It's America's birthday! The quintessential American holiday happens to fall on a Saturday this year. How great is an Independence Day that involves sunny, hot weather—no small thing considering all the rain and wind we've had this year—and a long weekend for many of us? Of course, food is a major element for this summer milestone, much of it traditional in nature. While American taste buds seem to be constantly evolving thanks to the advent of new flavors, ethnic cuisines, and farm-to-table menu items, the 4th seems to be a day to feature the time-honored foods we associate with summer. Thought you might enjoy chewing on some food facts as you fire up the grill and proudly fly the red, white and blue and watch the fireworks:
Picnic food dominates as the favorite food of Americans, with burgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs leading the picnic parade.
Independence Day is the biggest grilling date of the year, with Memorial Day a close second.
Americans consume 155 million hot dogs on July 4th, more than any other day of the year.
700 million pounds of chicken are bought the week before Independence Day.
Nearly half of the baked beans we eat come from North Dakota, big producer of dry and edible legumes annually.
There's a 1 in 6 chance that the beef that's consumed came from Texas, the USA's leader in calves and cow production.
Independence Day is the #1 beer holiday, including buying swerving, and yes, drinking our brews.
Source: Food Navigator
When I took a survey of what my friends were planning on enjoying, the clear winners were consistent with this All-American cuisine. Here are some of their responses:
"Hot dogs with everything but the kitchen sink on it. I'll diet Monday!"
"Deviled eggs, some with olives, others with pimentos."
"Dogs, burgers, potato salad, chips and pop."
More than 450,000 hungry people are expected to converge on Delaware Avenue and Niagara Square on July 11th and 12th for the 32nd annual Taste of Buffalo, come rain or shine. “Fun by the Forkful” will feature 57 eateries, including 11 new restaurants and two food trucks. The pricing is consistent from year-to-year: all items are cost between a buck and $4. For the second straight year, a lawn-fete style beer tent will be open until 11 p.m. on Saturday with live music.
“The Taste of Buffalo, presented by TOPS Markets, is one of Western New York’s biggest summer events. After this long, cold winter, we’re more excited than ever to bring an outdoor celebration to downtown Buffalo,” said Laura Jacobs, 2015 chairman. “The event draws a mix of local visitors, Buffalo expats returning home to visit and even tourists looking for a foodie adventure,” remarked Jacobs at a Taste press conference today previewing the gluttonous graze.
It is the nation’s largest two-day food festival. It’s possible to attend the festival and still eat a healthy diet. Did you know the Taste of Buffalo is the only food fest in the U.S. that requires all participating restaurants to offer a healthy menu item? Those samples are lower in fat, cholesterol and sodium.
Not only will thousands of people stuff their bellies with cuisines from all corners of the globe, including our own backyard, but the festival will continue to raise money for local charities and scholarships funds. So far, the Taste of Buffalo has served up in excess of $275,000 for area causes and five $1,000 scholarships are presented annually to local high school seniors pursuing a a culinary or hospitality degree.
My Taste advice: Start exercising now as you map out your festival fun by downloading the guide and map at www.tasteofbuffalo.com.
The traditional Greek greeting that means “hooray” is an apt term for the beginning of the rich festival season in our region. The 37th Buffalo Greek Fest lit up the corner of Delaware and W. Utica in Buffalo this past weekend as the Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Annunciation hosted the popular event for another year.
We worked through the throngs of people Sunday amid the authentic music pouring from the Greek dancers and musicians under the main tent. Event chairman Jeff Gianiodis was thrilled that the weather gods smiled upon the three day festival. They had not been so lucky in previous years. At least this year, patrons weren’t warming up by the Saganaki booth, the stand that features flaming cheese.
Gianiodis said 1,800 pounds of chicken and 1,400 pounds of beef are brought in for the Fest, with 1,000 pounds for the pork used for the souvlaki on a stick. Authentic beer from Athens was a new item that was obviously popular. The suds sold out by Sunday afternoon.
The combo platters—pastitsio, moussaka, spanakopita and tiropita—are my favorite along with the fresh, crunchy salad that provides a solid bed for the marinated chicken souvlaki and warm half-moon of pita bread.
Then it was on to the star of the show: Loukoumades, the addicting, light fried dough balls dipped in honey and sprinkled with cinnamon. No matter how hard I resist, I can’t stop dipping into the overflowing container of warm Honey Balls.
Not only is the food authentic and delicious, but the dedication and hours of work invested by so many volunteers is truly heartwarming. From grandparents to youngsters, countless members of the church, along with other helpers, pitch in to make this event one of the highlights of the busy festival season.
Music, dancing, culture and, of course, the food! It’s no surprise that the Greek Festival is nearly four decades old and going strong year after year.
The two busiest days for restaurants and bars are Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. No surprise there, but it seems like Mother’s Day is more crowded—and perhaps more lucrative for those businesses—because mom’s day usually involves more than two people at the table.
You may find yourself standing outside because the lines are so long at your favorite breakfast spots or drinking away the delay at a fine dining or casual restaurant this Sunday. But the anticipation of a big crowd doesn’t typically deter people from celebrating the holiday.
Here are a few fun facts to nibble on as you prepare to honor that special lady:
According to the National Restaurant Association’s survey:
·38 percent of consumers plan to dine out on Mother’s Day.
·7 percent plan on getting restaurant takeout or delivery.
In addition, the new research shows that of consumers who plan to have a celebratory restaurant meal on Mother’s Day:
·62 percent will select a casual dining restaurant.
·25 percent will opt for fine dining.
·15 percent will choose a buffet-style restaurant.
·8 percent say they plan to go to a fast casual restaurant.
·2 percent will opt for traditional quick service.
About half of the diners opt for dinner out, followed by lunch and brunch. Take-out dining is on the menu, too, with about half deciding to forego the in-restaurant experience.
What do pretzels have to do with Catholic monks and the institution of marriage? A lot as it turns out. As we put a wrap on National Pretzel Day, munch on these fun facts:
Pretzels are believed to be the oldest snack in the world, dating back to 610 AD when European monks took scraps of dough and twisted them into a shape representing the Holy Trinity! Did you know the phrase “tying the knot,” symbolizing the marriage bond, was represented by the shape of the pretzel?
Here are a few more twisted facts, courtesy of National Day Calendar:
Pennsylvania is the center of American pretzel production for both hard and soft pretzels, producing 80% of the nation’s pretzels.
The annual United States pretzel industry is worth over $550 million.
The average American consumes about 1.5 pounds of pretzels per year.
Philadelphia opened a privately run “Pretzel Museum” in 1993.
Hard pretzels originated in the United States in 1850.
The influence of pretzels is also seen in a new incarnation—pretzel bagels, rolls (think Tim Hortons and Wendy’s) and I’ve even seen pretzel pieces mixed in ice cream toppings. Seems the sweet and savory contrast is here to stay.
My all-time favorite snack is popcorn with hot nuts and dark chocolate mixed in, but flavored pretzels—BBQ, mustard, Cajun—rank as a strong runner up. Serve me up a soft, warm cinnamon sugar pretzel or a plain slathered with hot sauce and mustard and I’m a happy snacker.
For eight days earlier this month, I spent time visiting with family in Rome and L’Aquila, Italy. On the days when my relatives were working, my American family and I enjoyed some typical tourist experiences as well: Touring the “scavi” or excavation site of the Vatican’s papal mausoleums, spending time in the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, and exploring the historic delights of Pompeii and the shopping district in Sorrento. While dodging the chaos that is known as Roman traffic and the countless historic charms of my father’s homeland, I couldn’t help but think of the following saying: “One who eats well, lives well.” So much of the Mediterranean culture is based on food. As we wended our way from Rome to L’Aquila to Pompeii and Sorrento and back to Rome again, the times we shared a meal at trattorias, food trucks, and gelaterias were among the top highlights of the trip. Rooted in the old world, the menu items were often simple and comforting: homemade pasta with a fresh tomato and herb sauce, panini chock full of eggplant and fresh mozzarella, fried artichokes, roasted pork and potatoes. Even the gelato was light and simply prepared. I noticed, too, that a plate of olive oil was available on every table; no butter or margarine was in evidence. The most elaborate pasta dish we enjoyed was served at my cousin’s apartment. It was layers of tender noodles with a light meat sauce and sheets of gooey cheese. This was rich and delicious, but most of the other cuisine was less elaborate and less gut-busting! The other main ingredient in the mix? All intangibles and something we could take a page from – quality time together talking over a meal, inhaling and appreciating the aromas of the food, paying attention to each other instead of texting or watching TV as we eat, and not rushing through a fast food concoction that we barely remember downing. I think there are several restaurants—both intimate and large--in Western New York that represent that level of dining experience. From Lockport to Orchard Park to East Aurora to Clarence, the influence of the Italian culture is tastefully apparent. While the restaurants on this side of the pond are unique in their own way, I have experienced the magical dining times here that I felt some 3,000 miles away in the old country.
How fortunate we are that we can enjoy the fruits of generations of Italian culture and the very food itself here on the Niagara Frontier.
Mangia and enjoy!
Spring has finally sprung and after the record-setting relentless winter we just survived, the idea of activities we can enjoy in warmer weather really appeals to me. Of course, food is the focal point no matter the activity for me.
I’m looking forward to playing golf and tennis and also enjoying some down time at the ballpark. Popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks aren’t the only thing being served up this year at many stadiums this season.
Ballpark fare in the Lone Star State comes with a Buffalo twist. Delaware North, the locally-based food titan, is the concessionaire for the Rangers. They set up a new stand called State Fare, a tribute to famous items fried at the State Fair of Texas.
The star of the stand will be the Fried S'mOreo, marshmallows breaded in graham cracker crust that is deep fried, mixed with two deep-fried Oreos on a skewer and drizzled with chocolate sauce and Cool Whip.
Not in the mood for dessert?
How about a chicken-fried corn on the cob fried in a buttermilk batter? Or fried pickles, funnel cake fries and brisket macaroni-and-cheese balls?
Last season, the team sold hundreds of pieces of bacon on a stick and this year will offer up candied bacon, bacon cotton candy and bacon beer.
Everything may be bigger in Texas, but earlier this month, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that a Churro Dog will be on the menu. It’s a churro in a doughnut bun topped with frozen yogurt.
It may be time for a savvy cardiology practice will offer discounted angioplasties to those in line!
Another food fantasy is coming to fruition with the spring edition of Local Restaurant Week, running from March 9 – 15.
Here’s the dish: This fun feeding fest occurs each spring and fall throughout Western New York, which promotes our regional food culture and supports more than 200 locally-owned eateries of all sizes, ethnicities and menu choices. Food features starting at $20.15 encourage diners to break the chain restaurant habit and opt to eat at local independent places. Profits from each dollar spent stay right here in WNY, employ hundreds of people and make our community stronger and more culturally vital. And it gives you a chance to try places that you’ve been curious to experience.
The theme this spring is “Think Social. Eat Local.” And when you get together with your friends and family to enjoy tasty meals throughout our region, you can also do something to make the experience even more satisfying—help a hungry child receive an entire month of healthy meals! When you share photos from your dining experience, LRW will make a contribution in your honor to the Food Bank of WNY’s “Backpack for Kids,” a program that sends hungry kids home from school with a backpack full of wholesome food each week!
Here’s the website with more details on how to tweet or post your photos on Facebook: www.LocalRestaurantWeek.com.
So enjoy a variety of palate-pleasing food all week long and know that you’re supporting local eateries and hungry children. That’s a winning combo!
Does the name “Cadbury” ring a chocolate bell? Richard Cadbury invented the first Valentine’s Day candy box in the late 1800s.
When it comes to fun food facts, Valentine’s Day is filled with sweet talk of every variety, dating back hundreds of years.
Here are a few more to nibble on:
During the 17th century, a hopeful maiden ate a hard-boiled egg and pinned fivebay leaves to her pillow before going to sleep on Valentine's eve. It was believed this would make her dream of her future husband.
More than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate are sold for Valentine's Day each year.
On average, men shell out $130 each on candy, cards, jewelry, flowers and dates. That’s more than double what women commit to spending.
About 8 billion candy hearts will be produced this year; that’s enough candy to stretch from Rome, Italy to Valentine, Arizona 20 times and back again.
According to legend, lentils, honey, oysters, bananas, and chocolate are culinary aphrodisiacs.
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. Even nutrient-rich bananas are among the foods offered to fertility gods in India.
Montezuma is said to have imbibed in 50 cups of chocolate a day so he could take care of his harem.
In Japan, women are expected to give chocolate and other gifts to men on Valentine's Day. This tradition was started as a marketing campaign by Japanese chocolate companies. Men are expected to return the favor on March 14th, commonly known as White Day.
The Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate.
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 Saturday and President’s Day occurs on the next Monday.
Whether you’re discussing deflated balls or Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch’s taciturn demeanor as he meets the media, there’s more than pigskins on the mind of fans as Super Bowl Sunday approaches.
While I love me my football, I also love to chow down on Big Game Sunday.
Apparently I’m not alone.
Did you know that Super Bowl Sunday is the second largest day of food consumption behind Thanksgiving?
As you’re pondering which dip to dunk your chip in, consider these fun football food facts:
According to the American Institute of Food Distribution, Americans will consume more than one billion chicken wings, 120 million pounds of avocados and 2.5 million pounds of nuts.
The 120 million pounds of avocados is equal to 387,096 offensive linemen piled on top of each other (average weight of 310 lbs.).
As for chips, 14, 500 tons will be consumed, enough to fill 39 Boeing 747 airplanes!
325.5 million gallons of beer will go down the hatch. That’s a lot of suds, enough to flow over Niagara Falls for 7.2 minutes.
My favorite Super Sunday foods? Pizza and popcorn.
Apparently I’m not alone as 4 million pies – half an inch thick--will be consumed Sunday, which is the equivalent to 910 Leaning Towers of Pisa stacked on top of each other.
Popcorn for the big game could fill 13,571,428 buckets at your local AMC Theaters!
And let’s remember the goobers: 2.5 million nuts will be snacked on, meaning you could make 1.8 million jars of 12 oz. jars of peanut butter.
While the food and the multimillion dollar commercials are an enormous part of the fun for me, I also hope that the game is close and exciting. I don’t like either team, but being a long-suffering Bills fan, I’m rooting for the lesser of two evils. Go Seahawks!