IN THE final segment of Anthony Bourdain's Philadelphia-themed episode of the Travel Channel show "The Layover," Bourdain, along with local celeb chefs Marc Vetri and Michael Solomonov, headed to the Pen & Pencil Club, a private club for journalists and service industry pros. Bourdain did one of the most disgusting things this reporter has ever witnessed on television: He drank a shot of hot dog water, the famed liquid that stews the free hot dogs available at the P&P.
But Bourdain had reservations about consuming a drink known as the Irish Bus Bomb. "Why would any sensible human being want to drink that?" he asked.
And that's when Bourdain was upstaged in his own culinary adventure by Brendan Bownes, a 32-year-old Bucks County resident who grew up in Rhawnhurst. Bownes downed the pitcher-sized Bomb, then looked into the camera and informed the TV-watching public he was ready for more beer.
It was a perfect Philly moment.
Bownes, a fan of Bourdain, said his phone blew up with calls after the show aired Monday. We talked with Bownes Tuesday morning about his star turn.
Q: What brought you to the Pen & Pencil that night?
A: I gotta be honest with you. I'd probably been in the Pen & Pencil a handful of times in my life. I was out with a large group of my friends. We do this bar crawl - we do 18 bars, nine east of Broad and nine west of Broad.
The only problem is, after nine bars, things start getting a little sketchy. People start splitting up and rarely does anyone make it to the last bar. That night there were just a few of us who made it [to the P&P, one of the last stops].
We had no idea Bourdain was going to be there. I'm a fan of his - all that stuff, like [Bourdain's Travel Channel show "No Reservations"]. We were able to get in and just scattered about the place. They asked us to stay back, there were all these cameras set up. What could possibly be filmed at the Pen & Pencil?
That was probably my 15th drink, because there's a one-drink minimum at every bar. So I'm already 15 in at that point. Unfortunately.
Then Bourdain walks in.
There was no way I wasn't going to try and make my way onto that show at that point. Once in a lifetime opportunity. At the least I'd try to get a handshake.
Q: Explain what an Irish Bus Bomb is for those who don't know.
A: Most people are familiar with the Car Bomb [a shot of Jameson's Irish Whiskey and a shot of Baileys Irish Cream dropped in a pint of Guinness]. This is that version on steroids.
If I remember correctly, it was two cans of Guinness they used. Instead of a shot glass, they used a rocks glass [for the whiskey and Baileys], and that's obviously a bit bigger. Same concept - drop them in and chug it.
[Bourdain] commended me for that part. In the end, I'm just shaking my head and screaming and saying I'm ready for more beer. But that's the last thing I remember for the rest of my night. I woke up the next day with a picture of Anthony Bourdain on my phone. I said, "What a good night."
Q: Right before you drank the Bus Bomb, Bourdain drank the shot of hot dog water. What do you think is grosser?
A: And it was hot water! It was in the crock pot. It's probably been sitting there for three days. I'll give the nod to Bourdain for taking the shot, because if I had taken the hot dog water, 15 drinks would have been coming right up.