Chicken Wings. Creepy Halloween House. Lots of beer. Obsessive foodies. This is how weekends in October are supposed to be spent.
This last Sunday, I was among the privileged few to attend Mark and Debra Roman’s 8th Annual Wing Ding, an Ocktoberfest-cum-Halloween party-cum-Chicken wing cookoff that has become the stuff of legend in my home town of Tenafly.
Here, at this wonderfully decorated home, complete with a life-size Nosferatu vampire, an entire flock of black ravens, pumpkins of all shapes and sizes and a highly conversant and very loud parrot did 23 contestants do battle with their Chicken Wing recipes and submit themselves for judgement to four local food bloggers — My wife Rachel, Peter Conway from Mano a Vino, Heidi Raker Goldstein from Jersey Bites and of course myself, who would pick the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners. The contestants themselves also voted for the “People’s Choice”.
The Eighth Annual Wing Ding at Mark and Debra Roman’s house was a hoot. Click on the “Read the rest of this entry” link below for more.
Our hosts, Mark and Debra Roman, in Pumpkin relief.
One of the rules of the Annual Wing Ding is that you’re not allowed to make “regular” Buffalo wings, because during the first few years of the competition they had too many entries that were straight Hot Wing flavors. Ever since then, it was decided that the flavors have to be creative and Buffalo flavor was outlawed.
As I wasn’t a contestant, and as I was sure somebody at that party was expecting SOMETHING with a Buffalo flavor, I decided to bring some “Wings” of my own.
It’s hard for me to describe the elaborate decorations in the Roman household. Debra likes to collect Ravens and is into spooky stuff year-round, but for Halloween they really went all-out.
Like this life-size replica of Nosferatu that greets you in the living room.
Debra Roman doing last minute wing prep on her own recipe.
The dining room was set up with a dozen chafing trays split in half to hold the wings.
One of the contestants setting up.
I loved the way this window looked with the fall foliage.
And this awesome backyard scene.
Mark is not only a huge foodie but he’s also beer conniseur. We had a huge tasting menu of beers to choose from. This Coffee-flavored Porter from Canada — with the spooky Medusa labelling — was a big hit.
Not everyone liked my Embryonic Buffalo wings but the people that did found themselves addicted to them.
Brian, the German Shepherd was on the prowl for anything that fell on the ground. And no, I didn’t see a talking baby with a head shaped like a football. But there was a talking parrot.
Although this “Chicken Wing Fra Diavolo Parmigiana” served over linguine pasta didn’t place, it got an honorable mention. I think it makes a great party dish.
The outdoor bonfire.
The group of us really did plow through 23 different types of wings to taste. There were a number of different wing styles represented, but there were a lot of “Sweet” flavors and also “Asian” dominated as well. Few were really, really spicy, which I thought was interesting.
These were the wings which got 1st place, entrant #23 out of 24 spots. It was a Thai Chile flavored wing with very pronounced Thai Basil and fish sauce supporting background notes. Very bold seasoning and well-developed conceptually, the judges all agreed that it would be a very polarizing choice to pick as the winner.
The 2nd place was also an unusual flavor, called the “Timbuktu” wing. We weren’t sure if it was really supposed North African but it had a very fragrant and exotic blend of spices in it.
The 3rd place wing was a Coconut-coated, deep fried wing which impressed us because it was the only fried wing with a coating that managed to hold its crispyness. Apparently, they had been fried just before bringing them over, as the contestant is a Tenafly resident.
The winner’s circle. To our surprise, #23 actually turned out to be Mark Roman (second from right) giving him his 2nd first place win in 8 years, who had been developing his Thai Chile wing recipe for months. We had no idea those wings were his, honest! Congrats to everyone.
What to do when the judging is done? Sit by the bonfire, and tell ghost stories.