: NO! Nothing could!" Hero status, right there.