A lighthearted look at news, events, culture and everyday life in New York. The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

By Nina Pajak

It’s my favorite time of the year! That magical moment when the “Xtreme Eating Awards” are handed out, bestowing dubious honor upon the most obscenely caloric menu items on offer from our nation’s esteemed assortment of chain restaurants.

The awards are given by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an organization focused on improving the American diet. And this year’s headline is that of the nine winners, three whole spots were granted to The Cheesecake Factory. Congratulations, Cheesecake Factory! In case you’re Amish or European, The Cheesecake Factory is not a literal assembly line on which cream cheese pastries are made. The name is deceptive, but it’s actually a facility in which maple syrup is fused with melted butter substance, resulting in a steady output of obesity and type II diabetes. It’s a wonderful place where families can come together over the dinner table, which is piled high with Xtreme Eating Award winners like Bruléed French Toast (2,780 calories), creamy Farfalle with Chicken and Roasted Garlic (2,410 calories), and Reese’s Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake Cheesecake (1,500 calories). And love. Don’t forget love. Also saturated fat and premature mortality.

The rest of the list, which, if I’m being honest, reads to me like a Zagat’s guide to ‘Murica, includes tantalizing dishes from a bunch of places which don’t exist within hundreds of miles of New York. There’s the “Monster” double burger from Red Robin, which comes with a bottomless order of steak fries and amounts to just over 2,000 calories. And BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse’s “Signature Deep Dish Chicken Bacon Ranch Pizza,” which is clocks in at 2,160 calories and is a personal affront on all levels to anyone who loves and respects real pizza. Not to be outdone, Chevys Fresh Mex has conceived of the “Super Cinco Combo,” (1,920 calories) which is basically all their food crammed onto one plate, a massive slab of ribs with all the fixins at Famous Dave’s (2,770 calories) and a giant platter ‘o’ fried and stuffed crap (3,280 calories) at Joe’s Crab Shack that could feed Michael Phelps for a week. Or like, a day. He’s Michael Phelps. You’re not.

But my favorite entry is for Maggiano’s Little Italy’s steak “Contadina Style,” which includes “two Italian Sausage links, Crispy Red Vesuvio-Style Potatoes, Roasted Red & Yellow Peppers, Roasted Mushrooms, Caramelized Onions, Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Steak Jus, and Garlic Butter.” The CSPI description includes a quote from the restaurant’s blog: “Many guests refer to this as a meal in itself and it is the WOW of all steaks.”

This is probably the most unintentionally hilarious thing ever written on a menu, and that includes unfortunate typos and mistranslations. Yes. I think any sane individual would agree that two types of meat, four kinds of vegetables dripping in oil, and a big ol’ pat of butter does constitute a meal unto itself. The fact that Maggiano’s hedges by citing “many” of their guests is just amazing.

What’s also amazing is that when the CSPI started these awards in 2007, they found the 1,500 calorie winners to be galling. Our country’s dining establishments seem to have taken this as the wrong kind of challenge. Where will we be in another seven years? Downing 6,000 calorie meals made of cheese-stuffed steak chopped up on a pizza crust which is made of congealed, fried spaghetti and drizzled in a buttery parmesan cream sauce?

It’s not all that outlandish. I just discovered that 7-11 is selling fried Dorito turds filled with liquid queso, which is to say that anything is possible.

Nina Pajak is a writer living with her husband, daughter and dog in Queens. Connect with Nina on Twitter!

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