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Tour de Wings – Schenectady Edition

February 17, 2016

I don’t know when I’m going to start eating more reasonably. But I know it’s going to be sometime after March 5, because that is the Tour de Buffalo Wings – Schenectady Edition. Hopefully you marked the date back in January when I first announced the 2016 FLB winter tour and opened the floor up for nominations.

This tour is going to be a bit different from past outings. Hey, it’s fun to mix things up a bit. So how is this going to work, and what are these tours all about anyway? I’m glad you asked.

A long long time ago Stanford Steph suggested I bring a bunch of people out into the wilderness to try a bunch of apple cider donuts back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back. While the original turnout was modest, the event was a ton of fun. But more than that, it was an incredible learning experience.

There’s something about eating five different versions of the same food to make their differences clearly apparent. There are some people who argue that all cider donuts, or soft serve ice cream, or egg and cheese sandwiches are pretty much the same. However, those who have been on one of the FLB tours can tell you authoritatively that this is not the case.

After a few hours of tasting, not only is it clear that there are distinct differences, but it’s impossible not to form stronger opinions on what makes some versions better than others.

Even better, these impressions you develop on the tour are indelible. For example, now that I’ve eaten five Italian Mix subs in one afternoon, I was able to try one from another deli, and immediately understand where it fit in the overall hierarchy of the category. It was easy to identify where it was deficient, and where it was strong.

I find that to be very exciting, and it’s why I continually sacrifice my body to the science of these outings.

In the past I’ve made winter tours a semi-private event. I’m going to scrap that. Over time I’ve become more comfortable with a certain level of uncertainty. But here’s the thing. If we’re a large group, it’s challenging to walk into a bar or tavern and just ask for a couple baskets of wings.

This was directly experienced on the Tour de Mozz & Melba. So depending on how many people show up, we’re going to split up into groups with a maximum size of five people per group. The idea here is that a basket of wings typically has 10 pieces. Two pieces per person is more than enough to evaluate the specimen.

There is a coffee shop inside Proctors Theater. We’ll meet there at 11:15 am. Parking is free and easy in Downtown Schenectady on the weekends. There we will divide into teams, and hand out scoresheets. Each team will split the cost of the wings as evenly as they can. Please bring cash and bring small bills to facilitate the process.

As usual, we’re not making any effort to alert the places in advance that we’re coming. We’re not hiding what we’re doing, but we’re not looking for any special treatment. It does no good if the wings we get on the tour are better than the wings we would get on a return visit.

So which places made the cut? Well, that was hard.

Wings come from a bar tradition. Sure, they are served at pizza places and restaurants. And undoubtedly some of those are quite good. But for this outing, since we’re going for a traditional version of buffalo wings, we’re sticking to places that are more like watering holes. And to keep things consistent at each place we’ll ask for one batch of wings, “medium crispy”.

So here’s the list and the accompanying map:

Hunter’s on Jay
The Bier Abbey
Bombers Burrito Bar
20 North Broadway Tavern
Mohawk Taproom

We had to say goodbye to Benevento Pizza Cafe, Nico’s, and Nikki P’s as they felt more like pizza joints that made solid wings. Even though Katie O’Brien’s got a nomination and I was bullish on Stoney’s Irish Grill at one point, I have a hard time getting behind Irish wings. And that’s even after personally enjoying the excellent wings served at Finbbar’s in Troy.

Prejudice is an ugly thing. I know. But I love Irish taverns. I just want them to make Irish food. Because if these bastions of Celtic culture aren’t doing it, nobody’s going to do it. Where’s my boxty, dammit. But I digress.

So we’ve got our plan. We’ve got a date, March 5. We’ve got a time 11:15 am. We’ve got a meeting spot at the Proctor’s cafe.

Now all we need are a few crazy people who want to be a part of this. Let me known in the comments, email, or via social media if you want in so I know how many scoresheets to bring. Don’t forget a pen, small bills, and comfortable pants.

Hope to see you soon.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. buffsoulja permalink
    February 17, 2016 8:27 pm

    Awesome – hopefully see you there!

  2. albanylandlord permalink
    February 18, 2016 2:17 am

    Just a thought – the “medium crispy” request will probably be a sure giveaway that those ordering are from this group. But then again if they know the times they can probably figure it out anyway.

  3. February 20, 2016 11:32 am

    put me down as a possible +1. I have to be at the NY Craft Beer event at the Desmond at 4 pm, which sounds like a daily double, except that I would have to ferry the kid back to Saratoga then back down. What time do you expect to wrap up?

  4. February 21, 2016 9:24 am

    Ugh. I was all set to do this tour, but that I have to eat 5 versions of “medium” wings is seriously turning me off. At almost all places, medium is code for “no heat”. I’ve rarely had “hot” wings that were too hot for even timid palates at most bars. Wings should be at least mildly spicy, and you won’t get that with medium sauce.

    And why are you asking for crispy if the point is to get a representative wing? Do most people ask for their wings crispy? Shouldn’t a good wing be crispy without having to ask?

    • February 22, 2016 11:26 am

      For me the decision comes down to classic buffalo wing flavor. Medium wings should be spicy. That doesn’t mean steal-your-face spicy. But they should be packing some heat.

      The real tragedy was when I signed up to judge a wing competition and they were all mild. To add insult to injury, all the wings were ordered and delivered well in advance of the tasting.

      I’ve found ordering hot wings brings adulterants to the sauce in order bump up the heat. At The Ruck it’s black pepper. At Swifty’s it’s crushed red pepper. Both make the wings hotter. But neither makes the wings better.

      Yes, at some places the medium wings are bland and you need to get the hot wings to make them edible. But that shouldn’t be the case at better wing places. At the good wing places, where medium is an option, I’ve found it’s usually the way to go.

      Of course there are some places that just offer mild and hot with no middle ground. Should we discover one of those joints, then we go with hot.

  5. March 2, 2016 11:19 am

    Since I AM crazy I’ve finally decided to join you on Saturday – see you at 11:15!!! Thanks for organizing!

  6. Gretchen permalink
    March 3, 2016 12:32 pm

    You may want to consider adding a stop to your “wing walk”. Ya Ya’s House just opened up on 170 Lafayette St. It’s not a bar experience, more like a religious one. Gospel and southern hospitality, amen.

  7. March 4, 2016 11:29 am

    OK, count me in. See you tomorrow.

  8. joe permalink
    March 6, 2016 10:43 am

    scrubbbers understands that buffalo wings are hot.. mild came about because they were to hot for most people.. including me, but scrubbers mild are hot like a true medium.. can’t even what hot is to them.. point being buffalo wings are made to be hot no heat.. its just a wing with red sauce.. my take anyway,, i make my own sauce often and just order wings plain and dress them up at home..

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