I’m from Buffalo, a town where wings and football are things of reverence and proud reputation (though the football bit often leaves something to be desired). Buff, as I affectionately refer to her, is home to nearly half my relatives, all my oldest friends, the best bar food the world over, and a huge obesity problem (pun intended). The fact is, it’s hard to eat healthy in a city famous for the most irresistible of foods, “junk.” The junk food in Buff is superb: fish fry Fridays, chili-chugging game days, pizza drowned in bleu cheese, loganberry slushies, Cajun curly-cues, gouda and beer bisque, banana peppers stuffed with bacon, Ranch with a side of salad, roast beef on weck, venison sausage and peppers, chicken finger subs, sauerkraut pirogies, Chiavetta’s BBQ, Frank’s RedHot, Weber’s Mustard, Sahlen’s foot-long dogs, Jim’s SteakOut, Mighty Taco, Anderson’s Soft Serve, pop, Lake Effect brew, Cole’s penultimate reuben, anything fried and everything covered with mozzarella. And then, of course, there are the wings. You call them “Buffalo wings;” we needn’t qualify. Everyone knows that saucy combination of butter, hot pepper puree, chicken, and a vat of boiling oil has Buffalo as its namesake.
For my money, the best wings in Buff come not from Anchor Bar, famed originator of the spicy treat, but from Duff’s, the perfector of the wing . Over the holidays, my brother and I visted Duff’s on a dare to see how many “death” wings each of us could stomach before heading home to watch the Giants kick the shit out of our Bills. I’m sure you’ve heard of “suicide” wings ‘round your parts, hell, they even advertise them on West 4th Street, but Duff’s takes it to a whole new level of hot with their secret Death sauce, which I can tell you tastes like little more than Frank’s RedHot with about a pound of straight up cayenne pepper thrown in. It’s brutal, not delicious, but worth experiencing if you’ve got a penchant for living dangerously, or a death wish (sorry, another pun). We ordered our classic wings and fries combo, which comes with a pitcher of pop and a pile of celery, carrots, and blue cheese, (the standard Buff accoutremont), and a side of Death. Truth be told, I only made it through two wings covered in Death (one and a half, to be fair), while Brother took the trophey, managing to scarf down three whole ones before knocking the remaining tub of Death onto the floor and into my purse. Taking that as a sign that further indulgence in the pursuit of “death” was not to be toyed with, we finished our meal, skipping the remaining wings of Death, and raced home to watch the game. We lost, and the faint smell of cayenne still lingers on my favorite black bag…
Superbowl Sunday is now upon us, and I’ll be damned before I root for the NY Giants. I’m a New Yorker through and through, but I am also a real Fan, and my allegiance is sworn to my hometown teams, come triumph or tragedy, rain or shine (and you know it’s not likely to be fair weather on or off the playing field in Buff.) Then again, I have always and will always despise The New England Patriots. So what’s a girl to do?I was hoping Celest’s Cowboys might make it to The Big Game and give us something to celebrate on Sunday. But instead, we’re stuck with a lose-lose ballgame, living only for the moment when Justin Timberlake flies across the screen in his latest Pepsi commercial! Sara is especially psyched.
So, to ease our dashed Superbowl dreams and tempt our mouths with the stuff of Buff, I’m baking wings for the very first time. Yes, I’m baking them (for fear of a Tribal uprising), and using the Duff’s sauce I brought from home; but I’m also deep-frying a batch of Spicy Japanese Style Chicken Wings that I hope will prove comparable to the only other wings on the planet that make my mouth water: Kasadela’s Tebasaki Chicken Wings. They are better than Momofuku’s, better than Fatty Crab’s, and at the risk of self-incrimination, they may even be better than Duff’s. The spice for these comes not from the cayenne but from the Thai Sriracha sauce (which I keep in my fridge door for any time a dish turns out to be bland).Having never attempted this before, I will refer to the experts at Food & Wine, who have just published a Superbowl-Worthy Wings Menu. Both their recipes for Spicy Sriracha Chicken Wings and Baked Buffalo Chicken Wingscan be found on their website. I’m hoping this will be the year my Tribe and I can watch the big game with homemade treats from my hometown, but without the heartburn.