Saturday, September 01, 2007

Day Two Recap

Day Two Recap:

Day two of our Labor Day extravaganza has come to a close and the crazy ride that began what seems like long time ago (but really was just a day) just continued to get crazier.

Niagara Falls: Today started with a wonderful diversion from the wing subculture with a side-trip to Niagara Falls. Steve and I drove the short distance (about 20 miles) from downtown Buffalo and spent a good amount of time seeing the falls from the American side of the border. Then we headed over to Canada to check out the sights from their perspective – and wow was it quite a difference. Since we were pressed for time we pulled a Clark Griswold at the Grand Canyon stop at a nice vantage point so that Steve could get out and snap some quick pictures. Then it was back to Buffalo only to sit in 45 minutes of traffic trying to cross the bridge and pass back over into the good ole’ US of A. The detour forced us to miss the 0.5K Running of the Chickens, but nonetheless left us with plenty of time to enjoy the rest of the day.

National Buffalo Wing Festival: We arrived at the official first day of the National Buffalo Wing Festival at about 2:00PM to be greeted immediately by organizer Drew Cerza who said “we’ve already got a 5:00 crowd”. Never having been to the festival before we didn’t quite know what to expect but Drew was right, the place had filled up nicely and lines were starting to lengthen. First order of business, find some chicken…

Our First Wings: I have never been to WingStreet before and the line there was short so we decided to head there first. I realize it’s somewhat lame to show up at the one and only wing festival and start off by eating wings from a chain that’s owned by Pizza Hut, but nonetheless, that’s what we did. To my surprise the wings were actually pretty good. We had some medium (they didn’t have hot unfortunately) and some spicy BBQ and the only thing that was a bit off about them was that there was some interesting glaze type of coating on both of the wings – not sure what that was.

Traditional Buffalo Wing Sauce Competition: We then proceeded to hit up about three more wing joints as we waited for the first main stage event of the day to get ready to begin - the Traditional Buffalo Wing Sauce competition (not to be confused with the national buffalo wing sauce competition that we judged the night before). This event featured four wing sauce cooking teams (two of which were friends of the CluckBucket – Ric Kealoha and Matt Reynolds from the documentary and fellow national sauce judge/competitive eater/chef/all around good guy Joe LaRue). Not long after the contest had begun we were on stage with Ric and Matt providing some strategic guidance on the direction of their sauce. They were challenged with the time-limit imposed on them as they like to have a while to let their sauce condense and also were facing the odds as they purchased an inappropriate ingredient the night before. Steve stayed on stage taking pictures and assisting while I went booth to booth to find the missing ingredient. After a good bit of searching, a replacement was secured and the team was done with their sauce. The judging occurred and much to the wing hunter’s delight, Ric and Matt’s sauce was crowned the champion. Matt called the entire gang of hunters on to the stage to assist in the acceptance speech and after briefing the crowd on the documentary, plugging the CluckBucket, and allowing Al Caster to play a few chords, the entire crew began to lead the audience in their official chant of “wings (pause) wings (pause) wings wings wings (pause) wings (pause) wings (pause) wings wings wings.”

Competitive Eating: Then it was time for more wings, a stop at a nearby brewpub, a chat with competitive eater Eric Badlands Booker, and then back to the main stage for the competitive eating contest. The contest was an epic 12 minute battle that pitted 15 of the world’s top competitive eaters against each other and their common enemy – the wing. After all was said and done, Sonya Thomas ended up on top by consuming 5.17 lbs of wing meat which translates into approximately 173 wings = and really bad indigestion. Nonetheless, we were there to see a world record broken – and were glad that Sonya could use the ideal eating conditions (75 and sunny) to reclaim her crown.

It was time to cash out the rest of our wing tickets so we loaded up on some very tasty chicken from the Wing Zone before filming some video commentary to wrap-up the day and heading for the exits.

The Anchor Bar: Back to the hotel to grab our car and then we finally headed out to the wing mecca, the birthplace of the wing, the Anchor Bar. Since arriving in Buffalo we had been given so many different perspectives on the Anchor Bar we truly didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. What we did find immediately was an 8:30 crowd that was bursting at the seams but fortunately we were able to snag a couple of seats at a bar table and quickly order up two Bud Lights and a plate of chicken. Now for what was somewhat a surprise to us (based on what others had commented earlier on), Steve and I both found that the Anchor Bar wings were hands down the best wings that we had on the entire trip. The sauce was truly a pure authentic buffalo wing sauce of Franks Red Hot and butter and the chicken was perfectly prepared, perfectly sized, and quickly delivered while it was still hot. Outside of the wings, the experience at the bar was great, it has a good down-home type of atmosphere and the people there were very friendly. Obviously things have changed dramatically for them over the years because of their notoriety, but they still manage to have a really good environment for wing lovers to visit.

A quick stop at the shady Wendy’s next door for some Frosties to cleanse the pallet and then we were off to meet up with the wing hunt team for what we thought was to be their final discussion and crowning of the “best buffalo wing in the world”.

Great Chicken Wing Hunt Deliberations: We found the team at the home of their gracious hosts in somewhat tattered spirits. Al and Ron really wanted the pizza that had been ordered a while before, Thor just wanted to call it quits for the night, and Ric needed red meat (apparently this was a recurring theme for Ric throughout the trip). The scientists/statisticians took a while to show up with the results and Matt finally was able to rally the troops around 11:00. Filming began and the statisticians revealed the findings of the wing ranking data that had been compiled along the hunt. Much like the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) process, the statisticians had devised a way to dwindle the 62 restaurants where wings were consumed down to a list of the top ten. To the credit of Matt and the statisticians, they did a lot of work with the wing ballots to capture questions about the hunter’s mood, general health, etc along the way so that their own personal issues would not influence their rating of the wing. After the top ten adjusted and non-adjusted were announced, the team deliberated and gave their opinions about the seemingly clear number one wing. That is – until I posed the following question – “Are you completely sure that the wing you are about to crown as the best buffalo wing in the world is truly a buffalo wing?” And from there the night seemed to unravel a bit. A pretty heated debate began that forced the wing team to think through what they were about to do and to also revisit the initial intentions and definitions that they had set forward at the beginning of the hunt…

Unfortunately, and this is the part that sucks for you, due to the sensitive nature of the film, I can’t talk in any more details about the deliberations of that evening at this point in time. What I can tell you was that Steve and I left the house at roughly 1:00 in the morning and no conclusions had been made by the team. They decided to sleep on things and gather their thoughts, and to reconvene at roughly 3:00 PM the next day back in Matt’s hometown of Lyons, NY.

What I can tell you is this, Steve and I left that evening very tired, but also very happy that we were there to witness all of the events of the day. It was a great day with lots of activity and again way too many wings, but it was very much worth it from both of our perspectives.

Peace, love, and grease!

Scott “The CluckBucket” Roth

No comments: