The Taste of Buffalo's 2014 Culinary Stage
Founded in 1984, the Taste of Buffalo has become the largest food festival in the United States. An estimated 400,000 people from around the US and Canada are expected to descend on the City of Buffalo this weekend to sample local food and drink from more than 60 restaurants and seven wineries, enjoy bands on the Tops Stage inside the beer tent in Niagara Square, and watch Buffalo chefs and mixologists battle it out for culinary domination.
Buffalo Spree is a proud partner of the Taste of Buffalo and a sponsor, with Weber’s Sauces, of the Taste Culinary Stage. Located under a cool tent in the New Era Cap parking lot, the best in local culinary talent will give demonstrations of their craft and compete with peers for bragging rights. Seating is free and on a first-come, first served basis, so get there early for free samples.
“We are setting you up for a great day,” says Syrie Roman-Legnon, Culinary Stage organizer. The competitions kick off with a battle of Cannoli at noon on Saturday when Linda Schultz and Amber Milligan of Romano’s Bakery go up against brothers Gaetano and Luca Letizia of Gelateria Luca. (There will be mini cannolis for audience members.)
“I’m also very excited about the truffle demonstration from Blue Table Chocolates,” Roman-Legnon says. “Ben Johnson does such a fantastic job. I don’t think many people have seen how those beautiful truffles are made up close and personal. And you’ll get to taste them!”
Closing up the first day of the festival is the Grill Master Competition at 4:30 p.m.—with an interesting twist. Turning the tables, professional foodies Scotty Harris and Tom Przybylak will have to cook two proteins, a starch, and a vegetable using the Big Green Egg (a ceramic cooker derived from an ancient clay cooking device known as a “kamado”). Judges include Andrew Galarneau of The Buffalo News, Jeff Biesinger, Buffalo Spree’s fine dining restaurant critic, and Donnie Burtless of Buffalo Eats.
Start your Sunday off healthy with Eric Gersbacher of Ashkers, who will be bringing some of their cold-press juices. “There have been so many fad diets,” says Roman-Legnon. “It’s hard to know what’s good and what’s not. I think juicing is one of those things that people can do to live a healthier lifestyle and Ashkers does that really well.” Join Gersbacher under the tent at noon as he discusses the process and benefits of cold-press juicing—and enjoy a sample of juice delivered to your seat by the Independent Health RedShirts.
OK, healthy time is over. At 1:30, chef DJ Cook of Shango Bistro & Wine Bar, and Falynn Koch of Fallymac go head to head in a Mac and Cheese cook off, followed by a summertime grilling demonstration by Tops’ butchers. Then we head straight into the alcohol portion of the program with Home Brewing 101 at 3:30 p.m., Cooking with Beer at 4:30 p.m. (Chef Frank Mercado, an avid homebrewer himself, demonstrates some easy and delicious recipes that list beer as a main ingredient, featuring brews by Community Beer Works), and finishing with the Lockhouse Vodka Summer Cocktail Competition 5:45 p.m..
Lockhouse is the first distillery to open in the City of Buffalo since Prohibition. Lockhouse crafts fine artisanal spirits using locally sourced ingredients. Rumor has it they will start to make gin and whiskey soon. “We have fantastic people on the panel,” says Roman-Legnon. Competitors Kerry Quaile of Queen City Shaken & Stirred and Adam Smith from Cantina Loco will have 30 minutes to create their libation using Lockhouse Vodka as the main spirit. Judges include Niko Georgiadis and Chad Vosseller of Lockhouse Distillery, Adam Zyglis, editorial cartoonist at The Buffalo News, and Jonathan Oakes of Leonard Oakes Winery.
In keeping with the keeping it local theme, Shawn Wrafter of Wrafterbuilt Salvage and Reclaimed will hand craft trophies for the winners of each competition.
For a full schedule of events, visit tasteofbuffalo.com.
Wendy Guild Swearingen is a frequent contributor to Buffalo Spree.