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Patrick’s Pub

At home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, near the circle known as Park Square, sits a small Irish pub with the best hot wings I’ve ever eaten. Patrick’s Pub, winner of many-a YMCA Wing Fling, is a staple in my visits back home to the Berkshires.

Here in Boston there’s many places that serve just chicken wings. But none of those wings ever really hit me the way Patrick’s wings do. I think it’s for the following reasons.

Sauce – Patrick’s uses their own sauces that they’ve refined over many years. Everyone’s had knockoff buffalo wings, but it takes a lot of work to really make your own flavor and execute it well. Plus, they don’t drench the wings in the sauce; the flavor is really imbued into the meat and skin of the wing. The wings are not all that messy and you’re able to clean yourself up relatively quickly.

Crispness – There’s a crispy crunch to these wings that I haven’t really caught anywhere else. Most places have that skin that feels just chewy and… bleh. Patrick’s has a nice, firm crunch.

Meat – The chicken wings themselves don’t taste like the generic bag-o-wings from Wohrle’s Food Warehouse. Wherever they source them from, they’re a winner. The meat is always tender and they’re not little baby wings either.

I’m still searching for that same combination around here. I like the wings at Wings Express and Tri-City, and Wings Over X (x being a city such as Brookline or Springfield) has some good stuff too. Still, nothing quite matches up. Nostalgia? Maybe. But everyone I know who has Patrick’s prefers them over everyone else, and for good reason. They’re just better.

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On the subject of making hot wings

For the past several years I have been trying to reverse-engineer one of my favorite foods – hot wings. You see, there is one place that makes them just the way I like them – Patrick’s Pub in Pittsfield, MA. Unfortunately, I don’t live there anymore, so I can’t get them on a regular basis. Here inside Route 128 there’s several places that actually specialize in wings – places like Wings Express, Tri-City Wings, and Wings Over Somerville/Brookline do wings as their primary business. I’ve had the wings at all of these places and while I like them, none of them have unseated Patrick’s as my favorites.

It’s not surprising that I like their wings a lot – they’ve been voted #1 at the Pittsfield Wing Fling for many years. What’s the secret to their appeal? For me, it lies in a combination of factors that form the spirit of the Patrick’s Pub hot wing.

1. Not slathered in sauce. I love hot sauce. It’s delicious stuff that I put on, well, everything. However, nothing really turns me off more than a super messy hot wing. You can’t eat them without making an absolute mess. Some would say that’s part of the appeal, for me that means your wing doesn’t have the flavor cooked in right. Patrick’s wings have all of the heat and spice I want, but they’re not dripping in sauce. In fact, the sauce seems to be a part of the wing itself. How do they do that? I’m not sure. I’m still working on it.

2. Lots of heat that tastes great. Some mistake heat for good taste, but they’re wrong. You can’t just make something hot, there’s no point. The heat has to be derived from key flavor components. Crushed red peppers, pulverized habaneros, aged vinegar, they’re all combined into the right ratios for flavorful fun. Flavor, not burning my mouth, is what I desire.

3. Crispy and crunchy. A lot of places have this skin on their wings that is just… meh. It’s greasy, chewy, and just not fun. Patrick’s, on the other hand, has wings with nice crunchy skin that sticks to the meat.

I’ve been trying to mimic thee things in my own home wings to no avail. Patrick’s is tight lipped in how they make their wings, so I’ve been left to reverse engineer them. This has lead me to my own homemade style of wings which are pretty close but not quite there.

First, you have to prepare a coating for the wings. Something very light – not too much flour and eggs, just enough to stick to some skin. Then deep  fry them until this has cooked on. Then bake them at a low temperature for a long period of time with a combination of dry rub red pepper and a special blend of hot sauce.

So far, this has produced fairly crunchy wings with a nice flavor. It’s just not the same, since I’m sure I’m not using the same stuff that Patrick’s is using. I would say it’s pretty damn close, and it’s given me an opportunity to customize a bit. For instance, making horseradish pepper sauce, or infusing some honey or maple syrup into the mix. Both of these attempts worked a lot better than the lime pepper sauce, that’s for sure.

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