If your wing sauce requires a waiver, proceed with caution


This week I’m gonna talk to you a little about food.
Yeah, I’m a foodie. I love to explore places away from the comfort of extreme southeast Iowa and sample food. I think I made up the term street-eating. That’s what my daughter Taylor and I do when I visit New York, or when we meet up  in other places like Chicago, or Tennesee. We usually plan for dinner some place a little iconic, but for the most part, we walk around and go in doors and sample ice cream, or baked goods, pizza, we had some dip at one place that was kinda good, but kinda gross, too. I can’t remember it, I just know it was one of those, “yeah-you-gotta-try-that” options.
We stopped in for a slice of pizza in a joint in NYC and ended up sharing a shot of Mezcal with the owner while we waited for him to warm up the 'zah.  He didn't charge us for the pizza either 'cuz he was a friend of Taylor's. What a place!
Oysters are a palatary foible for me. I’ve slurped them down. I can’t bring myself to chew them, and they have to have lemon, a dash of horseradish and hot sauce, and ground pepper. And I still have to get it down as soon as freakin’ possible.
My niece loves them. I just – can’t.
I’ve been going a little healthy in the morning and I have to be creative on my own now, since the mayor has stopped posting his Breakfast with Matt. Suffice it to say a couple 8-minute eggs, dark berries, and coffee (black – I don’t want dessert for breakfast) is what has been on the menu lately. Sometimes fat free yogurt. An easy workout and I’m off and running.
I think there’s something special about hot coffee and a spicy breakfast. It just does a different thing to the taste buds that pops a little. I like spicy food. My kids told me I’ve eaten so much black pepper that my flavor profile is screwed up. They could be right. I think it’s calibrated just fine.
But Friday night I did something off the cuff that I regretted Saturday.
My brother and his family had just returned from a trip to poutine capital Canada. I’ve never had poutine, it’s very intriguing, but I would imagine it probably takes a couple days off the timetable, if you’re picking up what I’m putting down.
We decided to get together for some food before watching the Indiana Fever win their fourth game in a row. Maybe they're figuring out how to play together now. Seems like it.
Anyway, we went to B-dubs in Burlington, that’s Buffalo Wild Wings for all you truncated acronym insufficients out there. I got there a bit early and had a Kona Big Wave waiting for their arrival. I exchanged texts to some friends that had me laughing out loud at the bar. People were looking, but that’s okay. I’m just that guy.
My brothers' family showed up about 20 minutes later fresh off I-74 through Peoria, Galesburg, and then down 34 off the off-ramp down Roosevelt to the restaurant. They had with them some fudge they got at a place named after a planet. That’s all I’m gonna say about that on an innocent Sunday afternoon. But that right there…is crazy-ass marketing to travelers. It ranks right up there with Buc-ees. It’s a damn convenience store, but I gotta stop in at some point.
Back to B-dubs, I ordered a smashburger, which wasn’t bad as far as burgers go, just pickle and mustard, tots, and four boneless wings off the Happy-Hour menu. She asked about sauce and for some reason I said, “What’s the hottest you got?”
“Really!?” she said.
“Is it really hot?”
“Yeah, if you do the challenge, you have to sign a waiver,” she smiled.
"No…No I don’t wanna do a challenge, but it’s only four wings, right?”
“Yeah, but it’s really hot. The last time I had it, my tongue swelled up,” she added holding her digital order taking thingy. She deadpanned it. No smile, no nothing. Her tongue seriously swelled up.
That scared me.
“Ok, just put the sauce in a cup on the side,” I said, feeling the courage dissipate quickly that she thought this middle-aged bearded man had brought to the table.
The cup, which was just your average restaurant 3 oz. black plastic dipping cup, had an orange sticker on that WARNED you about the heat profile, discouraging you from going too heavy.
I took one tot – one tot and dipped the end in the sauce and plucked the whole thing in. My nephew did the same thing. His face was something I had missed. He smiled, his dad laughed. “It’s not bad,” he said, then smiled again and looked down. It was bad.
And I know this because I tried to get some of the flavor of the sauce I had irresponsibly tossed in my mouth, but the heat was like I stuck a lit match in my mouth. Any attempt to get some sense of smokiness, or vinegar or something that said this is a nice accompaniment to a few wings or preshaped potato cylinders, was gone instantly as my focus quickly switched to survival.
My brother used a finger to just get a drop of the sauce and sampled it. He started coughing in a matter of seconds and I couldn’t stop laughing. By the way, laughing hard with your mouth trying to deal with lava, is a painful experience. I pushed through with two of the wings, just dipping the tip in the sauce. Trying to fight off the pain to taste the damn stuff. But no joy.  I went through about seven napkins, wiping sweat and blowing my nose, wiping my eyes. By the time I was done, between the three of us grown men, we had consumed about 1/8th of that 3 oz. cup of Blaze sauce. And the roof of my mouth was completely numb.
Fortunately for all of us it faded away fairly quickly. I didn’t need goat milk, or honey or bread or anything like that to deal with it, but I was certainly anxious about how my otherwise stable digestive tract was going to deal with this over the next 12 hours. I threw down some French fries at about 11 p.m. to maybe lessen the stress.
Saturday morning came and went with the black coffee and the easy breakfast. No pepper.
Yeah, I like creativity in food. Mostly I want a high flavor profile, but I’m just not sure my taste buds will recover completely. Sampling is a fun way of food exploring. Be adventuresome. However, I would recommend a little caution if your food comes with a waiver and a warning sticker. But that’s Beside the Point.
Chuck Vandenberg is editor and co-owner of Pen City Current and welcomes comments at

Beside the Point. editorial, commentary, opinion, Chuck Vandenberg, Pen City Current, Sunday, food, sauce, Buffalo Wild Wings, Blaze,


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here