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Buffalo Chef James Roberts questions the cult of the 'hangs-off-your-plate' fish fry

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

I'm not saying it's just a Buffalo thing, but there's a real cargo cult streak among Buffalo eaters. Many - if not most - diners thrill to news of a place where you can lug away as much as you eat.

At, Park Country Club Executive Chef James Roberts stepped up to the mic last week, and he had something to ask us:

"Do you really think bigger is better? Wouldn’t you rather have a smaller piece of something remarkable? And who needs 19 ounces of fish for dinner, especially 19 ounces of crap fish? Why are we so enthralled by size?"

Roberts, a veteran chef who gave a 2012 TEDxBuffalo talk on mentoring, aimed part of his screed at young cooks, too.

"While you may think that blueberry gorgonzola, port wine, pecan, demi glace, butter sauce would be AMAZEBALLS on your pork chop with roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, it’s not. It might—and that’s a BIG might—be edible, but for how many bites after the first one? After that, your palate is so blown out and overtaken by your brilliant concoction of flavors that you wouldn’t know if your sweet potatoes were made with paper pulp."

Roberts argues for restraint, finesse, and focus on quality over quantity. If the phrase "hangs off your plate" ever convinced you to visit a restaurant, give Roberts a few minutes and read his piece.

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Beef on weck deserves to share the spotlight with wings, 'Food & Wine' site argues

Schwabl's beef on weck

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Amid this chicken wing intensive week, Carey Jones of "Food & Wine" argues that beef on weck has earned its own day in the sun. 

"It's time we gave Buffalo's beef on weck the recognition it deserves," her article says.

Specifically mentioned: Charlie the Butcher, Schwabl's, Bar Bill, and SeaBar, for its beef on weck sushi roll. 

(Schwabl's beef on weck, above; Buffalo News photo)

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Betty Crockski, Buffalo's Polish food truck, debuts pierogis tonight at Adam Mickiewicz

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Why wait for Dyngus Day?

Tonight, Betty Crockski brings its housemade pierogies and sausage to the hungry at an outpost of Old Polonia.

The food truck starts serving at 7 p.m. tonight outside the Adam Mickiewicz Library & Dramatic Circle (612 Fillmore Ave., 847-0839). Inside, beer, vodka and other traditional library features are available.

As Samantha Maziarz Cristmann reported Jan. 8, "Owned by Buffalo natives and lifelong amateur cooks Kate Hey and Dana Szczepaniak, the truck will feature a core menu of homemade pierogi and kielbasa.

“We're doing riffs on very traditional Polish flavor combinations,” Szczepaniak said. “We'll have a kielbasa that's our house recipe and a core menu of pierogi that are kind of traditional pierogi reinvented.”

Here's the menu, with cheese, sauerkraut, potato, pork and tonight's special, chicken and wild mushroom. Pierogies are $2, or three pierogies with housemade kielbasa for $8. 

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Lent is here: Enjoy the ultimate WNY community fish fry guide

Fish fry the buffalo news

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Sure, you can get the classic Buffalo fish fry year-round, in restaurants. During Lent, you can turn buying deep-fried seafood into a good deed. (Whether its karma erases cholesterol depends on the fine print of your personal faith.)

At some point in Western New York history, restaurants weren't enough. During the period of abstinence observant Roman Catholics and other Christians observe before Easter, the demand for fried fish dinners outstripped restaurants' supply. And the community fish fry became popular.

You could say it still is, as a fundraising source for small community groups and churches. Here's a list of 62, from Elks Lodge No. 491, 209 W. State St., Olean (down by the Pennsylvania border) to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, 2239 W. Creek Road, Burt (where you can see Toronto on a clear day).

Check it out.

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On its 50th anniversary, read the essential text on the genesis of the Buffalo chicken wing

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

In my reporting for stories around the 50th anniversary of the Buffalo chicken wing, I was surprised by how many self-professed wing experts had never read the piece I consider the ur-text of wing scholarship.

Published in 1980, "An Attempt to Compile a Short History of the Buffalo Chicken Wing," by New Yorker writer Calvin Trillin, is still essential reading for all students of the spicy, crispy chicken digit.

Even then, Trillin found that the precise circumstances of its appearance at the Anchor Bar were elusive.

"Fortunately, the actual moment that Buffalo chicken wings were invented has been described by Frank Bellissimo and his son, Dom, with the sort of rich detail that any historian would value; unfortunately, they use different details."

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Nominate your favorite WNY corned beef and cabbage dinner for St. Patrick's Day

Brian Carney prepares corned beef and cabbage at the Shannon Pub in Tonawanda. (Buffalo News, 2009)


By Andrew Z. Galarneau

In anticpation of St. Patrick's Day, we'd like to know where to find your favorite plate of corned beef and cabbage. Send your nomination to [email protected], or tweet it to @buffalofood, and we'll publish an informed list next week.

email: [email protected]


Bistro Europa closing March 31, to get ready for new Connecticut Street restaurant

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

One of the hardest tables to get in Buffalo just got a lot harder.

Steven and Ellen Gedra have announced that they are closing Bistro Europa (484 Elmwood Ave.,, 884-1100) after dinner March 31.

The Gedras will turn all their attention to finishing their new place, at 367 Connecticut St. Renovations have been underway on the former Golden Key Tavern. It’s expected to open this summer.

In case you are unaware why anyone would care, here's the dinner menu for March 4, with 28 days remaining before it goes dark. I mean, feijoada, for Pete's sake.


House-Cured Charcuterie & Salumi- lardo spuma, pork liver pate, speck,  culatello, duck rillette, pancetta

1 for 43 for 12, 4 for 15, 6 or 21

Nickel City Cheese Board- humboldt fog (goat, CA), Neals Yard Stichelton (Raw cow, UK), cantal (Raw cow, France)  16

Soup – black bean and escarole sm 4 lg 5

Pierogi- chorizo, onion, rutabaga – 3 for 8 or 6 for 15

Ellen’s Bread Basket- rye, sourdough, pretzel bun  burro di chianti, evoo        6

Local Beets 5 Ways- mousse, tartare, roasted, pickled, Carpaccio, pistachios, goat cheese truffle     10

Winterberry and citrus salad – honey vinaigrette, almonds, greens    9

T-Meadow Pork Taco – confit pig head, house smoked chorizo, queso fresco, salsa roja   6

Pork Skin Fritters – aioli, sweet and sour cabbage    8

BBQ Pork Flank Steak – Indian spiced dates and kohlrabi pickles, cannellini beans  10

House Made Liverwurst – beer & onion jam, parsley and pickled horseradish salad, toast  9

Fermented Black bean Ribs – spicy soy pickles, sesame pancake  12

Duck confit Pizzetta – Oles’ egg, spinach, pancetta  ½ for 7 whole for 15

Squid and chorizo Fideos- piquillo saffron broth   14

FeijoadaBrazilian hot pepper sauce, rice pilaf,  sm 12/ lg 20

House-made Gnocchi –tesa, turnip, turnip greens, carrot rutabaga puree  sm 10/ lg 17

T-Meadow Pork Chop – crispy smashed potatoes, root vegetable puree, braised cabbage  26


Desserts  7

Sticky Toffee Pudding- whipped cream

Earl Grey Ganache- tea cream, madeleines   

Banana cake - maple pastry cream, maple candied walnuts, tangerine curd 


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District, Pearl Street lounge-restaurant with a 'NYC feel,' aims to open by St. Patrick's Day

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Hoping to open around St. Patrick’s Day, District is taking shape at 454 Pearl St., formerly Blue Buffalo.

Tim Walton, an owner, said they aim to offer a place with a New York City lounge-restaurant feel, with drinks and food. “Something a little bit different, that we don’t have around here,” he said.

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Pork-and-pineapple tacos land at Agave restaurant, Elmwood Avenue's new Mexican spot

Agave 020

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Stopped by the new Agave (765 Elmwood Ave., 887-2933) for lunch the other day, seeking some of those authentic Mexican tacos that owner Sergio Mucino was talking about.

I found a menu that's about 95 percent the same as Don Tequila, his Allen Street spot. The differences I noticed were posole and menudo ($8.99, weekends only) and tacos, in al pastor, chicken, asada and carnitas flavors. They're $11.99 for three, with a side of rice and beans.

Continue reading "Pork-and-pineapple tacos land at Agave restaurant, Elmwood Avenue's new Mexican spot" »

Check out the fake chef getting TV morning host to drink ham-pie-gravy smoothie

By Andrew Z. Galarneau

Around the holidays, it can get tough to book guests on your early morning TV shows. So I feel sorry for the hosts who came to work one morning and found their job required them to play the straight guy to Nick Prueher

Playing a character called Chef Keith Guerke, Prueher said he was a self-trained chef promoting a leftovers cookbook. Actually, he was there to perform "Daily Show" level satire, without having to pay for his own camera crews. He was there to get them to say "yummy" to the ham-pie-gravy smoothie.

"I'm self taught, I'm kind of unorthodox," he tells one young fellow. "People compare me to - have you heard of GG Allin?"

"I can't say that I have," said the interviewer, betraying his lack of popular culture street cred, "tell me more."

According to Wikipedia, GG Allin "is best remembered for his notorious live performances, which often featured transgressive acts, including coprophagia, self-mutilation, and attacking audience members."

What Prueher did was see how many excuses he could give the show to cut him off, but no one did, apparently. Not until the whole table unfortunately tips over, food, blender and all. 

Warning: Not great lunch break fare.

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