Let’s say it’s late summer, 2019. You and a friend decide to have a pop-up to help launch your business. You have a sunny courtyard, great food, and a DJ to give it that summertime feel.
Let’s say it exceeds expectations. Everyone has a great time, and social media is echoing with folks sharing their excitement. Everyone wants to return and you’re ready to come back in the spring.
Let’s say when spring comes around, you can’t repeat your event because of quarantine and social distancing. What do you do? If you’re RJ Marvin of Barrel+Brine and Dave Valentin of Bare Bones Barbecue, you consider the pause a gift, offering you more time to plan.
Sitting in the Barrel+Brine courtyard in Chandlerville a year later, everything feels different. The Buffalo food community recently experienced the loss of Dan Borelli, whose Spree feature got shelved due to COVID and 2020 never got any more predictable. It’s with this backdrop that we discuss Buffalo Killer Bees, the name of Marvin and Valentin’s new joint venture.
“We had a contest, ‘Barrel+Brine at Home,’ to encourage people to use our products; Dave posted a pastrami eggroll and won,” says Marvin. How does one go from winning a business’s contest to collaborating on pop-ups with that same business? Easy. You bring meat. “People don’t like to criticize free food,” Valentin says. But criticism was exactly what he was looking for and Marvin was willing to critique Valentin’s barbecue.
Marvin, it turns out, found a fellow traveler in Valentin. “Every pop-up we do is what we want to eat; we’ve arranged it so we can eat what we like all day,” says Marvin. In addition to barbecue, the pair had a smash burger event (my favorite burger of 2020), an all-day breakfast, and a few other menus. The pop-ups give them the opportunity to explore what interests them. Since it is a side project for both, Buffalo Killer Bees have time to think about what a cuisine might be like, reimagined through a Buffalo lens.
Valentin explains, “I’m not going to put out Texas barbecue every time because I’m not a Texas guy. I’m a Buffalo guy who wants to make Buffalo food.” To that end, the Bees turned the idea of a smoked beef on ’weck into a reality a few months ago.
Coming back to the present, as autumn continues, the Bees are moving into Bills barbecue packs. Available in various sizes, with various cuts of meat, they are the perfect thing to grab as you sink into your couch for three hours. Additionally, they’re holding a contest: whoever posts the best barbecue photo from now until the end of the season will win a catered playoff party for ten people.
Stay up to date by joining the Killer Bees’ email list at buffalokillerbees.square.site. Both Barrel+Brine and Bare Bones also have robust Instagram presences.
In addition to providing ingredients for homegating (which seems to be the agreed upon portmanteau), Buffalo Killer Bees are trying to figure out the logistics of using the courtyard on Chandler. “We’re working on winter warmers with a barbecue twist; ramens, stews, Chinese barbecue. We’ll see,” says Valentin.
Hopefully, we’ll soon be slurping noodles in the snow.