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Hearing: Buffalo food truck to help open new restaurant

A striking point about food trucks was offered at yesterday's City Hall hearing by Buffalo architect Steven J. Carmina, who owns a building on Main and Mohawk streets next to Lloyd's usual vending spot.

In this case, a food truck helped create the conditions that could allow a new restaurant to open, Carmina said. That's right: Buffalo's downtown restaurant population might increase because of a food truck. Rather far from the depiction of food trucks as roving restaurant assassins lurking to pick off the weakest of the brick-and-mortar herd.

In Aaron Besecker's Buffalo News story detailing the hearing, "[Carmina] said he believes the foot traffic caused by the truck helped him finally find a restaurant to lease space on the first floor of his building after a decade of searching for one. "I'm very happy to come here in support of this food truck establishment," Carmina said."

Sounds like the great Buffalo food truck debate could use a broader perspective. Perhaps the question of how far the city should go to accommodate this form of small business should take into account the broader impacts of the food trucks, and not just focus on how much their range should be limited. 

The bottom line from Thursday's City Hall hearing on proposed food truck regulations: the city wants to see if the restaurants and food trucks can settle this themselves.

(Watch video clips of testimony from truck owners and opponents here.)

Specifically, a committee including restaurant industry and food truck representatives will try to agree on details that so far have been flashpoints of conflict. It has 30 days to report back to the council.

Here's the sort of questions they face:
How close can food trucks operate to existing restaurants?
Where will they be allowed to operate?
Should food truck hours be restricted?
What other restrictions or requirements are deemed necessary?

Alan Bedenko, who has been watching the process closely, shares his thoughts here. He puts in a good word for the term "regulation."

Regulating food trucks with time, place, and manner restrictions is a massive improvement over the status quo, whereby the trucks are prohibited from working the streets and setting up just about anywhere except on private property, or in locations for which they have a permit.

He puts a finger on why the food truck debate has riled so many people: the city already has a reputation of being unfriendly to small businesses trying to get off the ground.

"There’s loads of reasons why Buffalo’s downtown business district is a bleak shell even between 9 – 5 on a weekday," Bedenko writes.  "Further restrictions on mobile businesses will only help to perpetuate that – ease them and perhaps it’ll change."

Video: Food Truck Debate at City Hall

I'll be putting up video clips from today's public meeting on food truck legislation here. Keep checking back for more.

Peter V. Cimino, Lloyd the taco truck

John Fusco, Zetti's Pizza & Pasta

Christopher Taylor, Roaming Buffalo

Michael H. Kooshoian, attorney for Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo

Rene Allen, R&R BBQ

--Aaron Besecker

Watch Buffalo food truck hearing live online

The folks at WNYMedia.net have set up a live Internet broadcast from City Council chambers, so people who couldn't devote their morning to food truck regulation can follow along at home.

The page is here, and the broadcast is supposed to start at 10 a.m.

In the meantime, truck backer Alan Bedenko has some advice for would-be speakers, and his take on what to expect. He says food truck supporters need to keep their eyes on the horizon, so to speak:

"5. The matter is not going to be resolved tomorrow.  You will not walk out of there having witnessed a new food truck law being debated and enacted. This is just one part of a lengthy process, which will continue to evolve and be discussed and debated – both privately and publicly."

Don Burtless of BuffaloEats.com has words of support as well.

Check back later for Buffalo News coverage of the hearing.

In the meantime, if you just want a snack, Lloyd the taco truck will be at First Niagara (formerly HSBC) Arena from 11:15 a.m. - 1:45 p.m., according to its Facebook page.

Live chat with News food writer Andrew Galarneau at noon

Join me at noon to chew the fat about all things edible in Western New York.

Pressing questions: Will tomorrow's City Hall meeting on food truck regulation lead to more food options on Buffalo streets?

Did any burger freaks head out to Five Guys on Transit yet?

Where are you going for Restaurant Week? What are the best $21.11 deals you have seen so far?

How will I get over the end of local cantaloupe season?

Stop by at noon for this and more. It's easy to sign up, so don't be shy.

 

Business lobby lines up against Buffalo food truck proposal

Carl Paladino leading the fight against Buffalo food trucks caught some attention recently, but Buffalo's biggest landlord isn't the only business establishment force warning the Buffalo Common Council against allowing food trucks to operate freely in Buffalo.

A newly emerged lobbying group of "Buffalo business and restaurant owners" has warned the council that Council Member Joseph Golombek's proposed food truck regulation contradicts Buffalo zoning law in numerous ways, citing the kinds of contradictions that make new regulations vulnerable to lawsuits. 

"Entrepreneurs for a Better Buffalo" suggests a "committee or advisory board" be established to go through all the zoning problems and other legal issues before any legislation is passed.

The group's name has never been mentioned in The Buffalo News before yesterday's News story, where it was briefly mentioned. It has apparently prepared an online petition, without signatures at publication time, to gather supporters of its suggestion for a committee to be formed.

You can read its letter detailing numerous objections to proposed food truck law here. (Scroll down to second window, it starts at page two.)

Food truck supporter Alan Bedenko saw it this way: "This being Buffalo, an ad hoc, undisclosed group of “concerned” businesses has united to hire a lawyer and actively oppose the food trucks, running them out of business completely."

Bedenko has called for interested people to suggest a brief outline of fair food truck regulation, and noted that the City Council food truck law public hearing is Thursday. (10 a.m., Sept. 29, Room 1417 City Hall).

The hearing isn't to bash Paladino, Bedenko wrote, "but instead to craft reasonable, rational, and fair regulations that will allow the food trucks to operate more freely in the city (but outside the downtown core), and also protect existing brick & mortar restaurants."

Paladino joins fight to shut down Buffalo food trucks

There might be even fewer food trucks in Buffalo’s future.

Food truck fans who hoped to see more choices for eats on downtown streets are in for a stomachache: influential developer Carl Paladino wants the trucks gone. The former Republican candidate for governor, and city’s biggest downtown landlord, wants Buffalo Place to pull the welcome mat out from under trucks like Lloyd the taco truck, and the Whole Hog.

“We have to stop the trucks now. The restaurants downtown are fed up with this,” Paladino said, according to today's story by Aaron Besecker and Jonathan Epstein. Just Pizza and Charlie the Butcher are tenants of Paladino’s Ellicott Square building.

Paladino, who sits on the Buffalo Place board, was asked to “draft a formal resolution” that Buffalo Place can consider. If it's approved, the food truck era in Buffalo is over for the time being, except for private property gigs.

Other points of interest in Besecker and Epstein’s story on the maneuvering behind the proposed regulation of food trucks inside Buffalo city limits:

 * The Rev. Darius Pridgeon, the Ellicott District Council member who represents the downtown area and is on the Buffalo Place board, stands with Paladino, and encouraged downtown building owners to call city officials if they spot a truck serving food outside.

* City licensing officials have recommended that any food truck law limit trucks to pre-approved vending spots, and restrict days and hours they can open.

* Buffalo Council Member Joseph Golombek, who started the food truck law discussion, said representatives of two of Buffalo’s biggest locally owned fast food companies were busy lobbying council members during its August recess.

Golombek’s plan? Get the food truck people and the restaurant people to sit down and agree on what restrictions to place on food trucks.

Golombek is “calling for parties interested in the new requirements for mobile food sellers to meet next week in hopes of reaching a compromise between the vendors and restaurant owners,” Besecker reported. The meeting is 10 a.m. next Thursday, Sept. 29, in Room 1417 in City Hall.

Will consensus ensue? We'll see, but this much is clear: Failure to reach an agreement leaves restaurant owner interests defended, and the status quo in place. A status quo that is anything but a free-for-all of roving food trucks.

Call City Hall, and the police show up. There may be no food truck law on the books, but if current policies stay in place, a restaurant owner only has to call the City of Buffalo to run off the offender. Just ask Council Member Pridgeon.

 

 

Applesauce cake, potato kugel: More of Ruth Cohen's Rosh Hashanah recipes

Here's two more recipes suitable for Rosh Hashanah, from Amherst's Ruth Cohen, who shared meatball, cake and tzimmes recipes in today's Buffalo News. The applesauce cake, from her mother's recipe, has been "made in many homes," she said.

POTATO KUGEL

4  pounds Idaho potatoes
4 jumbo or 6 large eggs, beaten briefly
2 medium size onions
1 1/2  teaspoons salt
1/2 cup matzo meal or bread crumbs
5/8 cup 1/2 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Peel potatoes and cut them into chunks that will fit through the tube of your food processor. Put into a very large bowl of cold water to preserve whiteness.

Chop potatoes in processor, in batches, to a very coarse texture. Pour each batch into a sieve and press out liquid into sink. If there are some small chunks, that’s fine. Put squeezed shredded potatoes into a large bowl.

Chop onion coarsely in food processor. In a small bowl, mix eggs, onions and salt. Mix egg mixture into potatoes. Add matzo meal or bread crumbs, 1/2 cup oil, and mix to blend well.

Pour remaining 2 tablespoons oil into a very large casserole or a  9 x 13 pan, to coat bottom and sides. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 1 hour at 425 until browned and crisp on top. Serve hot or warm.

APPLESAUCE CAKE

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, optional
1/2 teaspoon ginger, optional
1/2 teaspoon allspice, optional
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup shortening
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups thick applesauce
1 cup raisins, optional
 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together flour, baking powder and soda in a bowl, with cinnamon and other spices, if using.
 
In a mixer bowl, beat together sugar, shortening, eggs and salt until very well blended. Then add applesauce to the egg mixture.

Add the dry ingredients to the mixture and mix just until well blended. Stir in raisins, if using.
 
Bake in a  9 x 13 pan at 350 degrees, for 40 minutes.

 

A farewell to bacon: Who else makes the real deal?

When I heard that Springville butcher Paul Giordano was auctioning off his meat shop, it made me want to say thanks for all the bacon. I haven't cooked anybody else's bacon for nearly a decade, and have delighted nearly everyone who shared it. Even some vegetarians (bacontarians?) have copped to dabbling in the Dark Side when it was passed around.

I know that Spar's Sausage (405 Amherst St.) makes their own smoked bacon. Does anyone else in Western New York do it that way, brining pork bellies and smoking them over actual wood? Please send tips to [email protected]

If you're interested in getting into the bacon business, or other meat-related activities, the link to the Sept. 20 auction, in Springville, is here.

And here's my original 2002 story about Giordano's father, Pat.:

PURSUING THE PERFECT BACON
PAT GIORDANO AND HIS SOUTHTOWNS SUPER SLAB.

   You think you know bacon.
    Shriveled, salty strips that come two ways, cracker-crisp or flabby. A panful of pork slices that reduces to an ocean of fat, dotted by curled husks you could remove with a tweezer.
    But what if you found out you've been had, all these years?
    Not everyone would care, certainly. But there are plenty of others - the sort of people who remember their first cool, brilliant swallow of fresh-squeezed orange juice, after a lifetime of from-concentrate orange flavor type liquid product. When they understood why law requires manufacturers to put "FROM CONCENTRATE" on the cartons.
    When they began to notice the compromises, grand and small, imposed on American palates by the factory food complex.
    Who could only hope dimly that one day, they would find someone like Pat Giordano.
    It's not easy, when he refuses to advertise. But he doesn't have to. Not when people are willing to get in their cars and drive from Ohio or Pennsylvania for what he has to offer.
    Many have made the pilgrimage two or three times a year for a decade or more, down Route 219 into Springville and then down into the Zoar Valley. Onto Trevett Road, down the hill, and across the creek and into his driveway.
    "I always make sure that when he says the bacon's ready, that's when I go up," says James Eschborn, a machinist form Courtland, Ohio, outside Youngstown.
    Eschborn, who learned about Giordano from a co-worker, hasn't bought bacon from a store since he tasted Giordano's 10 years ago.
    "I wouldn't," says Eschborn. "I've gone without, out of necessity."
    It's simply too late for him to buy store bacon. "It shrivels up away to nothing, and you get this little crumbly thing you can make croutons from, or bits you put on salad."
    The trip from Ohio takes about three hours, Eschborn says. Though he visits relatives in Western New York, too, he times his arrival to coincide with Giordano's three-times-a-year bacon-making schedule.
    That's a long way to go to bring home the bacon, a staple you could find at practically every convenience store and supermarket along the way.
    But what Giordano, a retired Bethlehem Steel millwright, offers his customers is more than bacon - and sausage, and hams, and prosciutto, and sopressata, and whatever else he wants to turn out of his shop.
    It's not just meat, not just proof that their palate is being cheated - it's the cure.
    Last year, Giordano made about 4,000 pounds of bacon, and sold every slice.
    It's not a mystical process. Giordano takes slabs of pork belly and uses a process that would have been at home in any 19th-century farmhouse. He cures the slabs for a week in a bath of sugar and salt, and smokes them for about 14 hours over hickory embers. That's it.
    Compare that to a typical commercial bacon producer, who pressure-injects the meat with a nitrate solution and artificial smoke flavoring, turning warehouses of pork belly into bacon within 24 hours.
    Giordano usually makes a smokier version and a lighter version, and will slice it thick or thin as he packages it for you. Or, you can take the eight-to-10 pound slabs to carve as you like.
    So, home shoppers, how much would you expect to pay for handmade bacon, the kind of stuff fancypants purveyors label "artisanal" and offer for $7.99 a pound? How about $3.29, a buck and a half less than Oscar Mayer's MegaBaconCorp offering. (It varies a bit with pork prices, Giordano says, but hasn't gone over $3.49.)
    Clearly, Giordano is being exploited by his customers. But he doesn't seem to mind.
    In the hickory-scented workroom next to his home, Giordano proudly shows his operation to a visitor.
    There's the massive meat grinder for sausage, plastic tubs of spices, and stainless steel hanging racks and prep tables. A steel rack draped with a skein of half-inch thick sausage, dried and smoked, rests in the cool shop. It's a Slim-Jim-like sausage, except it's bear, made from meat a hunter brought him.
    Giordano's beef version, called "beef smokies," is another customer favorite, bought by the bundle by deer hunters heading down to their cabins. Giordano makes a spicy version and a tame one, both selling for $6.50 a pound - about one-third the retail price of Slim Jims.
    They come by the "smokies" tag honestly. The scent radiates out of the paper bag Giordano supplies, making it a wise move to put the bag in the trunk for the long drive back from Springville.
    Giordano also makes prosciutto, the famous air-dried Italian ham. In a humidity-controlled cooler behind his shop, hams and salamis hang from hooks in the ceiling, splotchy with gray-green mold.
    "You need the mold or you don't get the flavor," Giordano says with a laugh.
    The prosciutto hang for about 11 months, until they've dried into about half the size they started out, Giordano says.
    They're his masterwork, and his sausagemaking is his heritage. But the bacon started with pure hunger.
    We'll let him tell the story:
    Back in 1971 or 1972, on one of his days off from Bethlehem Steel, he decided he wanted a bacon sandwich. Not a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich - a bacon sandwich, bacon on good Italian bread, finis.
    So his wife Mary brought home a pound of bacon from the store, and cooked it. When Pat saw the result, he asked: "Why don't you cook the whole pound?"
    "I did," she replied.
    "But that's barely enough for a sandwich," he said, telling the story now. "There's nothing to it, and all I taste is salt."
    What he wanted, Giordano says, was the bacon from his youth. Still a bit chewy when cooked, more like a slice of ham, something that didn't shrivel up into a potato chip when it was done, leaving behind in the eater's mouth primarily the sensation of crisp salt.
    Fortunately, when Pat Giordano yearned for the bacon of his youth, he was equipped to do something about it. He grew up making sausage, and his father and uncle had a sausage shop on Lackawanna's Ingham Avenue for decades.
    So he got some pork belly and tried out some of the recipes he'd gotten from some of the old farmers around Springville. He tinkered a bit until he'd created the bacon he remembered.
    His business has grown by word of mouth over the decades, as he moved from Lackawanna into his former summer home in Springville and people kept seeking him out.
    Now he sells three batches a year. One for Christmas, one for Easter and one in August - "when the tomatoes come in, so people can make their BLTs," Giordano says.
    He'll be busy during deer season, through Dec. 8, processing deer. But if you call [number redacted], he or Mary Frances will still be entering customer orders for bacon, hams and sausage into his state-of-the-art database management system - a wire-bound spiral notebook.
    After all the talk about bacon, our stomach rumbled like thunder, demanding empirical evidence. We bought a slab, sliced thick, and headed home to check the raves of Giordano's customers.
    People do like to talk, so the test is in the pan.
    The first alert that the bacon rules have changed is the aroma. Giordano's perfumes the room with hickory. In the frying pan, it cook instead of merely shriveling. It's oddly ungreasy, rendering out much less fat. We had to cook twice as much to gather enough for our standard crisp potato hash. Not that the extra bacon went to waste.
    Cut an eighth-inch thick, Giordano's bacon has to be flipped like chops as it cooks. When it's done, it's shrunk by less than a quarter.
    The taste? Richer, with a meaty chew and a satisfying hamlike flavor. It's slightly sweet, and much less salty than the commercial version.
    To compare, we cooked up some store bacon, too. Side by side, we found that the store bacon has a chemical tang, a tinny echo on the tongue.
    A piece of the slab, chopped into quarter-inch dice, takes on a crispy exterior in the saute pan while retaining a toothsomeness that lets its meatiness stand out in a robust tomato sauce, as in Bucatini All'Amatriciana.
    In these fat-obsessed times, if you're going to bring home the bacon, you might as well drive to Springville and bring home something worth the caloric sacrifice. As you drive by the Burger King marquee on Cascade Drive, advertising its BACON CHEESEBURGER, forgive yourself a moment of smugness passing Trevett Road.
    Because Giordano isn't going anywhere. He's even putting in an extra walk-in cooler for more capacity. Giordano says that he's not going to retire soon, and there's his son Paul around the corner on Zoar Valley Road, who butchers and makes ham and bacon, too. Taught him everything he knows.
    Strictly speaking, bacon is about pork belly. But in Giordano's hands, it's all about heart.
    "Geez, I don't know," Giordano says when you ask if he loves his work. "I just like to make people happy."

Live chat with News food writer Andrew Galarneau at noon

The Buffalo food truck law might be doomed for another year. The farmers markets are in full swing. Five Guys is opening in Amherst next week.

Eat anything worth talking about? See you here at noon for a live chat. It's easy to sign on, so don't be shy.

 

Five Guys Burgers to open in Amherst Sept. 21, then across WNY

One of the best-loved East Coast burger chains is opening in Amherst next week.

Five Guys Burgers have won fans and awards with never-frozen beef patties stacked high with toppings, and paper bags of fresh-cut fries. The 8248 Transit Road location of Five Guys Burgers, north of Maple and Greiner roads, will be joined by an outpost at the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga this November, according to Steve Christensen, managing partner for the Five Guys franchisee.

Newly hired staffers, start training this weekend, four days before opening, he said. 

Christensen said his company has four location in Rochester. There are plans for eight more Western New York locations stretching from Lockport to Jamestown, he said.

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