Armed with a big mouth and an empty stomach, our intrepid writer Zach Fowle has dared to become one of these food fighters -- travelling metro Phoenix to face new challenges and prove to the animal kingdom that man belongs at the top of the food chain.
Am I getting jaded?
This week's Feast of Fury requires a rare visit to a chain restaurant. Buffalo Wild Wings (705 S. Rural Road, 480-858-9464) -- they of the crazy-cheap wing specials and moderately entertaining commercials of referees sabotaging sporting events -- celebrated the opening of a brand spankin' new location in Tempe on Monday. Each wing spot across the nation offers a contest amidst the chicken-filled menu: the Blazin' Challenge.
For $8.99, you get 12 chicken wings slathered with Blazin', the top end of the heat spectrum on Buffalo Wild Wings' 14-sauce rainbow. "Keep away from eyes, pets, children," the description of the sauce declares. "It's like walking on hot coals, EXCEPT YOU EAT THEM!"
The stuff's made with cayenne red pepper, dehydrated habanero chiles, jalapeno peppers and garlic, among other things. A representative said the Scoville Units for Blazin' range from 200,000 to 350,000, depending on the peppers and the season. Finish all 12 spicy wings within six minutes and you get a t-shirt and a spot on the wall of fame.
Glory aside, I'm loath to rise to the Blazin' Challenge. Recall, if you will, my previous experience with hot wings:
OH DEAR GOD, IT'S LIKE LICKING LAVA! I CAN'T FEEL MY FACE! AAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!
So you understand my reluctance. But I do have some support: Todd is again attempting the challenge alongside me. He'll do anything for a free t-shirt.
We place our twin orders and about 20 minutes later a manager swings by, microphone in hand, and announces our attempt to the restaurant. He then lays down the rules:
"If you touch your face, you lose. If you take a drink, you lose. If you throw up, you have to eat the pieces you threw up."
I'm told to take of my glasses because my eyes are going to water anyway, but I leave them on so they'll act as safety goggles and allow me to dive in to the meaty wings with impunity.
The clock starts and Todd and I scarf. I'm pleasantly surprised: the meat is nice and juicy and the sauce is sticky and subtly sweet. The heat slowly builds after the first wing and I'm troubled, expecting an onslaught of fiery pain. But the wave of spice never seems to crest. Relieved, I focus on finishing the remaining wings as quickly as I can.
I look to my right. About 20 of the wait staff are watching me silently, expectedly. Holy shit. One of them berates me: "I've seen girls eat faster than that!"
Todd, who looked like he might not be able to down all the meat for a while, stages a major comeback, surging late and finishing strong. We both complete the challenge at 4:16, nearly two minutes before our deadline.
Maybe these months of eating too much spicy food have ruined my sense of spiciness forever, because the Blazin' Challenge was, truthfully, pretty weak. Frankly, BWW, I'm not impressed. The last hot wing challenge I encountered left me writhing in pain on my couch, staring at the wall in silence and hugging myself like an upset kindergartener.
That's not to say it wasn't mildly distressful. After I finished eating, waves of painful heat blazed on my tongue and on the outside of my mouth, and it took a few glasses of water to cool me off. My eyes watered a bit, my nose became a little runny, my hands shook a bit. But it was all a sad shadow of what I've endured before.
If you're looking for a kinder, gentler hot wing challenge, check this one out.