by guest blogger J.C. Scott,
As the local “expert” and connoisseur of Bucks County chicken wings, I was intrigued to learn that someone in our area, with a little fire, some smoke, and a lot of love was quietly raising the bar for America’s quintessential blue collar food.
In the heart of Doylestown, Mike Markowitz has been serving up barbeque (real barbeque) since 2010. When he opened Hickory Kitchen he decided to take a fresh look – and a smoked, slow cooked, true barbeque approach – to one of America’s favorite foods, the chicken wing. Hickory, apple, and other hardwoods are carefully selected and blended in their smoker and cared for by his pit-master, Helen Wehmeyer.
It’s all about the chicken. Hickory Kitchen gets their delicious chicken wings from Gross’s in Perkasie. Although Mike has proudly hand-crafted all the restaurant’s sauces (nine in all: House BBQ, Spicy BBQ, Carolina Mustard, Maple Chipotle, Cilantro Lime, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Buffalo, Texas Horsey, and Duke’s Pepper), he always wants to be sure the sweetness of the chicken comes through. All of his rubs and sauces are meant to be accompaniments or enhancements to the meat and smoke, never the focal point. If the chicken meat is overcome by any part of a sauce, Mike starts the recipe over.
Each wing I sampled had a sauce far more impressive than its humble designation on the menu. These wings are something quite fresh in an increasingly stale world of Buffalo wings.
Isn’t a wing just a wing? Actually, no. The chicken wing is made up of three parts: the drumette, the wing, and the wing tip or “flapper.” With traditional Buffalo wings, the drumette and the wing are separated and the flapper is discarded. Mike (adhering to the traditional barbeque mentality) decided to keep the wing intact. This enhances Hickory Kitchen’s wings in two ways – it leaves more surface area for the smoke to adhere to, and the unbroken skin helps keep the meat moist and sweet.
Smoke and sweet. The first thing you notice about Hickory Kitchen’s wings is the aroma of the wood smoke. It’s a colorful, salty, yet sweet aroma balanced by that distinct hickory and apple wood smoke. The House BBQ flavor, with its subtle pepper notes, seems to be crafted specifically to complement that smoke flavor and aroma.
Don’t be frightened by their “spicy” sauce. Heat was present, but carefully adjusted (like all of the sauces) to ensure the flavor and quality of the meat makes its way directly to the taste buds. Personally, I’m not a fan of sweet flavors, especially with wings. However, the most surprising flavor was the Maple Chipotle. It started off with a semi-sweet tang, an obvious presence of natural Vermont Maple syrup, and followed up with an unexpected and delightful blast of peppery deliciousness.
Hickory Kitchen has wings on their appetizer menu, five for $7.50. But don’t be mislead. Their wings are much larger than traditional Buffalo wings. Five are truly ten, and a single order could easily serve as a meal. If you do decide to make a meal of the wings, consider sampling several of the homemade sauces.
Go to Hickory Kitchen for genuine, slow cooked BBQ and the complex yet simple flavor profiles of each sauce they have created. This is barbecue that would raise the eyebrow of any certified Kansas City BBQ judge, as well as satisfy that group of contractors stopping in for lunch, who don’t know why the wings are so good, just that they are.
Reassure your eating companions that the Hickory Kitchen has a plethora of vegetarian dishes too, all as lovingly crafted as the meat in the smoker. But for your own sake, don’t overlook the wings. Mike and Helen have created a game changer. Unknowingly perhaps, they are forging a new and wonderful regional barbeque style.
J.C. Scott contributes a review of Bucks County chicken wings on Bucks County Taste every December. See his most recent post, 2013 – Best Wings in (Upper) Bucks.
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