What is it about sports that makes artery-clogging food go down much more easily than it should?
I’m no, uh, foodologist — or whatever you’d call someone who studies the correlation between the brain and the stomach — but as a fan of both professional basketball and meals that you can literally feel knocking a couple of months off your life as soon as you swallow them, I certainly appreciated the phenomenon as I ate at the Victoria Pub & Grill while watching Game 5 of the NBA Western Conference finals.
Up until recently, I had always thought of the place as more pub than grill. It is, at its core, a sports bar, a well-kept, two-level building with pool tables, dartboards and multiple televisions broadcasting various athletic competitions affixed so as to be visible no matter where you happen to be sitting. Sports bars are not really my thing; I’m not that much into the idea of celebrating victories or, much worse, groaning about defeats with a group of drunken strangers. But as the 2006 playoffs have progressed, I’ve found myself in this venue more than once. I rushed in to check out the thrilling (but ultimately meaningless) finish to Game 4 of the first-round Suns-Lakers series, where Kobe Bryant ended up winning the game in the final second, not once but twice. (Admittedly, it was a bit exciting to see an entire bar explode due to his last-minute heroics, although I’m fairly certain the outburst cursed the team, considering the outcome of the next three games.) And before getting cable hooked up in my apartment, I went there to watch the first four games of the Western Conference Finals, hoping to see the Dallas Mavericks finally end the goddamn Phoenix Suns’ season.
During most of those visits, my nourishment consisted of beer and maybe a basket of fries. This time around, though, I ordered what seemed far too extravagant an item to be any good coming from the Victoria Pub: Chicken Wellington. Now, note that up until requesting it, I had no idea what exactly that was — it just sounds upscale, and with a $9.95 price tag, I assumed it was. Apparently, it’s some sort of British dish, as the pub’s menu is, indeed, Brit-based: their house hamburger is called a “Union Jack,” they refer to fries as “chips” and also offer something called “bangers with bubble and squeak.” As it turns out, Chicken Wellington is just chicken breast wrapped in some sort of thin pastry. It’s served with a side of mashed potatoes and vegetables.
That’s really all I can tell you about it. I know, I know — technically, it’s my job as an ersatz food critic to inform you on the worth of a particular dish. But the glow of the TV screen — which, from my booth, was directly in front of me — mesmerized me to such a degree that I hardly registered what I was consuming. I was so enthralled with watching the Mavs’ Teutonic wunderkind, Dirk Nowitzki, drop 50 points on those obnoxious gnat-like Suns that by the time fourth quarter ended, I had scraped the plate and didn’t even realize it. And therein lies the hypnotizing magic of sports. Granted, chicken in an edible sack isn’t unhealthy in the way, say, a Union Jack dripping with grease is, and the thing certainly looked great, but I could have been eating wood chips at that point and probably wouldn’t realize it.