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Judging Chicken Wing Dreams

September 6, 2017

A long time ago, my dream was to get a trailer and park it down in the Florida Keys, and become one of those batshit crazy Key dwellers. Then I had another dream about having some kind of sheep cheese farm.

I have stupid, shitty, dreams.

On Thursday, I’m judging a chicken wing contest. And on Saturday, I’m leading a bunch of people through gorgeous country road to eat five of the best apple cider donuts in Upstate New York. That is to say, I’m living the current version of my stupid, shitty dreams.

So as long as we’re on the subject of dreams and chicken wings, it probably makes sense to talk about how one actually goes about judging a chicken wing, and to put in a quick plug for tomorrow’s big event.

Judges can’t do whatever they want. There are rules that guide their decisions.

That means, as a judge, the thing I like the most may not win. Sometimes this is because I am not the only judge, but rather one judge of several on a panel. Other times it is because the criteria of the competition may be different from my own personal criteria for evaluating a specific dish.

Take chicken wings, for example. Last night, I was having a conversation with an old friend who grew up in the Southern Tier. And one thing we quickly agreed upon is that good wings have to be crispy.

However, judges at the Capital Region WingFest will be solely judging on taste and flavor. Which I have to say, is a good idea for an event like this.

Thursday night’s festivities are a benefit or the Boys & Girls Clubs of Albany and Troy. And restaurants of all kinds are coming out in support of this organization. For $30, guests can eat all the wings they can. There is even a chicken wing eating contest, for those who want to test their own mettle. Oh, and that also gets you your first beer too.

Some of the places that will be represented are The Towne Tavern, Brown’s Brewing Co, Hooters, B-Rads, Cafe Lark, Texas Roadhouse, Uncle Marty’s, Ninety Nine Restaurant & Pub, TFA Culinary Concepts, and Warehouse Grill & BBQ. More are being announced later today and tomorrow.

Making wings crispy on the outside and tender on the inside isn’t an easy feat. Especially once you toss them with a sauce. That crispness can fade. It’s hard enough to do this with an order of 10 or 20. Feeding hundreds of people crispy wings is nearly impossible.

I remember that I only had one truly crispy wing at the Schenectady Wing Walk. Still, one of my favorite wings at that event had no crispy skin at all. It was a braised wing from Taj Mahal, which was succulent and tender, and deeply flavorful with a spicy masala.

Having a wing contest that prioritizes taste and flavor opens up the competition to a wide array of styles, and encourages something beyond just heat for heat’s sake. It also recognizes the unique challenges of cooking wings in mass quantities, and doesn’t penalize restaurants who are coming out in support of a great local organization.

I’m both a fan of those smoked wings from The Towne Tavern and the breaded wings from Hooters. I know both are blasphemous for those devotees of the Buffalo style. But just like pizza, I like the form and am open to a wide range of interpretations.

So, I can’t wait to see what these restaurants will do to set their wings apart from the rest of the competition at Revolution Hall tomorrow. We’ll be judging the entries blind, which is also kind of fun.

I wonder if I will be able to tell a wing from a chain restaurant versus one from an independent on taste alone. That will be a little game I play with myself at Judges table.

Anyhow, tickets are still available, so if you decide to come, please find me and say hi. For real. It’s not creepy. I’d love to meet you and chat more about wings.

One Comment leave one →
  1. RogerK permalink
    September 6, 2017 11:13 am

    Is taste a component of flavor? Or vice versa?

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