Fire & Ice Throwdown warms chilly polar bears

February 11, 2014
Food critic and throwdown judge Matt Amis takes his ice cream duties very seriously. PHOTOS BY BOB YESBEK

As another Lewes Polar Bear Plunge weekend fades into history, Saturday’s buffalo wing and ice cream throwdown might linger a bit longer in the memories (and stomachs) of the attendees - not to mention the judges who sampled each and every recipe at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

Tempting aromas of pineapple, hot peppers, parmesan, Sriracha and Sterno filled the auditorium as the four presenters in the wing contest fired up their respective chafing dishes. The first wing-laden table that ticketholders encountered was home to none other than Charlie Pollard’s Kick n’ Chicken - with garlic parmesan wings and Tazmanian wings doled out by Charlie himself. It’s a little-known fact that a young employee named Taz was the creative force behind the flavorful Tazmanian wings. I hope you’re taking notes, as there will be a quiz.

Dos Locos was next, with a wing recipe built around their (in)famous Melt Your Face pepper sauce. Co-owner Joe Zuber and kitchen guy Carlos Villanueva added a little habanero for good measure. The wings were hot. Very hot. I went for seconds. I laughed. I went for thirds. I cried.

Bethany Blues' appreciation for bacon was not lost on Chef William Somoza’s signature wings as they bubbled quietly in a magic potion of spicy BBQ sauce, fresh pineapple, brown sugar, apple cider and one of the four basic food groups, Maker’s Mark bourbon whiskey. Both these and an even hotter variety were individually wrapped in bacon. Conventional wisdom states that bacon makes everything better; drizzle a little Maker’s Mark and it’s a home run.

Last but not least is the restaurant named after its specialty, Buffalo Wild Wings. The enthusiastic and ever-smiling Josh Ricks was in attendance, hawking garlicky Sriracha wings. By the way, the next time you plow into a basket of wings at BWW, ask for the Mango Habanero sauce on the side. It’s the perfect balance of flavor and heat. I even put it on my burger. And on the fries.

The antidote to hot wings is ice cream. The frosty temperature helps douse the flames temporarily, but it’s the milk that does the trick. You see, the spicy chemical capsaicin (8-methyl-N-vanillyl-6-nonenamide) is carried by oils. Casein, a phosphoprotein in cow’s milk, has a detergent effect that helps wash away the capsaicin. Sounds like good stuff for the quiz, huh?

So ice cream was in abundance, and attendees at the event blazed a trail from the wing purveyors (especially Dos Locos’ emporium of Melt Your Face) to all three ice cream makers. First on the list was Hopkins Farm Creamery. The booth was manned (and womanned) by Rodney Wilson Jr. and Manager Paula Pepper. In fact, Hopkins’ Chocolate Mint Crunch entry was the brainchild of young Rodney. It was delicious.

Mere steps away was more tastiness in the form of Woodside Farm Creamery’s Dirty Snowball. The hot wings met their match in the form of minty vanilla ice cream mixed with what appeared to be ground-up chocolate cookies. The combination of textures was cooling and refreshing.

No ice cream event would be complete without Lewes’ very own King’s Ice Cream, and owner Rudy Spoor was doling out cups of chocolate mint swirled together with Andes mint candies and marshmallows. The combination was delightful. I felt I needed another helping just to make sure. A totally selfless act I do just for you.

There were two levels of judging: votes tallied from the attendees, and the choices of the hand-picked panel of judges that included Trish Vernon from event sponsor Cape Gazette, upstate restaurant critic Matt Amis, that infernal Rehoboth Foodie guy (wings and ice cream lured him out from behind that burger) and Special Olympics athlete and Wilmington Wizards member Matt Montgomery. After much deliberation, the winners were announced by Eagle 97.1’s delightful morning DJ Paula and Cool 101.3’s Steve Monz. Charlie’s Kick n’ Chicken wings were voted best by everybody. The ice cream vote was split between Woodside Creamery (the fans’ favorite) and Hopkins Farm Creamery (the judges’ choice).

The annual Polar Bear Plunge is one of the state’s most successful fundraisers, and this year 3,252 plunging bears raised $725,000 to benefit more than 3,500 children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics Delaware provides the opportunity for these athletes to develop physical fitness, stamina and courage. The throwdowns and contests are fun, but everybody’s a winner on Polar Plunge weekend.

Oh, you can put your blue books away. I was kidding about the quiz.

Bob Yesbek is a serial foodie and can be reached at

  • So many restaurants, so little time! Food writer Bob Yesbek gives readers a sneak peek behind the scenes, exposing the inner workings of the local culinary industry, from the farm to the table and everything in between. He can be reached at

    Masthead photo by Grant Gursky. Used with permission from Coastal Style Magazine.

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