Rooney and Kutas now feature the berbere wings on all three restaurant menus, even the Yelling Goat, their new place in Lancaster.

By Andrew Z. Galarneau |

When John Rooney and Laurie Kutas opened a restaurant in East Aurora 13 years ago, they decided not to sell chicken wings.

“We refused to get involved with wings, out of respect to the other restaurants in town,” said Rooney. With Kutas, he opened Tantalus, which became Medici House in 2013, and Theas, an Ethiopian place and sister restaurant next door.

After declining to sell one of the area’s most popular appetizers for more than a decade, the owners revisited the decision when opening Theas last year. They would sell wings, but they wouldn’t be like anyone else’s. These wings would be flavored by berbere, an Ethiopian spice mixture with ingredients more complicated than many Indian curry powders.

ALSO READ: Desta Ethiopian: A Slice of Addis Ababa on Albany Street

“When you make berbere in-house, the flavors range from tomato to clove to pepper, all of it dried in the sun and ground to a fine powder,” Rooney said. There’s a variety of chile peppers, spices like fenugreek and smokiness from sun-dried tomatoes, plus a lick of chile heat from a cayenne-powered spice mixture called mitmita, that usually includes cardamom and more.

“We create a paste with butter, and blend it into a spread almost the consistency of peanut butter,” Rooney said. The wings are fried until crispy and tossed in a bowl with a scoop of the berbere butter, and shaken to coat them, then plated. They come almost dry, as if dry-rubbed. “It’s not a big sloppy mess,” he added.

Customers notice when a plate of berbere wings goes by, Rooney said. “The plate comes out and it kind of wafts through the room, it’s that big aroma. People have stopped us and said, ‘This goes far beyond anything we’ve known.’ It’s a wild phenomenon.”

Rooney and Kutas now feature the berbere wings on all three restaurant menus, even the Yelling Goat, their new place in Lancaster.

They’re served with a yogurt-honey dipping sauce, not blue cheese, and there’s no celery, which is different. But sometimes different is good. They’re 10 for $9.95, which is more than most wings cost, but at the Yelling Goat, Tuesday is two-for-one wing night.

“I don’t think we’ll ever be a wing specialist, but we do turn out a lot of them,” Rooney said. “It’s bizarre, and flattering.”

Info: Theas and Medici House, 634 Main St., East Aurora, 652-0390; and the Yelling Goat, 205 Central Ave., Lancaster, 683-0462.

Source: The Buffalo News
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