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On Wings, Vegetables, and Dressing

June 5, 2018

Nope. The results of the Tour de Wing have not been fully tabulated. This might take more time than I had originally anticipated. But fear not, official results will be coming, although they may not be here until Monday.

However, even if the results were ready today, this post would still need to come first. Largely because there seems to be a lot of different opinions that exist about buffalo wings in general and the best practices involving their traditional accompaniments.

I know this to be true because yesterday there was a post on Burnt My Fingers about the wing tour. And for someone who I ordinarily agree with on matters of taste, I’m flummoxed by how many points of disagreement we have over some of the fundamentals.

Within my group there was a raging debate on what it actually meant for something to be a buffalo wing. Here’s my take.

The distinguishing marks of a buffalo wing are that they are unbreaded, deep fried, and tossed in hot sauce. The classic flavor is a combination of Frank’s Red Hot and butter, but non classic variations of hot sauce and fat can still produce a dynamite buffalo wing.

For evidence of the latter, I point to the winners of the past Tour de Wing outings. Both the Ale House in Troy and 20 North Broadway in Schenectady have a buffalo wing sauce that departs from the classic. That said, I believe there are limits to what can be added to a wing sauce and still have the results be recognizable as a buffalo wing. The profile should be a flavorful heat, emulsified with fat.

I argue that sweet and sticky sauces belong in some other category entirely. Even if they are spicy.

Ideally, since buffalo wings are in fact hot wings, ordering them at a medium spice level should result in a spicy experience. Medium should be the default level for the wing sauce. Hot should be kicked up a notch, and mild should be somehow thinned out, maybe with more fat, vinegar, or a combination of the two.

But my biggest disagreements with Burnt My Fingers comes from the role of vegetables and the platonic ideal of blue cheese sauce.

Blue cheese blended with mayonnaise might very well be the industry standard. But that’s industrialized blue cheese dressing. The better versions will have a good dose of sour cream and thinned with buttermilk. They will be gutsy, tangy, and deeply flavorful. They shouldn’t be sweet and greasy, which is what can happen when too much cheap mayonnaise replaces higher butterfat sour cream.

Vegetables should be served in a separate container entirely!

McDonald’s nailed this decades ago with the McDLT. Sure the packaging was an environmental catastrophe. But the brand recognized the critical importance of keeping the hot side hot and the cold side cold.

However, it’s not just that. Also at play is the critical importance of keeping wing skin crispy, and removing as much moisture as possible from the equation. Putting sticks of vegetables that are full of water anywhere near an order of hot and crispy wings is just asking for trouble.

Finally, nothing kills the experience of a good meal faster than a wet nap.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when someone at a restaurant uses a spray cleaner on an adjacent table while I’m eating. The aerosolized fragrance wafts over, and regardless of how delicious your food might have been, now you are just tasting cleaning spray.

The reason why I eat buffalo wings is because they are delicious. And I want the experience of that joy to linger for as long as possible. But when you use a wet nap, all of that joy goes away, and all that remains is some acrid fake lemon smell in the back of your nasal cavity.

Hands get dirty. Fine. Fortunately, every single restaurant has a sink. After licking every last morsel off your fingers, and drying them on a proper napkin, simply excuse yourself to wash up. Seriously.

Wet naps? The horror.

I mean, maybe if you’re stuck in a desert somewhere, or in Beijing where the water quality resulted in freshly washed hand feeling dirtier than when they started. But I would rather walk around with buffalo sauce under my fingernails and crusting around my cuticles than have to smell those awful fragrances wafting from a foil packet after a good meal.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some numbers to run.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. June 5, 2018 11:18 am

    My recollection of McDLT was that it failed because the cheese was on the cold side leaving you with a burger topped with unmelted cheese which is at best cheeseburger-ish. That being said, the wings are the star, but given the choice between same plate or separate plate, I’d pick veggies on the same plate. I like a little sauce on them and the them getting a warm never bothered me.

    • June 5, 2018 11:30 am

      It’s all about contrasts. Hot wings. Cold vegetables.

      I’m all for dragging a carrot through some of the buffalo sauce before dunking it in the pot of blue cheese. But the cold side needs to be cold.

      Although, you’re right in that sliced American cheese belongs on the hot side of the burger.

      • June 5, 2018 11:58 am

        Wait a minute. You’re going to separate the veggies from the wings, then dip them in the wing sauce? Madness!

      • June 5, 2018 11:59 am

        For me, the contrast in heat is about spice and not temperature. The blue cheese is the cold. A cold piece of celery dipped in hot sauce is still hot. Either way, this discussion makes me want to fry stuff.

  2. Benjamin M. permalink
    June 5, 2018 11:29 am

    While I disagree with some of your thoughts, as I do Burntmyfingers, I believe it is our ingrained perspectives that lead to our opinions on ideal buffalo wings. While I want them crispy, spicy, and buttery (from the sauce), I don’t mind when the veggies come in the same container as the wings. If you eat them fast, they will not sog out from the carrots. Indeed, the flavor that the celery take on from the sauce is sometimes just as pleasing as the wings. I also hate blue cheese dressing and consider it a detraction from wings, not an enhancement. And, I adore handi-wipes though if the smell bothers people I am certainly willing to wait on using them until the end of the meal. Who wants to walk around with sauce, chicken grease, and dirt under their fingernails all day? Not me, that’s who!

    I do think that our own group of 5 got hung up on the difference between a “hot wing” and a “Buffalo wing.” Processed hot sauce abounds in Buffalo, as it does elsewhere. If you want a “Franks Red Hot wing” (which indeed I think are the best “hot wings”) I commend you, but buffalo wings will not always ring true with Franks.

    I anxiously await your rating results…

  3. June 5, 2018 11:56 am

    Maybe it’s my Southern upbringing, but I find wet naps a welcome courtesy when you are eating greasy food with your hands. Offering them shows respect for your comfort and a desire to satisfy all your needs.

    As to vegetables in our out of the wings bowl, only one of six places served them in a separate bowl so that would seem to be a lost cause. To me this is a parallel discussion to whether you should eat an Italian Mix sub immediately or wait for the sauce to soak into the bread. Carrot and celery sticks that are soaking in wing sauce: not good, and an example of sloppy prep work. (Cf: Junior’s.) Veggies that pick up a little heat from their proximity to the wings: no problem. My photo of the spread at Washington Tavern (using your link above) demonstrates this synergy in action. And PS, when was the last time McDonald’s served up a McDLT? Seems the public did not appreciate the care taken to separate the cold and the hot components.

    Your platonic ideal of a blue cheese/sour cream/buttermilk dressing sounds delicious but I’m not sure it belongs with wings since we already have plenty of butterfat in the wing sauce itself. Maybe the true ideal is this recipe http://burntmyfingers.com/2013/05/09/recipe-buttermilk-blue-cheese-dressing/ that gets its butterfat from buttermilk and acidity from mayo and added vinegar. Give it a try.

  4. June 5, 2018 11:57 am

    What I found most interesting is the lack of consensus among such a large group. Apparently, everyone has their own unique idea of what makes for a great wing-eating experience, including me. In other words, nobody has a damn clue.

    Maybe we need to invoke an official authority on the subject (if one exists).

    • Buffsoulja permalink
      June 5, 2018 12:23 pm

      We go to Buffalo and hit up anchor bar duffs Gabriel’s gate and settle it once and for all

      • June 5, 2018 12:26 pm

        Let’s ride.

      • June 5, 2018 12:34 pm

        Buffalo Eats did a March Madness style twitter poll on wings. I’ve been meaning to do a final 4 tour but haven’t had a chance when I’m out that way.

        http://www.buffaloeats.org/2017/03/02/2017-chicken-wing-tournament/

      • Benjamin M. permalink
        June 5, 2018 1:25 pm

        The best, best, BEST wings I had at the Anchor Bar (the professed home of the hot wing) weren’t a strictly Red Hot/butter sauce. There was additional spices and a little bit of sweetness. I don’t know what they call it, but it is popular there. And I love it. My point is going to the original source still might not lead to a common agreement. (Besides, some day Duff’s has better wings)

    • Benjamin M. permalink
      June 5, 2018 1:33 pm

      Steve,
      The Anchor Bar sells their own sauce, bottled. They created “buffalo sauce.” I find it ironic that butter isn’t a part of the recipe! Per their website, here is how they describe it:

      “Medium- This is IT! The sauces that made Buffalo Chicken Wings Famous! A spectacular blend of Cayenne pepper, vinegar, salt, garlic, margarine and other secret ingredients. All blended together for a rich, smooth fully prepared sauce.”
      https://www.anchorbar.com/store/specials/anchor-bar-wing-sauce-bottle.html

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