The Review / Toutant

BBQ offerings at Toutant 

Food for thought

A little more than a week ago, Toutant restaurant on Ellicott Street announced that it was temporarily closing. “Even with the ‘aid’ of borrowed Economic Injury Disaster Loans, PPP programs, Local and State Grants, and crushing our personal savings,” the owners said in a Facebook post, “our businesses have not been able to create enough of a revenue stream to stay in the black.” Toutant plans to “hibernate” to save money—for now—and come back when restaurants can operate above 50% capacity. A number of similar downtown restaurants have permanently closed.

I’ve eaten at Toutant, and, let me you, the food and atmosphere there is excellent. So why aren’t such restaurants surviving on takeout? It could be that, when we think of takeout, fine dining is not what comes to mind. Fine dining isn’t just about the food; it’s also about the experience—the decor, the service, the fancy drinks.

The takeout dilemma

No, when we think of takeout, it’s pizza and General Tso that sit at the top of the food pantheon, thanks to their deliciousness, affordability, and dependability. Why do we know this? Someone at the food delivery service Grubhub has kept track of the ten most popular foods in the Buffalo region, along with the restaurants they come from. It’s not gourmet eatin’, but it will get you through a Netflix binge.

Here they are:

•Tacos and pastelillos from Taqueria Ranchos La Delicias

•Wings and pepperoni pizza from Mister Pizza

•General Tso's chicken and crab rangoon from Ling Ling

•French fries and chicken finger subs from Jim's Steakout

•Takoyaki and gyoza from Taisho Bistro

•The Original Bocce from Bocce Pizza

•Tandoori chicken over rice and garlic naan from Alibaba Cafe

According to Grubhub, the most popular day for food delivery in Buffalo is Friday and the most popular time to place an order is 6 p.m.

Six best

The online lifestyle magazine Insider.com lists the top six types of food that hold up well with delivery. It intentionally avoids things like pizza and Chinese food to encourage more variety in the takeout experience. Ironically, Toutant, which makes top-notch fried chicken, would fit in nicely here. The writers gathered intel from chefs, restaurant consultants, and food critics, resulting in six edible recommendations. You can read the list and the reasoning behind each here. What follows is an abridged version:

•Grilled meats and vegetables reheat well.

Anyone who's attended a lengthy outdoor cookout knows that grilled items can sit out for a while without losing flavor or texture, making them prime candidates for delivery.

•Fried chicken, surprisingly, is a great choice.

The food writers of TimeOut New York chose two different fried-chicken spots (Fuku and Pies 'n' Thighs) to feature on their list of the top 12 delivery options in the entire city.

•Deli sandwiches are made to last.

Stacked sandwiches are traditionally made on hearty cuts of bread capable of soaking up juices and preventing your meal from devolving into a soggy mess, so they make for a highly portable meal.

•Noodle dishes (packaged appropriately) will be great upon arrival.

It all comes down to separating out the ingredients, as chef Darren Sayphraraj 

explains: “We pack the soup and noodles separately and also pack any sauces or dressings on the side. I think any self-respecting noodle shop should be separating the broth and noodles.”

 •Barbecue travels well.

 Luckily for fans of flavorful, saucy (or dry-rubbed, depending on your region) pork ribs and brisket, it's a durable food genre that can handle some travel time.

In the news

Perhaps it has not escaped your attention that a large crowd of colorfully attired miscreants from across the country forced their way into the Capitol building in Washington D.C. recently. You likely are also aware that they were invited there and encouraged to cause havoc by the Commander and Chief of the nation's military, who, with only days left before he had expected to be named king, was in a desperate search for a suitable end to the expression, “Just when I thought he couldn’t go any lower…”

Now the FBI is looking for these folks. “You may not know this, but it can be a federal offence to cross a state line while committing a crime,” says former assistant U.S. attorney Anthony Bruce in a WBFO interview, “for example driving from Buffalo to Washington to take part in a mob assault on the Capitol. They just have to travel and then intentionally get themselves involved in a riot." Bruce says that one particular law carries a mandatory five-year sentence for crossing state lines to riot.

Introducing Jul Thompson

Grand Island resident Jul Thompson traveled by bus with 110 area residents to assault the central symbol of our democracy. Five people lost their lives in the fracas, but Thompson says it “was absolutely justified." Why? Because in 57 legal cases across the country, the justice system failed to find evidence of “massive fraud” of the type Rudy Giuliani laid out without facts at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, a three-star nursery next to a porn shop. That’s the problem with judges and elections officials of both parties. You can’t make them see what isn’t there.

Thompson is a defender of the Confederate flag, the person who planned and executed the Spirit of America Rally in Niagara Square, the one with the Rebel flags and the neo-Nazis. Her white nationalist rhetoric is so outrageous that Carl Paladino once had to tell her to stop defending him, because she was doing more harm than good.

Thompson said she and her group were unaware of the fatal shooting that took place inside the Capitol or injuries reportedly sustained by protestors and law enforcement alike in a lawless situation that continued into the evening Wednesday, though she indicated "conservatives do not like to resort to violence." Video of the event would suggest otherwise.

Pete Harding gets around

Cheektowaga resident Pete Harding was also at the pep rally. He claims that he and the group he came with wisely opted to stay out of the building. “We saw how violent it could get so we opted to stay further outside of that,” he told WIVB news, “And it was a great decision; we were out of harm’s way, which is nice.” Nice indeed. Except, um, he’s lying.

Film of Harding inside the Capitol has come to light, and other published photographs and videos show Harding among a group of people outside the Capitol piling cameras, tripods, and other equipment marked AP on the ground, as people repeatedly shouted "CNN sucks." Then he lit the pile on fire. You can view him cramming his foot in his mouth up to his knee here.

City sidewalks, busy sidewalks

It’s a blustery winter morning in Buffalo. You set your alarm the night before, to get up early, because the weather forecast called for overnight snow. It’s coming down pretty good as you brush off your car. Then you start shoveling the sidewalk.

In forty-three years living in Buffalo, I’ve never heard of anyone actually getting a ticket for not shoveling their sidewalk, and I don’t want to be the first. But, often, by the time I finish shoveling, much of the walk is already filled with blown in snow.

An inconvenient truth

A couple hours later, while I’m at work, it becomes a sparking sunny day, as people trudge over my walkway, packing it into a mantle of fossilized slush. By the time I’m home, it’s dark, and snow is blowing again. It won’t be cleared today, or the next few days. A couple neighborhood kids offer to shovel for ten bucks, but I know that in the seven minutes they spend doing it, they’ll only go down to the jagged ice level.

As a responsible homeowner, I maintain my property, pay taxes, tend to my lawn. But I just can’t keep up with sidewalk snow. Salt often makes it worse. Adding insult to injury, there’s one neighbor who faithfully clears their sidewalk down to the concrete. It takes hours, but I guess he has the time.

Familiar alibis

There’s a lot of reasons people don’t clear the winter white stuff from their sidewalks. It can be challenging for the elderly and those with disabilities, and people working multiple jobs.  Sometimes people shovel, only to watch city plows push snow and ice right back onto their sidewalks. I don’t think the city ever intended to ticket people with snowy sidewalks. It just wanted to lay the responsibility on owners, so if there is a lawsuit, it can say, “It’s not our problem.”

Councilman Joe Golombek thinks clearing sidewalks should be the city’s problem. He just reintroduced a proposal for hiring an outside company to do the job.

Too many home and business owners are not shoveling sidewalks, he says, making it dangerous for people to walk. The Christmas night hit-and-run near Lincoln Parkway inspired him, particularly since the couple involved said they were in the street because the sidewalks were not clear. Golombek's points to other cities like Syracuse, where a private company removes the snow when it reaches three inches.

Golombek's proposal wouldn’t cover the whole city; areas would be chosen based on safety concerns using data. Here’s the best part; Golombek wants to pay for it with the city's school zone camera ticket funds. He figures we’re stuck with those fees—might as well use the money to benefit Buffalo residents.

School zone mania

Since the idea of school zone cameras were first floated, LSS has predicted problems with the system, both technically and practically. Lo and behold, the system’s precovid trial run was plagued with numerous serious glitches.

Last Monday was the day that five cameras were to be turned back on, according to Parking Commissioner Kevin Helfer. Just five. The speed limit is still an unreasonable 15 mph, though everyone knows you can go up to nine mph faster with the cameras without getting an automated $50 ticket. The cameras that have been turned back on are located outside Canisius High School, Nichols School, Notre Dame Academy, St. Joseph University School, and Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Children's Academy.

Considering all the problems the system has already experienced—20,000 drivers refunded for incorrect tickets for instance—did anyone really expect them to get it right the second time?

When University District councilman Rasheed Wyatt, came to a camera at Bailey Avenue outside of Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Academy that was erroneously flashing, he was pissed to say the least. He created an 11-minute Facebook video expressing his (and most of Buffalo’s) frustration, including concerns that posted school-hours have not been updated on the signage for the cameras.

A week before, the common council had asked Mayor Byron Brown to “pause” the program while the city fixes numerous issues with the system’s vendor Sensys Gatso. Brown’s answer was no.

Take a moment and think about this. These cameras are ostensibly being put into place to encourage motorists to drive safer near schools. We are told that they are NOT a money-grab as many have suggested, despite the fact that they will generate significant funds.

If you were running the show, wouldn’t you want every aspect of the camera zones and non-camera zones, to be 100 percent perfect before putting them into use? Instead, all zones are scheduled to go live, without system corrections, on February 1.

We hope Joe Golombek and Rasheed Wyatt are talking.

Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.

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