Hot ‘n’ saucy guy wings it to promote Rehoboth Beach
It might be a while before I eat another Buffalo wing. Those who frequent this page might remember last week’s dazzling article about Ocean 98 Radio’s Best Wings on the Shore competition at Jake’s Seafood. I ate wings. I judged. I wrote. I ate some more. I might have had a beer.
But there’s no rest for the weary, and in just one short week, the onslaught would begin once again. Like a recurring dream (albeit a pleasant one), Chip Hearn’s Delaware State Chicken Wing Championship loomed on the horizon (well actually, downtown by the Boardwalk). The weary would be eating even more wings and passing even more judgment. And this time, no beer. Suffering strengthens character.
Chip’s frequent appearances on the Food Network have made this award-winning BBQ pitmaster and purveyor of everything hot and spicy more than just a local celebrity. And this latest event, sponsored by Peppers.com, The Ice Cream Store and Mountaire Farms, was plopped right smack in the middle of Sea Witch Saturday. Four world champions would go head-to-head, or, more accurately, wing-to-wing, with our Rehoboth-area restaurants - including a few champions of our own.
Visiting titleholders included Food Network star John McLaughlin from Heartbreaking Dawns in New Jersey; Steve Seabury from High River Sauces in New York (he competed on Food TV’s “Chopped”); Obis One Farms’ Lisa Lloyd from Cooking Channel (growers of savory/sweet black garlic); and Blair Lazar from Extreme Foods/Blair’s Sauces in New Jersey.
Local award winners Kevin Roberts (Bethany Blues), Charlie Pollard (Kick n’ Chicken) and none other than Chip himself (Peppers.com) sported their crowns for Delaware State Ribs Champion, Delaware State Wing Champion and Pulled Pork and Multiple World Sauce Champion, respectively. Other local challengers included The Starboard, Rehoboth Seafood Market, Port Dewey, The Pond, Rehoboth Ale House, Buffalo Wild Wings, Café Azafràn, Summer House and Wings to Go. No chicken was safe as grills were lit, smokers were smokin’ and sauce mops were loaded and ready for battle.
And quite a battle it was. Peppers wowed the judges with wings stuffed with Jalapeno Poppers, more wings stuffed with berries and crab meat, a Trinidad Szechuan scotch bonnet wing and - get this - a Pop Rocks and pink cotton candy wing(!). The Pond created a wing/potato-skin hybrid. Bethany Blues startled our taste buds with a whiskey apple cider/BBQ/pumpkin and Granny Smith apple wing. Rehoboth Seafood Market overwhelmed our senses (all five) with candy apple bacon wings. Buffalo Wild Wings trotted out their delicious Mango Habanero sauce (I put it on burgers). Port Dewey’s Mitch King and Chef Inton’s homage to India came in the form of a green curry and potato wing. Obis One Farms combined their proprietary black garlic with orange blossom essence to make a particularly delicate bite. Steve Seabury unveiled Mr. Robato, glazed with black cherry soda, vinegar and mustard. Summer House took the high road with a mild but delicious roasted jalapeño/rosemary hot wing. Rehoboth Ale House stepped up to the plate with garlic, butter and parmesan. Blair Lazar raised the bar with his Extreme Foods’ Devil’s Tongue BBQ bacon wing. (To put all this into perspective, I am writing this article in the late afternoon on the day after the event. I have had nothing to eat since the event. Moreover, I have no plans to eat anything. Not for a long time.)
The Rehoboth Beach area reigned supreme on that day, as Bethany Blues was voted both Best Presentation and Overall Winner of the competition with their brown sugar/garlic/habanero-brined, hickory smoked wings - with bacon. Port Dewey walked away with Best Wings for their sweet chili, mango and pineapple entry (they won for hottest last week at Jake’s). Most Unusual Wings went to Heartbreaking Dawns’ Mayan chocolate-infused wing accompanied by chunky blue cheese ice cream. OK, I had the same initial reaction, but trust me: It was delicious. Who woulda thought?
The town was packed that day for the Sea Witch Festival. I have not seen that many people downtown since July 4th. Not bad for a mid-Atlantic coast resort in the last week in October, huh?