Well the Taste of Buffalo has come and gone. Yet another year, yet another successful festival. I’m going to be very honest here- with all my years living in this area, I had never attended this event! “What” “you’re a foodie! A reviewer of the good, the bad, the ugly and even the healthy of food! How is that possible?” Well my friends- it just is. I don’t know what I was thinking. The Taste of Buffalo left me with a delirium of sudden, spinning optimism! A hope for the future; where Buffalo will truly be seen on a world stage as an epi-center of food culture.
I sampled every delectable and odd dish there could, and I have my top three! It’s taken me a couple of weeks of reviewing notes, comparing ingredients and presentation but here it is:
Number three on my list is……….. MERGE! While I’ve reviewed Merge before, a good food reviewer always samples a restaurants food more than once. I have to say I’ve never been disappointed with Merge. It’s important, when at a food festival of this magnitude, to sample the healthier side of food as much as the “fried and greasy”. Now, I’ve mentioned this in my Taste of Buffalo article, but I can’t stress it enough- what makes the Taste so unique is it’s requirement of one “heart healthy” food option of all its vendors. This is good to keep in mind when sampling so much food. The tummy needs a break every so often and your digestive system will thank you! For me that break was Merge. On the menu was a truly amazing Kale Salad. Many of you may think- “yuk!” But kale is better than your thinking. It’s got a bitter sweet peppery flavor by itself. But when you mix it in a salad or cook it, the flavors round out; melting into the ingredient around it. Merge paired the kale nicely with sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds, fennel slivers and a beautiful tahini lemon dressing. What I Ioved most was that most of the ingredients came direct from Merge’s own farm! Yep that’s right, they grow their own fruits and vegetables at a farm in Lakeview NY. So I don’t have to worry about pesticides, bacteria or landing in the hospital with some weird stomach virus! It’s good stuff and worthy of checking out.
Number two on the list: Black Market Food Truck! Yes I said food truck! This idea (which I believe may have started in the sunny state of California) has taken off like a Grand Am Rolex Sports Car at the Sahlen’s Six Hour Race!
Black Market Food Truck started its engine in January 2013, and the thing that stood out the most- obviously, was the truck! Very inventive and beautifully decorated; it’s not your ordinary food truck. I believe (at least it looks like) an old UPS truck. With scroll lettering adorning the side and rich black paint, you can imagine that if this were a restaurant there would be rich cherry wood beams on the ceiling, a stone fireplace, and candles everywhere. When I approached the truck I immediately gravitated to the Buffalo Chicken Aranchini. Of course this had sold out (hmmm-that tells you something…). So my husband and I opted for the Banh Mi, which is braised pork. Rolled in a flaky filo dough, the white pork was slow cooked and stuffed together with cilantro, carrot, cucumber and a cannelini bean paste. It was mouth watering, flavorful and yet maintained a simple elegance. Very good and highly recommended.
Drum Roll Please……
The number one pick is….. surprisingly- Dinosaur BBQ!
For those of you in Buffalo, unfamiliar with the popularity of this place- let me just say you will be familiar with it very soon! After having a great conversation with one of managers of the Rochester NY location; I can happily tell you that they are opening their doors on Franklin St in Buffalo NY come the winter of 2013/2014!
After living a life on the road, Dinosaur BBQ settled in Syracuse NY in 1988. It quickly became a popular joint for BBQ, Beer, great music and motorcycle enthusiasts. Slowly expanding to Troy, NY, Rochester NY, Newark NJ, and Stamford Conn.; it has maintained a cult like following- and now will be in Buffalo!
The reason this is my number one is due to the amazing BBQ sauce and the process of cooking. As a fairly healthy eater, I can safely say there is nothing wrong, or guilty with eating a Dinosaur BBQ Turkey Slider! Slow cooked for four hours in a hickory wood; the turkey was beyond succulant. Juicy to the core, it melts in your mouth while the tangy, honey flavor of the BBQ sauce lingers- literally waking up the taste buds; leaving you begging for more. I was not only surprised at how much I loved the slider, but was truly amazed at the amount of people I spoke to, who consider themselves “BBQ officionado’s”, that were blown away with the flavors of the turkey and the sauce. That said it all and I knew, the minute I bit into this wonderful turkey slider, that this was the winner. Believe me when I say, I tried everything I could at the Taste! None left quite the impression as Dinosaur. If you’ve never checked them out in Rochester or Syracuse; you will have too. The food is not the only great thing about them. They really have a wonderfully rustic, yet tough southern charm to the decor and the live music is good for the soul.
My one disappointment- it has to be mentioned, Joe’s Crab Shack. While the “great balls of fire” crab cakes, or balls, were spicy (gave a thumb up for spice), it was overpowering with cheese and had hardly any actual crab meat in it. I know fried breading is all the rage, but when I’m biting into a crab cake/ball, I want to taste the crab meat! Now if they had advertised it as a “jalepano popper” more so than a “crab ball” then it would been right on. Because that’s what it tasted like- a jalepano popper.
There it is folks! Please go check out these amazing restaurants! And for more food festivals, visit my “Upcoming Food Festivals” link on my welcome page.