Our previews of interesting/fun food happenings.
Nov 22, 2011
Tuesday Tidbits for 11/22/11
Lots of news since we last met here, folks. You know, before the great Cantina Loco opened and my website crashed? But here we are now, feeling all cheery with the impending holiday and, if we are lucky, looking forward to a boozy weekend of killer food, family, and the short return of longtime friends who no longer call Buffalo home.
Here's all the news that's fit to print, and some stuff that might not be, but you can be the judge of that.
Crazy for Tacos
Cantina Loco opened last Thursday after months and months of teasing us with its cool sign and rumors of killer south-of-the-border cuisine. A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to be able to taste the menu currently available for takeout. Everything was good, but here’s a quick run down of my favorites.
The nachos are a heaping helping of goodness, best consumed with a giant beer. Better than the nachos you’ve learned to love (you know, the kind with the electric liquid cheese, or the greasy, gloppy, poorly melted shredded “cheddar”), these nachos are full of flavor and the chips easily retained their light and crispy texture, Yes, I just used the word “light” to describe nachos. In the taco world, each offering was good, far better than any other brick and mortar Mexican available from Pittsburgh to the Canadian border. The few I liked best include the Koji-inspired Korean taco, the fish taco, and the tofu taco. Yep, I said it, T-O-F-U, but we will get to that one in a minute.
The Mexican/Korean food fusion made famous by a food truck in California is a natural, and under the careful hands of Mike Andrzejewski, the WNY chef who embraced fusion before most of us had ever heard the word, it is a tasty explosion of two flavorful cultures.
Chef again excels with the fish taco, a taco that is easily screwed up. Here it is bright, flavorful, crunchy, and most all, fresh tasting. This one won’t make it from the cash register to your car.
The most unexpected favorite was the tofu taco. I am not a tofu hater, I like it deep fried in Chinese food, hiding in my scrambled eggs, or lying in wait for me at the bottom of my miso soup, but other than that, I could take it or leave it. Here it is coated in a delicate, crispy fried jacket and immersed in a sauce that is creamy and acidic. I could easily eat these and nothing else from Cantina’s menu and still feel satisfied.
So, if you haven’t stopped down yet, this holiday weekend might be the perfect chance to do that. You’ll be out drinking with friends anyway, and lord knows you’ll need a break from all that turkey. Cantina Loco is at the corner of Elmwood and Allen and is open from 4-10.
Prosciutto, and Cappicola, and Guanciale, oh my!
Chef Bruce Wieszala, currently the sous at Carmelo’s in Lewiston, has really changed the way WNY thinks about locally raised meat. He first made inroads at Verbena, then at Bistro Europa, and now at Carmelo’s. Working closely with Farmer Rich Tilyou of T-meadow Farm, Wieszala has not only trained dozens of chefs, culinary students, and avid home cooks how to butcher a fresh hog, he’s also shared his insight into curing and preserving meat. So many have tasted the efforts of his labor, at all three of these restaurants and recently at an event celebrating the potential opening of the Horsefeathers Market. Only recently did it become common knowledge that Wieszala is hard at work developing a business plan that will make his products available to the rest of us at a retail location called Coppa.
The details are still being sorted out, but in the interim you can pursue his venture’s new website. Wieszala expects to be pen for business sometime this summer.
Jan and Michael Stern hit WNY again
They were here a couple of months ago (did you spot them?) On November 11 they aired a spot on NPR's Splendid Table where they referred to Lackawanna’s Steve’s Pig & Ox Roast. You can listen to it online here (again, look for the Nov. 11 link).
They make it here every few years, eating around town and then sprinkling bits of Buffalo in where they make sense over the course of a season of radio spots. You can peruse their Roadfood.com website for more of the famous foodies WNY favorites. If you’ve never heard of the Stern’s before, you’ve been missing out. They make Guy Fieri’s gratuitous “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” look like public access.
Beer me + beer you = Embeer Buffalo
Let it never be said that Buffalonians won’t pay for good beer. It was said all the time a decade ago, but as imports and microbrews have grown in popularity, Buffalo’s beer culture has learned to look at beer as more than cheap fuel for a raging Sunday tailgate party.
Community Beer Works, likely to be Buffalo’s first nanobrewery, is further proof of this. Having recently sampled their IPA I was impressed with the quality of the product, and look forward to a time when industry and residents will both fully embrace our brewing past, allowing organizations like CBW to thrive alongside breweries of all sizes.
The first step, beyond the wrestling match with the State Liquor Authority, is to raise the capital required to adequately underwrite such a project. It’s safe to say that this project isn’t terribly appealing to banks in this economic climate. But having a stake in something and cheering for the underdog are two things we do well, so CBW’s Kickstarter campaign should be a great success. In fact, it already is. But here’s an idea: Buy your favorite beer fan a pledge and its accompanying gift for the holidays. (For example a $250 donation will earn your pledgee the chance to learn how to make beer with the CBW gang.) They’ve already exceeded their goal of raising $15k, so you can feel confident that the giftee whose name you pledge under will be part of something great.
If you missed the other YUM post up today, check it out.
Sunday, December 4th Epic restaurant will host a multi-course dinner feautring game. We’ll have details for you as soon as possible.
Duck, duck, goose
Speaking of game, if you seek duck, goose, guinea hen, or other exciting proteins for your Christmas or New Year’s feast, look no further than WNY’s Bonnie George, owner of Painted Meadow. She currently provides many of our local restaurants with items such as rabbit, goat, lamb, and a full catalog of poultry items. You can find her every Saturday at the Elmwood/Lafayette Winter Farmers Market. It’s always best to put your order in early. If you can’t make it to the market, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call her at 676-3401.