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The Case for Two Wings

May 2, 2016

Years ago, a standard order of wings shrunk from a dozen to ten. Sure, there are still some places you can go that refuse to cut corners, regardless of increasing ingredient prices. 20 North in Schenectady was notable on our recent Tour de Wing for delivering a full dozen wing segments in our basket.

Plenty of people are pissed about puny portions. But not me.

Actually, in my ideal world, you could order wings by the piece. Because most of the time, I really just want two pieces (or one wing). That would be one drumette and one flat. And there are a lot of good reasons for this.

For starters, wings are terrible for you. Chicken skin and fat are deep fat fried, slathered in a butter sauce, and served with a sour-cream-based blue cheese dipping sauce. Wings also wilt. Those crispy fried edges don’t stay crispy for long. Sure you could quickly power through a basket of wings before they get cold and soggy, but I prefer to savor my food. Really, after a few bites their magnificence begins to fade.

But today’s post isn’t about wings. They are just serving as a vehicle to demonstrate a larger point.

There are lots of paths into food. Without a doubt, the food world draws in those with an insatiable appetite, people who simply love food in its multitude of forms and want to eat it all. Of course there are variations on the type who are focused on a specific segment of the food spectrum.

I know food writers, chefs, and critics with insatiable appetites, and have a deep respect for them and their work. It’s just not me. Sometimes I envy them and their capacity. And truth be told, in the short term, I can often keep up with the best of them. It’s a professional necessity. One cannot evaluate all the donuts if one cannot eat all the donuts.

But the joy for me comes in the knowledge and not in its pursuit.

I love knowing where the best donuts can be found in the Capital Region, and I love that my opinion is based on eating every donut in a systematic way. But the eating itself was torture. And I don’t use that word lightly.

What I have is an insatiable curiosity. I want to try it all, but I just want a taste. I want to understand the differences and similarities between things. And this is at the core of what I do.

For example, I have virtually no desire to sit down for a fancy steak dinner, or really any formal meal with an extended battery of over-sized courses. That said, I’m very curious about what makes The Bears’ Steakhouse so special. I’m much less curious about a restaurant like 677 Prime, because I’ve got a pretty good sense what that place is about. So hopefully one day I’ll make it to that Capital Region institution out in Duanesburg, but even so, it’s not exactly at the top of my list.

The Tavern Time outings I have every third Thursday help to satisfy this insatiable curiosity. Because with a group, it’s easier to split a few baskets of wings. And in lieu of being able to order wings one at a time, this is almost perfect.

There are so many variables involved in wings, it can take some triangulation to get to the wings of your dreams. So even though I claim to only want two wings, I really only want two at a time to help understand how each kitchen interprets this upstate classic. Should you order the sauce medium or hot? Should you specify that the wings be cooked crispy, or not? And will there be enough sauce, or do you have to order them extra wet?

My pleasure comes in the pursuit and ultimately the knowledge of how to order wings at each local tavern in order to get their best. For example, the medium sauce is better than the hot at The Ruck, but at Kay’s pizza you need to order them hot. And at the Washington Tavern you’ll need to ask for your wings crispy, but at the Towne Tavern doing so will result in dry overcooked wings.

Yesterday, the FLB turned seven, and I’ve learned a lot over those years. The blog has also changed and evolved. The focus of my curiousity has shifted a few times, and I suspect it will shift a few more. However, I wanted to mark the occasion by being a little bit introspective and perhaps helping to clarify the perspectives of the past and the direction of the future.

Where are we going? I don’t know. But I’m sure it will be delicious.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 2, 2016 10:24 am

    I think I’ve already told you this, but you won’t like The Bears. From reading your posts for years now I believe I am informed enough to state the opinion that you won’t get it. You’ll gripe about minutia and make quips about how they should really should use happy beef at the price point and other nonsense of that sort…

    It’s not about the food there although the food is good. The experience is something more than the sum of its parts. It would be like how you went to Smith’s and said you wouldn’t go back much because the pizza wasn’t that good. As if pizza is the main reason anybody goes to that place…

    Of course I mean this all in the nicest possible way even though it comes off sort of rude. Maybe I’m wrong, you might have a ball.

    • May 2, 2016 10:33 am

      You know what? When you are ready to go to The Bears let me know. Maybe we can cobble together a suitable merry band. I can’t let you have at the place without a voice of reason in the room…

  2. May 2, 2016 8:18 pm

    Do you remember when we first met at the Times Union Wing tasting Contest? That was both the worst and best wing tasting…got to try three from each place, all were sorry from being delivered and sitting there.

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