Monday, 14 April 2008

DIPS: Blue Cheese vs Ranch vs ???

When I close my eyes and envision what an order of wings should be, I see a large basket with some sort of checkered pattern that is covered in a heap of red soaked, crispy wings. In the corner of the basket is a twin healthy side of cruditee'd celery and carrots, and with them, is a small plastic container of . . . dip.

Having had a string of strange dip while staying in Ottawa, I began to think more and more about the oft overlooked accompaniments that chicken wings have. Traditionally, wings are served with a side of Bleu Cheese; but a growing, and many argue a majority of individuals prefer Ranch. This has developed into a debate amongst wing lovers about what is appropriate and what tastes best with wings.


By now, everyone knows the story of Wing Saint Teressa Bellisimo and the manifestation of the Buffalo chicken wing, where she served Blue Cheese dressing on the side. The key reason for adding a dip on the side was to cut the heat that is inherent in a Hot Wing. The spicy acid is neutralized with a creamy base.

How people use the dip is completely different. For me personally, in my purist roots, a chicken wing is never to be dipped into a cream dip. One should never take away from the flavour of a good wing sauce. That being said, I have occasionally dipped to cover up a bad wing sauce. I want to be able in the midst of the pain of the wing to taste the sauce.

But for many people, they just can't handle the heat. Others are ignorant of the individual flavours and have no problem mixing, not appreciating the subtle nuances that make a chicken wing. I look to the dip and veggies as a nice yin to my spicy wing yang, meeting together to embrace the universe in a perfect flavour combination to be enjoyed in close proximity, but not together at the same time. I will eat two or three wings, then some veggies to sooth the mouth. Actually, for those that may have watched my wing eating rituals, the first thing I do when my wings arrive is to sample the veggies and dip to cleanse the palette.

I began to search around the internet, looking at fellow wing-bloggers thoughts on the subjects, average Joe's, and other sources. It was surprising how many web results present themselves in this great debate. I even came across a website that had an online poll about which was better (see the results at the end of this log). Fellow wing blogger Phred over at The Chicken Wing Project, put his two cents in on the side of Ranch: "on my Wings, I strongly prefer Ranch of the two. Why? I don't like getting the chunks of Blue Cheese on my Wings when I eat them. Remember, I enjoy Blue Cheese on a salad or a burger, so it has little to do with the taste. " Michael Drum Stix over at Bling Bling Chicken Wing takes a bigger analysis of the two, coming up with a list of when it is appropriate to dip a wing:
  1. You are trying to accomplish some sort of personal goal. For example: breaking the amount of chicken wings (of the hottest flavor of course) you can eat. Perhaps you might win a prize or some recognition, like getting on the wall on Plucker’s or something. Exception: If the establishment prohibits you to use ranch or blue cheese to break a record.

  2. If you think that no one around you is knowledgeable about wings, therefore you can get away with it.

  3. If the wings are such poor quality, that you have to use ranch or blue cheese to cover up the taste.

  4. If you are trying new a flavor of wings, but you are suspicious about how they might taste.

  5. If you are French and spell blue cheese bleu cheese. I take this one back; it’s never ok to spell it bleu. [LOTW Author's note, I do refer to it as Bleu Cheese, but that is honouring my Canadian bilingualism]
What I found in my research is that there are a lot of opinions out there that are fanatical about both main dips.


The dip of choice for the purist. Classy, cultivated, cultured. Wikipedia says Bleu Cheese is:

"cow's milk, sheep's milk, or goat's milk cheeses that has had Penicillium cultures added so that the final product is spotted or veined throughout with blue or blue-green mould, and carries a distinct smell. Some blue cheeses are injected with spores before the curds form and others have spores mixed in with the curds after they form. Blue cheeses are typically aged in a temperature-controlled environment such as a cave. " It also has the "characteristic flavor of blue cheeses tends to be sharp and a bit salty. The smell of this food is widely considered to be pungent, even compared to other cheeses. " Add in mayo, sour cream and a few more ingredients and you have BC dressing.

My thoughts is that BC tends to be a more mature flavour. Because it is pungent, it becomes a more acquired taste. Here's what various internet users had to say:

"If you're really going for actual buffalo wing style, using ranch dressing would be just wrong."

"I prefer blue cheese but I had my first taste of wings on the east coast and it seems the east only serves them with blue cheese. It seems ranch is more of a west coast dip"

"Everything's better with bleu cheese!"Suicide wings with Blue Cheese!!!! mmmmmm! I think that's what I'll have for lunch!"

"Bleu cheese, all the way. the chunkier, the better!"

"Bleu cheese is the bomb"

"Anything beside Blue Cheese (with authentic Buffalo wings) is SACRILEGE!!!!""Definitely blue cheese. Ranch is an impostor!"


The challenger. Not as hoite toite; a real dip of the people. Ranch Dressing is:
"a condiment made of buttermilk or sour cream, mayonnaise, minced green onion, garlic powder, and other seasonings mixed into a sauce." "In much of America, ranch is a common dipping sauce for things like french fries, chicken wings and other fried foods. "

Ranch is the everyman of the food world: cool ranch Doritos, ranch snack wraps, burgers and salads. And people dip almost anything into ranch. The Ranchists seemed to be less vocal in their comments, often simply stating, "Ranch" without specific reason why. They just knew.

"I live for Ranch Sauce if it's REAL thick..."

"Ew no blue cheese. Ranch all the way!!"

"Ranch goes with anything."

"Ranch!! I love Ranch! I don't like blue cheese"

"RANCH (especially if it is Ken's Ranch or Hidden Valley Ranch)"

"Ranch. Blue cheese should be outlawed as a tool of terrorists"

vs SOUR CREAM? (and other alternatives):

I've come across the odd sour cream as a dip (especially in Ottawa). It has no flavour, not really. It can only be good for cooling down the heat.

I don't believe sour cream should be on the side of wings: it should be for nachos, potato skins and other potato related dishes. It has no place amongst the wings.

Its just a blob of cool milk product.

Really, sour cream is only good inside other dips. Now some wing places have attempted to change up the usual with their own unique take on dips:

The Manhattan Capone wings at Allen's in Toronto are served with a sour cream dip that had a spicy blue cheese added. Unlike the syrupy blue cheese out of a bottle at most wing joints, this was a dip with thick chunks but a plain sour cream base.

Wing Machine also has a 'bleu cheese' type dip, with no actual cheese, and a flavour that seems to combine both ranch and BC.

In the cooking realm, the Pioneer Woman decided to mix both Ranch & BC together to make an outstanding style dip. Why choose when you can have both?
What about Dill Dip? Can't forget Dill Dip!!! So good.


In the US, it appears that individuals attempt to regionalize the debate about who eats what and why. North vs South. East vs West. Up here in Canada, there seems to be little rhyme or reason. But then, wings come in a diversity of styles too: Buffalo style, baked, bbq'd, rubbed, breaded etc. which means that people everywhere have a different reasons and different tastes.

In the online poll I found, the answer surprised me:

Yes, Ranch seems to be winning by a majority. More people prefer Ranch to BC. However, no one classified this debate for wing dipping. When it comes to salad, my standard choice would be Ranch too.

The debate will never be answered. Of course, it all comes down to personal taste. There is no real right or wrong and only you, the citizen of the Wing Nation can make the right choice. The important thing is that people are eating wings.

For me, coating my carrot stick in classic Bleu Cheese is part of the ritual, the event that is eating wings. But when I want to dip my wing, its an extra side of suicide that makes this the right choice.


Anonymous said...

Fromage bleu sur mes ailes sil vous plait.


Lord of the Wing said...

Good Choice!!!