From The North Shore Weekend newspaper
It’s here! That sleeping giant that awakens every fall to wreak havoc on your cholesterol and midsection—the National Football League—is here. Cue the fanfare, and the grease. Cue the fanfaronade, and the beer.
But seemingly nothing goes better together with pigskin on TV than the flightless wings of chickens tossed into a fryer: deep-fried until golden brown, coated with a vinegar-based cayenne pepper hot sauce and a little butter, and, finally, dunked into ranch or bleu cheese dressing (a polarizing, hot-button issue at tables around the country).
How much do we love chicken wings? According to the National Chicken Council—the trade association representing the U.S. poultry industry—it’s estimated that Americans consumed 1.25 billion chicken wings in 2014. That wasn’t the yearly estimate. That was one day—February 2nd, to be exact—or Super Bowl XLVIII.
As the score of a football game with two lousy defenses is bound to be inflated, the same can be said for the price of wings: in the fourth quarter (traditionally anyway) it goes up, as restaurants stock up for the Super Bowl each year. Such economics (or wing-onomics) would have you believe that Americans have always craved spicy, deep-fried protein.
Not really. While chicken wings have long been a staple of Southern cooking, 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of the buffalo wing in—where else?—Buffalo, New York.
At the time, J.D. Cowles was going to school at the State University of New York at Oswego. A short drive from Buffalo, the idea of “Buffalo Wings” was already starting to spread when Cowles tried them for the first time. He was blown away.
That led to all kinds of experiments on his own, with Cowles eventually perfecting a cayenne habanero sauce to go with his wings—and anything else. “It’s good on so much more than just chicken wings,” says Cowles, “it adds great flavor and a little bit of heat.”
Cowles (who lives in California) was selling his hot sauces—his likeness, made out of peppers, is on each bottle—to local restaurants, including the Firehouse Restaurant on Venice Beach. The brand was called All Spice Cafe, on account of a desire to own his own restaurant one day, when a real estate developer from Chicago stopped in at a restaurant and tried it.
He called his friend Buddy Feldman—an executive vice president in the food industry for over 25 years—to tell him about it. The rest, as they say, is history.
All four hot sauces are now being manufactured on the North Shore. They are available in Mariano’s, Jewel Osco, Sunset Foods, and slew of independents from Texas to Missouri, California, Ohio, and Michigan.
“I was thinking it would be nice to retire from my crazy day job and [open] a little café somewhere,” says Cowles. Now with the help of Feldman and a third partner, they’re bringing the heat to the whole country—chicken wings very much included.
To find out more about All Spice Cafe, visit allspicecafe.com.
All Spice Cafe’s Award-Winning Grilled Habanero Hot Wings
2–3 pounds of chicken wings
All Spice Cafe Cayenne Habanero Sauce
Sprinkle chicken wings with salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Grill wings, flipping every 5–8 minutes until cooked through. Put wings in a pot with a lid and drizzle All Spice Cafe’s Cayenne Habanero Sauce over wings. Cover and shake the wings and sauce until fully coated.
Serve with celery, carrot sticks and blue cheese or ranch dressing. Let the feast begin!
The North Shore Weekend newspaper is published weekly.