Sunday, August 12, 2007

Riesling and Buffalo Wings

When my friend Dana asked me to sit on a tasting panel for an article that she was writing on where to find the best buffalo wings in the city, I jumped at the chance.

"It'll be perfect!" she exclaimed. "I've got a chef, a guy who knows a lot about peppers, and a couple of novices. You can be the token 'foodie' and give your expert opinion!"

Well, I wasn't sure that I was actually an expert on the subject, but for the opportunity to taste a bunch of free wings and then pontificate about them in an article that was going to grace the front of the food section of the local newspaper, I was willing to pretend to be. A photographer was coming and everything. My ego was psyched.

I arrived at the restaurant last night and promptly ordered a glass of Riesling, figuring that the balance of sweetness and acidity in the wine was the only logical compliment to the spicy sauces that were about to pass my lips and coat my fingertips.

"Ok, everyone," Dana instructed after we all settled down at the big marble table in the middle of the bar, "here's how it's going to work. We're tasting wings from six restaurants, three chain and three locally owned. There are three different flavors represented in the line up, and we're scoring each one on a hundred point scale. Also, there's plenty of space to write comments, so be sure to come up with some good stuff so I'll have quotes to use in the article."

The results were full of surprises. Being a crowd of city-dwelling twenty-somethings, we were primed up to hate the chains, but were surprised when some of our local haunts failed us. There was definitely a runaway favorite of the bunch, and all of us greedily fought over the leftovers and licked the peppery sauce off of our fingers.

However, dessert was yet to come. The chef on the panel worked at the restaurant that was hosting us for the tasting. Since it is an upscale environment that is not exactly known for bar food, not to mention the fact that there would be a natural bias, we did not enter their wings into the mix. We had, however, been promised a round of theirs when the competition was over.

When we thought we had had our fill of chicken drummettes and celery, a new bowl was placed in the middle of the table. Inside was about a dozen and a half of the most perfectly plump wings I had ever seen. We could already smell the sauce, which had the perfect mixture of sweetness and heat and... and... what was that last ingredient?

"Roasted garlic," the chef announced over our lip smacking. "You get it right up front and it moistens your palate for the rest of the flavors. Oh, we almost forgot the blue cheese!" And with that he scampered back into the kitchen.

A few minutes later two wide, shallow ramekins of the thickest, most pungent blue cheese dressing I've ever seen were gently set down on either side of the wing bowl. We oohed, aahed, and finally just started eating the stuff with our fingers. These were, undoubtedly, the best wings I'd ever had.

And like I suspected, they went perfectly with the Kabinett Riesling. Maybe I've got more expertise on the subject than I thought...


Anonymous "I'm Not Biased, I Promise" said...

I dream of those wings. I wake up and I want my morning yogurt to taste like them. If I close my eyes tight enough, my midday microwave meal tastes a little bit them. I am in love.

8:21 PM  

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