Town & Gown: Taste of the Month — Wings
WingFest continues Thursday night with Penn State men's basketball coach Pat Chambers hosting a meet-and-greet event in conjunction with the festival.
The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and will feature music, food and a chance to meet Chambers. Basketball season ticket holders will receive free admittance as well as 10 tickets to use toward food at the event for every season ticket held.
Since 1998, the Tussey Mountain WingFest has become one of the most well-known outdoor events in Central PA, welcoming an average of 1,500 guests every Thursday night from mid-July to late August.
The events feature live music and a friendly wing-off competition. For seven weeks, the area’s best restaurants are invited to show off their award-winning wing sauces and compete for a chance at the Wing King title.
Hungry wing eaters chow down more than 8,600 wings on average in just one night, and cast votes for their favorite. A champion is awarded a trophy every week and moves on to the WingFest Finals. “There isn’t a cash prize for being crowned the Wing King, and for most of the participants it is all about the bragging rights,” explains Christie Hume, Tussey Mountain events manager.
Marketing manager Aaron Weyman adds, “New this year, we are working on a Stanley Cup-style prize that will have a plaque on it with the winning restaurant’s name and will be passed from restaurant to restaurant each year.”
This year’s 14th-annual WingFest began July 19 and ends with the finals on Aug. 30. Admission is $5 for adults, and children 12 and under enter free. There is no fee to park and, once inside, tickets can be purchased to sample the wings. One ticket costs $1 and gets you two wings.
Some of the restaurants participating this year include Garfield’s, Kildare’s, Café 210 West, Spruce Creek Tavern, Arena Bar & Grill, Home Delivery Pizza, Wingman Catering, Hublersburg Inn, Doan’s Bones, and the Down Under Steak House.
In addition to the Tussey Mountain WingFest, there are a number of Centre County eateries offering wings tossed in a variety of fiery sauces, from Otto’s Hurricane Mary to Bonfatto’s Fire-in-the-Hole. But if you can’t take the heat, there are milder yet flavorful options like the Arena Bar & Grill’s Honey Bourbon BBQ or the Toftrees Down Under Steak House’s Sesame Teriyaki.
Arena Bar & Grill
1521 Martin Street, State College
Wings are the best-selling appetizer at the Arena Bar & Grill. Whether you prefer your wings spicy or mild, with 19 sauces and counting to choose from, there is a wing sauce that will satisfy your taste buds. Every year, the restaurant calls out to its loyal customers to submit their unique wing-sauce recipes, and one is chosen for WingFest.
“We announce to our customers about a month before the WingFest and we give them until the week before we compete to submit their recipes,” explains bar and restaurant manager Karyn Withers. “We make small batches of each one and pick one to take up with us. We name the sauce after them and they usually end up on our menu.”
In addition to the customer’s sauce, the Arena brings up to eight different sauces to compete in WingFest each year, including their Honey Bourbon BBQ, Spicy Ranch, Sweet Garlic, and Zesty Dry Rub.
Some other wing sauces available at the Arena include Jim K’s Chesapeake, Jim K’s Curry, Sue’s Habanero Bourbon Peach, Hot Garlic, Mild Garlic, Cajun Garlic, Spicy BBQ, Ranch, Honey Mustard, and their hottest sauce, Suicide. “Our Suicide sauce is made with jalapenos, habaneros, cayenne, Cajun seasoning, and crushed red pepper — so it’s pretty hot,” says kitchen manager Brandon Aikey.
Wing Night on Wednesdays, starting at 9 p.m. until midnight, is the perfect time to sample all the different flavors at the Arena for 35 cents a wing. “Our Wing Night is like the WingFest — you can order as few or as many as you want, so you can really get to try all the different sauces,” says Withers. “After the WingFest, people come in and request the flavors that they liked up at Tussey, and some of the more interesting flavors seem to be what people talk about, like our Zesty Dry Rub, Sue’s Habanero Bourbon Peach, or Jim K’s Curry.”
Toftrees Down Under Steak House
1 Country Club Lane, State College
Located at the Toftrees Golf Resort & Conference Center, the Down Under Steak House offers a casual-dining atmosphere with spectacular views of the resort’s 18-hole golf course. Executive chef and State College native Randy Sherman offers six different wing sauces, from the classic hot or mild to the Bourbon BBQ, Chipotle Rum BBQ, Sesame Teriyaki, and Garlic Butter & Oil. He also makes a super-hot wing sauce by request.
“We make all our sauces in-house with fresh, all-natural ingredients, real butter, and your wings are always made-to-order,” he explains. “We won the Tussey Mountain WingFest in 2005 and 2006.”
This year, the Down Under Steak House will be competing again at WingFest on Aug. 23. “We typically bring up four to five different sauces, and this year we are thinking about a new Spicy Pina Colada Caribbean-style wing sauce to take up,” says Sherman.
Sample a full order of 10 wings for $9.99, or five wings for $5.99. Try the different sauces on their own or request a combination of sauces like the Hot sauce with Garlic Butter & Oil or the Chipotle BBQ with the Garlic Butter & Oil.
Otto’s Pub & Brewery
2235 North Atherton Street, State College
Otto’s Pub & Brewery gives diners the choice of regular or smoked bone-in wings as well as boneless wings and smoked chicken thighs. Chef Pete Herncane says, “The smoked wings are pretty unique because of the crisp texture of the skin and you can really taste our spice rub. We let the rub marinade into the chicken wings for about 10 hours before we smoke them in-house.”
There are eight different sauces, including Curt’s Smokin’ BBQ, Mild Buffalo, Mango Habanero, Garlic Sesame, Thai Peanut, Sweet and Spicy Garlic, and the two hottest and most popular, Brother Rod’s Bhutty, and Hurricane Mary. If you can’t decide on what sauces to try, Wednesday Wing Night lets diners sample half a dozen wings with your choice of regular, smoked, or boneless, choice of sauce, and celery and blue cheese for $3.50 from 8 to 10 p.m.
Herncane recommends pairing a lighter, less hoppy beer such as a pint of Otto’s Pilsner, Spruce Creek Lager, or the Hefeweizen with your wings.
205 Park Place, Bellefonte
Bonfatto’s in Bellefonte has become famous for their Bonanza subs, award-winning bottled wing sauces, and the restaurant’s newest creation, Spice Cream. The business was originally a grocery and produce market in 1919 in downtown Bellefonte and has grown to a family restaurant serving wings, subs, salads, pizzas, steaks, and seafood.
Opened in 2000 in its current location, owner David Letterman started creating his signature wing sauces starting with the Original Buffalo-style sauce. By 2008, he had bottled seven different varieties including RazzHab, Apple Pepper Jack, Peaches & Scream, Fire-in-the-Hole, Tongue Thai’d, and Hawaiian BBQ. “My tagline is Feel the Flavors because my sauces aren’t just for wings,” explains Letterman. “My Hawaiian BBQ is great as a marinade or a stir-fry. The Apple Pepper Jack is great on burgers, ribs, and baked beans. The Tongue Thai’d is a curry sauce with coconut milk, peanut butter, and basil, so it makes amazing chicken satay or a curry/rice dish.”
Bonfatto’s won the 2007 Wing King title at WingFest and has won four consecutive years at the Blue & White Wing Fest since it began in 2008. In addition, in 2011, Letterman submitted his sauces to the Fiery Food Challenge competition in Texas. Out of 750 entries from around the country, Bonfatto’s Apple Pepper Jack and Fire-in-the-Hole each received a third place, and the Original Buffalo and RazzHab earned the Golden Chili Award.
Bonfatto’s Thursday Wing Night gives diners an opportunity to sample the different sauces for $4 for six wings. The sauces also are available for purchase at the restaurant as gifts or to incorporate in your own dishes. They also can be purchased online at www.FeelTheFlavors.com.
For those who are adventurous, try Bonfatto’s Spice Creams, a combination of premium French vanilla ice cream blended with the RazzHab sauce and miniature peanut-butter cups, the Peaches & Scream and granola, or the Apple Pepper Jack and pecans. “Think outside of the box and give it a taste,” says Letterman. “When people first try it, they have said Who would have thought that those two go together? but it’s a really good combination.” They can be purchases online at www.SpiceCream.com.
For more information on WingFest, visit www.tusseymountain.com/wingfest.php.
New to the Area
Red Rooster, On-the-Go Café
685 Pleasant View Blvd, across from Capperella Furniture, Bellefonte.
Open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-11 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Red Rooster, On-the-Go Café (formerly Andy’s on the Go) is transitioning to a must-try, easy take-home source for wings, barbecue, and other comfort foods. They smoke all their own meats, including pulled pork, beef brisket, and, soon, smoked wings! Red Rooster makes all of their 10 wing sauces from Hot Garlic Ranch to Insanity! You can pick up dinner, take home a six-pack, or eat in. Great for lunch too with daily specials, including Firehouse grilled chicken, pot roast, meatloaf, fish on Fridays, or enjoy a smoked pork Cubano sandwich. Red Rooster also caters.
(Print the coupons and present at restaurant for offer)
3 Bonfatto’s Spice Creams for $10 (Regular price for each Spice Cream is $4.99).
3 Bonfatto’s Wing Sauces for $15. (Regular price for each Wing Sauce is $7.)
Toftrees’ Down Under Steak House:
$1 off a full order of wings.
Arena Bar & Grill:
$1 off the All-You-Can-Eat Pizza and Wings Buffet on Mondays, 7 to 10 p.m. (Regular price is $9.99).