Winner, winner, chicken dinner. More photos can be found here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Olde Forge Restaurant took home the most awards at the 21st annual Wing Fling on Saturday while some others popped into the rankings for the first time.
The people's choice for both the tradition and hot wings as well as the ribs all went to the Olde Forge while Ozzie's Steak and Eggs reeled in the people's choice for best original wings.
In the judge's picks, Zucchinis won the traditional category, with Olde Forge in second and Spice in third; Mission Bar and Tapas won the original, with Betty's Pizza Shack in second and Zucchinis in third; and Halpin's Grub and Grog won the hot category, followed by Olde Forge and Flavours.
The judges also picked the Olde Forge for the best ribs.
For the second year in a row, iBerkshires has sacrificed our taste buds to help out judging at the annual contest. We, again, voted in the hot category and we're starting to get pretty good at judging these things.
Last year, I found that many of the entrees in the hot category focused on bringing the heat and that may have hurt their overall flavor. This year, the heat was tamed a bit and it resulted in great tasting wings.
I like hot wings, so I am looking for the restaurant that handles both taste and heat — I want to both sweat when I eat and for the wings to taste good.
I was torn on my top picks this year; as a judge you cannot tell which restaurant is which, so I can only deduce which ones I voted for. My choice came down to two and it was not easy.
I think that my No. 1 choice was Halpin's because I remembered the sauce was the talk of the competition last year. The chefs at Halpin's certainly don't want me to taste any other wing after theirs with the use of what I suspect is ghost chili. The atomic red color obviously stood out and I held those wings off until last.
While last year, I ranked them lower because of the intense heat, this year they had a much fuller flavor. The heat was mostly a back heat and came after eating the wing and then lingered for next half hour or so. But before that intense heat, the sauce tingled the taste buds with various flavors. They mixed the heat and flavor perfectly this year.
Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski was one of the members of the judging panel, which included some of the county's political and social leaders.
My second place choice, which I suspect was from the Olde Forge, had a great, great flavoring to it. While it was hot, it didn't blow me away. I went back and forth because the judging is supposed to be for the best tasting wing and not the hottest. When I first ranked them, I listed these wings first.
I moved further down my list and looked over my notes and then I didn't know what to do with the hottest ones. I couldn't take away points because of the heat this time because it did not overshadow the flavor.
I went and ate each wing again. The second wing from each changed my rankings. Those atomic hot wings really did it right — it hurt to eat but was well worth the pain and for that, they earned my vote.
I have no idea who my third place vote went to but I know they had a very sweet but hot sauce.
I am not a food expert but I am getting better at these judging food competitions. In the last year I've judged pizza, chili and wings. It is never an easy task because the chefs take tremendous pride in the food they make and when it comes to a competition, they make even more of an effort.
These competitions really highlight the quality of food being cooked in these restaurants. While the Wing Fling is another source of pride for the restaurants, that isn't the best part about the event. The Wing Fling is one of the largest fundraisers for the Pittsfield Family YMCA.
The competition supports youth programming and 21 restaurants volunteered to enter the competition — many of them have never taken home one of the coveted awards. While they do get free advertisement and some get plaques to hang on their walls, they are the force behind the fundraising efforts for the YMCA that attracts thousands of people every year.
The Wing Fling is a great example of the businesses and the community supporting each other and for that, every restaurant should be commended.
Pittsfield.com welcomes critical, respectful dialogue. Name-calling, personal attacks, libel, slander or foul language is not allowed. All comments are reviewed before posting and will be deleted or edited as necessary.