The Food Almanac: Monday, July 29, 2013

Staff Writer
It's National Chicken Wing Day!

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Today's Flavor 
Today in 1977, July 29 was proclaimed by the City Of Buffalo, New York as Chicken Wing Day. Buffalo is the logical home of the Buffalo chicken wing, but beyond that stories differ as to how hot wings were invented. Most of the stories credit the Anchor Bar's owner Teressa Bellissimo with the creation. 

Buffalo-style chicken wings are first into their natural three segments. The wing tips are discarded. The drummette and the two-bone "flat" sections are seasoned and fried, without a batter. Then they're tossed in a sauce made by emulsifying butter (or margarine, say some people) into Louisiana-style hot sauce. The ensemble is completed with blue cheese dressing (or just blue cheese) and celery sticks. 

The fast-food industry grabbed hold of Buffalo chicken wings as soon as it was clear that they'd become popular. Of course, they messed around with the formula, using a batter on the chicken, sometimes using boneless "wings" (really cut from other parts), and leaving out the blue cheese or celery. And you don't even want to know what the sauce is made from.

Hot wings are sold all over America now. Here in New Orleans, the chefs at Mr. B's came up with a great variation: same dish, but with oysters instead of chicken. Ralph Brennan, on whose watch that was developed, took the idea with him to the Red Fish Grill, where it's become a signature dish.

Gourmet Gazetteer
Wing is a town of about 150 people in central North Dakota. It's a forty-seven mile drive from Bismarck, the state capital. It's named for Charles K. Wing, who planned the town in 1911. The terrain is pockmarked by glacial lakes, most of them small. The restaurant in Wing is the Chat 'n' Chew, right in the center of the town. They'd better darn well fry good chicken wings.

Edible Dictionary
poulet Rochambeau, [poo-lay roh-sham-BOE], French, n.--A rich Creole-French entree consisting of a boned chicken half atop a thick slice of grilled ham, topped with two sauces. The first is a somewhat sweet brown sauce, the second a classic bearnaise. The dish was invented at Antoine's in New Orleans in the late 1800s. It has since spread to a few other restaurants. It's named for Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau, a French nobleman who fought in the American Revolution with Lafayette.

Deft Dining Rule #432
Only order chicken on the bone. If the chicken dishes in a restaurant all involve boneless, skinless chicken breasts, none of them will be very good.

Music To Eat Carefully By 
On this date in 1974 Mama Cass Elliot, the soaring female lead voice of the Mamas and the Papas, died of a heart attack. It was rumored that this happened while she was eating a ham sandwich, but that seems not to have been true. What a voice to lose!

Swinging Into Dinner 
On this date in 1988, the last Playboy Club in America closed its doors. The Playboy Club was a chain of self-consciously swinging restaurants owned by Hugh Hefner's Playboy Magazine. The waitresses wore the famously revealing bunny outfits. We had a Playboy Club in New Orleans in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was on Iberville Street next to La Louisiane. Among the people who worked there was Joe Cahn, the Commissioner of Tailgating, who ran the bar. After it closed, it became Anything Goes, a silly theme restaurant. Except for its last few years, you had to be a member to get into the place. I dined at the Playboy Club only once: a private party for the staff of The Driftwood, the campus newspaper at UNO. I remember an overcooked filet mignon.

The Saints
This is the memorial day for St. Martha. She was a contemporary of Jesus and Mary, who actually visited her at home, according to the gospels. For that reason, Martha is a patron saint of almost everyone in the hospitality trades: cooks, waiters, hoteliers, servants, laundry workers, maids and butlers.

Food Namesakes
Steve Frey, a pitcher for the Phillies, was born today in 1963. . . Nancy Kassebaum Baker, formerly a U.S. Senator from Kansas, was born today in 1932. She didn't use her married name in the Senate. . . Today in 1676, Nathaniel Bacon was accused of being a rebel, after he organized British colonials to fight the Indians.

Words To Eat By
"As for those grapefruit and buttermilk diets, I'll take roast chicken and dumplings."--Hattie McDaniel.

Words To Drink By
"Rum's not drinking, it's surviving!"--Robert Shaw as Romer Treece in the movie "The Deep."

Related Links
America's Best Buffalo Wings