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Pig heaven: Heritage pork flavors unique dinner

A pasture-raised Old Spot hog will be the guest of honor Monday night at a dinner celebrating its tastiness in myriad ways. Raised at T-Meadow Farm in Lockport - suppliers of heritage pork to Manhattan's finest restaurants - the Old Spots are renowned for their rich flavor.

Held at Bistro Europa, 484 Delaware Ave., the dinner will combine the work of host Chef Steve Gedra of Bistro Europa with assists from Chef Bruce Wieszala of The Stillwater and Carmelo Raimondi, chef/owner of Carmelo's in Lewiston.

The dinner is expected to include:

  • Pork rinds and other appetizers
  • Housemade Coppa di Testa with homemade beer mustard and mostarda
  • "Grand Slam," a dish comprised of braised belly, hash, homemade biscuit, sausage gravy
  • Pizzetta of apple, lardo, fontina
  • Smoked shoulder with vinegar, mustard, and sweet BBQ sauce, served with Navajo fry bread, braised collards with smoked hock and ham salt
  • Roasted herb-crusted loin with prunes, apricots, pistachios, natural jus
  • Pork Milanese with collapsed tomatoes, Auricchio provolone, and arugula

Courses will be accompanied by red and white wine selections, plus New York's own PorkSlap Pale Ale.

Places at the table are $150 per person, including tax and tip. Event starts at 6 p.m., dinner served at 7. The dinner benefits the Field & Fork Network, most notably responsible for the annual Farmer-Chef Conference.

Tasty Puerto Rican in Lancaster: TiTi Cafela's

I have probably eaten more than my share of pastelillos, the deep-fried Puerto Rican turnover usually stuffed with seasoned ground beef and cheese. When a friend told me about TiTi Cafela's, which I reviewed in today's Cheap Eats column, he made sure to mention the curry chicken pastelillo he found there.

He also mentioned that the place had no problem serving his vegetarian wife a dinner that met her needs, including a vegetarian mofongo.

We went to TiTi's, at 3580 Walden Avenue, Lancaster, and found a bare-bones place that is turning out an impressive array of pastelillos - a dozen kinds, including dessert varieties - plus hearty, satisfying Puerto Rican food.

After the jump, some pictures to give you a better idea of the outstanding food. (I gave it 3.5 out of 4 pennies.)

Continue reading "Tasty Puerto Rican in Lancaster: TiTi Cafela's" »

Art of Beer on tap for Friday

The annual celebration of beer and food starts at 6 p.m. in the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center.

In its fourth year, the event has grown to include dozens of beers and their makers, tastings from local restaurants, and live music.

Bring your growler for a fill-up, learn more about brewing your own at one of the educational displays, and help raise money for the NACC, located at 1201 Pine Ave. at the corner of Portage Road. It's run by a grassroots group who took over the former Niagara Falls High School.

Tickets are $30 at the door or online at

Participants include:

Certo Brothers Distributing (Ellicottville Brewing Company, High Falls
Brewing Comany, Ommegang, Samuel Adams, Southern Tier Brewing Co.,
Spaten, Coors and Woodchuck Cider)
Try-It Distributing (FX Matt & Verdi Sparkletinis)
Alternative Brews
Brickyard Pub & BBQ
Consumers Beverages (with many various samples of fresh draft in
DiCamillos Bakery
Doug's Famous
Flying Bison Brewery
Hot Stuff Southern Cafe
Mister Goodbar (once again bringing 2 Firkins!)
Niagara Falls Conference Center
Pearl Street Grill & Brewery
Shorty's Sports Bar & Grill
Tim Horton's
Village Pub (from Lewiston)
Wine on Third
Great Lakes Brewing News
Niagara Tradition Home Beer & Wine

Recipe: Fruit jellies

Here's a recipe from "Chocolates and Confections," the step-by-step candy-making treatise authored by Culinary Institute of America instructor Peter Greweling that's reviewed in today's Buffalo News. You can use either fruit puree, using the freshest fruit you can find, or fruit juice to flavor these chewy treats.

Pectin Jellies


Known in Europe as pâte de fruit, pectin makes jellies with an excellent texture. Whether you make your own puree or buy it, this recipe will work with almost any fruit, allowing you to take advantage of the best that the season—or freezer—has to offer.

1 lb (2 cups) fruit puree (berries, stone fruit, etc.)
24 oz (3 cups) sugar, for the jellies
6 oz (2 envelopes; 3 oz each) liquid pectin (see Keys to Success)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 oz (1/4 cup) sugar, for coating

1. Lightly oil a 9-inch square baking pan, line with plastic wrap and oil the wrap. Set aside.
2. Combine the puree and 24 oz/3 cups sugar in a 2-quart saucepan. Stir constantly while cooking to 238°F.
3. Add the pectin, return to a boil while stirring, and boil for 1 minute.
4. Stir in the lemon juice and remove from the heat.
5. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle a thin layer of the coating sugar on the top of the jelly.
6. Allow to set at room temperature until completely cool, 2 hours or longer. Leaving overnight is acceptable.
7. Turn the pan upside down to release the jelly. Peel off the plastic wrap.
8. Coat the jelly with more of the sugar. Cut into the desired size pieces and roll each piece in the sugar.
9. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.


When using a juice such as pomegranate or grape, use 10 oz / 1¼ cups juice, and 8 oz / ¾ cup of unsweetened applesauce in place of the puree.

Keys to Success
•    Sold under brand names such as Certo and Ball, liquid pectin is commonly available in grocery stores.
•    The instructions on the pectin envelopes are not for confectionery jellies, so disregard them when making these jellies.
•    Open the envelopes of pectin and have them ready so that they can be added quickly and easily when needed.
•    Jellies scorch easily. Moderate the heat during boiling, and keep the bottom of the saucepan clean using a heat-resistant rubber spatula.
•    Be sure to have your pan prepared before beginning to cook; the jellies begin to set immediately once they are cooked.

Recipe: Rock Candy

Here's a recipe from "Chocolates and Confections," the step-by-step candy-making treatise authored by Culinary Institute of America instructor Peter Greweling. The formation of rock candy is an exercise in crystal formation, so it might be especially impressive for young science geeks.

Rock Candy
Makes 6 Pieces
Rock candy is simple and fun to make. The longer you leave it alone, the larger the crystals will grow.

9 lb (18 cups) granulated sugar
3 lb (1½ qt) water
6 bamboo skewers (see Keys to Success)
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 tbsp coarse sugar

1. Combine the sugar and water in a large clean pan and bring to a boil.

2. Cover the pan and continue to boil for 5 minutes.

3. Remove the lid and brush any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan using a damp pastry brush.

4. Cover the syrup and allow it to cool undisturbed for 1 hour.

5. Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

6. Brush the lower two thirds of each skewer with the egg white and roll in the coarse sugar. Place the coated skewers on the baking sheet and place in the oven for 30 minutes to adhere the sugar to the skewers.

7. Drill or poke holes that will accommodate the bamboo skewers in the lid of a scrupulously clean 1-gallon jar.

8. Pour the cooled syrup into the jar.

9. Place the skewers through the holes in the lid so that the coated portion will protrude into the syrup. Place the lid onto the jar with the skewers immersed in the syrup.

10. Place the jar in a location where it will not be moved or shaken and let it sit for 10 days to 2 weeks.

11. Remove the skewers of rock candy from the syrup and allow to dry overnight on a screen or on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper.

12. The syrup may be reboiled and reused for successive batches. To reuse the syrup, bring it to a boil and let it boil vigorously for 10 minutes. Then proceed from step 4 above.

Keys to Success

•    The skewers need to be longer than the height of the jar so that the lid will hold them in place.

•    Clean sugar, utensils, and containers are vital to success.

•    Make sure all the sugar crystals are removed from the sides of the pot when boiling the syrup.

•    Avoid agitation of the syrup.

•    The less the syrup is disturbed during the process, the bigger the crystals will be.

Restaurateurs: Still time to join WNY Restaurant Week, March 8-14

With Western New York's Spring Restaurant Week just two weeks away, it's not too late for local restaurants to take part, said organizer Vince McConeghy.

About 125 restaurants have already confirmed, but there's room for more to join the promotional effort, he said. If you have a locally owned eatery and want to join, go to the Western New York Restaurant Week site and click on the "Registration" link to start.

If you need more information or would like to talk to McConeghy, he can be reached at 819-6608.

Event to unveil East Aurora food co-op

People planning to start a food cooperative in East Aurora are gathering on Feb. 28 to talk about the possibilities.

The event will feature a screening of "Food, Inc.," a documentary about the food industry in the United States, and how the nation’s food supply has come to be controlled by “a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment,” according to the Food, Inc. Web site.

“The co-op movement is sweeping the nation, and ‘Food, Inc.’ is a great way to bring people together to learn about the dangers of our nation’s food industry and how co-ops can provide the answer,” Sheila Conboy, co-founder, said in a news release.

The February 28 screening will also feature unique concession stand items, including goods from White Cow Dairy, StoneyBrook Kitchen and The Roycroft Inn.

Food cooperatives are voluntarily owned and managed by the people who use it; typically members of the immediate community.  Both members and non-members will be able to shop at the EA Cooperative Market, but members will benefit from direct participation in its governance.

“The most exciting and compelling reason for supporting the cooperative market is that we will be tapping local resources and growers to supply the cooperative, with produce, dairy, meat and the like,” Conboy said. “Not only does this mean we’ll be providing our members and customers with wholesome food that improves the health of individuals and ultimately the community, but we will also be encouraging local economic growth and increased education of our community.”

The event is 4 p.m., Sun., Feb. 28, in the Aurora Theatre, 673 Main St., East Aurora. Tickets are $4.50 at the door.

Brown U students play with their food

If you were ever forced to buy a "meal plan" as the price of freshman education, you might well get a lump in your throat reading Ratty Gourmet.

Twin sisters at Brown University use their blog to offer gourmet cooking and eating suggestions like Asian Chicken Lettuce Wraps, Nutella S'mores, and Roast Turkey Cranberry Paninis. Nothing that unusual, except all their ingredients and equipment required are provided in one place, as part of their undergraduate education: their college's cafeteria.

Zigzagging between the omelet bar, upscale salad bar, fresh bread counter, fresh fruit section and dessert bar, you can put together quite a feast. The panini presses and waffle cookers are provided, maintained and cleaned, along with the other parts of the cafeteria, by an attentive staff.

Sure, they or their parents are paying for it all. But I sure would like to have all those weeks of grey protein "cutlets" back.


Somali-Puerto Rican restaurant a first?

Curry chicken with basmati rice, a reasonable $5 at Somali Star.

Grant Street runs through neighborhoods that are home to much of Buffalo's Somali community, and a fair amount of Puerto Rican people.

So I guess it shouldn't be a surprise to find a Somali-Puerto Rican restaurant, Somali Star, at 139 Grant St. (Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., 931-0478)

If it's not the first of it's kind, it probably won't be the last.

Continue reading "Somali-Puerto Rican restaurant a first?" »

Panaro's takes the cake

Poncialdi winner 1
Jennifer Szustakowski and Tony Concialdi enjoy their just desserts after taking the Nickel City Cake Challenge. (News Photo by Harry Scull Jr.)

Tony Concialdi III of Panaro's triumphed in the Nickel City Cake competition Saturday, playing off the "Wedding in Buffalo" theme an homage to blue-collar receptions more at home in VFW halls than hotel ballrooms.

His chocolate cake was filled with a sweet, whipped ricotta and topped with fondant, reports organizer Christa Glennie Seychew, whose company, Feed Your Soul, also produces Nickel City Chef.

"What appeared at first glance to be a traditional wedding cake was actually an ode to WNY's favorite foods. The base layer was made up of individually sculpted beef on weck sandwiches and a pepperoni pizza made of fondant and white chocolate. Sculpted suicide wings dripping with 'sauce' augmented the individual layers, and to top it off, a poured sugar beer bottle topper took the place of the more traditional bride and groom." He was assisted by Jennifer Szustakowski.

Zilly Rosen of Zillycakes and Susan Spider of Pumpernick n' Pastry Shoppe were the other pro competitors. "Rosen's cake depicted edible an homage to a dozen of Buffalo's most architecturally stunning buildings - buildings where, as recently as the morning of competition, Rosen has delivered wedding cakes to blushing brides. Spider of Pumpernick used her tried and true painting skills to decorate each layer of her cake with a different season." Spider was assisted by Pumpernick owner Suzanne Linde.

Erie Community College pastry instructor Kyle Haak, Niagara County Community College pastry instructor Maria Iacovitti, and food writer/newlywed Sarah Wally served as judges. The amateur division winners were Heather Harzewski of Lockport, and a Cheektowaga trio - Jennie Wodzinski, sister Jackie, and Dawn Stroh.

The sold-out event drew nearly 200, Seychew said. Attendees enjoyed a create-your-own hot chocolate station and sampled sweet snacks from Bistro Europa, Lake Effect Ice Cream, Niagara Popcorn, and Niagara Culinary Institute.

A second Nickel City Cake Challenge is slated for October 2010.

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