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Brenda's Bites

Mangia: One Foodie’s Adventure Through Italia!

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!

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame….and to the Cardiologist?

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.
Oh my.
It may be time for a savvy cardiology practice will offer discounted angioplasties to those in line!
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Topics : Hospitality_Recreation
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Locations : BuffaloTexas


Spring Into the 2015 Edition of Local Restaurant Week

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:
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!
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Is Your Table Set for Love & Romance?

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 five bay 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.
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Locations : ArizonaRomeValentine
People : Richard Cadbury


A Super Gorge of Football & Food

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!
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Topics : Sports
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People : Marshawn Lynch



As I peer out the window, the sun is shining, not a flake of snow is on the ground and the Secret Santa gifts at the station have all been exchanged.
Tis the season for holiday traditions, even if the weather is unseasonably warm, which usually means donning battle gear to find a parking space at the mall and navigate through the crowds, , decorating the house before major storms blow you off the ladder, and deciding how much of a workout your credit card can endure.
Sound like jingle-jangle fun?  
While the holidays have inherent stresses built in, the season is often an ideal time to enjoy family, friends and special customs, many of which involve my favorite thing—food!
Being a first generation Italian-American, I remember fondly the pizzele cookies my father would make. As the aroma, redolent of anise and butter, wafted through the house, I knew the warmth of the holiday season was upon us. My mother’s homemade raisin roll was another delicious guilty pleasure, and to this day, my willpower melts when Cucidatis (Italian fig cookies) are within arm’s reach.
Same is true whenever I’m near a bar that serves Tom & Jerry’s, the classic hot cocktail made with eggs, brandy, rum, sugar and spices. Good thing it’s only available around the holidays or I’d be waddling around tipsy all the time.
Thought you might enjoy some Christmas food trivia to digest as you’re relaxing after a big spread.  
  • Candy canes are a Christmas staple and on average 1.76 billion of the festive minty red and white sticks are made annually. That's enough candy canes to travel the distance between Santa Claus, Indiana, and North Pole, Arkansas, and back again 32 times.
  •  While statistics about fruitcake consumption are not widely available, one poll found that 38% of people give away their fruitcakes instead of eating them.
  • Figgy pudding, made from figs, bread crumbs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and milk, baked and topped with a scrumptious brandied hard sauce, custard icing, powdered sugar, or whipped cream, was immortalized in the song We Wish You a Merry Christmas and was served by Mrs. Cratchit in the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol.
  • Animal Crackers were introduced at Christmastime in 1902. The carrying string on the box was designed so it could be hung on a Christmas Tree.
Wishing you all the best for a happy holiday season, a healthy and prosperous new year and many good bites to come!
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Locations : ArkansasIndianaNorth PoleSanta Claus
People : Cratchit


Time to Talk Turkey this SNOWVEMBER

After a wild week of record-setting weather, this Thanksgiving offers a rare perspective on gratitude and sharing traditions—including platters of food—on this American holiday, first celebrated in the 1600s.
As you’re reflecting over a turkey sandwich and another helping of pie, you may want to stump your friends and family with some tasty Thanksgiving trivia and tidbits:
  • The average weight of a turkey purchased at Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, while the heaviest turkey ever raised was 86 pounds. 
  • A 15 pound turkey usually has about 70 percent white meat and 30 percent dark meat.
  • The National Turkey Federation has calculated that 88% of Americans have turkey on Thanksgiving. 
  • The five most popular ways to serve leftover turkey is as a sandwich, in stew, chili or soup, casseroles and as a burger. 
  • Turkey has more protein than chicken or beef. 
  • Turkeys will have 3,500 feathers at maturity. 
  • Male turkeys gobble. Hens do not. They make a clucking noise. 
  • Commercially raised turkeys cannot fly. (Ask the folks at WKRP in Cincinnati!) 
  • Turkeys have heart attacks. The United States Air Force was doing test runs and breaking the sound barrier. Nearby turkeys dropped dead with heart attacks. 
  • 20% of all cranberries consumed in the U.S. are eaten at Thanksgiving. 
  • Turkey was the first meal enjoyed by Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin when they were on the moon.
  • The first Thanksgiving was the only Thanksgiving between the 52 Pilgrims and the 50 Native Americans, and it was a secular event. It wasn't until 1775 that the Continental Congress made the first national celebration of Thanksgiving.
  • Since President Harry Truman, the White House tradition has been to pardon two turkeys on Thanksgiving Day. (Make your own jokes here.)
Source: Latin Times, WHSV
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Locations : Cincinnati
People : Harry TrumanNeil Armstrong


Saluting Our Retired & Active Military Personnel

A feast of freebies is on the menu for the men and women who have served our country or who are currently active.
A wide variety of businesses, including many fast-food, fast casual and sit-down eateries, are offering everything from a cup of coffee to full meals as the nation prepares to commemorate Veteran’s Day on the 12th.
Many of the promotions kick off Saturday and run through the holiday. The promotion benefits both military members and the food industry since Mondays and Tuesdays are typically the slow days of the week.  Most offers are available to active, inactive and retired personnel who can show identification.
Here is a list of area eateries that are promoting patriotism and creating opportunities for their business:
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Free tall brewed coffee for veterans, active duty service members, and spouses.
Texas Roadhouse
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Free Lunch (includes choice of Coca-Cola product, Iced Tea/Sweet Tea or coffee)
Choose from: 6 oz. Sirloin Steak with two sides, Country Fried Chicken with two sides, Country Fried Sirloin with two sides, Pulled Pork Dinner with two sides, Grilled Pork Chop (Single) with two sides, All-American Cheeseburger with fries, BBQ Chicken Sandwich with fries, Pulled Pork Sandwich with fries, Grilled Chicken Salad, or Chicken Critter Salad.
Ponderosa Steakhouse
Monday, November 17, 2014
Free buffet.
Quaker Steak & Lube
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
All company restaurants will offer a 50% discount to active and retired military serviceman who visit the restaurant. This excludes tax, alcohol, gratuity and retail. Additional locations will offer various discounts.
Red Lobster
Monday, November 10 through Thursday, November 13, 2014
Free appetizer. Choices include Crispy Shrimp Lettuce Wraps, Sweet Chili Shrimp, Parrot Isle Jumbo Coconut Shrimp, Lobster-Artichoke-and-Seafood Dip, Lobster-Crab-and-Seafood-Stuffed Mushrooms, Lobster Pizza, Chilled Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, Crispy Calamari and Vegetables, Mozzarella Cheesesticks, White-Wine-and-Roasted-Garlic-Mussels, and Shrimp Nachos.
Red Robin
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Free Tavern Double burger with Bottomless Steak Fries.
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Complimentary Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake dessert
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Free Build Your Own Grand Slam
5 am until noon
Famous Dave’s
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
Free One Meat Salute. Choose from one meat, a corn muffin, and a side.
Outback On November 11th, Outback  is honoring all active and retired military personnel with a free Bloomin’ Onion and a Beverage by showing a valid military ID at participating restaurants.
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Scaring Up Some Halloween Food Facts

Halloween is many things—costumes, parties, candy, truly a big money maker for a variety of enterprises. Halloween is now this county’s second largest commercial holiday next to Christmas.
Thought you might enjoy some tasty tidbits on the origins and traditions of this ancient holiday, many of which will make your dentist happy!


·Trick-or-treating evolved from the ancient Celtic tradition of putting out treats and food to placate spirits who roamed the streets at Samhain, a sacred festival that marked the end of the Celtic calendar year.


·The first Jack O’Lanterns were actually made from turnips.

  • Each year 2 billion dollars is spent on Halloween candy.
  • More than 35 million pounds of candy corn will be produced this year. That equates to nearly 9 billion pieces -- enough to circle the moon nearly four times if laid end-to-end.
  • What's the most popular Halloween candy? Snickers--it tops the list for trick-or-treaters.
  • Tootsie Rolls were the first wrapped penny candy in America.
  • Did you know that chocolate is better for your teeth than hard candy? Chocolate rinses more easily from the mouth by saliva, leaving it in contact with teeth for a shorter time. Chocolate also contains tannins, which inhibit the action of cavity-causing bacteria.
  • More than 10 percent of annual candy sales happen the days leading up to Halloween -- that is nearly $2 billion dollars in sales.
  • The top selling candy: Candy Corn. Americans purchase over 20 million pounds of it a year, though it is unlikely that every last one of those millions of candies was actually consumed.
  • After the beloved Candy Corn, the leading best sellers are as follows: Snickers, Reese's, Kit Kat and M&M'S.
  • Event though the economy is tightening everyone's budget, that does not stop them from splurging a bit on this one holiday. The average American household spends $44 a year on Halloween candy.
  • Did you know that pumpkin is the best source of vitamin A among all canned fruits and vegetables? With just a half a cup serving, you enjoy three times the recommended daily requirement.
  • The biggest pumpkin pie on record was baked by the New Breman Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio in 2005. After baking for five hours in a special oven, it weighed 2,020 pounds and measured 12 feet, 4 inches wide and 4 inches deep.
  • Bobbing for apples is thought to have originated from the roman harvest festival that honors Pamona, the goddess of fruit trees.
Source: HuffPost Food, Bread Plus Butter
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Locations : Ohio
People : Candy Corn


Here’s the Dish: Local Restaurant Week Kicks Off October 20th

Time to feed your curiosity, map out a plan, and break the chain! Chain restaurants, that is.
Seems like I’m still working off the Spring LRW, but it’s time for the Fall edition of the biannual celebration foodies fantasize about: Local Restaurant Week, running from October 20 – 26, 2014.
This all-consuming 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 shapes.
Food features starting at $20.14 encourage diners to skip national chain restaurants in favor of supporting local independents.  Profits from each dollar spent at our locally-owned, independent restaurants stay right here in WNY and make our community stronger. And it gives you a chance to try places that you’ve been curious to experience.
Like many foodies, I’m plotting out my plan for a week’s worth of food fun. I will always patronize independent, locally-owned restaurants because I like to support people who are putting food on their table by putting food on my table.
Here are a few fun facts to further chew on:
  • LRW is one of the largest promotions in the country.
  • $8 million annual local economic impact.
  • Local food service is the area’s 2nd largest employer.
  • Encourages restauranteurs to support local vendors.
Here’s the website, which is updated daily:  or follow on Facebook,
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