By OWEN MORRIS
Darren Mark is the vice president of marketing and PR for Corona Cantina #1 in the Village West Shopping Center in Kansas City, Kansas, and a freelance writer for Spaces Magazine. Previously, he was the host of the mid-morning talk show Kansas City Live on KSHB. I caught up with him at the Peanut chowing on some wings and asked what he liked to eat when nobody was looking.
Before coming to Kansas City three years ago, I worked in Western New York, which has the world's best buffalo wings and maple syrup. These just happen to be two foods that speak to me. New York has these micro-batch maple-syrup-makers that kick the pants off of what you can get at the supermarket. There's few foods that have that big of an influence on an item on a menu as maple syrup. I'll go to a restaurant that has killer pancakes but uses imitation syrup, and it ruins the experience. It's like if you only drink Boulevard with pizza and then one day you have Coors Light with the pizza -- the pizza is still excellent, but the experience is not the same. That's how I feel about pancakes and maple syrup. It's embarrassing but if I'm going out to breakfast, I'll carry a quart of real maple syrup with me.
I get my maple syrup over the phone.
There's a lot of micro-syrup makers to order from, but I call Cartwrights Maple Tree Inn Pancake House. It's still run by the Cartwright family. Rhonda, a member of the Cartwright family, answers the phone and ships it to me. They also make a maple syrup spread that's like a butter. I had to throw it away because it was too good. I'm not lying. I could not stop eating it. I've also drank the syrup by itself with no food. I don't recommend it but you can.
In addition to maple syrup every bar in West New York knows how to make great buffalo wings. There's no secret to it. The recipe is on the back of Frank's Red Hot Sauce, and yet most bars in Kansas City and other places don't make good wings. They should be fried until crispy and lathered in sauce. A little salt and pepper in the batter and that's it. Yet most places try to add their own spin or, worse, use pre-made ones. Before ever eating the wings, I can tell if they'll be good by smelling them. You stick your nose close and take a deep breath. If you cough that's a good sign the wings are properly seasoned.
I'm impressed by the wings at The Peanut. They're been fried about 20 minutes, which is how long it should take. The chicken wings are nice and big and there's a lot of sauce. But I make just as good of wings, I bought a deep fat fryer just for the purpose. Anyone can make them. It's just bars in Buffalo and West New York don't mess with the recipe.