Fork Free Fun: Wingfest 2014

Fork free eating is a just a few days away in Hilton Head Island! It's Wingfest, ya'll!

Fork free eating is a just a few days away in Hilton Head Island! It’s Wingfest, ya’ll!

So when I was asked to write this post about “fork free” eating and weave it into the upcoming Wingfest event, I thought, ‘Well, this will be a breeze.’ And then I thought, “No, this might be a snooze.” By this, I refer to the fact that I have written about this mid-March celebration of all things ‘wing’ many times. And while food fads and restaurants come and go, there’s only so much cleverness and originality to be said about the wings of a chicken. Or is there?

Technically, the topic of fork free eating includes a lot more than wings. I mean there are the obvious choices like ice cream cones, hamburgers, hot dogs and anything edible skewered and otherwise affixed to a stick. I have a deep love of the corndog myself, but that’s just between me and you – don’t tell my internist!

During the last decade, high-end dining establishments have also transitioned various foods into smaller portions than can be easily eaten out of hand. The big, small plate menu at Daniel’s includes finger friendly blue crab stuffed Atlantic salmon sliders and tuna tartare lettuce wraps. Farm to table gastrob pub, Neo, in Bluffton offers both its popular lamb lollipops and down south wontons (with tasso ham, collard greens and house made Vidalia onion chutney) in it’s fabulous appetizer menu. That ice cream mentioned above gets turned on its ear at Pinot Gelato; their hand-held pizza cone (made with pizza dough) comes in margarita, pepperoni & sausage, and the daily special. Now, that’s one tasty cone!

A fine platter of sizzling wings from Giuseppi's Pizza! Photo: Giuseppi's Pizza.

A fine platter of sizzling wings from Giuseppi’s Pizza! Photo: Giuseppi’s Pizza.

Outside of that corndog, chicken wings are a favorite treat of mine; tailgating at college football games would not be the same without them! With a bit of background checking I find that there are several different claims about how Buffalo wings were created. One of the more prevalent is that Buffalo wings were first prepared at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, by Teressa Bellissimo, who owned the bar along with her husband Frank. There are even several accounts of how Ms. Bellissimo came about concocting the dish, but needless to say they because a big hit. There is also the account that a man named John Young served chicken wings in a special “mambo sauce” at his Buffalo restaurant in the mid-1960s.

Regardless of the origin, the popularity of Buffalo chicken wings took off in the 1980’s and the rest is food history. Hilton Head Island’s Wingfest began back in 1995 as a part of the Island’s month-long ‘Springfest’ and has continued as a fundraiser for The Island Recreation Association with Hargray Communications as presenting sponsor.

The One Hot mama's booth is busy as Chef Orchid Paulmeier and team bring on the flavor year and year! Photo: Island Recreation Association.

The One Hot Mama’s booth is busy as Chef Orchid Paulmeier and team bring on the flavor year and year! Photo: Island Recreation Association.

Over the years, the competition to garner the top spot from the judges and as the ‘people’s choice’ winner has been fierce. One Hot Mama’s came away with the top judge’s prize last year and owner/chef Orchid Paulmeier says, “We’ve done very well at Wingfest over the years having won one of the top two prizes in every one of last four years.”

All of the sauces Orchid uses to flavor her wings are sold at the restaurant, with ‘Hot Asian’ being the most popular (it has won twice at Wingfest). She has also won with ‘Maui Wowii’ and ‘Southern Soul’. This year’s Wingfest will bring forth a new flavor called “Hashtag Honey Mustard” (or maybe it’s ‘#HoneyMustard”!) named by Orchid’s daughter, Maile, who’s in the seventh grade. It sounds to me like Maile has a gift for marketing, Orchid!

Cheap Seats Tavern will also be back this year (they earned last year’s People’s Choice first place spot). Other past winners include are CharBar Company, Giuseppi’s Pizza, A Lowcountry Backyard Restaurant and Casey’s Sports Bar & Grille.

In addition to the Wingfest event on Saturday, March 22 (11 am-6 pm at Shelter Cove Community Park) there will be “The Tailgate” on Friday, March 21st from 5-8 pm at Shelter Cove Community Park. At this pre-Wingfest fun there will a March Madness Food Bracket Cookoff with local restaurants, happy hour prices, and restaurant rivalry.

Team Trophy Quest’s cook B-Bob will also be presenting three cooking demonstrations, one on Friday night and two on Saturday. He will be demonstrating how to cook turkey wings with his own twist! Team Trophy Quest is a hunting television show – yes, they will be filming and featuring the 2014 Wingfest!

Kids will find plenty of fun at the Wingfest Kids Zonetoo - plus music and cooing demonstrations for everyone to enjoy. Photo: Island Recreation Association

Kids will find plenty of fun at the Wingfest Kids Zonetoo – plus music and cooing demonstrations for everyone to enjoy. Photo: Island Recreation Association

Both days’ events will also have live music featuring various local bands including The OCD Band, Lyn Avenue, Deas Guyz, and Jacob & The Good People. There will also be many activities for all ages such as a kid’s zone, rock climbing wall and bungee jump. Catch March Madness college hoops on the big screen provided by Custom Audio Video and stop and view some of Hilton Head Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram’s new model vehicles.

And, since all event proceeds benefit The Island Recreation Association (a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for area residents of all ages), all those wings are being eaten for a great cause – fork free!

2014 Hilton Head Wingfest Presented by Hargray

  • The Tailgate: Friday, March 21 from 5-8 pm at Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Wingfest: Saturday, March 22 from 11am – 6 pm at Shelter Cove Community Park
  • Admission to each event is $6 with children 10 & under free. Concessions and activities sold separately.

Orchid Paulmeier has shared her favorite accompaniment to wings (mine too!) – Blue Cheese Dressing – with all of us! Simple yet decadent – enjoy!

Bleu Cheese Dressing, Orchid Paulmeier, One Hot Mama’s

  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayo
  • 2 tbsp. buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1/8 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Mix all together and chill for one hour.