Vinegar-based hot sauce, butter and a deep-fried, non-breaded wing are the elements of my ideal wing. When it comes to being the world’s greatest Buffalo chicken wing, can it be that simple? Being a Buffalonian, up until yesterday I thought I knew the answer but after watching “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt” screened at the Sarasota Film Festival, I realized what I had thought wasn’t quite right. After the big reveal, the winning wing decision upset me until I heard the reasoning.
A comedic documentary, “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt” is the result of director Matt Reynolds’ spicy culinary journey on the quest to find the perfect wing. An American journalist based in Eastern Europe and a native of Central New York, Reynolds gave up his job with Reuters to find the world’s greatest Buffalo wing. He and a group of “misfits” visited 70 wing houses, tasted 284 types of wings and traveled more than 2,600 miles across the “Wing Belt” (including New York State with parts of Quebec, Pennsylvania and I think Ontario) in 16 days to find the greatest wing.
A Wing is Born
The Buffalo chicken wing was an unplanned snack food. Born in 1964 at Frank and Teressa Bellissimo’s Anchor Bar, the now famous wings came to be because raw wings were mistakenly shipped to this Italian restaurant. Unsure what to do with so many of them (typically, wings were used in soup) Mrs. Bellissimo fried them up and tossed them in hot sauce. The mistake turned out to be a hit and has become one of America’s most beloved finger food.
Is First the Best?
Does being the first mean the best? Nope.
Of the three Buffalo restaurants in the documentary – Anchor Bar, Duff’s and La Nova – let’s just say these wings didn’t make the cut. I doubt they even made the short list. I asked Reynolds how these Buffalo restaurants reacted to remarks made in the film. They haven’t seen the film and he added he heard there are several wing places in area neighborhoods but they didn’t visit those. I suspect Sal’s would’ve ranked high if they had visited.
And the World’s Greatest Chicken Wing is Found In…
Where can someone find the greatest Buffalo chicken wing? Well, it is in Waterloo, N.Y., at a restaurant called Abigail’s Restaurant (1978 Routes 5 and 20, Tel: 315-539-9300). Although creative, I would not consider it a traditional wing and there was heated debate by the judges. Called the Blue Bayou, the chef places the hot sauce, blue cheese and celery in a blender and tosses the deep-fried wings in the creamy sauce.
Following the screening, I headed to the after party hosted by Tito’s Handmade Vodka at Clasico Café (1341 Main St., Sarasota, Tel: 941-957-0700) where the wing sauce was flown in for partygoers to sample the greatest wing.
I took a bite and waited for flavor to set in yet it didn’t. I wasn’t impressed and simply put, the first batch tasted lame. They had no flavor and were served with ranch dressing. Who does that? A true Buffalo wing needs blue cheese. As a friend on Facebook pointed out (also a native Buffalonian), the wing tips weren’t cut off which, #FAIL!
After tasting the second batch, oh yeah! Reynolds instructed the staff to add “More sauce! More sauce!” which made a huge difference in the dimension of flavors. Flavors of creamy heat accented with a fresh tang of celery danced on my taste buds. This was definitely a pretty darn good Buffalo wing.
No Point Crying Over Spilt Blue Cheese
We Buffalonians take our wings seriously. They’re part of our heritage, culture and fabric of who we are. For Christmas I received a chicken wing ornament which matches a chicken wing key ring and silver charm I have for my bracelet.
Admittedly, I was a tad sad a Buffalo-based restaurant wasn’t voted as having the World’s Greatest Chicken Wing. Looking at the big picture, it was by chance Mrs. Bellissimo deep fried those wings back in 1964 and in the 21st century, it was by chance Abigail’s was selected as having the greatest wing. (See the movie!)
Good things don’t necessarily come to an end with evolution they get better. Buffalo may not have the best wings but the city can take pride in boasting they invented it so others can perfect it, just as Abigail’s has crafted the next generation of wings.
If you get a chance, see “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt.” “Like” them on Facebook.com/TheGreatChickenWingHunt to connect with the filmmakers.
Is anyone else hungry for wings?
Do you have a favorite wing joint where you live? Or where you travel?