It was a windy, rain-soaked and frigid evening on Friday May, 10th. However, inside 99 Sudbury, things were really heating up… and it wasn’t just because of all the people. Wingsters from around Toronto gathered to feast on some of the finest wings in town at the second annual Toronto Wing Festival presented by the Rotary Club of Toronto Skyline. With the backdrop of the Maple Leafs game 6 projected onto the back wall (what an electric win that night… we won’t talk about what happened later) and the hot licks from Gavin Slate and Maoláin (pronounced Mullen), the atmosphere was ideal for some healthy chicken-driven competition.
Celebrity host Bob Blumer (The Surreal Gourmet and Glutton for Punishment) was on hand to rile up the crown and offer up some entertaining commentary, though it didn’t take much convincing to get him out. “I’m a wing whore… what can I say?” he tells me.
As the guest judges – “Fearless” Fred Kennedy (102.1 The Edge), Doug Smith (Toronto Star), Nobu Adilman (Food Jammers) – sweat their way through Scoville slathered digits like the Exorcist wing by Right Wing, the rest of the room was abuzz.
In total, there were 10 vendors on hand cranking out over 20,000 wings total in an all out melee of magical meat. Up for grabs were the esteemed awards for Most Exotic Wing, Best Classic Wing and The People’s Choice Award.
Though everyone did have a say, it was somewhat hard to converse with so much munching going down. With all you can eat wings on offer and cool Steam Whistle pints to wash them down, who needs anything but facial expressions to express satisfaction, anyways? Taking home the prize for the Most Exotic Wing was a most delicious melange of scallions, sweet red pepper paste, and Korean hot peppers created by Hey Meatball and Rowe Farms. Having eaten my fair share of chicken wings in K-Town (I’m not talking about Bloor and Clinton) it was nice to see these flavours on offer.
Some personal favourites included the juicy, triple dredged wings from Drums n’ Flats – smokey, saucy and oh so tender. The baked wings from Whistler’s Grille were also a nice change, incorporating a dry rub for a more organic feel. My only complaint was that I got to them a little too close to the end, when my overstuffed belly was nearly screaming “uncle!”
Beating out last year’s winners, neighbouring Hard Rock Cafe, and taking home the prize for Best Classic Wing was Hooters. (Ironically enough their wings were rather petite.) Their pan roasted finish on their Daytona flavour caramelized the outer skin and clearly impressed the judges during their blind taste tests.
Last but certainly not least, back for the second year in a row and laying it all on the line with confidence and commitment to their craft, Real Sports Bar and Grill had the attendees’ taste buds begging for more. With flavours like Maple Bacon, Thai Sweet Chili and their Go for Gold wings (golden barbecue sauce and jalapeno) they raised the People’s Choice trophy high, once again.
I can’t say that I was doing much arm raising after exiting this phenomenal food fest, but I would certainly muster up the strength to raise my arm in affirmation if one were to ask me if I’d be back next year.
As Bob Blumer put it, “There was a great vibe, beautiful guys and girls all around, and some damn good wings. It was just an awesome event!”
I concur, Bob. I concur.
Gallery photos courtesy of Mark Tenaglia from Beacon Creative. Embeded photos by Jason Finestone.