See, I’m Not the Only One

Even though it goes off into a discussion about how all sorts of ethnic foods are becoming more and more popular and common throughout the United States, this article in the San Francisco Chronicle starts off by saying "After decades of being satisfied with mild foods, it’s now craving bold flavors that pack a punch — hot and spicy, sweet and heat, and interesting combinations that add new meaning to kicking it up a notch" to which I say "god bless America!"

According to the article, 1,463 products with the word "spicy" were introduced in the last two years, as well as a 4.5 percent increase in "hot" and "spicy" items found on fast-food menus and a 2 percent increase at fine-dining restaurants during 2005.

So clearly this blog is right on track!


I was hesitant to put this under the category of "Restaurant Wings" since it barely qualifies for either, but for lack of a better description, I’ll put it there for now.  I am thinking of putting a "take out" category however.

Anyway… on the way back from Baltimore, we stopped at a highway rest stop for an upscale dining experience at Chez McDonald’s.  I got the Chicken Selects with their buffalo wing sauce.  I have to admit that these things are surprisingly good. 

The chicken strips are crispy and not greasy at all and the chicken inside is actually white chicken meat, not the processed chicken meal that goes into chicken nuggets.  They have a pleasantly salty and peppery bite by themselves, but when dipped in the buffalo wing sauce, they are quite good! 

The sauce is of the creamy variety, with a thick viscosity that clings nicely to the chicken.  We are probably better off not knowing how they get it to be like that. The heat is good, with a vinegary pepper sauce after bite.

RATING: A surprising 3.5 out of 5

Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods markets are known for having healthy organic and all-natural foods.  However, not all foods are necessarily "healthy" – they may be organic and all-natural, but even if you make it with organic chocolate, organic eggs, and organic cream, a chocolate torte is still not good for your cholesterol.  It does have antioxidants at least.

Which brings us to their teriyaki style wings that they often have as part of their hot food take-out buffet.  They are baked with a sticky dark glaze and while the skin doesn’t get crispy thanks to the glaze, baking and the fact that they are sitting in a steam table, they aren’t fatty and have a nice taste to them.  I have found them to be a safe bet for a quick soy-flavored wing hit, though far from the best I’ve ever had.

RATING: 3 out of 5 stars

Rock Bottom Brewery – Boston

Before going to see Spamalot in Boston this week, we headed to the Rock Bottom Brewery for dinner (perhaps I should have called this the "beer n’ wings" blog).  Naturally, we had to try the buffalo wings.

A solid performance from the folks at Rock Bottom, but nothing special.  The wings weren’t particularly meaty or crispy, but weren’t bad either. While the buffalo sauce was good, it wasn’t anything special; not that spicy, no different flavors, not particular rich or creamy.  In fact, it was a little on the salty side, which probably works well for selling beer, but unimpressed this wing aficionado.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The Wharf Rat – Baltimore, MD

During a spontaneous trip to Baltimore to see the Red Sox play the Orioles, we had dinner at The Wharf Rat, located right near Camden Yards.  A British pub-inspired eatery, they served some good food and good beer – many of which are served hand-pumped at the traditional 55 degree temperature.

Of course, like any self-respecting brewpub they had wings on the menu, but with your choice of four flavors: buffalo, jerk, BBQ, or Old Bay.  Since we were in Baltimore, home of Old Bay seasoning, we figured we would go with that. 

The good news is that the wings were perfectly cooked – crispy, moist and delicious.  The bad news is that their Old Bay style wings simply involves sprinkling Old Bay over the cooked wings.  Underwhelming at best, and not really either hot OR saucy to be honest.

Now, if they had been baked or grilled with Old Bay, that might be different: the flavor would penetrate the wings more and as it toasted the Old Bay spices, a whole new flavor would arise.  Or even if they put Old Bay in a buttery hot sauce.  But just sprinkling it on wings just didn’t add enough flavor.

RATING: 2 out of 5 stars

Brown Sugar Cafe – Boston

This was a bit of a stretch: going to Brown Sugar Cafe, a Thai restaurant and they had "stuffed wings" on the menu described as "

Golden fried boneless chicken wings with stuffing of seasoned minced chicken, vegetables and Thai herbs. Served with House Sweet Chili Sauce."

I figured that they were fried and served with a hot and sweet sauce, so why not try them?  That turned out to be a slight misjudgment on my part.  The rest of the food there was great – I had roast duck curry which was very good and Meghan had crispy pad thai which made me whish I had gotten the pad thai (I have had several bad pad thais over the last few years and has kinda turned me off after loving it the first few times I had it).  The wings, were, simply, a disappointment.

They were fried and golden, but not crispy – I’m not sure how they did it, because they looked great; they just were fatty and tough.  Also the "boneless" description was pushing it, as I pulled a few pieces of gristle out of my mouth while eating them.  Lastly, the stuffing didn’t have much flavor – really didn’t add anything to the dish.

The only redeeming thing was the chili sauce which was a pleasantly hot bright red sauce that was also very sweet.  I kept the sauce on hand for my main course, it was so good. 

RATING: 1 out of 5 stars

Hard Rock Cafe – Chicago

While on a long weekend excursion with friends to Chicago recently, we tried the Wings Around the World, described as "A dozen chicken wings tossed in three different world-class sauces: a spicy Moroccan sauce, an Asian-sesame sauce and our classic wing sauce."

The wings themselves were perfectly cooked – crispy and well done, with plenty of juiciness left.  The three sauces were all well received by myself and my two dining companions, though I felt the Asian-sesame sauce was lacking, compared to other Asian-style wing sauces I have had.  Not a lot of "pop" to it. Photo_040106_013

The classic wing sauce was quite good – a standard delicious buffalo wing sauce.  I asked for a side of the "heavy metal" wing sauce, a hotter version, and one that turned out to have better flavor.  If you want your wings hotter, spicier, and more flavorful, I highly suggest getting the heavy metal sauce.  It has some nice smoked pepper flavors to, as well as other savory aromatics.

The Moroccan sauce was the highlight of the three though.  Totally different from your expected wing sauces, it carried curry overtones that gave it a depth of flavor not found in most fiery sauces. And since the heat and spice didn’t come from the usual pepper sources, it had a delayed, lingering burn that hit you further back in your mouth and on your tongue than the usual tongue-tip and lip searing that happens with traditional hot sauces.  It made for a pleasant experience and a sauce that I love to try barbecuing with!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars overall (5 out of 5 for Moroccan, 2.5 for the Asian, 3 for the traditional sauced wings, and 4 for the heavy metal sauce)

I also had the Cajun chicken sandwich which was quite good, though was helped along with the left over heavy metal sauce.  Nicely grilled with Cajun spices and served with a Cajun-mustard-mayonnaise sauce.

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars