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Brenda's Bites

Food for Thought: New Restaurant & Festival on the Scene

Lots of Downtown Doings

"I gotta fall in the love with the building," proclaims John Stage, owner of the wildly popular Dinosaur Bar-B-Que.
Make no mistake about his affection for the former Universal Pictures storage facility on Franklin Street, a bone's throw from the theater district in downtown Buffalo.
Stage, a New York City native, has been searching for a suitable location for his restaurant for 10 years. As the city, and the downtown area in particular, continues its rebirth.
Open daily with a staff of 120, Stage's restaurant has been one of the most in demand for as long as I can remember. Dinosaur Bar-B-Que is huge in Syracuse and Rochester, drawing in thousands of hungry people in search of quality food served up in a casual setting.
At the Buffalo location, Stage said he has four BBQ pits and cooks every dis fresh, which "eliminates reheating."
When my husband and I visited on a busy weeknight evening, we perused the surprisingly large menu, ranging from Small & Shared Plates to Pit Plates and Sides to Custom 'Que, Combinations and Sandwiches.
After Dan and I chowed down on the filling appetizer—shrimp boil, deviled eggs, fried green tomatoes and wings--he dug into a Brisket & Chicken Combo while I was intrigued by the Smoked Broccoli Reuben, made with smoked broccoli, BBQ sauerkraut, melted Swiss and mayo.
I'm still dreaming about that sandwich! I also enjoyed the Black-Eyed Greens on the side.
If you fancy some suds to wash your 'que down, there are 18 beers on tap, including five local Buffalo beers.
Welcome to downtown Buffalo, John Stage and company. So glad this Dinosaur isn't extinct!

This Saturday is National Grilled Cheese Day, reports our friends at Yelp. Several downtown eateries cheese it up the right way: big, gooey cheese-filled sandwiches melted with everything from apples, spinach, tomatoes among the countless combinations. The Melting Point, Fables Café and Blue Monk all got rave grilled cheese reviews.

And, let's raise a glass to the Buffalo Wine Festival, happening this Saturday from 1 – 4p.m. and 6 – 9p.m. at the Buffalo Convention Center. Regional vino from 30 NYS wineries will be available to sample.

Click to view imgae gallery in Blog post page.

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Break the Chain: Local Restaurant Week is Served Up All Next Week

An Event of Gastronomical Proportions

Stash your tight jeans in the back of the closet and tune up your knife and folk, food fans.
Would you believe next week we are once again celebrating the Spring version of Local Restaurant Week, running from March 31 through April 6?
Here’s the dish from organizer Christa Hobart:
“Local Restaurant Week is a biannual event that celebrates the vital role our local independent restaurants and vendors play in contributing to Western New York’s cultural identity and regional economy.”
And that’s just for starters, she said.
“For diners, it’s also an opportunity to sample new foods and experiences at our local independent restaurants. With features starting at just $20.14, diners have a great reason to skip the usual national chains and give local independent restaurants a try. Of course, the money diners spend at our locally owned independent restaurants stays right here in WNY and helps make our community stronger,” Hobart noted.
  • Includes 200 participating restaurants: casual, fine dining, ethnic and eclectic
  • $8 million annual local economic impact
  • Local food service industry is the region’s second largest employer
  • Local independent restaurants contribute immeasurably to our regional culture
  • Encourages participating restaurants to support local vendors
Additional Helpings:
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Celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph

If all that St. Patrick’s Day celebrating left you green around the gills, you may not be ready for the next celebration.
Just two days after the wearin’ and drinkin’ of the green, many Italian-American families St. Joseph's Day, on March 19, a unique tradition celebrated with food and donations to the needy.
In Christian religions, St. Joseph is known as the spouse of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Through his intercessions with the Lord, Sicilians were saved from famine.
I’ve seen many celebrations with people from all religions and ethnicities that celebrate the day by creating a big altar--S t. Joseph's Table—covered with food contributed by everyone dedicated to the saint.
Adorned with bread in the shape of a cross, other typical dishes include typically include meatless recipes: minestrone soup, pasta with breadcrumbs, fish, lentils, stuffed artichokes, breads, sfinge (think of a ball of puffed fried dough with powdered sugar), honey balls, and fava beans and an orange.
Why fava beans?
They’re considered lucky because the fava bean crop thrived while other crops failed during the drought. Many feast tables are decorated with a stalk of lily blossoms, votive candles and a lace cloth.
Many area restaurants, churches and community centers will be feeding the masses on the 19th: Gigi’s Cucina Povera, Templeton Landing, Ilio DiPaolo’s, Frank’s Sunny Italy, Militello’s, Tappo, The Armory, Sinatra’s among others.
Several celebrations benefit needy families in the community.
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Gangway for Gluttony: Cruising for Foodie Adventures on the Water

One of the best things about vacations is eating and drinking whatever want whenever I want. Earlier this month, we embarked on a Royal Caribbean cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale. We headed to Belize and Cozumel, praying for warm weather and sunny skies and lots of quality food choices.
I started out with dessert for breakfast, feasting on a delicious platter of candy—dark chocolate, cocoa sticks, sweets drenched in rich fudge, to name a few. Goes great with that morning cup of Joe!
Each day and each meal, we had a veritable cornucopia of choices, many with a creative flair.
Some of my favorite dishes included the seafood salad, a pair of unusual soups: banana rum and roasted peach and another uncommon breakfast item: kippers and potatoes with rye toast and eggs.
We checked out daily the smorgasbord of choices as well. While not a buffet fan in general, I was pleasantly surprised by the wide range of choices in the ship’s dining rooms, including an array of ethnic choices—Indian, English, Japanese, Italian. We discovered that the food reflects the ethnicities of the passengers and crew, who hail from all corners of the globe.   
The ship is a virtual floating city, which had me wondering how many pounds of food the staff produces to feed some 5,000 hungry crew and passengers. I got my food-stained hands on some fun food facts:
-125,000 meals are prepared per week, including 60,000 appetizers, 84,000 main courses 69,000 steaks, and 90,000 desserts
-13,000 pounds of beef, 8,000 pounds of chicken and 1,400 pounds of lobster are consumed each week
Also consumed per week:
-86,400 eggs
-1,500 pounds of coffee
-600 pounds of berries
-18,000 pounds of potatoes & 18,000 slices of pizza
-8,000 gallons of ice cream
-8,500 cans of beer
-11,500 cans of pop
-2,900 bottles of wine
A full running track circles the 12th deck and an enormous fitness center is available on the ship. It happens to be located on the 11th deck, also the location of the ship’s largest dining room. Someone has a sense of humor!

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Happy Valentine’s Day: Affairs of the Heart….And Stomach!

What do lentils, honey, oysters, bananas, and chocolate have in common? According to legend, they are culinary aphrodisiacs, perfect for Valentine’s Day, which falls on a Friday this year. Some of these have actually been verified by science:
Both Hippocrates and ancient Egyptians thought lentils would aid in male potency.  No wonder those little legumes are still popular.
Along the same lines, Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, popped out of the water on an oyster shell.  Oysters also rank high in zinc, a key element in testosterone production. 
Would you believe that even nutrient-rich bananas are among the foods offered to fertility gods in India? I just thought they were a great fit with peanut butter and hot fudge sundaes.
Montezuma is said to have imbibed in 50 cups of chocolate a day so he could take care of his harem. Guess Monty wasn’t concerned about calories, fat grams, or sexting.
When it comes to the restaurant industry, many capitalize on one of the biggest annual dining-out occasions in the U.S. Industry analysts say this year should be particularly beneficial since V. Day falls on a Friday and President’s Day occurs on the next Monday.
Many love-themed offers abound at this time of year. Carvel is offering a heart-shaped Chocolate Decadence cake, while Baskin-Robbins will sell Conversation Heart cakes in two sizes. Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Hortons have sprinkle-heart shaped donuts and chocolate-iced goodies in their lineup.
Salvatore’s Italian Gardens created a Chocolate Brunch menu, which they’re rolling out for the second Valentine’s Day in a row. Russell Salvatore, general manager of the venerable restaurant, said he and his sister Josette came up with the idea and figured it would be something “different and fun” for the dining public. 
It's a veritable feast with a chocolate twist: French Toast with a Chocolate Maple Sauce, pastries with chocolate chips, and even a tossed Salad with Blackberry-Chocolate Vinaigrette and Chocolate Bliss Waldorf Salad,  just to name a few. Other standard brunch dishes will be there for the taking too.
“The chefs all came up with the menu and added chocolate with all that we thought could work,” Russell explained.
Table for two, please!
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Tip of the Week: Apples

Apple skins contain vitamins and antioxidants that can improve your overall health, lower your cholesterol and even reduce your risk of serious diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, asthma, and diabetes. The chemical behind the apple skin’s waxy shine is being credited with a host of health benefits from building and maintaining muscle to keeping the lid on your weight by keeping your blood sugar stabilized.
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Do You Recognize These Annoying Food Habits?

I had the "Today Show" on as I was getting ready for work the other day. My ears perked up when I heard them talking about annoying lunch habits of co-workers.

It got me thinking about places I’ve worked and the irritating things that some of us do on a regular basis. Hmmm, it also has me wondering if I am guilty of some of the most common infractions as well.

For the past few weeks, I have been eating an apple every afternoon at my desk. Do my robust, crunchy bites annoy the other people around me in cube city? I tend to time my bites when it’s noisy in the office so as not to disturb anyone. I am cognizant of any noise and gross sounds but have been in situations in previous work places where the habits of others are sometimes cringe-inducing and downright disgusting.

Some of the examples cited in the show and in blogs include noisy eaters who insist on chewing and talking with their mouths full. Thanks, but I’d rather not see your masticated lunch flailing around in your mouth. Lip smackers are a close relative of this gross custom.

Have you run into people who insist on re-heating seafood, popcorn, cabbage, and spicy aromatic foods in the microwave? At another workplace, I remember smelling salmon from morning to night one week as the odor permeated the entire first floor.  In another situation, the whole office had to evacuate the building after someone insisted on burning popcorn yet again.

Another habit that drives me up the wall? The slurpers, who noisily consume their liquids, whether it’s soup, coffee, pop, water or whatever beverage they’re loudly swallowing. A little decorum here, please.

Leaving food, crumbs and wrappers and boxes for others to clean up is another pet peeve, but that is a column unto itself. Same goes for dry food left in dishes in cups in the sink.

What a way to lose an appetite!
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Tip of the Week: Calories

Ever since we learned what a calorie was we have been told they are all alike but that’s not true at all.

I was told whether you eat 500 calories worth of celery stalks or tiramisu, your body will burn or store them equally. Right?

Wrong. New science shows that when it comes to weight loss, calories are nowhere near alike; it’s about the way food impacts your body. Plus some foods like vegetables, fruits and whole grains require more energy to eat and burn more calories while you’re digesting them – you can burn up to 30% more calories!
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A Few Things Simmering on the Front & Back Burners

  • For the second year in a row, the weather was rainy for part of the day at the Taste of Williamsville, held Sunday, August 7 at Island Park in the village. The skies were threatening when we arrived in the late afternoon, but it didn’t deter a good-sized crowd from sampling some terrific food from 20 local eateries. Kudos to Al Yates and the other organizers who added new restaurants, a classic car show, and a seating area under the pavilion, which proved to be a good move given the intermittent showers. I also liked how many of the vendors had delicious choices that weren’t necessarily gut-busting. I loved the Caprese Salad on a skewer from 800 Maple, the refreshing Mango Lassi from Kabab & Curry, and the peanut butter gelato from Sweet Melody’s. If I were designating an overall winner, I would agree with the judges, who awarded Milo’s Rookie-of-the Year. I had a sampler of their fresh and fabulous dips and pita, spinach pies, rice pudding and grape leaves. Outstanding! Can’t wait for next year’s edition, the 24th annual, under sunny skies for a change.
  • Have you been to Thursday in the Tent at the Ramada Hotel on N. Forest in Getzville? My hubby and I met another couple there last week; we enjoyed a wonderful picnic menu and free music courtesy of Soul Providers, a live band rocking hard under a large tent in the park-like setting outside the hotel. I ordered off the Embers menu (the restaurant inside the hotel) while my dining mates all enjoyed picnic fare and great appetizers like veggie empanadas and cheeseburgers from the barbecue menu, cooked outdoors by the patio. Drink specials are available and the festivities run from 6 – 9 pm each Thursday through Sept. 1st. With the proliferation of outdoor seating and patios, it’s a wonder more businesses don’t do what Rick DiVita and his company have done at the Ramada. We had a terrific time dining al fresco and soaking up every bit of summer weather.
  • Heads up on the upcoming Local Restaurant Week. Dry clean your bib and enjoy the fall edition of Western New York Restaurant Week, running from September 26 through October 2.
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Tip of the Week: Why Organic?

While organic foods are often more expensive, they could be worth the extra bucks. Here's a list of the "dirty dozen," which may make you want to reach for the organic alternatives:
  • Nectarines – 97.3% of nectarines sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Celery – 94.5% of celery sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Pears – 94.4% of pears sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Peaches – 93.7% of peaches sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Apples – 91% of apples sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Cherries – 91% of cherries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Strawberries – 90% of strawberries sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Imported Grapes – 86% of imported grapes (i.e. Chile) sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Spinach – 83.4% of spinach sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Potatoes – 79.3% of potatoes sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Bell Peppers – 68% of bell peppers sampled were found to contain pesticides.
  • Red Raspberries – 59% of red raspberries.
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