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Hunting for the best Buffalo wings

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Matt Reynolds is a native of western New York State, where Buffalo chicken wings were created 50 years ago. While living abroad in Slovakia, he hungered for his familiar comfort food, so he organized a group of Slovakians and other American expatriates called “The Wing-Hunters” and set out on a 2,627-mile road trip to find the best Buffalo wings.

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A new documentary film, The Great Chicken Wing Hunt, traces the history of Buffalo wings and follows The Wing-Hunters on their quest. The Palm Beach International Film Festival will screen the film at 8 p.m. Friday, April 4, at the Cobb Downtown @ The Gardens 16 Cinemas. It is also available on iTunes.

The Wing-Hunters traveled for 16 days, visiting 72 bars and restaurants, consuming 270 kinds of wings, and rating and discussing what they found. In most communities, they made several stops in a day.

The concept spreads

The Wing-Hunters’ tour included a stop at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo where Buffalo wings were invented in March of 1964 when Dominic Bellisimo asked his mother, Teressa, to make food for some friends. She had on hand a box of chicken wings her butcher delivered by mistake, so she deep-fried them.

The rest, as they say, is history. The idea caught on in the Buffalo area, then spread throughout western New York State and far beyond, including south Florida. Along the way, other cooks tinkered with the recipe, which now exists in infinite variations.

The Wing-Hunters searched for a recipe with just the right balance, and eventually found something they liked. It was different from the original and from others they tried. Perhaps it really was the best – or perhaps they just ran out of time and energy to keep searching.

Watching The Great Chicken Wing Hunt made my daughter and me so hungry for wings that we had to eat some. We went to Flanigan's Seafood Bar & Grill in Coconut Grove, which offers Buffalo wings as a luncheon special. There’s an extra charge for carrot and celery sticks. The sauce was bland, the blue cheese lacked flavor, and the wings were overfried. I wonder how often the cook changes the grease. The Wing-Hunters would likely rate Flanigan’s wings as sub-normal.

What’s your quest?

I can identify with The Wing-Hunters because I have my own quest – to eat as many types of barbecue ribs as I can and find one I like the best.

For me it has been an informal quest, although several years ago my husband, George, and I systematically sought out barbecue everywhere we stopped while driving between Miami and St. Louis. We didn’t collect literature, take pictures, or try to rate the food. We should have.

The barbecue we consumed on that trip far surpassed almost everything available in south Florida. The best ribs here are just tolerable. Most are too sweet, or have too much vinegar, and are overpriced.

These complaints mirror some of Reynolds and his traveling companions’ thoughts about the wings they tried.

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