Six New Records at Title Rally

Verducci's Market in Ringoes, NJ, hosted a remarkably dramatic IFOCE Title Rally yesterday, which will appear on the high-definition network, INHD, as part of the Tour de Gorge series.

Verducci's owner Mel Cottone and Raritan County Deputy Mayor Jerry Zemlachenko were on hand to oversee events; veteran eaters Hungry Charles Hardy and Eric Badlands Booker served as judges.

During the title rally, which featured five one-on-one contests between IFOCE eaters, a team structure took shape. Hungry Charles Hardy began coaching the eaters on his side of the table, where host Richard Shea provided commentary. Meanwhile, Eric Booker took the eaters on the other side of the table, where George Shea hosted, under his wing.

In the first round, Tomato and Mozzarella, Tim Holden easily beat newcomer Jason Read, popping the cherry tomatoes into his mouth like ibuprophen. Read, an Olympic rower who won gold in Athens, simply could not keep up with Holden at the table.

The bad blood between Kevin Lipsitz and Beautiful Brian Seiken was evident in the second, escarole, round. In an inflammatory pre-event interview, Seiken had suggested that if the rivalry ever came to blows he would strike Lipsitz in the throat to embarrass him in front of his family. Lipsitz refused to take the bait, however, and when the two enemies met at the table, Lipsitz soundly defeated Seiken, eating four pounds of escarole in eight minutes. Seiken, who had beaten Lipsitz in pickles in last year's title rally, was nearly two pounds behind Lipsitz.

Allen Goldstein and Bob Shoudt finished in a tie after both consumed two pounds of penne in marinara sauce in one minute and 20 seconds. Shoudt barely edged out Goldstein in the tie-breaker round, consuming one pound of the pasta in 27 seconds.

A resurgent Sonny Manzi, who had performed so brilliantly in the tongue discipline in the Glutton Bowl, was back for sausage and peppers. Manzi raced through the dish, achieving a decisive win against newcomer Ross Siegel. Manzi is known for his sharp incisors and he used them in this event to rip the sausage apart.

The tiramisu was daunting. The final round, between Tim Janus and Yellowcake Subich, featured four-pound tiramisu cakes. Subich smashed his fist into the cake at the starting whistle and proceeded to consume the guts of the cake quickly, placing the bread-like fingers that surrounded the cake into water to soften them for later consumption.

This strategy, which appeared wise at first, may have proven his downfall. As the contest ended, Subich was forced to retrieve the sodden fingers and add them to his plate -- heavier than when the event began for the weighing process. While it is not clear that this misstep was the sole cause of his defeat, it likely contributed to the loss -- Tim Janus beat Subich by a pound of tiramisu.

At the end of the contest, Hardy and Richard Shea boasted that their side of the table had gone five-for-five in the rally. The crowd, exhausted by the emotional roller-coaster of the day, was about to leave, when Eric Badlands Booker called out Hardy himself for a final winner-take-all team event.

Hardy accepted and two three-pound plates of escarole, penne and sausage and peppers were created for the veterans. The two greats went at the plates with incredible speed, and unlike some of the less experienced eaters, they did not allow the slippery food to distract them. In fact, after two minutes, they both poured the remaining contents of the plates onto the table to simplify the eating.

In the final seconds it was neck and neck, with Hardy scooping up three recalcitrant white beans and Booker going after a slippery penne noodle. The judges called it for Hardy. A six-for-six sweep.