I’ve been having a craving for chicken wings all day. Not just any wings but, genuine Buffalo, New York style chicken wings. I never see them anywhere anymore. Everyone has their own take: teriyaki, sriracha, Thai, curry and other varieties.
What I wanted are the wings in which the little, “arm,” parts and the, “drumette.” parts are separated and they are all tossed into a deep fryer for a few minutes until they are golden brown. Then they are pulled out of the fryer, drained of oil, tossed into a big salad bowl that has a lid that fits.
Before putting the lid on, the wings are covered in various amounts of good hot sauce. Note that I said, “good,” hot sauce. This means no Tobasco. So, the wings soak in this hot sauce and then chunks of butter are thrown into the bowl with them. It matters not that the butter isn’t melted. It will melt soon enough.
Put the lid on and shake those wings till they are generously coated in hot sauce and butter. Yum. Dump everything into a serving bowl and have them with cut carrot spears and, if you hate yourself, cut celery stalks (I gag here). Into a small bowl or large ramekin, pour some blue cheese dressing for dipping.
That’s how they do it in Buffalo.
Back in the 80’s I had the privilege of working for a guy from Buffalo, NY who owned a chain of three restaurants in Pinellas County. They were called Cassano’s or, maybe. Cassono’s. I can’t recall. I don’t even remember his name. I think he was a franchisee.
The restaurant I worked at was on Ulmerton Road, in Largo, Florida. It was a little over a mile away from my childhood home, which was off Oakhurst Road in, technically, unincorporated Pinellas County.
I worked there toward the tail end of my years at St. Petersburg Jr. College (now, St. Pete College) and on weekends after I transferred to University of South Florida in Tampa.
We were slammed on the weekends which suited me just fine. Leaving at 1 am on a Friday or Saturday night with 200-300 bucks in my pocket was awesome. I made my entire semester’s tuition in one weekend. This was 1982-83; tuition was way cheaper.
This was also a time before the wings craze started. Inevitably, each night this scenario would play out: a party of two, three, four, ten, twelve would enter our lobby and excitedly babble, “Oh my God, we were just driving by and saw your marque. Do you REALLY have Buffalo style wings cause we are from Buffalo moved here five years ago and haven’t had any wings since and oh my God do you really have them we have to have some wings they come with blue cheese and carrot sticks oh, honey, we are really going to have Buffalo wings” Yes, it was usually spoken like that in one, maybe two, sentences with the same excitement elicited by winners of the Powerball jackpot upon hearing they matched all six numbers.
These were the wings I’ve been craving all day. I went to my Publix and, sadly, their collection of wings fell far short of my desires (like some men I’ve dated). I decided to get drumsticks and pretend they are wings.
They are in the oven (no fryers here) and the timer is going off. Back in a second. I’m pretty sure they are not ready.
Yeah, they need to cook some more.
I was about to push my shiny silver and green Publix shopping steed up to the next mission when I spied a sign in a coffin cooler in the meat department. Greenwise (Publix’s organic brand) chicken thighs and drumsticks were buy one/get one. How exciting. I traded out my drumsticks for their Greenwise counterparts and off I went to Produce World. I found a pre-made romaine salad, with olives (I never met an olive I don’t love), red onions and cherry tomatoes that was on sale. I tossed it into my cart and strolled through the deli (dangerous Boar’s Head infested waters) and ignored the hummus cooler. Proud of myself.
However, when I reached the next cooler that houses the sides like baked beans, potato salads, cole slaws, tuna and chicken salads I slammed on the brakes. Their evil tarragon chicken salad was also BOGO. I grabbed two. I’m going to plop a scoop onto my romaine salad. Evil Publix.
I headed to the cashier and started speaking to the young man (probably a UCF student) , “Hey, how are you? I bet I get out to my car and, shit, I did forget something. Can you suspend this? I’ll be right back.” “Sure, no problem.” I’d realized I forgot more blue cheese dressing. That’s kept over in Produce and I didn’t want to go so far. I compromised with ranch dressing. Newman’s Own was on sale. I like Paul Newman. He used to be hunky until he died. He was Aquarius so, I got to love him, right?
My total was fifteen bucks. Not so evil.
Note: as an experiment I adjusted my time zone to London. Wishful thinking. I actually wrote this Tuesday evening 1/26/2021.