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Inverted Wing Bowls

May 6, 2016

Hope you had a good Cinco de Mayo. Amazingly, somehow I forgot to write about it on the blog this year. Hopefully you caught The Local Yelp issue that came out on Wednesday all about great places for tequila cocktails.

As for me, I did plan ahead and already bought my one bottle of tequila for the year. It’s the Milagro silver, again. What can I say? I do really enjoy that stuff, and think it’s the best bang for the buck you can get in the category. Plus those floral notes at the end are utterly enchanting.

While I did have a few sips of a margarita at a party, my drink of the night was a Bissell Brothers Substance IPA. But what I’ve learned from writing about beer on the blog is that a minority of readers are interested in my adventures with the beverage. And that’s fine.

So instead, today you’ll be treated to a rant about wings. Because there’s a far too common practice at restaurants, taverns, and pubs that drives me batshit crazy.

I didn’t grow up in a chicken wing culture, so maybe there is something I’m missing.

Buffalo-style chicken wings are one of my favorite foods. My fat tooth is becoming legendary. But you take a piece of chicken that’s mostly fat and skin, deep fat fry it, slather it with a butter-based sauce, and serve it with a side of cheese-laced sour cream? As far as I’m concerned, that makes deep fried butter look like a health food.

Frying foods is fantastic, as it gives them a crisp exterior coating that’s virtually impossible to achieve from any other cooking method. However, you have to eat fried foods in relatively short order, because the glory of their crust doesn’t last forever.

That’s one of the reasons why on Chanukah, you’ll find me perched right beside the frying pan waiting to snatch potato pancakes right out of the oil just as soon as they are cool enough to not sear off my fingerprints and blister my tongue.

But back to wings.

So you need to put a crispy crust on those suckers, because as soon as they come out of the oil, they are tossed with sauce. As far as I’m concerned this is close to the madness of deep frying ice cream.

The last wing is never as good as the first wing: it has cooled down significantly and its crust is a shadow of its former self. Why a kitchen would do anything to speed up the process of this decline is beyond me. But that’s exactly what so many places do when wings are sent out of the kitchen underneath an inverted bone bowl.

I get it. You need a place to toss your bones so that you can dredge the remaining wings through every last little bit of Frank’s Red Hot and butter that are clinging to the plate (or paper) below.

But why not use a plate that’s carried underneath the main plate? The idea of covering a fried food, and creating an environment where steam can collect and undo the hard work of the deep fryer is crazy-making.

There has to be some kind of reason.

The best I can come up with is that the fiery aromatics coming off a well-made batch of wings have to be hell on the eyes of the service staff. Heck, I love feeling that burn when wings are placed before me and I get a blast of that pepper sauce in my face. I’m guessing if you carry tray after tray of those delicious-smelling wings that it gets really old really fast.

But isn’t that just a downside of the job? Much like those who work in popcorn factories suffer from popcorn lung? And I don’t mean to come off as unsympathetic for the plight of workers, but all jobs have their dangers.

For a while, advertising was one of the deadliest careers in America because so many ad executives were getting into car wrecks when dealing with their clients on the cell phone.

Perhaps there is another argument that the dome helps the sauce meld with crust of the wings. I’ve heard someone from Buffalo talk about a wing arc, where the first wing isn’t actually the best wing. Rather, it’s the second or third, after the sauce has had a chance to commingle with the crisped skin for a brief while.

Or maybe the inverted basket is just about selling the sizzle. I will admit, there is something special about the reveal, when the bone bowl is lifted up and you experience a Pavlovian response.

Whatever the case, I find it to be a fascinating–if infuriating–piece of our regional food culture. If anyone can shed some more light on this, I’d really appreciate the insights.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. May 6, 2016 10:12 am

    Your crispy thing might just be a personal preference. Plenty of cultures like to soggify fried food. The Japanese put all sorts of fried stuff into soup. Extra crispy wings annoy me. What little appeal “Buffalo wings” have for me is in part due to the peculiar taste sensation of fried skin becoming sodden with sauce. Takes all kinds, takes all kinds…

  2. May 6, 2016 10:26 am

    Boy am I with you on this. I don’t really understand it. This is solidly in the first world problems complaint file, but it brings such inescapable sadness when I see my order of delicious crispy wings sitting on the order up counter with a bone bowl sitting over them, slowly turning them into a soggy glop. And I’m just powerless, forced to sit and watch it happen. I like my wings crispy, tossed in sauce real quick, and brought to me so hot that they’ll burn my fingers.

  3. May 6, 2016 10:35 am

    I’ve never noticed this to be a problem with wings at restaurants. What does bother me, is what happens to fried food inside those ubiquitous styrofoam clamshell containers. Wings, fries, fish — it all comes home revoltingly soggy and disappointing.

  4. Pam C. permalink
    May 6, 2016 2:17 pm

    I totally agree with you on wings needing to be freshly cooked and crispy. I always order my wings extra crispy, but seldom get them that way. I think the inverted bowl thing probably started as a convenience…serve the customer the wings and bowl all in one motion. But it probably does contribute to less crispy wings. Nothing worse than a soggy, slimy wing!

  5. Jenny permalink
    May 16, 2016 7:32 pm

    So, I know this is a week or so late, but today I am in Buffalo for work, and in honor of my wing-obsessed son, am treating myself to wings and beer at the Buffalo wing birthplace. I almost laughed out loud when Anchor Bar served me my wings with the inverted bowl on top. So, maybe the bone bowl is part of the tradition and mystique. I will say that the Anchor Bar wings were crispy and delicious, bowl or no bowl.

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