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Crossing Over

April 16, 2019

There are all kinds of food communities within the Capital Region, and I try to keep a toe in as many of them as possible. There is the blogging community, which has been shrinking and shrinking. There is the instagramming community, which has been growing and getting more vibrant. Of course, there is also the Yelp community, and working with that group has been my primary focus over the past few years.

We have specialized communities around certain diets and cuisines. Naturally, there are thriving vegan and natural foods communities. There is a sushi meetup group. A friend had been running a periodic brunch bunch. We have cookbook clubs, cooking schools, and more. On top of it all, every great establishment has a klatch of regulars who are a community in and of themselves.

Last night, I got to spend some time in real life with a few local members of the Tell Me What You Are Eating Facebook group at New World Bistro Bar. As far as I’m concerned, TMWYAE is the only good thing about FB. It’s a positive place where members are encouraged to share their pics of whatever they are about to eat. Good or bad. Fancy or humble. Beautifully plated or thrown together.

It’s really an amazing assemblage of pictures across the food spectrum.

One of the things I learned about Albany long ago is that the region itself is pretty large, but socially it’s quite small. And as such, there were people who I knew from various food communities around the table. Randy, who is one of the TMWYAE moderators, even went toe to toe with me in a cooking competition years and years ago. Bloggers, Instagrammers, and Yelpers made up a good portion of the table.

However, I also got to meet some new faces, and that’s always a thrill. Additionally we got to meet over wave after wave of chef Ric’s chicken wings, which may be another crossover that warrants some attention.

The idea of last night was somehow hatched around the last Fussy Little Tour when we were looking for wings to eat around Albany. Ric mentioned that he had all kinds of wings at NWBB. While I knew there were wings on the menu, I was not aware of the breadth of varieties.

If you know me, you know I want to eat all the things.

This was no different. I wanted to assemble a group to head over to New World and eat all six varieties of Ric’s wings to find the ones we liked the best. The only problem was that I had no time to actually plan the event. Perhaps I pitched the idea to TMWYAE, or maybe Ric did? My memory isn’t what it used to be. But whatever the case, Eileen from the group, picked up the gauntlet and ran with it.

Do you know what’s more fun than planning events like this? Attending them as a guest! And for that I owe Eileen a debt of thanks! Plus she went above and beyond by brining little gift bags for everyone around the table.

She worked out a prix fixe menu that included a glass of wine or sangria, a shared salad, a dessert, and samples of five of the different wings. Steve N was there too and he made sure we added on the Purple Haze wings, because how could we make the trip, and not try the spiciest item on offer? It’s a fair and compelling point.

And now we know.

But here’s the thing. Ric’s wings aren’t your typical tavern wings. They aren’t even cooked the same way. Instead of being deep fried, they are cooked in an oven first, and then flash fried. And most of his wings are very sauce heavy, which has a tendency to soften the chicken skin.

The good news is that one preparation of wings at New World retains its crispy skin. Those are the ones with Latin “PIQUE” sauce. These wings are dry, with a spiced coating, served with a chimichurri like sauce on the side. And they are both tasty and mildly piquant.

My favorite of the night had me literally sweating, and weren’t just hot, but also deeply flavored. These were Ric’s Jerk wings, and that shouldn’t be surprising. This is a fellow who has been doing right by jerk sauce for years. It’s a 7 on the RIC-TER SCALE which means “Authentically & Honorably Spicy”. Now, I could imagine a spicier jerk sauce, but my only wish for these was that they were able to retain some crispiness in the skin below.

Perhaps, when one looks at crossover wings, instead of approaching the appetizer sized portion as “chicken wings” or “hot wings” perhaps it’s better to frame them as a diminutive sized portion of Ric’s classic chicken dishes. This, I believe, is the key to happiness with the NWBB wings.

It was fun to try the Purple Haze sauce too, but even though it’s a full two points higher on the RIC-TER Scale, weighing in at a 9 which puts it in the ranks of “For Aficionados & Thrill Seekers Only” they didn’t have the same kick as the jerk wings, and for proof you only had to look as far as my non-sweaty brow.

True story: after the jerk wings, I took a break and went to the bathroom to wash my head. Part of me is starting to wonder if we were served the Level 7 jerk sauce or it’s hotter cousin the Level 10. It’s not that the jerk was insanely hot, but it was definitely the hottest of the bunch. This would help make sense of the anomalies in the scale.

Regardless, here’s the thing to remember. The NWBB menu is vast. I’d probably get the jerk wings again, just as a way to get a taste of Ric’s jerk chicken without committing to a full order. However, there’s so much stuff to try, I would most likely reserve my wing eating for establishments that fully deep fry the wings, as I prefer the resulting texture. Health be damned. They are an occasional indulgence, and it’s not the occasional order of wings that’s going to get me in the end.

More than anything else, I was blown away by the Hudson Valley Salad we had to start things off. The combination of smoked walnuts, Jasper Hill blue cheese, grilled red onions, apples, and hard cider vinaigrette was simply fantastic. Those smoked walnuts were brilliant.

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I could see myself being very happy with just a small version of this salad, a piece of bread, and a beer for my dinner. Because really, even after splitting the large salad four ways, I was satiated. The hunger was gone. I was able to gorge on all of those wings, and even eat a scoop of Jane’s ice cream to cap things off, largely because it was there. And you know, for science. But portion sizes. Portion sizes still kill me.

Thankfully, I find myself in the midst of many food communities. So off I’ll go on the next adventure with whatever group will have me, whenever the schedule allows.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Katie permalink
    April 16, 2019 11:09 am

    In 100% agreement! If we were served the level 10 jerk, that changes the entire context of the other wings we tried and things make a lot more sense.

    Those smoked walnuts were the entirely unanticipated star of my evening.

  2. April 16, 2019 11:47 am

    That salad, that was something special.

    Overall, the wings were good, and I concur that the PIQUE and Jerk wings were the best of the night. I also liked the purple haze sauce even though it failed to deliver on its promised “thrillseeker” heat level.

    One other takeaway for me was Ric’s use of sweet and spicy. If I’m not mistaken, 4 of the 6 wings were tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. I’m becoming more a fan of the combo every day and this event confirmed my love of it. The key though is the heat must be more pronounced than the sweetness. Spicy first, sweet second.

    But damn, how I wish the purple haze sauce had delivered on the heat, that would’ve been great.

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