Most people when they visit Montreal and they go for food, think Montreal style smoked meat, poutine or bagels. But me, I'm a bit different. I look for wings. And on a recent trip to la belle provence I sought out a place that not only did chicken wings, but had a special challenge with them as well. LJ and I had attempted to go to McKibbin's Irish Pub the last time we went to Montreal, but parking and a hockey game prevented us from going then. Not this time my friends. Not this time.
You might be thinking, Irish pub in Montreal? Shouldn't it be French? Well McKibbins menu is also a newspaper that details the long history of the Irish in old Mount Royal:
The pub has three locations, and we went to the St Laurent street/rue one. This is a busy place. It's dark and full of atmosphere. The crowd is young and getting their drink on. Seat yourself is the motto here, and we found ourselves wandering the place for somewhere to sit. Fortunately LJ found the last table in the joint (there were a few high tables, but we both hate sitting on a tall stool).
There was a quick scanning of the menu/newspaper and it didn't take long for me to find what I wanted. But there were 3 different types of wings to have: the Guinness Wings, the Belfast Wings, and the Rim Reaper Challenge. I considered ordering Rim Reaper and Belfast just to sample, but then I thought that was a little over the top. This wasn't going to be a regular review; this was a challenge.
Our waitress came by and was friendly, but mostly absent for our visit. It was crazy busy inside and I only saw one other waitress in the place. When I ordered the Rim Reaper, she aid "These are hot. I mean seriously hot". Yeah yeah yeah, I've heard that before. LJ and I looked at each other because clearly our nice waitress didn't know who she was talking with.
LJ and I decided to share an order of Curry Chips. The curry was a very sweet sauce and unlike any curry I've had. It wasn't to my liking, but I'm not a huge curry fan to begin with (I was more interested in the fries). The fries were fresh cut, but very limp.
LJ went with the Chicken and Leak Pie with veggies and mashed potatoes. It was kind of disappointing for her with no flavour. The mashed potatoes also did not stand out and the veggies are just steamed veggies. I didn't sample this because, well I had enough to worry about on my plate.
When it comes to wings and spicy, I'm a glory hound. I haven't had a real wing challenge in a long time and I was ready and waiting for this. On the menu the wings are said to be made with the Bhut Jolokia pepper, or ghost pepper, which was until recently the hottest pepper in the world. So hot that it is used in India to keep elephants at bay, and the Indian goverment is weaponizing it. And I want to eat it. Actually, I tried ghost pepper wings before, which I found hot, but not as crazy as reported. So I wasn't too worried.
Next I had to sign a waiver. Again, I've had to do this before (Philthy's, Quaker) but they really didn't warrant a waiver. So I filled it out with a little arrogant smirk. The Waiver reads (the English portion):
RIM REAPER WAIVER FORM
I do not hold McKibbins Irish Pub responsible
for the consequences of the effects to my
body, health or soul after eating the
"Irish RIM REAPER"
and then the fine print:
Pregnant women, people with ulcers, high blood pressure or heart problems
should not try these
should not try these
As Alf always said, "No Problem!"
I could not get up during the process, I had to eat all 12 wings, and I couldn't have any milk to drink. All seems appropriate for the occasion.
We waited for a while for the wings to came out. While waiting I went over my plan.
STRATEGY #1: Devour fries to give my stomach a layer of food to help absorb the heat from the wings while in my stomach. (Done)
When the wings arrived, I was impressed. I won't lie, they looked scary. The guy from the kitchen who brought them out looked at me and said "good luck." Thanks.
The wings themselves were a decent size. Medium to large wings that didn't have a crispy skin, but they were meaty. Deep fried, then tossed in the Devil's mouth himself. The wings were a nuclear red - dripping in red syrup like sauce, and covered in chili flakes. I had seen video/photos of these wings before, and they did not look this deadly. These were looking really good, but like living wings of fire.
I can eat spicy food, but I got a big whiff of the sauce, and my body started to freak a little. Whenever I have super super hot food, I have a conversation with my body about what is going on. But clearly we had some communication issues, because my body went "what the *&%# ?!?!?!" My stomach began to churn, I had a few uncontrollable convulsions. Then I began to hiccup. Loudly. Like over the crowd of the bar loud. I think this was the moment I thought to myself, ``maybe this isn't a good idea?" But I had come all this way, so I went forward with it.
So this is when I came back to planning on getting this done.
STRATEGY #2: Eat as many wings as fast as possible.
The idea behind this is that if I take my time, the heat will overwhelm, and I will hit a wall. And like a band-aid, if you rip it off quickly it won't hurt so much later. Right?
STRATEGY #3: Get the food into the back of my mouth so that my lip/tongue pain receptors at the front are bypassed.
STRATEGY #4: Drink little to keep room open for food.
I took a deep breath. I knew this was not going to be easy. I was excited. I was nervous. It was time.
I ate one wing. Wow, the bite from the sauce was instantaneous. The heat attacked my lips, my tongue, my throat. I began to sweat. I began to tear up. But I soldiered through.
Two down. Three, then four. Five down. Time and space began to warp on me, but I had eaten 5-6 in about 3-4 minutes. But the pain was getting stronger. A seventh wing went down. But so did my beverages. Water and pop. I know these are not effective drinks to sooth the pain, but it was what I had. An eighth wing down, but I had to stop.
I finished off my drinks. The waitress was no where to be found. I tried eating a few French fries. My mouth was so numb at this point I couldn't even tell there was potato in my mouth. I want to repeat that again so it really sinks in with you.
My mouth was so numb from pain that I could not even tell I had fries in my mouth.
I started to question where my endorphins were. Where was the high? I was just feeling pain. I tried to enter a Zen state, go to my happy place. There was no happy place. I had 4 wings left, but I had to have more drink. Eventually the waitress came by. She couldn't believe that I had eaten so many already. She went to get more pop and more water. A staff member or two would stop by to see how I was doing (not how I was doing but how many wings had gone down).
I had to keep going. But I couldn't come at these wings with the same fervor or speed as the first time. No it was slow going. I ate the ninth wing. My stomach rumbled badly. It did not want anymore inside. But I was not giving up when I was so close. I needed to get over the wall. Number 10 was also a struggle. I tore the wing in two and tried to just eat the meat. There was no pleasure in eating these wings at this point.
Something strange happened. Something I have never had happen before. The back of my mouth, under my tongue was on fire. My strategy of getting the wings to the back of the throat as quickly as possible meant that the sauce was getting to parts of my mouth not used to heat.
I went from eating several wings in a few minutes to taking many minutes on one wing. But I kept on. Slow and steady was my motto now. I did my best to keep my wings from swimming in the sauce and eating them as dry as possible. I finally got to eleven. My stomach started to rumble again. I took a bite - then I felt a rush up my throat. My stomach wanted to throw up. But I kept it down. Oh no. I finished off 11. One more to go. One more. Could I do it? It seemed impossible.
But they don't call me the Lord of the Wings for nothing. 12 went down. I had won. I had eaten them. But we weren't done yet.
I scraped my mouth with my napkins. I sucked back my drinks, and iced my mouth with, well ice. Again it took forever for our waitress to return. One of the guys from the kitchen coming by took my plate and was impressed that I had won the challenge. The waitress came by and confirmed my victory. Someone else from the back also came out to congratulate me. Even the people at the table next to ours were offering congrats. But it was hard to embrace the glory when I was in so much pain.
The pain under my tongue changed into fire bile. A continual stream entered my mouth from under my tongue. I had no idea what was going on.
I had to go to the washroom and wash my hands and face thoroughly. When I came back there was a t-shirt for me, and because I won the challenge, the $18.99 wings were on the house! And my name would go up on the virtual wall of pain on their website (name not added at the time the post was published).
By the time we left, my mouth was not in as much pain. But my stomach hurt something fierce. The two hour journey back to Ottawa was brutal. I felt like someone was kicking me from the inside out of my stomach. I constatly questioned why I had done such a thing. That I would never do something like that again. I kept burping, and every puff of air was a little bit of relief. But I have never felt such pain from food in my life.
I got home, suffered some more, and tried to go to bed. I kept waking up all night in pain. At one point, I thought I had to go to the washroom again. But I didn't. Hours after eating the wings, my stomach was turning knots and was not happy. It was punching me from the inside. Out loud I talked to my body. I said "body, I'm sorry. Clearly you are not happy. You don't want to go to the washroom. You don't want to settle down. What do you want to do? What do we have to do to fix this?" Then I had a thought that I was not proud of. "Body, do you want me to throw up?" My stomach rumbled yes. "Ok then." Sightly ashamed, I began to throw up. It was like nothing I've thrown up before. It was a few chunks of chicken and a lot of stomach acid. I washed out my mouth, had a drink of water LJ brought me, and then went back to bed and finally fell asleep.
Ridiculous heat challenges.
Well, maybe never.
McKibbin's Irish Pub
3515 St. Laurent, Montreal QC