February 2012: Spree Insider
It’s February, which means it’s time for two of Buffalo’s most unique—and uniquely delicious—events, both sponsored by Buffalo Spree.
Nickel City Chef
Ready. Set. Cook. No other city hosts a more thrilling cooking challenge than Buffalo, and this year’s Nickel City Chef season opens with a battle that is expected to be one of its most exciting yet.
On February 19, NCC veteran Krista Van Wagner of Curly’s Bar and Grill, the Lackawanna Caribbean favorite, will go head-to-head with Chef Frank Mercado of M&T Bank’s Executive Dining Room to see who can create the best dish featuring a secret, local ingredient in less than an hour. As past attendees already know, chefs will entertain audiences as they use both classic and modern techniques to showcase both their skills and the secret WNY ingredient. Guest judges and local food professionals will then assess which chef’s dish is tastier, more technical, and more creative—with input from the audience.
“It really is not unlike Food Network’s Iron Chef,” says Christa Glennie Seychew, producer of the event, and Spree’s online and food editor. “The only real difference is that we have a live audience and that our chefs only have an hour, whereas on Iron Chef it appears the contestants only have an hour when they really have more time.”
It’s been a busy few months for Nickel City Chef. A full-color book featuring competition recipes using farm-fresh ingredients from all three seasons and vivid photography was released in October. The book also includes profiles from the best local chefs, a DVD documentary, and thirty easy-to-follow recipes highlighting regional ingredients such as shiitake mushrooms and pasture-raised heritage pork. “What we’re really excited about is seeing a huge new audience after the release of our cookbook, which was a bestseller during the holiday season,” says Glennie Seychew. “We usually see the same familiar faces, but we’re expecting a whole new segment of the WNY population.”
As always, Artisan Kitchen & Baths on Amherst Street is the competition’s venue. For more information, visit nickelcitychef.com.
Help benefit the Buffalo Zoo—as well as your taste buds—by attending Polar Bites on February 16. The Zoo’s annual culinary event featuring samples and tastings from approximately forty-five restaurants, wineries, and breweries is known both for its atmosphere, as well as its cause. The event’s proceeds will go partially toward adopting animals, but mainly to the zoo as a whole, says Michael Powers, the zoo’s marketing manager. Guests are invited to participate in a basket auction, a silent auction, and visit with some of the zoo’s “animal ambassadors.” “It’s a great way to experience Western New York’s best dining and restaurants, and to help the zoo at the same time,” Powers says. “That’s tough to do in one night, but we make it real easy for you.”
This year, Polar Bites will be held at the newly renovated Buffalo Niagara Convention Center’s upstairs space from 6 to 9 p.m. The event usually has a turnout of about 1,000, but Powers expects around 1,500 attendees on February 16. The event has been held since 1991, when it first took place at a cafeteria on the Buffalo Zoo’s grounds.
Tickets are $35 presale and $45 at the door. A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $60 over the phone, at 995-6133. Visit www.buffalozoo.org for details.
Night Lights at the Gardens
Also this month, Spree is sponsoring the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens’ Night Lights at the Gardens, a theatrical light show featuring LED lighting and flood lights and music. See www.buffalogardens.com for more information.
Marwa Eltagouri is a Spree editorial intern and a sophomore at Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.