Consider, if you will, the humble chicken wing. Once it was scorned as barely edible, barely above the level of culinary undesirability occupied by the tail-stub known variously as the rudder, Pope’s nose or parson’s nose. Offering more bones, skin and fat than meat, chicken wings were regarded by many cooks as fit for nothing but making stock.
Then, in the 1960s, along came Teressa Bellissimo of the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, deep-frying wings, dousing them in a vinegary hot sauce and serving them as a free hors d’oeuvre with celery sticks and bleu cheese dip. The rest is history: The spicy, crunchy snack caught on, and before long every town in America had its own recipe for “Buffalo wings.” Entire fast-food chains are now devoted to the dish, though the sauce has become barely distinguishable from standard-issue barbecued chicken.
It was only a matter of time before competitive wing cook-offs began to appear. Our regional version, the Hudson Valley Wingfest, has already been around for a decade. It marks its tenth anniversary on Saturday evening, January 28 from 5 to 9 p.m. at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. More than two dozen area restaurants will battle it out in the contest to be named King of the Wings for 2017. There’s also a wing-eating contest (competitors are expected to be able to down 18 of them) with a top cash prize of $1,047 (because radio station K104.7 is the primary media sponsor).
Besides stuffing your face and wiping chicken grease and wing sauce off your fingers, Wingfest activities include dancing to live music from Phillip the Meatbox, BedRock and reggae/dub/ska-rockers Royal KhaoZ. There will also be meet-and-greet sessions with two mixed martial arts celebrities: Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake (Ed Leslie) and Eric “ButterBean” Esch. Autographs cost $20 extra.
Tickets to the Hudson Valley Wingfest cost $25 general admission, $50 for a VIP package. To order, visit www.hvwingfest.com. The Mid-Hudson Civic Center is located at 14 Civic Center Plaza in Poughkeepsie.