In search of the "Wisconsin food cycle" uncovers hog heaven, hope, heartache and heartburn
HAVEN, Wis. -- It is a Fight Club for foodies.
Wisconsin is renowned for its love of sport, sausage and spirits, and not necessarily in that order. It would stand to reason that the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits would be the rare golf event where tailgating is rampant, celebrating the holy trinity of the aforementioned pastimes.
Although the media is hooked up with a pretty sweet spread, I went onto the course to see the offerings at the concession stands.
Which is where I heard about "hitting for the Wisconsin food cycle."
Emitting from a group of three men in their 40s, I initially waved it off as an inside joke. Yet, within minutes of this hearsay, there was more chatter from a pack of college kids "going for the cycle" in the food lines.
It's at this point the reader should know I'm infatuated with eating challenges. In college, I attempted a "Boss Hog Burgermania," with adversaries faced with a three-pound hunk of cow. Once my friends had a competition to see who could inhale the most Skyline cheese coneys in 30 minutes. I think my stomach is still hurting from trying to consume 12 tear-watering buffalo wings in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
So, to say that my interest was piqued when receiving word of the "Wisconsin cycle" is like mentioning Whistling Straits has a few bunkers.
Like beer pong, there are different interpretations of what constitutes the Wisconsin cycle. The endeavor itself is called by various names, with my favorite the "Highway to Heaven." For what better way to enter the pearly gates than with a heart full of hog.
Despite the numerous parameters, there does seem to be a common menu foundation.
"We always go by hot dog, sausage, mett, brat," said Courtney Johnson, who's originally from Madison. "I've heard hoagies and gyros substituted as well."
Mike Angelo of Racine seconded this in a later interview, mentioning, "I've heard burgers and nachos in the mix too."
Extensive research (see: Google) confirms Mike and Courtney's testimony. Packers and Badgers' football games seem to add more cheese elements into their Wisconsin cycle, while the Milwaukee Brewers' Miller Park puts more importance to the meat factor of the equation.
But here's the kicker: these items have to be finished in one sitting. Hell on the heart, indeed.
With such fluctuation, I asked for Mike's assistance in identifying what embodied the cycle at Whistling Straits.
To Mike's chagrin, the Italian sausage at the media center was not available at the public concession stands. Poor Mike seemed like a spurn lover asking about a former girlfriend: "Was it overdone? Did they grill the peppers and onions on the dog or to the side?"
After 15 minutes of study, we selected our starting five -- yes, FIVE -- for the Whistling Straits Cycle:
1. Polish Sausage
3. 1/3 lb. Cheeseburger
4. Fried Chicken Sandwich
5. Hot Dog
The chicken sandwich was a bit of a sticking point, as Matt thought it might not be in line with the rest. But after realizing it was fried-through and had zero health benefits, we added it to the list.
(Note: I asked Matt what the difference between a Polish and Italian sausage. His face probably mirrored my expression when a reporter asked me on Tuesday if Jack Nicklaus still plays on tour.)
Though we constructed this formula on Tuesday night, the concession stands were closing, so we agreed to meet back on Wednesday morning to tame this beast.
Alas, Matt texted me on Wednesday to say he had to go into work. That, or he rethought the challenge and didn't want a triple-bypass in his future.
Now journeying solo, I went out around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday morning to take my place among legends. That's right, mom. Burgers for breakfast.
Speaking of which, I refrained from eating anything in the morning to make sure my pallet was clean for the cycle. Clear eyes. Full Hearts. Empty Stomach. Can't lose.
Except I did.
I finished two bites short on the brat. Even getting to that juncture was a challenge, for after downing item No. 4, the sausage, I felt like John Daly trying to squeeze into Rickie Fowler's pants.
I texted Matt to let him know of my failed pursuit. He's yet to respond. I don't blame him. I'm disappointed in me too.
I guess there is one final component, the ultimate destination we've yet to detail that comes with hitting for the Wisconsin cycle:
It's a Fight Club for foodies, after all. And every fight has a loser.