Annual 2010

Slideshow: Gingerbread, Gifts & Glitz

12/06/10

Slideshow: Gingerbread, Gifts & Glitz

The best gingerbread creations from the annual fundraiser

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BuffaloSpree.com's recipe of the week: Gingerbread Cookies

12/01/10

BuffaloSpree.com's recipe of the week: Gingerbread Cookies

Capturing the flavor of the season

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Truffle off in Buffalo

11/29/10

Truffle off in Buffalo

Chefs from Buffalo's SeaBar & Bistro Europa present a truffle extravaganza

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The Delaware brings new life to the suburban restaurant scene

11/24/10

The Delaware brings new life to the suburban restaurant scene

Gastro-pub provides good eats to suburban diners

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No-Knead to Worry

11/22/10

No-Knead to Worry

A few years ago, all anyone in the homecooking world could talk about was NY baker Jim Lahey's miracle method for baking bread in a snap. Those of us who devour the NY Times Dining & Wine section were thrilled to learn, via Mark Bittman, of Lahey's miracle make-it-yourself bread recipe which required little effort and a limited amount of skill--the two things that had kept so many homecooks away from bread in the first place.There are few things that intimidate homecooks—especially new ones—more than yeast-based recipes. Local Lorna Lippes understands this, and has mastered the Lahey method to such an extent that she is now offering classes to the public. You would be hard pressed to find another bread baking course in the area, so if baking bread has been on your list...

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Welcome to the real world, where people eat their pizzas at home

11/19/10

Welcome to the real world, where people eat their pizzas at home

In which we are attacked for our pizza judging procedures.

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Italian for dinner

11/18/10

Italian for dinner

Cute and cozy, Panaro's is best known for its cannoli and pasta fagioli. Located on Delaware, just a doorway north of Allen, this lunch spot is always buzzing. Operated by a family, Panaro's has done well for itself by pleasing its dedicated lunch crowd with homey hospitality and classic Italian American dishes. Menu favorites include the spaghetti and meatballs, the lazy lasagna—and on Wednesdays—the braciole.Over the years I have told many people of my fondness for the sunny cafe, especially on the occasion when the conversation turns to Buffalo's best red sauce joints. To my surprise, many people who would catalog themselves as Buffalo restaurant regulars, have never been to Panaro's. After further investigation, it is generally revealed that they work in another part of...

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Spree.com's Recipe of the week: Butternut Squash Bisque

11/17/10

Spree.com's Recipe of the week: Butternut Squash Bisque

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so we thought that we’d dig through our remarkable treasure trove of recipes from Chef Joe George to find a recipe perfect for today’s Recipe of the Week. This little number is an ideal first course for the big day, but it is also a tidy solution for Thanksgiving eve, which may be the biggest night of the year for WNY pizza joints. Since nobody wants to muss their kitchen the night before the big show, this soup can be made ahead of time and frozen. Served with crusty bread and a side salad, this is a satisfying and seasonal meal that will require nothing but a re-heat and the scrubbing of a saucepan.Butternut Squash Bisque with Toasted AlmondsNumber of Servings: makes 6 cupsIngredients: 2 tbsp butter 1 small onion, peeled and diced 2...

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Manners still matter

11/17/10

Manners still matter

Recently I had the privilege of attending a program at Buffalo State College entitled “Manners Matter”. This program, now in its ninth year, is a formal “mocktail” hour and six-course dinner offered to the student body at a very fair price. Throughout the evening, students enjoy a lovely meal while hearing from speakers regarding various aspects of etiquette and table manners. They are also presented with challenges that test their social skills. The event was sponsored by Travelers Insurance and developed by the campus’ Hospitality Department, who worked in conjunction with Sodexo and Buffalo State’s faculty to ensure the evening went off without a hitch. Hosts Lisa August and Josh Blumberg were superb.  I, along with twenty...

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Spree.com's Recipe of the week: Stout-brasied Short Ribs

11/10/10

Spree.com's Recipe of the week: Stout-brasied Short Ribs

The recent entré into chilly weather had me celebrating my kitchen’s return to warm hearty dishes made all the better by a solid day of simmering. Short ribs top my list, since they require not only a lengthy time in the stove initially, but then a solid reheat after a day of resting in the fridge. This method, described in the recipe below, results in meat that easily slips from the bone and is flavorful in a way that is sultry and rich. Well worth the effort in my book, especially since I can spend most of the cooking time on the sofa reading one.  In the past I have used a combination of stock and red wine as the braising liquid for this classic dish, but a shortage of cooking-quality wine and a glut of Guinness made me seek out an online recipe using a combo of...

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The Big Chew

11/09/10

The Big Chew

You'll never have to talk me into going to dinner, especially if it is for a good cause. The Big Chew is tonight, a fundraiser organized by the local SPCA which will allot a portion of a participating restaurant's sales to our local chapter of animal lovers.Hot spots where your dining dollars can make a difference include the new Blue Monk Belgian gastropub, and the also-new barbecue joint, Blue Buffalo. La Tee Da, 78 Degrees West (which I have yet to try) and Russell's Steaks, Chops & More are also among the top contenders for my business tonight.Funds raised go to assisting the SPCA's Yelp for Help, a program in place to help with the costs associated with emergency care for pets without homes. "Not every animal comes to the SPCA...healthy & adoptable," says...

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Will maple and bacon ever replace chocolate and peanut butter?

11/08/10

Will maple and bacon ever replace chocolate and peanut butter?

      The winning flavor combination of maple and bacon has never been lost on me. I’ve dipped bacon into my plate of syrup-drenched morning pancakes since I was a wee one. The crisp, salty bacon and its smoky undertones play so well against the sweet and velvety syrup. Couple this nearly magical mouth experience with the general mainstreaming of bacon (and the fanaticism which followed), and it is easy to see why pastry chefs are incorporating the maple/bacon sensation into their repertoire. An Omaha-based craze for maple bacon donuts has served as impetus for hundreds of other interpretations by donut and coffee shops across the country. Over the summer here in Buffalo, Bistro Europa­­­­­­­­­­­­...

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Creperie moves into Parkside neighborhood

11/01/10

Creperie moves into Parkside neighborhood

Prish Moran, the owner of Grant Street’s Sweet_ness 7 café--a pillar of Buffalo’s most exciting up and coming neighborhood--has decided to take another gamble in an area where many café and restaurant owners before her have fallen. It may be lined with stunning homes, an Olmsted park and the Buffalo Zoo, but Parkside Avenue has not been a business-friendly location in many years. Countless burger joints, ice cream shops and pizza parlors have looked at the thoroughfare’s heavy traffic, lines of families awaiting entry to the Zoo and affordable storefronts and made the leap of faith required to open an eatery. Sadly, what most have failed to recognize is that parking is odd and not conducive to businesses, families are increasingly economizing and packing...

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Why Blue Monk is 2010’s Most Anticipated Restaurant

10/27/10

Why Blue Monk is 2010’s Most Anticipated Restaurant

 When Mike Shatzel, heir to the Cole’s empire, partnered with the Brinkworth family to turn Elmwood’s moldering Merlin’s into a Belgian beer bar, Buffalo’s restaurant world held its breath. And so did everyone and anyone within 20 miles who likes to drink quality beer.  After a complete overhaul of the building, a prolonged approval process with the State Liquor Authority and the resolution of a zoning issue, Blue Monk finally opened its freshly polished doors at the beginning of October. While the kitchen readied itself for a surge of excited eaters enticed by the promise of Buffalo’s first gastropub, beer drinkers broke in every glass in the house. A bevy of fine Belgian beers and handcrafted niche ales fill the towering wall-mounted chalkboard...

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Pizza Showdown Winning Reader

10/27/10

Pizza Showdown Winning Reader

Buffalo Spree's November issue features our Pizza Showdown, pitting pepperoni pies from sixteen of Western New York's most-loved pizza palaces against one another in a head-to-head match up.Last week we asked our readers to weigh in online, as we posted bracket after bracket of our ongoing pizza battle, and you did. We heard that you felt we'd left some of your favorite pizza places out. We also heard the rallying cry of those who pronounced the offering of thin crust pizza as an automatic, disqualification since, in some commentors minds, its roots are downstate. To discover our winning pizza, pick up the November issue of Spree, which is on newsstands now.Today we are proud to announce the winner of our uber-foodie pizza prize. The pizza stone, quality OXO pizza cutter...

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Sweet & Spooky Cake Competition

10/26/10

Sweet & Spooky Cake Competition

                        Nickel City Cake Challenge: Sweet & Spooky took place on October 24th in the stunning loft showroom of Buffalo's own Artisan Kitchens & Baths. Presented by Feed Your Soul productions, the cake decorating competition featured three of Western New York's top bakeries and a live audience of 200 people. Guests snacked on sweet treats from Lake Effect Ice Cream, Niagara Popcorn, Sample restaurant and Sarah Walley Events while watching the two-hour match. During the live competition, the audience was encouraged to tour Artisan's showrooms where over fifteen Sweet & Spooky cakes submitted by amateur decorators were on display....

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Pizza bracket 13: Buzzy's vs. La Hacienda

10/25/10

Pizza bracket 13: Buzzy's vs. La Hacienda

 One taste of the Buzzy’s pie made it easy to see why this parlor trounced earlier contestants. Its thin, easy-to-fold crust—accented by cornmeal for additional crunch—held a worthy balance of cheese, spicy, thinly-sliced pepperoni, and a fresh, herbal sauce, singing with oregano, a seasoning that most pizza joints around here have forgotten. Only a residual grease factor marred a truly fine performance. Reason enough for a trip to the Falls. The truly legendary La Hacienda had turned back all comers in the early rounds, but Buzzy’s oregano-scented breath was hot on its neck. Would it be up to the challenge? If you’re not a regular, the pies turned out by La Hac are revelations: serious, high quality thin-crusted foldable pizzas, with a fine balance...

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Pizza bracket 14: La Nova vs. Romeo & Juliet's

10/25/10

Pizza bracket 14: La Nova vs. Romeo & Juliet's

 From a bustling trattoria on Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo, Romeo and Juliet's turns out exceptional bread, foccacia, pastries, panini, and yes, pizza, different from all other contenders in WNY. Romeo’s pie is light, crisp, thin, sweet and balanced, without the golden, oily sheen affected by others; with such a low grease-factor it was hard to believe it was so rich with cheese and pepperoni. Here were high quality ingredients, deftly handled, in perfect balance. Who knew? La Nova was the only classic Buffalo-style pie to make the semis, and it didn’t betray its roots. If you like this style, La Nova’s entry was paradigmatic. Sweet, rich sauce; abundant, soft cheese; thick, chewy crust; excellent, charred, hand-hewn pepperoni. A generous, tasty, greasy slice,...

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Pizza bracket 10: Buzzy's vs. Bocce Club

10/22/10

Pizza bracket 10: Buzzy's vs. Bocce Club

This bracket was expected to be a close one since every time we mentioned pizza people had this glazed look in their eyes as they wistfully said, “Oh, Bocce’s ...” Of course many in Niagara County said Buzzy’s just as quickly.At Buzzy’s, we ordered the small 13-inch six-slice pie, described on their menu as “NY Style” and in the tradition of wide, thin, and foldable. There is a nice ratio of tomato sauce to cheese, with larger, very flavorful pepperoni. Simply really good pizza.The Bocce Club pie came in their special packaging, enabling us to eat hot pizza even after a thirty-minute drive home. We had not had a Bocce pizza in a long, long time, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The sauce was sweet (as we like it), the cheese tasty, the pepperoni...

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Pizza bracket 11: Gino & Joe's vs. La Hacienda

10/22/10

Pizza bracket 11: Gino & Joe's vs. La Hacienda

It’s a rare thing to be asked if you want your pizza “well done,” but that’s what you get when you call La Hacienda. Its competitor for this round, Gino & Joe’s, has a crust that’s closer to Italian bread than bread sticks. They are from two very different schools of pizza.La Hacienda’s slices are cooked thoroughly but evenly, from the rims of the upturned pepperoni slices down through the bread. The crust snaps on the outside but offers far more give at its core. It’s far from health food, but you won’t feel like you’ve taken a shot of olive oil when you polish off a slice or two. Looking at a Hacienda pizza as a whole, the one thing you come away with is consistency: even cheese coverage, thorough baking, a clean...

Posted at 08:06 AM | Permalink | Comments: 1

Pizza bracket 12: Mister Pizza vs. La Nova

10/22/10

Pizza bracket 12: Mister Pizza vs. La Nova

Mister Pizza’s pepperoni pie is marked by its greasiness—as is anything with which it comes into contact. While the Foodies gave the edge to Mister Pizza over La Pizza Club, they, too, commented on its greasiness, but it seems the pie they got was made with a bit more care than mine. I found Mister Pizza’s to be a typical Buffalo-style pie, with a not-quite-thin, oily crust, a mildly sweet sauce with a strong oregano flavor, and an balanced mix of toppings. I didn’t get the ring of char that the Foodies enjoyed. In essence, Mister Pizza serves standard Buffalo fare. There are two La Nova locations, and we went to the original on West Ferry. La Nova’s crust was not unlike Mister Pizza’s—thick, floppy, with a greasy undercarriage. Our pie had...

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Pizza bracket 6: Mister Pizza vs. La Pizza Club

10/21/10

Pizza bracket 6: Mister Pizza vs. La Pizza Club

Our first stop was Mister Pizza, which has been in business for thirteen years at the Elmwood and Bird location and has a somewhat newer outpost on Niagara Falls Boulevard. The selection of pizzas is extensive, spanning the spectrum from the exotic (Mister Potato Pizza, with potatoes, bacon, chives and three cheeses) to the usual cheese and pepperoni and the increasingly popular chicken finger version. Our pizza was a bit greasy, but quite tasty. The cheese was very generous—as though we had ordered double cheese—and the small, crusty pepperoni were flavorful. The crust was nicely browned. One flaw: The tomato sauce was pretty much not to be seen or tasted because of all the cheese. On balance this was a very good pizza. La Pizza Club has been in the same location on...

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Pizza bracket 5: Gino & Joe's vs. New York Pizza

10/21/10

Pizza bracket 5: Gino & Joe's vs. New York Pizza

Both of these contestants are modeled on New York corner pizzerias where locals wait five minutes while their pizza warms in an oven half the size of their apartment, then walk out with a thin crust slice they swear is better than anything we have upstate. Gino & Joe’s is the first thing you smell when you walk into the Main Place Mall. On a weekday lunch rush, half a dozen workers are slinging pies between ovens and warming pans, and assembling the occasional sub or salad. The bottom of the slice is reminiscent of Gotham-style slices, with a very light dusting of cornmeal and a smattering of burn marks. The crust, though, is a springy knot that fights back when you cut in with your teeth. There’s a generous amount of slightly spicy sauce on top, and the greasy pockets...

Posted at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments: 1

Buffalo Spree's Pizza Showdown

10/19/10

Buffalo Spree's Pizza Showdown

          Welcome to Spree’s first WNY pizza tournament. We’ve used the March Madness model for this contest: a process of elimination that starts with sixteen venues, then narrows down to eight, then four, then two, culminating in a final winner. We’re not the first to do this—in February, Every Day with Rachael Ray organized a nationwide tournament that included sixty-four pizzerias and regional winners, as well as an overall winner (Pizzeria Blanco in Phoenix). We felt sixteen was a fair and practical number for the Buffalo area; you’ll find the gamut here, from thick, gooey, Buffalo-style slices to elegant Neopolitan offerings to everything in between. Even a pod!Nonetheless, we are also aware that there...

Posted at 12:00 AM | Permalink | Comments: 11

Pizza bracket 1: Pizza Plant vs. Romeo and Juliet's

10/18/10

Pizza bracket 1: Pizza Plant vs. Romeo and Juliet's

The first in our sweet sixteen-style pizza showdown.

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Pizza bracket 4: Pizza Oven vs. Buzzy's

10/18/10

Pizza bracket 4: Pizza Oven vs. Buzzy's

This Niagara County pizza battle pits a Lockport institution against a Niagara Falls favorite. From the outside, Pizza Oven looks like any other somewhat shabby neighborhood pizza parlor (take-out only). The pizzas, however, are unique. I find that most local pizzas feature a tomato sauce that’s sweeter than average. Pizza Oven, however, uses a sauce that’s so intensely sweet it’s practically legendary. People will travel miles to get a fix of a truly addictive pizza, and everything about this pie is a bit offbeat.  The chewy cheese and thick, sweet sauce are applied right up to the edge of the crust, and the pie is then baked in a pan. The result is a crust that’s moist, soft, and floppy, with the sauce charred and caramelized along the edges—and...

Posted at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments: 2

Pizza bracket 3: La Hacienda vs. Blasdell Pizza

10/18/10

Pizza bracket 3: La Hacienda vs. Blasdell Pizza

 La Hacienda is one of the best pizzerias in WNY, offering not just New York-style thin crust pizza, but really excellent Italian entrees. It has been in operation on Pine Avenue since 1947, and when it comes to the Mexican-themed décor, your guess is as good as mine. The pizzas feature a thin, salty crust that is dry on the bottom, indicating that it’s been baked on the stone, not in a pan. A bit of corn meal adds crunch and helps get the pizza in and out of the oven. The cheese and sauce meld to become one substance when baked, and it’s clear that the ingredients are of high quality. The small slices of pepperoni are spicier than usual, so much so that they detract, somewhat, from the overall excellence.  Blasdell Pizza is a Southtowns institution with...

Posted at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments: 1

Pizza bracket 2: Bocce Club vs. Just Pizza

10/18/10

Pizza bracket 2: Bocce Club vs. Just Pizza

Bocce Club is the pizza that has fueled hundreds of thousands of birthday parties, Super Bowl games, and Little League treats. It’s probably the pie that every other Buffalo joint had in mind when they were coming up with their recipe. The basic Bocce is engineered to travel and is a model of excess—thick, chewy crust; thick, powerfully seasoned sauce; a heavy layer of cheese; and pepperoni laid on with a generous hand. It’s also a big pie—the medium would pass for a large at most places. It’s the sauce that makes this work, I think. It has the cooked down intensity that long simmering imparts, with a distinct tomato flavor accented with oregano notes.  Just Pizza—which, despite its name, also sells wings and subs—claims that it is the...

Posted at 03:48 PM | Permalink | Comments: 12

Nickel City Chef worth every penny!

06/28/10

Nickel City Chef worth every penny!

Nickel City Chef closes out its second season with some heat...and we can't wait for next year.

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Deliciious deliberations: Richert vs. DeBell

05/25/10

Deliciious deliberations: Richert vs. DeBell

Spree food writer/Buffalo Pundit judges a recent Nickel City Chef.

Posted at 01:43 PM | Permalink

05/25/10

WNY food criticism—does it exist?

Spree food writer/Buffalo Pundit attempts to deconstruct local restaurant reviews.

Posted at 01:01 PM | Permalink

Food, glorious Buffalo food

03/24/10

Food, glorious Buffalo food

A Spree ominvore appreciates a cross-section of Buffalo tastes

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A South African wine adventure

02/16/10

A South African wine adventure

As Julia puts it: "I've left my home in the Niagara Escarpment wine region of New York State to spend the 2010 vintage as an intern in South Africa. This is what I saw, who I met, what I learned, and what I drank."

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01/17/10

Curried Fish Chowder

An easily adaptable, hearty and spicy soup for a cold winter's day

Posted at 08:16 PM | Permalink | Comments

01/04/10

33% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Simple to make...and soft and squishy enough to satisfy even the most die hard supermarket bread eater.

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