Buffalo, New York is most known for chicken wings. They’re equal parts delicious and bad for you. There are two stories that chronicle the invention of the chicken wing, both were in Buffalo, NY. One story is that they were invented in the 1960’s, breaded and fried, and shaken in mambo sauce, or a type of hot sauce. Another story, and the story that most Buffalonians believe to be accurate, is that they were invented at Anchor Bar. They were not breaded but were deep fried and then shaken in a butter and hot sauce mixture. Frank’s Red Hot is the staple hot sauce if you want authentic wings like you’d get in Buffalo, NY. The recipe is simple… get the meatiest wings and drums you can find, deep fry them crispy, shake them in Frank’s Red Hot. That’s hot. If you want them medium hot, add some melted butter to the hot sauce. If you want them mild, reduce the hot sauce to the butter mixture to make it more buttery. That’s it. (NOTE: Frank’s sells WING SAUCE but that’s not what you want. Just get the HOT SAUCE.)
In Buffalo, we call them wings. I’ve traveled across the country several times and the name “Buffalo Wings” seemed to be the norm. When you see or hear them referred to as “Buffalo Wings,” be prepared for a chicken wing that’s not truly prepared like they are in Buffalo. When you hear them referred to as “Wings,” you’re likely to have the real deal. Even when you google, “chicken wing,” you get BUFFALO WING returned. So annoying.
July 29th is Chicken Wing Day in Buffalo, NY. Each year we have a weekend festival where chicken wing makers from all over the country come to compete for the best chicken wing crown. This past year I had the pleasure of engineering 2 stages at once. Day 1 was all set up. Day two and three were juggling events, music, game shows, and competitions. I didn’t have any stage hands or assistant engineers for this gig since this was also the day were were hosting Pat Benetar at the harbor. (See my blog history for notes and pics of that gig, also.)
The special guest host for this year’s Chicken Wing Fest was Mark DeCarlo. He’s been on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Saved by the Bell, Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm, countless cartoons and cable movies but I remember him from the Travel Channel mostly. He’s a nice dude with a great sense of humor. He held a guacamole competition and gave the winner a trip to the Caribbean and the runner up a digital video camera.
This competition was an easy one. It was the bobbing for wings in a pool of bleu cheese that got out of control. 4 people put their hands behind their backs and proceeded to get covered in bleu cheese, getting it all over the stage. Coordinators tried to convince me that it was MY responsibility to clean up since it was my stage. I had to carefully explain that the gear was rented and I was hired as an audio engineer and stage manager, not janitorial, and they’d have to figure out how to clean the stage before the next event.
I was impressed that Mark DeCarlo could really hold his own with the harp. He jammed with the Heavenly Chillbillies and even sang a tune by request. Not bad at all.
The moment everyone was waiting for, the professional eater, Joey Chestnut. He was the favorite to win, a fan favorite that is. He’d have to face the Black Widow, a tiny, and I mean, really tiny, Asian woman. The first day’s professional event was a buffet all you can eat. It consisted of pizza, roast beef on weck, and chicken wings served in big roaster pans. Pan after pan after pan. It would not be the Black Widow’s day though as an even smaller woman ate more than both of them. Miki Sudo crushed it finishing several pounds of food in a mere 4:17. That’s 4 minutes and 17 seconds.
The next day was the chicken wing competition and Joey Chestnut, so angry from the loss the day before, was a no show. A big crowd disappointment. 3 women would go on to take the top 3 spots of the chicken wing competition, Miki Sudo taking top spot again with 178 wings. The lesson a lot of men learned here was to NOT ask these women to dinner.
I had a good time even though it was pretty gross overall. I got free beer, free wings, and made some great connections for more productions down the road.
You can see all the winning standings here along with the winning recipe for a healthy wing. A healthy wing? What?