This blog is devoted to highlighting restaurants of Memphis, Tennessee.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bosses

My First Visit

Back in July, during a "temp" assignment for an irrigation company, I had lunch at Bosses. Located near Clark Tower in East Memphis, the restaurant primarily serves hot wings. Like with most reviews, I sort of came across Bosses by accident. On the day that my crew went to lunch, we headed down Poplar Avenue to a location that we assumed had a KFC (short for Kentucky Fried Chicken, who isn't changing many minds with its "healthier" image). As we arrived, we discovered that a Baskins-Robbins/Dunkin' Donuts franchise replaced the chicken joint. With us having to change plans, one of my “bosses” suggested that we go to The Half Shell. Being the cash-strapped guy that I usually am, I quickly suggested that we go to Bosses because I felt it was more affordable. Although its prices were a little higher than I expected, I didn't have any regrets about choosing the place.
Once we arrived at Bosses, we placed and paid for our orders at the front counter and were immediately seated. We all got the eight-piece wing combo smothered with Buffalo-style hot sauce that cost approximately $8.72. While we waited on our order, I "checked in" to Bosses on Foursquare where I saw that first-time visitors get fifty percent off the price of their orders. I wished had known this ahead of time, because I could have gotten a complete order of wings instead of having to split them with my "temping" cohort. In the future, I hope the host/cashier advises diners of the special. Anyway, I immediately got a partial refund from the host and waited for our wings.


Ten minutes later, our orders of hot wings arrived. The wings came in the form of "cut" or "party" pieces rather than whole wings that are served at wing joints like Don Don's. In terms of size, they were slightly smaller when compared to other wing joints. Therefore, I had to make do with the four pieces that was my share of the order.
The hot wings themselves were a bit of disappointment. My gripe isn’t due to the size of the wings, but rather its lack of “heat.” While the wings had the requisite Buffalo flavor, it lacked the proper amount of "heat" needed to qualify as hot wings. I initially thought I had gotten the wrong order, but my server assured me that my order was right. Still not convinced, I went "Nuh-Uh" by mooching a wing from one of my "bosses" ("Nuh-Uh" is a reference to a "foodie" frequently blogged about by, "well you know"). His wings, like mine, were lukewarm in terms of spiciness. After asking all the guys what they thought, we agreed that the "hot" wings were mild yet good nonetheless. For me, it was a bit of a letdown although not the end of the world.
By the way, I later read the review by Best Memphis Burger about Bosses' hot wings. The review came to the same conclusion about the lack of "heat" in the hot wings. With six people coming to the same conclusion, it's safe to say that Bosses doesn't "bring it" when it comes to meeting expectations. However, owner John Yacoubian said that he doesn't want to cause discomfort by making the wings too hot. I see the logic in that but disagree with the tactic. I'll talk more about this later.
As I said earlier, I ordered hot wings as part of a combo that included seasoned fries and a soda. The fries were crispy and slightly salty due to a sprinkling of Bosses’ dry rub seasoning. Surprisingly, the best part of the meal was the blue cheese dressing. It was thick, chunky and very creamy (which seems different from what Seth at Best Memphis Burger had). I liked the dressing so much that I dipped everything in it, including the fries. In terms of taste, the cheesy richness of the dressing made a huge difference in my hot wings. The satisfaction that I got from it almost made up for the wings' lackluster spiciness. For me, the blue cheese dressing made a so-so lunch into something enjoyable.
After I finished eating, I left Bosses feeling slightly disappointed, but was anxious to give it another shot. I was curious if its hottest wings could provide the heat that I desired. Before I go on, I'm not a glutton for punishment, but I love spicy foods. However, my tolerance for spiciness isn't on the same level as a “heat freak” like the blogger of Burn My Mouth. Rather, I prefer food that balances spiciness and vibrant flavor in a way that makes for a well-rounded dining experience.

Round Two

After months of procrastinating, I finally got around to giving Bosses a second shot. To do that, all the stars had to line up with regards to my schedule. My visit was on a Friday when I worked a rare evening shift at FedExForum (the NBA season has kicked in so no more "temping" for now). I took advantage of this by getting a few errands done such as shopping for Halloween makeup (my character this year was a zombie). While doing this, I felt it was a good time to get a second order of wings from Bosses. This time, instead of getting wings with hot sauce, I stepped my game up a bit. I got the combo with half my wings in honey gold sauce and the rest of it in a sauce called "Pure Hotness." I didn't go all in with the heat because I feared the worst. For all I knew, the wings could have been as hot as Kooky Canuck's "Holy Smoke!" wings that kicked my ass. On the flip side, they could have been as weak as Flying Saucer's "Atomic" wings that are its hottest, although I didn't break a sweat eating them (when the time is right, I will talk more about it).


The wings arrived a few minutes after I placed my order. Just like the last time, the wings were small in size but it didn't matter. For me, I wanted to know if Bosses could live up to its name in the world of hot wings. The "Pure Hotness" wings didn't disappoint even though I wasn't sure initially. The sauce is Habanero-based and mixed with a good amount of vinegar. Like my experience at Max's Sports Bar, the heat didn't hit me at first. My initial impression was that it was spicier than Bosses' hot wings but not overwhelmingly strong. However, as I ate more of them, the heat increased significantly. The "Pure Hotness" definitely kicked in on the fourth wing that had me sweating. I managed to get through all five wings by drinking 1½ glasses of water and plenty of ranch dressing. I'm not sure if I could have made it through a whole order of "Pure Hotness" wings because of the spiciness. While they're not as spicy as Max's, the wings were more than hot enough for me. In terms of taste, the sauce and the wings were really good. For this portion of my meal, the "Pure Hotness" wings changed my view of Bosses in a very positive way.
As much as I liked the "Pure Hotness," Bosses' honey gold wings provided a relief from the "heat." In terms of taste, the mix of honey mustard and hot sauce made the wings very sweet while maintaining a small degree of spiciness. In my opinion, they were a little sweeter than most honey gold wings that I've had. Overall, I liked them just as much as the "Pure Hotness" wings.
The sides that I had during this visit were decent supplements to my lunch. The fries tasted the same as the ones I had earlier and were even better with dressing. Speaking of that, the ranch dressing didn't impress me as much as Bosses’ blue cheese dressing. Not that I had any complaints, but the ranch dressing didn't stand out in terms of taste like its counterpart did. Still, it was as good as most places that serve it and went well with my meal.
After I finished my lunch, the owner wanted me to try Bosses' other offerings, which are catfish fillets and chicken tenders (and a nice selection of beers). The catfish tasted as good as the servings I had at some of the best "Soul Food" restaurants in Memphis. The extremely thick tartar sauce was great with it although some (like my doctor) might object to the amount of mayo in it. The chicken tender, consisting of white meat and light breading, was well seasoned and tasted great on its own. However, the sauces that I got with it made the chicken even better.
Out of random, I chose the Hot BBQ and Honey Hot sauces to dip my chicken tender in. Even though I didn't give it much thought, I was happy with the choices I made. The Hot BBQ sauce seemed to have tomato and vinegar as its prime ingredients with a bit of chili peppers for added spiciness. The taste is somewhat similar to what I've experienced at places like Corky's that is famous for barbecue (personally, I believe it's overrated).
As much as I liked the barbecue sauce, the Honey Hot sauce really impressed me. While not quite as spicy as Bosses’ hot sauce, the perfect balance of spiciness and honey mustard sweetness made the Honey Hot the best sauce that I had at Bosses. The owner later told me that it is a favorite with kids. Although I don't think of myself as a kid at heart, the Honey Hot will be my choice of sauce for my next visit to Bosses.
During this visit, I got an opportunity to talk with the owner. We mostly talked about chicken wings and other stuff related to his restaurant. The most interesting thing that I learned was how to tell if a wing had been frozen prior to cooking. If the bones are dark and/or gray, it means that the wings were frozen. However, unfrozen chicken retains its white color. This is something I will remember when I review chicken in the future.

SIDE NOTE: Bosses' wings come straight from Tyson and Sanderson Farms (whose wings were the centerpiece of a recent cooking effort). The catfish, which is Mississippi pond-raised, is supplied by Delta Pride and Pride of The Pond.

We also talked about the lack of spiciness in Bosses ' hot wings. While I understand the logic in not making them too spicy, I'm not sure it is a good tactic. I am a firm believer in making good first impressions, something that Bosses’ hot wings didn't do for me or my co-workers. While we all liked the wings from a taste standpoint, the lack of spiciness tempered our opinion. While I was forgiving, I'm not sure if some of my cohorts did the same. If I were running Bosses, I would tweak the hot sauce a bit so it is slightly hotter. I believe there is enough room for improving it while maintaining a degree of separation from the hotter sauces.
Putting aside my mild hot wings, both of my visits to Bosses were great. Everything that Bosses serves is original, including the wing sauces, dressings and dry rub seasoning. The wings, tenders, catfish and fries are hand cut and prepared by an expert kitchen staff so there's no need to worry about quality. The service at Bosses is excellent, for it didn't take long to get my orders. Plus, the attentive servers made sure that I had everything I needed, including extra napkins. Overall, the professionalism of the staff at Bosses is top-notch and a cut above most so-called "wing joints." In closing, I want to thank John and his people for the hospitality I received. I appreciated it and hope to return the favor by encouraging others to visit Bosses.

Website: www.bosseschicken.com

Bosses on Urbanspoon

LabelsEast Memphis, Family Friendly, Seafood, Wings






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My First Attempt At Making Buffalo Wings

Baked, not Fried

Last Wednesday, (October 17, 2012), I made Buffalo wings for the first time. My reason for doing it was to see how easy it would be. Given the proliferation of wing joints in Memphis, I always felt that any hack could make Buffalo wings if he/she could follow a recipe. I put that theory to the test, which led to mixed results.
In pursuing this, I initially wanted to go about it in the traditional way, by frying the wings. However, after looking at several recipes on the Internet, I realized that frying them would be a lot harder than I thought. Without any frying experience, I opted to bake/broil the wings because that technique is familiar to me. While I knew that I wouldn't get the true "Buffalo" experience, I hoped that the right recipe would get me as close to it as possible. I certainly wasn't looking for a spicy version of barbecue wings, so any recipe used could not involve low heat roasting. Fortunately, I found a recipe that suited my needs.

SIDE NOTE: Alright, I'm about to have a "Memphis Que" moment. Although it was very convenient to find a recipe online, it's disheartening that cook books are becoming obsolete. As part of the trend to rely more on the Internet for information, the printing and publishing industries are slowly becoming irrelevant. As a print production artist who hasn't worked in the field for the past four years, I have seen opportunities for employment diminish as more print companies go out of business. As more people conveniently print their own documents (or display them on phones and computer monitors), there is less of a need for print professionals like me. My lamenting about this may seem as "woe is me" whining, but it is a hard pill to swallow. Hopefully, if I can get better at cooking hot wings, I might pursue it as a new occupation.

Once I got my recipe (posted on Food.com by WhoDat), I reviewed what I needed:

1 lb chicken wings
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup Louisiana Hot Sauce
1 tablespoon margarine

Directions:
1. Fill a large pot half way with water and then add the first 4 ingredients.
2. Bring water mixture and wings to a boil and then boil for 15 minutes.
3. Transfer wings to an oven safe container coated with cooking spray. Bake wings on "Broil" (high) for 15 minutes on each side.(For crispier wings, cook longer on each side, maybe 20 minutes per side).
4. While waiting for wings, combine the Hot Sauce and Margarine in a microwave safe container and cook in microwave for 2 minutes or until melted. (You can cook the sauce longer for a thicker sauce).
5. When wings are done, shake 'em up with the sauce and enjoy!

I had everything listed in the recipe but the wings, buffalo sauce and margarine. I substituted the margarine for unsalted butter and got the other two items from the Kroger on Union Avenue in Midtown Memphis. The poultry that I got were six whole Sanderson Farms "100% Natural" (whatever that means) chicken wings that weighed nearly two pounds. The sauce I bought was Louisiana Wing Sauce, which is slightly different from what recipe called for. Of course, I thought about getting Frank's RedHot Sauce that Teressa Bellissimo used when she developed the recipe decades ago at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. However, the two sauces are very similar in taste so I stayed close to the recipe because it was cheaper (and about the same price as Kroger's brand).
With everything acquired, I went about the process of preparing and cooking the wings. Because I had two pounds of wings, I had to adjust the amount of ingredients that the recipe required. For the most part, I increased everything by fifty percent except for the sauce (I doubled it). After boiling the wings, I put them in the oven where I broiled them for forty minutes. The recipe's author suggested that the extra ten minutes (five minutes per side) would make the wings crispier, and to some degree he/she was right. However, the extra cooking time almost cost me my wings because they came close to burning up. Fortunately, despite a few burn marks, the wings came out okay. After a quick mixing with the sauce, the wings were ready to eat.


Although the wings were crispy and very spicy, they didn't measure up my standards in terms of taste and composition. Aside from some of them being burnt, excessive broiling made the skin of the rest of the wings hardened and gritty. The overcooking also dried out any juices that the wings had, which the wing sauce partially remedied. Despite the excessive broiling, the wings retained a spicy pepper flavor that was saltier than I wanted. If I had to grade myself on this cooking effort, I would get a "C-" because although the wings were edible, there's a lot of room for improvement.
If and when I use this recipe again, I will strictly adhere to most of it but with fewer changes, such as:

1. Add more vinegar to the sauce. As much as I like Cayenne and red peppers, it was a little overwhelming. I believe that additional vinegar will tame the sauce's spiciness by giving it a sour sweet element.

2. Put less salt in the sauce. While the wings were spicy, the salt component was a little stronger than I'm accustomed to. In the future, I might substitute it with more Cayenne pepper seasoning.

3. Instead of buying a pack of wings off the shelf, I will get the precise number I need directly from the butcher. I hope this saves me a few bucks.

4. Will not broil the wings longer than the recommended time in the recipe. Although it will make everything crispier, it comes at the expense of drying out and burning some of the wings.

5. Might disregard No. 4 and just fry the wings. I don't believe that a true "Buffalo" experience is possible with baked wings.

For my first attempt at cooking Buffalo wings, I discovered that it is more challenging than I thought. Of course, this is coming from a guy who rarely cooks anything that isn't frozen. Although I will make a few mistakes along the way, I'm confident that I'll learn how to make really great Buffalo hot wings. Although it is time consuming, cooking hot wings is very satisfying. I am willing to go through the process even though getting take-out is easier (a four whole wing combo at Kelvin's Hot Wings is cheaper the raw wings bought at Kroger). Hopefully when I master the art of making Buffalo wings (using either the recipe mentioned here or another one), I might throw a party to celebrate my accomplishment. I'm sure it will be a hell of a "wing ding."

Websites:
WhoDat's recipe at Food.com
www.louisianawingsauce.com

LabelsRecipes, Wings






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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fido

Doggedly Good

During a visit to Nashville, I stopped by Fido, a cafe located in the city's Hillsboro Village neighborhood. I didn't take a lot of time to look around the place. From what I observed, the place sort of resembled a bigger version of Downtown Memphis' Bluff City Coffee. The cafe's menu is somewhat similar to Midtown Memphis' Cafe Eclectic and the method of payment and service is the same as Otherlands, another Midtown Memphis coffee shop. With this mix of styles from three of my favorite hometown cafes, I got the feeling that I was going to get a great breakfast.


After looking over the menu, I decided to get something that was new and unique to me. The Smoked Salmon Scramble fit the bill, although I never had the seafood staple for breakfast. The dish consisted of smoked salmon, scrambled eggs, herb cream cheese, capers and red onions. The eggs were perfect, with its fluffy texture and yellow appearance signifying that they were neither undercooked nor overcooked. That worked well with the cream cheese that tied everything together for a thick and creamy medley. The salmon was dominant in terms of taste, with the capers and red onions providing additional flavor. In all, the Smoked Salmon Scramble was delicious and one of the better breakfast dishes that I've had this year.

Fido's entrée comes with hash browns and wheat toast as side items. While the toast was average, the hash browns were fantastic. They were buttery and seasoned with something similar to salt that was milder and more flavorful. By itself, the hash browns were great and even better with the Smoked Salmon Scramble.

For my first visit to Fido, I was very impressed. My breakfast was great and I liked the atmosphere that the cafe provides. Like the coffeehouses that I mentioned earlier, Fido's casual environment is relaxing. It's also conducive for studying (which makes sense given that it's near Vanderbilt and Belmont Universities) or just chilling out over a latte while surfing the Net on Fido's WiFi. And unlike its nearby competitor Pancake Pantry, there isn't a long wait time for seating although Fido's breakfast menu is more limited. For me, I like what Fido provides and look forward to dining there again.

Website: www.bongojava.com/fido.php

Fido on Urbanspoon

LabelsAmerican, Breakfast, Coffee Shop, Nashville, Seafood






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