Monday, June 1, 2009

Buffalo Wings Make Our Hearts Soar (Sore?)...

Buffalo wings, aka hot wings have won over the hearts and stomachs of most of America and the rest of the World, for that matter. We enjoy them with a childlike fervor, as we tear into the messy wings with our fingers, pulling the tender meat from the bone with our teeth and slathering the spicy, vinegary sauce around our mouths. The endorphins fly as an almost euphoric burning sensation, from the capsaicin in cayenne pepper sauce, hits our lips. I therefore think that it's only fitting that I give a nod, a high five, and a wipe of the brow to these little fiery nuggets of aviary goodness and their origins. At the end of this article I have posted the original Anchor Bar Buffalo Wing recipe that was first published in Ladies Home Journal, August, 1991.

Buffalo, NY is the undisputed king, err... queen of the wing and all four stories of the origination of the hot, tender morsels are from "The Queen City," however, the general consensus is that Teressa Bellisimo of the Anchor Bar created the chicken phenom in 1964. The first story says that Teressa and Frank Bellisimo owned the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY and one Friday night her son Dominic and his friends came into the bar looking for a snack. Preparing to make a batch of stock from some chicken wings, "Mother Teressa" stuck some of the wings under the broiler and then covered them with a sauce that she had thrown together, using a base of butter and Frank's Hot Sauce. She took some celery sticks from one of the antipasto plates, put some of the house dressing, which happened to be blue cheese, in a small bowl, and served them up to the hungry boys and history was made. Later the anchor bar would start frying the wings instead of broiling them. Well, that's the first story...

Teressa and Frank are no longer with us, but Dominic, who took over the restaurant, says that Buffalo wings were actually created one Friday night when his mostly Catholic patrons were consuming copius quantities of beverage. Dominic wanted to do something nice for his regulars, and as they would be able to eat meat again at midnight, had mom throw something together. Either way, Teressa seems to be the one that we owe our undying thanks to.

Yet a third story, told by "Father Frank," says that there was a mis-delivery of wings that were supposed to be backs and necks for the restaurant's spaghetti sauce. With an overload of wings, Frank asked Teressa to "do something with them" and man did she ever do something!

The Anchor Bar has been host to many celebrities from actor John Candy, to musicians Kenny Rogers, Bob Seger, Spyro Gyra, Glen Miller's Band member Dick Gerhart, and a huge number of sports figures. It's also a favorite spot of Fred Smerlas and Alexander Mogilny.

A fourth origin story was reported in 1980, by New Yorker magazine contributor Calvin Trillin, who wrote that a man named John Young, in the early to mid-60s had developed a special "mambo" wing sauce that he cooked on his wings, at his Buffalo, NY restaurant Wings n' Things. Unlike the Anchor Bar, Young's wings were whole, rather than split and tipped, and were breaded, with the sauce covering them, rather than being tossed in the sauce. These wings were his signature dish. Young registered the name of his restaurant, John Young's Wings 'n Things, with the county in 1970. He said that "If the Anchor Bar was selling chicken wings, nobody in Buffalo knew about it then." Local poultry distributor records indicate that both the Bellissimos and Young were purchasing large quantities of wings during this time, but no actual sales records could ever be located. Well into the 1980s they were still serving the "Mambo" wings the original way, at Wings 'n Things and at Young's brother's restaurant, Bird Land.

A Short Timeline of the Hot Wing:
1964: Hot wings are created in Buffalo, NY and slowly spread to the surrounding area. Not much happens on the wing front and virtually no mentions of wings in print until 1975.

1975: Florida snow bird Edmund J. Hauck, originally of Buffalo, starts a restaurant called Wings N' Curls which becomes the first chain to specialize in hot wings. By 1992 the company had grown to 18 restaurants in Florida, Indiana, and California. Their wings were offered with several different sauces although the Buffalo wings were certainly the favorite. Mr. Hauck later sold the chain and only the original location still carries the name.

1983: By this time a good portion of the country had at least heard of Buffalo or hot wings and the time was right for the plucking and the little sports bar that would become the corporate monster Hooters opened it's doors on an unsuspecting public. The first Hooters Restaurant opened in Clearwater, Florida and in 1984 the concept was licensed to Hooters of America.

Late 1980s: An article in Family Circle states that "Buffalo wings have quickly become a favorite across the US." The 1980s was obviously a time of discovery and growth for the wing.

1992: The national pizza chain Domino's introduces the Buffalo wing as an option in their Buffalo, NY locations.

1994: Domino's goes nationwide with their wing promotion and commits to $32 million in advertising during National Football League games on NBC that season.

1995: Pizza Hut follows suit and begins national distribution of wings. Domino's reports that 1/3 of it's customers are ordering wings. Little Caesar's begins selling wings in 200 of it's locations. Wings become a $400 million a year part of the restaurant industry.

Some Wings Facts:
- Opposing athletic teams that come to Buffalo visit the Anchor Bar the night before their game.

- Vice President Mondale had chicken wings delivered to his plane on a visit to Buffalo, as did the former First Lady, Hillary Clinton.

- In 1977, Buffalo Mayor Stan Makowski, proclaimed July 29th as Official Chicken Wing Day.

- Wings cost $.05/lb, in 1964, the year that Buffalo wings were invented.

- One of the largest eating contests in the U.S. is the Wing Bowl. It has been held annually in Philadelphia since 1993.

- Joey Chestnut is the reigning three-time champion and in 2008, set a record by eating 241 wings during the contest.

- True original Buffalo wings are never breaded or battered; they are deep fried, naked, as nature intended.

Where can I get good wings in Dallas?
Here are a few good places to get your burn on. Let me know of any that I have been remiss in listing!

1. Angry Dog (Great wings, only two sauces, regular and burn-your-ass-off, and one of the best burgers in town!)
2726 Commerce St.
Dallas, TX 75226
(214) 741-4406

2. Plucker’s Wing Factory & Grill
5500 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75206
(214) 363-9464

3. McKinney Ave. Tavern
2822 McKinney Ave.
Dallas, TX 75204
(214) 969-1984‎

4. Frankie’s Sports Bar
3227 Mckinney Ave. # 102
Dallas, TX 75204
(214) 999-8932

5. City Tavern (they have a good Ruben too!)
1402 Main St.
Dallas, TX 75202
(214) 745-1402‎

6. Lone Star Wings (five locations in Dallas, and one in New York!)

AND NOW... (drum roll please)

Anchor Bar Buffalo Wings (The Original Recipe!!!)
Source: Ladies Home Journal - August 1991

The Sauce:
6 tablespoons Frank's Louisiana Hot Sauce
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) margarine - not butter
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
Dash of black pepper
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1 to 2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce
Carrot and celery sticks to garnish
Marie's Bleu Cheese Dressing

This makes enough for about 30 "wingettes."
Mix all the ingredients in a small sauce pan and heat on low until the margarine is completely melted, stirring occasionally.

The Wings:
Fry the wings in a deep fryer set at 375 degrees using vegetable or peanut oil. Fry 15 wings at a time for 12 to 15 minutes. Drain the wings for a few minutes then put them in a bowl.

After all the wings have been fried, pour the sauce over them, cover the bowl, and shake to completely coat the wings.

They can be eaten now, or you can put them on a baking sheet and bake them for a few minutes to get an extra-crispy coating.

Serve with carrot and celery sticks and Marie's Bleu Cheese Dressing and cold beer (Genesee Cream Ale is traditional).

Feel the burn!!!