Quaker Steak & Lube – Sharon, PA

This is definitely one of the best "wing pilgrimages" you can make if you’re a buffalo wing fan, outside of going to the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, home of the buffalo wing itself.  Quaker Steak & Lube place has the tag line "Best Wings USA" and they do have some damn good wings.  I won’t even try to explain the name – just look at the web site and read the section on "The Story."

I went to Quaker last August on a business trip, long before this blog was started, and wound up there on "All You Can Eat Wing Night" which gave me a chance to try a variety of wings.  They were so good, I ordered some of their sauces online when I got home.

This trip put us at the restaurant a day later, so we were there on "bike night" which was an experience in itself, with hundreds and hundreds of bikes surrounding us.  Without the the buffet set-up I had to actually choose a style of wing to try, which is tougher than you would think with 16 sauces ranked in order of Scoville Heat Units (SHU) from a very mild sauce all the way up to an "Atomic" sauce which is ranked at 150,000 Scoville units and requires a release form to be signed before they serve you.  Being a relatively intelligent person, I didn’t go that far, but I did get their "Arizona Ranch" style wings, which were among my favorites last time.

The Arizona Ranch is a spicy ranch sauce, kind of a combination of buffalo wing sauce and ranch dressing, slightly creamy and lots of flavor.  I also got a side of their "Suicide" sauce, rated at 30,000 SHU and described as "for real wing nuts."  Since I have a blog and a domain name for wings, I figured I qualified!

The Arizona Ranch wings I got for dinner were quite good – they know how to cook their wings here.  Crispy, tender, cooked all the way through.  The flavor was good, but I would have liked a bit more sauce on them – the sauce is so good, I simply wish there was more.

The Suicide sauce was very hot as anticipated, but still with a lot of flavor. It was great to dip the wings in, but an entire serving of wings drenched in that sauce might be too much – the sauce is fairly thick and sticks heavily to the meat, so it would definitely be a BIG hit of heat.

My dining companion for the evening (my boss, just for the record) got a few wings, trying their new wasabi ginger spice dust and got a side of the Golden Garlic wing sauce, which may be my second favorite after the Arizona Ranch.  The spice-dusted wings were good – crispy with no sauce and a nice pleasant flavor.  I think that it would be great on some grilled chicken.

The wings here are as good as you can get, and you can’t beat the selection.  I wish that there was more sauce on the wings I got, but the last time at the buffet there was plenty of sauce.  I haven’t been to one of their chain stores – only to the original in Sharon, PA.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars, based both on quality and principle!!

Persimmon Chicken Wings

There used to be an Asian supermarket in Providence called Persimmon’s that had a great take-out counter.  Among the selections were these phenomenal wings that were like eating candy – coated with a sweet, salty, garlicky soy-based glaze that made you want to lick the take-out container, they were some of the best Asian-style wings I’ve ever had.  Unfortunately, they closed a few years ago and they were gone forever.

Until a few years ago, when I discovered a recipe cut out from the newspaper that my mom had saved.  They were just for a "Chinese Chicken Wings" but the recipe looked so perfectly simple that I figured it was worth trying.  To my pleasant surprise, it was almost an exact replica of the Persimmon wings.  Here’s the recipe:

PERSIMMON CHICKEN WING SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons good quality dark soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice

Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.  While that is heating, measure out the sugar and soy sauce into a bowl and add enough water to dissolve the sugar.

Once the oil is hot, add the chopped garlic (I often used the pre-chopped stuff that comes in jars, especially if I’m doing a large batch of this).  CAREFULLY cook this until the garlic turns a dark brown.  YOU MUST WATCH THIS CAREFULLY.  Not only does the garlic start popping and splattering all over the place, but the garlic can quickly go from brown to BURNT in a matter of seconds.

Once the garlic has turned a nice golden to dark brown (you get a good feel for this after a few tries – the more you can roast the garlic, the better!), quickly add the soy sauce/sugar/water mixture and whisk together.  Add the Chinese five spice (adjust to your liking), then let the combination come to boil and boil for about 5 minutes.  It should begin to thicken.   

If you are making the sauce ahead of time, you can let it cool at this point, and then reheat when you fry the wings.  If you are using right away, let it simmer or boil while you cook the wings.

WINGS

I use a turkey fryer for doing large quantities of wings.  You can do about 2 lbs of wings at a time.  Most recently, I used peanut oil for frying, and it made for very crispy and flavorful wings.  Regardless of what you’re using, heat the oil to 400 degrees, and cook the wings for about 10-12 minutes, until they are cooked through, golden brown and crispy.  This is important – though it is possible, it is tough to over cook the wings.

Remove the wings and drain well.  Make sure the soy glaze sauce is at a rapid boil (this is IMPORTANT!) then toss the wings into the pan with the sauce and toss to coat.  The sauce should start to thicken and caramelize, making a nice glaze.

If you let the wings sit in the sauce for a while (in a chafing dish perhaps), they will lose their crispiness, but the sauce will penetrate the meat more.  As long as you have thoroughly cooked the wings, they will not get too soggy and fatty.  In fact, I might like the wings better after they have soaked in some of this sauce, since they turn into little chicken and soy lollipops so that you can basically just suck the sauce and meat right off the bone.  YUM!!

NOTE: If you don’t want to fry the wings, this recipe works very well with baked wings.  Again, just make sure you bake the wings thoroughly – perhaps put a little salt and pepper or other general seasoning on them – and then toss in the sauce.  If you do it this way, it may be best to let them sit in the sauce longer, since the wings won’t be that crispy to begin with.

The BEST Buffalo Wings EVER – Recipe

I haven’t made my Buffalo wings in nearly two years.  I usually make them for an annual cook-out, but I didn’t have one last year due to various circumstances related to time and money.  So finally being able to taste my delicious wings again was a real treat.  For the benefit of all, here is my "recipe" (its all kind of touchy-feely):

BUFFALO SAUCE INGREDIENTS

  • 2 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
  • Half of a jar of sliced pepperocini peppers rings
  • Half of a jar of roasted red peppers in oil, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup of chopped scallions
  • 1 bottle of Frank’s Red Hot sauce
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a large fry pan over medium heat.  Add the scallions, garlic and the half-jars of peppers to the oil.  Cook for about 10 minutes, allowing the peppers, garlic and scallions to pick up some color and start to cook through.

Add the balsamic vinegar and toss with the peppers.

Add an entire bottle of Frank’s Red Hot sauce and the stick of butter.  Lower heat to low and allow to simmer until butter melts and sauce is combined.

WINGS

I use a turkey fryer for doing large quantities of wings.  You can do about 2 lbs of wings at a time.  Most recently, I used peanut oil for frying, and it made for very crispy and flavorful wings.  Regardless of what you’re using, heat the oil to 400 degrees, and cook the wings for about 10-12 minutes, until they are cooked through, golden brown and crispy.  This is important – though it is possible, it is tough to over cook the wings.

Remove the wings and drain well, then toss with the sauce and serve immediately.

If you let the wings sit in the sauce for a while (in a chafing dish perhaps), they will lose their crispiness, but the sauce will penetrate the meat more.  As long as you have thoroughly cooked the wings, they will not get too soggy and fatty.

NOTE: For hotter (spicier) wings, you can do a variety of things, including adding different hotter hot sauces or some red pepper flakes or some cayenne pepper.  However, an easy way to add heat is to simply make the sauce the night before you serve the wings.  Letting the peppers steep in the sauce overnight releases more of their potent oil and the whole sauce comes out considerably spicier than when fresh.  Just reheat the sauce thoroughly and toss the wings as stated before.

Sunset Grill & Tap – Boston, MA

When you’re a wing lover, some wings stay in your memory for a while as being exceptional.  A few years ago I went to the Sunset Grill & Tap and I still remembered those wings.  They had a particularly sweet taste that was reminiscent of fresh peppers and other flavors.

So I was anxious to try them again while in Boston last Saturday for a little day trip to the New England Aquarium.  The Sunset is best known for its formidable beer selection – 112 on tap and 100’s more in bottles.  A beer lover’s dream come true. But the food is pretty impressive too.  Especially the wings…

These are great wings.  A little nontraditional in their recipe, but hot, saucy, spicy, and perfectly cooked.  The wings are average size and cooked to an ideal doneness and crispiness.  There’s also a good serving of them as well.

However, its the sauce that makes the difference here.  The sauce is thick and flavorful.  There’s a lot more going on in here than margarine and Red Hot.  There’s flecks of peppers visible in the sauce and it has a flavor that is somewhat similar to that of Manwich, but I mean that in the best way possible.  The heat provides a nice steady burn that some might find a bit too hot (I got their original "Subatomic" style.  I would imagine that "Atomic" is only for the masochistic), but I found perfect.  I was soaking up the sauce with anything I could use to soak it up with.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars!!

The Charlie Horse – West Bridgewater, MA

During an impromptu lunch date with Meghan at the Charlie Horse, I decided to have an appetizer of their buffalo wings for lunch.  The waitress assured me that there were plenty of wings in there, and she wasn’t kidding – as an appetizer, there were definitely enough wings for two people, possibly three. 

The wings are pretty traditional – fried and tossed in sauce.  However, they are executed perfectly – a big mound of well-cooked wings arrived, coated in sauce, but not so much that it turned the crispy skin soggy.  The wings were thoroughly cooked, making it easy to pull the meat off the bone and insuring all the skin fat was cooked out. 

The sauce itself is pleasantly hot – if you like it really spicy, their "hot" won’t be hot enough for you, but it still gives a comfortable spiciness that makes them very edible.  They were served with a nice complement of excellent blue cheese dressing and carrot and celery sticks. 

The wings are a little small, but I don’t downgrade them for it, since there were plenty of them and resulted in some perfectly cooked wings.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Bison County – Waltham, MA

A recent trip to Bison County BBQ naturally involved trying an order of their Spicy South Carolina Jumbo Chicken Wings.  I went with just the spicy rather than the "crazily hot" since the waitress said that that version was made with nearly straight habanero chile.  I love spicy food, but I like to be able to taste the meat and enjoy the food too.

The wings are indeed "jumbo" – not only are they large and meaty, but they are full wing sections, with the wing and drummets still connected, unusual for restaurant wings.  There aren’t many in a platter, but there’s plenty of meat to go around.  The wings are smoked and grilled with a spicy rub on them – a deceptively spicy rub.  I was the first to dig into the wings and realized rather quickly that these were pretty spicy.  Others didn’t believe me for the first half-minute or so after biting into them, but then quickly agreed.  The "South Carolina" part of the wings is simply that it comes with a vinegar-y mustard-y dipping sauce, a combination of the vinegar and mustard-based BBQ sauces found in the Carolinas.

It made for a great accompaniment to the wings, which did taste great, with a nice char-grilled and smokey flavor.  However, while they were definitely fully cooked, they weren’t cooked to the point where the fat of the skin and wings had completely rendered out, so they were a little greasy.  The sauce and the spices made up for it though. 

As a quick aside, the main course barbecue itself was good, but not great.  The first sparerib I had was fantastic. The others had clearly been sitting around for a little bit waiting for a customer to order them.  The brisket was OK, but sliced very very thin, meaning it was a little dried out and not that tender.  But this is about wings, not BBQ, so I’ll give these:

RATING: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Gritty McDuff’s – Portland, ME

Following the disappointing attempt at wings in Lowell the day before, I was determined to get some good wings during a quick overnight trip to Portland, Maine.  Once we got into Portland, we stopped at Gritty McDuff’s for a beer and a snack, which of course turned out to be wings.

Specifically, we tried their "Gritty Wings" which, in retrospect, isn’t the most appetizing name.  I was really just hoping for a well-executed batch of traditional buffalo wings, but was pleasantly surprised.  Rather than your straightforward Frank’s Red Hot and margarine sauce, Gritty McDuff’s sauce has a bounty of flavors which makes the wings delicious AND spicy. 

As Meghan and I ate them, we picked apart some of the flavors – what we believed was either honey or molasses and what I believe is definitely some cumin.  With the addition of some unusual flavors, the sauce tasted fresh, not bottled or manufactured.

The wings themselves were perfectly cooked and served with some great blue cheese dressing.  These wings are real winners and I would love to get my hands on the sauce recipe, since it is one of the best I’ve ever tasted.

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars!!!!

The Brewery Exchange – Lowell, MA

I recently took my parents out to a concert in Lowell, MA and had dinner before at The Brewery Exchange.  Their menu had hot wings, advertised as being with their "own spicy honey glaze."  Intrigued, we tried some.

The wings themselves were somewhat mediocre – obviously a pre-made breaded frozen style wing, the breading was soggy from the sauce by the time they got to us.  They should put the sauce on the size if the wings are going to be breaded.  In addition, the chicken was cooked perfectly white, but the bone itself felt a little cold still, so they must have gone from freezer to fryer.

The sauce was good – definitely some underlying sweetness from honey, but overall, nothign special, and a little dissapointed with the wings themselves.

RATING: 2 out 5 stars

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!