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Long Island Buffalo Wing Festival brings the fowl-faithful to Bay Shore
At a festival designed to highlight countless varieties of Buffalo wings, a patron might wonder what was for dessert.
But at the inaugural Long Island Buffalo Wing Festival on Sunday, the worry would have been for naught. Even dessert was covered.
Rudi’s, a Patchogue restaurant that was among 16 local eateries that showcased their wings at the festival, served up Strawberry Shortcake wings topped with a dab of sugar.
Katerina Katolis, of Sound Beach, gave the sweet wings a try.
“Creativity-wise, the strawberry shortcake wings were one of the most different, but I definitely wouldn’t be able to order an entire batch,” she said. “It’s like a dessert.”
From honey BBQ to hot and spicy and the popular Thai-peanut, the festival showcased a wide variety of flavors and sauces. The seven-hour event, held at the Nutty Irishman in Bay Shore, allowed the roughly 700 guests to try all of the wings. It also featured three wing contests for best unique flavor, best traditional Buffalo wing and crowd favorite.
There were also family friendly activities like a mechanical bull and a dunk tank. Local bands BigBandJoe and Czech Funk played hard-rocking, foot-stomping sets for the fowl faithful.
Festival founder Daniel P. Wiseman, owner of Even Flow Bar & Grill in Bay Shore, hoped to create a wing-tasting event that could tie in to the start of the NFL season, while promoting local businesses.
“We're trying to promote the wing business,” he said. “Wings go hand-in-hand with football, and they are never going to die out of the restaurant scene. They have been around for years, but have just grown popular. We have everything from a mild wing to a peanut butter and jelly wing to a pizza wing.”
At the table for Bay Shore bar and restaurant Changing Times, general manager Chris Werner said he and his chefs were inspired by the coming season.
“Basically it’s maple syrup and a combination of cinnamon and sugar, like you’d find at the rim of a pumpkin beer,” he said of the sauce, which was created by chef Javier Campos. “That was the inspiration for it, the fall season. And then just a little bit of our traditional buffalo sauce to balance out the sweetness, to give it a traditional wing kick.”
Wiseman said the festival was so successful that he’s planning a bigger event for next year.
“We cut off at 700 people because this is our first year,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to overwhelm the venue, but next year they will look for a bigger venue. “Next year we're shooting for 3,000 people.”
Another Bay Shore bar, T.J. Finley’s, grabbed first place both for traditional flavor and most unique flavor for its garlic-chili wings. Even Flow Bar & Grill took the top spot for “crowd favorite” based on the two varieties it presented, Tropical Thai Chili and traditional mild.
A panel of judges included radio hosts Roger and J.P. from WBAB, Derrick Prince from “Master Chef,” John McLaughlin, hot sauce maker, chef and "Chopped" contestant, Sal Italiano of the band Anvil, and William M. Kucmierowski, otherwise known as former pro-wrestler Brimstone and president and CEO of Hound Comics, Inc. Kucmierowski also hosted the event.
Organizers said a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales would go to charity. Wiseman estimated they would donate about $2,500 to Long Island Cares, a hunger relief organization he chose because he said “food banks tend to run low during the summer season.”
Sunday’s festival showcased its fair share of oddball flavors -- with sauces ranging from Dr Pepper BBQ to Banana Mango Habenero -- but traditionalists were not disappointed.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” Katolis said as she munched on a classic hot wing from Port Washington’s Wings Plus.