Matt Reynolds was 31 years old when he decided to give up a steady gig as a Reuters writer in Bratislava to return to his hometown of Buffalo, New York in search of the world’s best Buffalo wing, effectively re-dedicating his life’s work to the celebrated delicacy of his hometown. He gathered together a rag-tag crew of weirdos, similarly inclined to believe that the Buffalo wing, who some will tell you is the only truly American food, born in the USA without roots elsewhere, was worth such dedication. What ensued was a 16-day trip throughout the wing belt, mostly through upstate New York and Eastern Pennsylvania, with detours through Vermont and Canada, in an RV with a professional eater named Thor, a handful of wing-loving odd balls, a Slovakian film crew, and Reynolds’ long-suffering Czech girlfriend, Lucie.
Before I watched The Great Chicken Wing Hunt, which hits Hulu today (and is also available on iTunes), I probably would’ve told you that a search for the world’s best Buffalo wing wasn’t worthy of a feature-length documentary. I mean, I like wings, but isn’t it sort of like searching for the world’s best french fry? The beauty of the film is that it’s one part chicken wings, and one part wild goose chase, with a protagonist in the midst of a quarter-life crisis on a cockamamie journey with a wild cast of characters. The foundation of every good story is people and place, and through the greasy lens of Buffalo wings, we meet a whole crew of lovable oddballs and eccentrics, and all the conflicts and culture clash that goes along with cramming them into an RV and forcing them to eat nothing but chicken wings.
On the eve of its Hulu release and in the lead up to the Super Bowl, the Buffalo wing’s biggest day of the year, I got to chat with Matt Reynolds. I can talk food for hours, so we got pretty deep into wing specifics (this is a must-read for anyone cooking wings for the big game). It’s not every day you get to talk to a guy who ate so many chicken wings that he gave himself an ulcer when he was 7.
Okay, first thing’s first, I know (from you) that the parts of the wing are called the drumette (the little part that looks like a mini drumstick) and the flatty (the part with two bones). What’s the little claw part that sticks off the end of the flatty called? They usually cut that off, but I love that part.
We recently did a wing nomenclature survey on Facebook. There are a lot of alt terms for flatty and drum. But the only term we came across for the tip is ‘the tip’. That seems to be universal. I like it too. If you fry it long enough you can eat it whole – bones an all. It’s like biting into a crunchy potato chip.
If you’re making your own sauce at home, what are the necessary components?
The original recipe is Frank’s Red Hot and butter. And that’s still the recipe most people use. The proportions change depending on how spicy you want it. No other sauce tastes like it because Frank’s grows a proprietary kind of pepper. I like to build off the basic recipe by adding garlic, fresh hot peppers, mustard, dashes of assorted hot sauces and a little honey. You can see the full recipe here.