I can sum up what I know about football in two words: hot wings. But just because I don't know how many points a football strike equals, or how many meters are in a quarter, or why anyone would want to touch something made of pig skin doesn't mean I can't enjoy one of the most important aspects of the great American pastime. I can watch a lot of... skirmishes?... if I'm in front of a pile of wings.
And because I'm not distracted by little details like the names of the teams playing in this weekend's Super Bowl, I can put all my attention toward the big picture: where to find the best wings in town. You worry about the game. I'll worry about the snacks.
I decided to approach the subject scientifically. I assembled a crack-team of tasters -- experienced wing-eaters with strong opinions. I purchased 12 pounds of wings (two each from six locations) and then coded them so that all tasting was done blind. I threw in some sub sandwiches, some queso and a lot of beer and our very first Super-faux party was born. Or should it be Faux-bowl party? It's friends and food without all that pesky football.
The panel included five adult wing-enthusiasts (Terry, Ryan, Dave, Sue and Marty) and two junior-tasters: Owen (age 8) and Charlotte (age 12). I tasted but didn't vote because I knew the source of each wing.
The wings (all priced between $9.99 and 12.99 per order):
Peanut Farm: Medium Buffalo and Cajun dry rub
Buffalo Wild Wings: Medium Buffalo and Salt & Vinegar
Wings 'N Things: Original and BBQ
Hood Wings: Medium Buffalo and lemon pepper
Winky's Wings: Medium Buffalo and original
I ordered medium Buffalo-style wings from each location to provide an even playing field (except for Wings 'N Things, which doesn't offer this style). I then chose a random flavor from each to provide variety. I also added a couple of red herrings: a pound of pre-made wings from the refrigerated deli section at Carrs and a bag of frozen Buffalo-style wings prepared according to the package's instructions (Safeway Private Selection).
I asked my panel to taste, take notes and rank each wing: One ranking for the buffalo-style wing and one ranking for the dry-rubs. The taste-team proved themselves early on by sniffing out the store-bought and frozen wing varieties and declaring them the worst by far. "I would be upset if I ordered these," said one taster. The frozen wings were declared "gross" and "flabby." The deli wings fared slightly better, but at $9.99 a pound, why bother?
Of the four sauced, Buffalo-flavored wings, there was a clear winner: Winky's Wings was unanimously selected as the best. "Good flavor," "nicely crispy" and (my favorite) "chickeny" were among the comments.
Tied for second and third places in the Buffalo-sauce category were Buffalo Wild Wings and The Peanut Farm, respectively. In fourth place was Hood Wings, which was eloquently described by one taster as, "meh."
There was one other sauced wing -- the BBQ wing from Wings 'N Things -- an outlier that, perhaps, didn't get a fair shake. It was no one's favorite. Perhaps, after the spice and vinegar zip of the Buffalo sauce, the BBQ sauce just didn't hold up.
Of the five dry-rubbed wings, the top two contenders were neck and neck. Again, Winky's led the pack with their "Original" wing. "Great flavor" and "extra crispy" were among the qualities that placed it at the top.
Only slightly behind, in second place, was the Cajun dry rub wing from Peanut Farm which had "good texture" and "good snap." Several tasters brought an anti-Peanut Farm bias to the table and were surprised to find the wing at the top of their lists.
Next, in diminishing order of popularity, were the "Original" wings from Wings 'N Things, which were described as "decent" but "bland." Buffalo Wild Wings Salt & Vinegar was next described as "flavorful" by some and "too salty" by others. In last place were Hood's lemon pepper wings which were "well cooked" but "not too exciting."
So when you're planning your Super Bowl party, don't forget your football-challenged friends who don't know their sidelines from their end zones. You need us. We're the ones who will grab you a fresh beer. We'll re-heat the queso. And we'll stand in line at the wing joint even after the... tip off? Whatever. You get the idea.