POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. – Whether they went for chicken wings that were spicy, sweet or savory, all the foodies who packed the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie on Saturday went home with happy, sauce-covered grins.
But the biggest smiles of all were on the faces of the crew from Whistle Willie’s American Grill after the Fishkill eatery snagged the title of “King of the Wings” in the Hudson Valley.
The annual fest and competition, which was held in its biggest venue yet, drew 33 vendors and more than 1,000 wing lovers.
Entries were made in five categories: creative, Buffalo, BBQ, hottest and dessert.
Whistling Willie’s wings not only earned it top honors, they snagged them a “belt” for most creative. (And they came in third for best decorated booth.)
Ray DiFrancesco said his the wings that his family owned and operated restaurant entered were its chipotle and lime, blueberry-chipotle jam, almond joy (coconut, almonds), mole (Mexican chocolate and chili peppers) and taki (crushed taki chips and hot sauce.)
DiFrancesco said the team wasn’t told which wings won it the title of “Most Creative.”
“We’re still trying to find that out,” he said.
This is the second time Whistling Willie's, which also has a restaurant in Cold Spring, has entered the wing fest.
How does it feel to come out on top? “Great,” said DiFrancesco, adding: “Our customers always said we had the best wings; Now we had the hardware to show for it."
DiFrancesco credited his brother, Frank Ciafardini, and sister, Brianna, and the rest of the Whistling Willie’s team with the win. That includes chefs Steven Abril and Stephen O’Dell.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without them,” DiFrancesco said.
Coming in second in the best wings category was Erie Hotel, Trackside Manor and Tiki Bar in Port Jervis. In third place was Baja 328 Tequila Bar Southwest Grill, a Tex-Mex restaurant in Beacon. In fourth, was Pizza Shop in Newburgh.
Other winners and their categories were:
Best BBQ: PC’s Paddock Restaurant (champ), Woody’s Bar B-Q (second), Fireside BBQ & Grill (third), and John Fazio Farms & BBQ (fourth).
Best Dessert : Erie Hotel (champ), PC Paddock (second), Pizza Mia (third) and Gennie’s Soul Food Restaurant (fourth).
Most Creative: Whistling Willie’s (champ), Baja 328 (second), Erie Hotel (third) and Rooster’s Wings & Brew (fourth).
Hottest: Murphy’s New Paltz (champ), Roosters Wings and Brew (second), The Mahopac Inn (third) and Sals Place (fourth).
Best Buffalo: Erie Hotel (champ); Nooch’s Pub & Grill (second), Squeeze Café (third) and Shelly’s Deli (fourth).
Creator of the fest, now in its 10th year, is Angelo Notaro of BAP Events.
Part of the proceeds were donated to Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a New York City-based nonprofit that redistributes food to the needy.
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