July 29

National Chicken Wing Day

Buffalo Wings. Wings Landing, MD. Mamas and Papas. Playboy. St. Martha.

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

Wings Landing, Maryland is on the Choptank River, on the Delmarva Penunsula. It's seventy-three miles and a crossing of the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore, in rural countryside with small farms. It was a steamboat landing on the much-fished Choptank in the middle 1800s. The tidal river produces oysters and crabs. The nearest place to eat is Miss Minia's Cafe, five miles away in Preston.

Edible Dictionary

apricot, n.--A medium-size, sweet, edible fruit with a large pit. It's a member of the Prunus genus, which makes it related to the plum and the peach. It's smaller than those two fruits, with a bright yellow-orange skin with a but of fuzz. Apricots have been eaten and cultivated for at least five thousand years. It's believed to have come from what is now Armenia, north of Iran. They have spread all over the world, largely because of its ability grow in colder climates than most of its relatives. Aside from beaing good fresh, apricots are easily dried and kept for long periods of time. A jelly or jam made from apricots makes an excellent glaze on sweet baked goods. The pit has a good almond-like flavor. It's the source of the main flavor ingredient in the Italian liqueur Amaretto.

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. 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. After the Playboy Club closed, it became Anything Goes, a silly theme restaurant.

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."