Political Shorts and a Hot Dog Stand

1. Schneiderman Kickoff

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman kicked off the WNY leg of his 2014 re-election campaign in Niagara Square on Tuesday, flanked by a wide variety of politicians, activists, and union leaders from throughout the area, some of whom don’t always get along (more on that later). Throughout his first term, the former State Senator from New York’s Upper West Side has brought a new energy to the Attorney General’s office, with his most significant focus being the protection of the average consumer from predatory, unfair, and deceptive business practices.

After glowing speeches from former Congresswoman Kathy Hochul and Mayor Byron Brown, Schneiderman was introduced by Avi Israel, an average guy from North Buffalo. Israel’s son, Michael, tragically committed suicide a few years ago in part  because he was taking several prescription medications that different doctors had prescribed.  Because there was no mechanism in place for the physicians to see what others had prescribed, and at the time of his suicide, Michael was taking about 20 different medications

With Schneiderman’s help and lobbying, New York passed the I-STOP prescription monitoring program last year. The program requires providers to review a patient’s medical history before prescribing any opioid pain medication. It also requires any such medications to be e-prescribed, and the filling of any prescription by a New York pharmacy updates the database in real time. This has decreased doctor-shopping in New York by an incredible 75%

Just this week, the AG’s office cut a deal with Wal*Mart over a fraudulent “sugar tax” it was levying on sales of soda

Schneiderman’s opponent is hitting the incumbent on his silence over the Moreland Commission debacle. But consider this

I think you may have heard that that is the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and I don’t comment on ongoing investigations,” Schneiderman told reporters in Schenectady, where he announced $20 million for a land bank initiative. “My office is cooperating with the United States Attorney and we’ll leave it at that.”

Schneiderman has said little about the Moreland Commission’s demise or whether he knew about claims that Cuomo’s administration was interfering in the panel’s work and steering them away from Cuomo’s allies.

Schneiderman’s office deputized the members of the commission, and has been cooperating with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office in connection with its ongoing investigation. Meanwhile, Schneiderman’s opponent touts his work with George Pataki, a governor who didn’t need to shut down his own investigation into public corruption because it never made its way to his agenda. 

For his part, Schneiderman noted that his office had prosecuted over 50 cases of public employees and electeds stealing taxpayer money and abuse of power. 

2. Scratch that!

State Sellout Tim Kennedy is not challenging Jeremy Zellner for the chairmanship of the Erie County Democratic Committee at this Saturday’s re-organization meeting. Instead, it will be Amherst Town Councilman Mark Manna. Manna reportedly has the backing of Mike Deely from NYSUT, State Sellout Tim Kennedy, and Mayor Byron Brown. 

This is all very interesting mostly because Zellner and ECDC endorsed Brown’s re-election campaign last year on the express condition and guarantee that the Mayor would back Zellner’s re-election as chairman. That’s honor for you. I’m not 100% sure what it is about Steve Pigeon’s track record of running the party in the late 90s is so desirable to people, so it must come down to who doles out the jobs, and possibly something to do with the judicial nominations. There’s no other objectively rational explanation. 

I like Mark, so I’m not going to bash him, but I will say this: Zellner’s opposition is running on a “peace and progress” platform. It seems to me that Erie County Democrats could easily have had peace and progress over the course of the last decade if there wasn’t a conspiratorial opposition working feverishly to sabotage the county committee every so often. A group of malcontents (Deely, for example, was for Teachout/Wu and now he’s aligned with people who sell out to the GOP regularly?) conspiring in Steve Pigeon’s house to overthrow the guy they’ve been working feverishly to weaken over the last few years is hardly the picture of party unity anyone needs. This time, at least, they don’t have Governor Cuomo’s blessing or support. 

Let it be clear: if you hand over the reins of the party committee to Steve Pigeon, the last things you’ll get are peace or progress. 

3. Grisanti Staying In The Race

State Senator Mark Grisanti remains on the Independence Fusion Party’s ballot, and dammit he’s got bank, and he’s gonna spend it. Right now, it would be a 4-way race involving Grisanti, Marc Panepinto on the (D) line, Kevin Stocker on the (R) line, and Timothy Gallagher (who?) on the Conservative Fusion Party line. Stocker and Gallagher split the gun-fetish vote, so look for Stocker to somehow wrangle the Conservative Fusion line in the next few weeks. With Stocker picking up the anti-Cuomo vote, Grisanti and Panepinto duke it out for the general electorate, which is overwhelmingly Democratic, but not especially liberal. 

126,000 people voted in 2012, and turnout might be about that high, given the gubernatorial race. But when Paladino ran in 2010, only 65,000 people voted overall, and Grisanti narrowly beat incumbent Antoine Thompson. 2012 gave voters a chance to express their outrage at Grisanti’s same sex marriage vote, and 2014 gives the NY SAFE Act opponents a similar opportunity. But Grisanti can tout the fact that both major parties have rejected him and posit himself as the centrist alternative to ultra-left-wing Panepinto and extreme right-wing Stocker. Don’t count Grisanti out just yet. In November,  the tea party’s influence is significantly more diluted than it was in September. 

4. How hard is it to operate a bridge,

for God’s sake? The Peace Bridge is the steel emblem of western New York. It is our physical connection to a huge, wealthy Canadian marketplace, and stands as a symbol of political gridlock, secrecy, inaction, failure, and idiocy. 

5. Reverse Cowdog Taken?

The contrived use of shipping containers – whatever. But I quite literally hate everything else about this “Dog e Style” from the name, to the font, to the sign, to the mascot. Get it? The hot dog is wearing a tux, so is “é” “is” in Portuguese? But the double entendre is “doggy style”, which will make parents of pre-adolescents cringe the hell away from that place because, really. The day my kid asks to get a “gourmet” hot dog at a place pronounced “doggy style” is not a day that will ever happen. 

Via @buffalovebirds at Twitter

Via @buffalovebirds at Twitter


Mercado Revolution

The people behind Mercado Revolution are friends of mine. They’ve done an amazing job collecting wonderful experiences throughout the world, and they want to bring some of what they’ve experienced here to western New York.  But it hasn’t just been as facile as checking out markets and copying what they observe – they’ve done proper research and spoken with the people who run these facilities and operate the stalls. They have a particular vision, and if they pull it off it’ll be magnificent.  

I have no doubt that they’ll pull it off, because Jeremy Horwitz, formerly of Buffalo Chow and currently of iLounge, is especially diligent and has a knack for knowing what will succeed, and making it so. 

I haven’t been to Spain since before I was a teenager, but Mercado is not going to necessarily look like other markets with which you’re familiar – it won’t be like the Broadway Market or St Lawrence or Rochester. It will be…

Western New York’s first culinary bazaar. Built on the solid foundations of Spanish markets such as Madrid’s Mercado de San Miguel and Barcelona’s Mercat de La Boqueria, and informed by successful American versions such as Washington, D.C.’s Union Market, Mercado will be a fantastic place to eat, drink, and participate in the global food revolution. 

Imagine a marketplace that would offer some of the best quality food in WNY all under one roof, and on top of that it would have spots for pop-ups and opportunities for chefs and purveyors to collaborate and experiment.  On top of all that, Mercado is bringing Scott Kollig, a talented young chef, home to WNY. Kollig is Chef de Partie at Jose Andres’ exclusive, modernist Washington, DC restaurant Minibar

“Good food changes things. One new dish can define a city. One new restaurant can revitalize a neighborhood. One new drink can turn an obscure bar into a tourist destination for a century. One new destination – if it’s truly wonderful – can get residents excited, attact tourists, and change a city.

We’re going to create something truly wonderful for Western New York.”

One of the myriad inspirations for this idea is a restaurant that Horwitz and his family experienced in Asheville, NC called Curate. It was opened in the mountains of western North Carolina by veterans of Ferran Adria’s El Bulli and Jose Andres’ Washington flagship restaurants, and it’s gained national recognition. Asheville isn’t a big city or, necessarily, a cosmopolitan one, but it’s become something of a foodie paradise. Like Asheville, Buffalo has a wonderfully burgeoning food scene that’s light-years ahead of what existed a dozen years ago. Its metropolitan area has less than half the population of Erie County, and median household income is $32,000; in Buffalo, it’s $49,000. The conditions here are ripe for something like Mercado. 

Mercado is happening, and it is running a Kickstarter right now to raise money for equipment and build-out. The $150k ask is ambitious, but this is a huge and exciting project. A Kickstarter doesn’t just raise money, it creates buzz, gets people excited, makes them feel like they’re part of a new revolution.

Above all, though, Mercado would be really fun. A curated group of the best of the best in WNY, all of whom would be encouraged to experiment and collaborate. 

Check it out below, and follow along on Twitter


Stuffing Waffles

Next week is Thanksgiving, during which we give thanks for our good tidings in a reasonably non-theistic way. Over the years, I’ve come to the realization that roasted turkey sort of sucks. It’s not whether it comes out dry or moist – it’s just that it’s a somewhat flavorless bird whose preparation we often overcomplicate. Remember a few years ago when everyone was buying the massive Ziploc bags and brine kits from Williams Sonoma? All it did was make the bird exquisitely salty. 

My wife agrees with me about turkey, so we’ve been known to substitute out a lobster dinner or a beef Wellington or something because you don’t need a turkey to give thanks, and even Tevye was pragmatic enough to eschew tradition. 

I do, however, enjoy the accouterments – the stuffing, the cranberry sauce, gravy and whatnot that goes with the turkey. But to top it all off, I came across a recipe in Serious Eats (from which I got the whole Kettlepizza/Baking Steel idea) that we are absolutely trying next week, and I pass it along to you, so it might become “viral” as the kids say. 

Stuffing waffles. Not stuffing made from waffles – waffles made from stuffing. Here is what they look like, served with some gravy and maple syrup (because maple syrup goes wonderfully with many savory foods): 

Via Serious Eats

Writer Kenji Lopez-Alt’s favorite Thanksgiving thing is stuffing, and his favorite part of the stuffing are the crispy edges. So, if you take a sausage stuffing recipe and use it in a waffle iron – presto, you get the best thing the best way. The article that describes the process is here.  Here is the recipe for the process itself. Here is the recipe for the underlying sausage stuffing recipe. Here is the recipe for his simple turkey gravy

Enjoy and let me know if you try it and how it comes out.

More Pizza

Recently, my pizza hobby was the subject of a Buffalo News write-up. Well, yesterday I got to try out a new device born out of a brilliant collaboration between the people behind the KettlePizza and the company behind the Baking Steel. They are, coincidentally, both Massachusetts-based companies that did not collaborate until now. Their products are proudly made in the USA.

Before, I used the Kenji Lopez-Alt hack, where a Baking Steel was positioned on the top grate, on top of the KettlePizza, and then covered with tin foil. The unique properties of the steel help radiate heat downward to get the tops of the pizza done – always a tricky thing when most of the heat is coming up from below. Now, thanks to the KettlePizza and Baking Steel people getting to know each other, I have this:

That’s the new Baking Steel that will soon be available as an add-on. (UPDATE: It’s available now). The folks at KettlePizza sent me one gratis to get my thoughts on it. I used one chimney of briquettes, a bit of hardwood charcoal, and two pieces of wood – one with the coals, shoved as far back as possible, and one sawed in half that was placed in the back basket. I tried to keep as little heat directly under the stone as possible, and the results with the new setup were fantastic.

For instance, here’s a “before” (onions, cheese, fried eggplant, sauce):

Here’s the “after”:

The tops got done better and faster than before, and it was infinitely easier to do set-up and to add fuel as the heat began to go down.

Best of Buffalo: Food Dissent

The Artvoice Best of Buffalo 2013 winners were announced Monday, and I suppose it’d be gracious to congratulate the winners, so congratulations. 

But voters, jeez have I got some bones to pick with you. 

Fat Bob’s Smokehouse

Best BBQ? Fat Bob’s location might be swell, and its food may be passable, and it might have a lively bar scene, but best BBQ in Buffalo? Absolutely not. The best BBQ joint in Buffalo is Suzy Q’s – hands down, and it’s not even a competition. This scrappy little joint up near the GM Powertrain plant is a diamond in the rough, which serves up smoked pork, beef, chicken, and Polish sausage that’ll make your taste buds sing and a grown man weep. 

Betty’s Restaurant

Not quibbling with this result, although it’s not my first choice. But do people even do brunch anymore? Is this still a thing? 

Grover’s Bar & Grill

This is a knee-jerk reaction people have, but it’s totally wrong. Grover’s had burgers the size of frisbees, but although the meat is still big, it’s not like it used to be. At a recent visit, the meat was gray and dry and totally unsatisfying, especially given the lengthy wait. Ruzzine’s Rock Bottom directly across the street is infinitely better.  The Roaming Buffalo makes a fantastic burger. Vizzi’s is good. People swear by the Sterling Place Tavern. But Grover’s? Only in your memories, not in real life. 

Mighty Taco

Mighty Taco deserves to be on no list. It is emergency food; when you’re too broke or too drunk to eat anywhere else. 

SPoT Coffee

If I can make it better at home, it doesn’t belong on a “best of” list. I can make better coffee at home. 

Lake Effect Diner

I have a problem with Tucker Curtin after his lobbying against the food trucks. I’m not a big fan of rewarding anticompetitive behavior. 

Papa Jake’s Saloon

Wiechec’s. But really, best fish fry is who can best dip a frozen fish from SYSCO into a Pitco Frialator. 

Anderson’s Frozen Custard

Are you out of your mind Buffalo? Anderson’s is fine, but my God the ambiance in there is 70s Burger King. The ice cream is ok, but it’s not the best in Buffalo. The best ice cream being made in WNY right now is Lake Effect Ice Cream out of Lockport. They make wonderful, rich ice creams and create innovative flavors.  Get your heads out of your asses. Hell, even for custard, Abbott’s and Hibbard’s are way batter. 

Chef’s Restaurant

I love Chef’s as much as the next fat white guy, but it’s not the best Italian food in WNY. Not by a long shot. It is a spaghetti parm factory. San Marco (caution: annoying noise)? Mulberry? Lombardo’s

Amy’s Place

I’m not in college anymore, so The Original Pancake House

La Nova

Not remotely. Romeo & Juliet’s, Trattoria Aroma, Siena, 800 Maple, Rocco’s, La Hacienda of Niagara Falls, Pizza Oven, Elm St Bakery all make pizza that’s head and shoulders above La Nova’s floppy stuff. 

Jim’s Steakout

I don’t know from after 2am, but the best subs are at DiBellas and Weggies

Russell’s Steaks, Chops & More

There’s room for improvement. 

That’s it. Get it together, Buffalo. Don’t make me tell you how to vote next year. 

Trader Joe’s in a Wegmans World

Trader Joe’s is coming to that huge shopping center in Amherst on Niagara Falls Boulevard where everything new to WNY always goes. Best Buy, Christmas Tree Shops, Carrabba’s, Panera Bread, and Chipotle all help to make that place impossible to navigate.  It will be located near Barnes & Noble and Famous Footwear. 

Trader Joe’s started in California as a convenience store competitor to 7-11. To differentiate its stores from the national chain’s, it adopted a South Seas motif and started selling specialty items. 

Two brothers, Theo and Karl Albrecht, created the discount supermarket chain “Aldi” in West Germany after WW2, and were instrumental in its European – and later worldwide – expansion.  Theo and Karl had a disagreement in the 1960s over selling cigarettes, so they split Aldi geographically in Germany, with Theo running Aldi Nord.  In 1979, a family trust of which Theo was a member bought – and still owns – Trader Joe’s.  And if you think about it, Trader Joe’s is Aldi with better frozen foods, higher quality groceries, and a cute concept.

I saw lots of commentary yesterday about how we don’t need Trader Joe’s because we’re so blessed to have Wegmans, the best grocery store in the universe. Not taking away from Wegmans at all, but Trader Joe’s is different, just like Aldi is different. I don’t see Aldi struggling to make do in a Wegmans-heavy market; neither will TJ’s. 

Although Trader Joe’s won’t be able to sell wine in its New York stores, thanks to our idiotic, protectionist liquor laws, it sells a nice variety of craft beers, has a great coffee section, one of the best frozen sections you’ll ever see, fantastic chocolates, and plenty of healthy and organic items that are different or cheaper than what you’re used to.  It’s fun to browse around and check out the many good-quality, cheap private-label items they carry. 

I used to go to TJ’s all the time when I lived in Massachusetts and recently stopped in to the new location outside Rochester, which is coincidentally located in the shopping center immediately adjacent to the Wegmans mothership in Henrietta. I didn’t leave empty-handed. 

Welcome Trader Joe’s. We like good food and we like bargains. It would seem to me that you’re a perfect fit for WNY. My only question is – what took so long? 

Mike A vs. a Hater

One of the things I love about the contemporary internet is that I hold in my pocket, at any given time, a miniature touchscreen computer that’s always connected. If I’m on a road trip, and find myself in the middle of nowhere at mealtime, I have an easy way to research – on the go – a good local place that isn’t McDonalds or Subway.  

White Castle, however, is an exception. 

So, I have the Urbanspoon app, I use Yelp, and I use Chowhound to quickly look up what are good places to try that are off the Interstate, because travel should be about visiting other places, people, and things. 

Sometimes, however, these social review sites can invited bad behavior. Owners puff their joints while falsely driving down competitors’ ratings. Buyer beware is still in full effect. 

Back in early July, Buffalo Rising published a quick story about a Boston Globe writer praising local chef Mike Andrzejewski’s “Mike A’s at the Lafayette”. I’ve dined there, and although I have a few issues with the decor in particular, I thought it was outstanding. It’s easily one of the best special occasion/fine dining restaurants in Buffalo now. 

Some anonymous commenter posted a mockingly negative review of Mike A’s. It mirrors one that’s posted as a one-star review at Yelp – by someone with only one review listed. An anonymous reviewer also joined Urbanspoon on August 7th for the sole purpose of repeating the exact same review to that site. Clearly, someone with a vendetta. 

Usually, this would just be ignored or downvoted or similar. People are obviously entitled to their opinions, and to trash places where they had a bad experience. But here, there may have been more to the story, as Andrzejewski published his own scathing, exasperated, and indignant response. It’s worth a read, and it’s indicative of restaurateurs being able to put up with a lot of nonsense from horrible people, up to a point. 


Lloyd to Buffalo: Kickstart Our Second Truck!

Lloyd's Taco Truck No. 3

Lloyd's Taco Truck No. 3 by gmeadows1 on Flickr

First, it was the Community Beer Works that used crowd funding service Kickstarter to help finance its growth, now Lloyd Taco Truck is turning to Buffalo, using Kickstarter to help fund a second truck. From their press release: 

Moving forward on their quest to bring Western New York fresh and delicious food, the owners of Lloyd Taco Trucks launched a campaign today to purchase a second food truck, Lloyd Dos. Click here to view the web page. Using Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects, the effort will help mobilize customers and allow supporters to pool additional funds needed for the truck’s down payment. Patrons’ generosity will not go unnoticed, as they will receive enticing rewards for their participation.

“We are extremely grateful for the warm response we’ve received over the past year and a half,” said Peter Cimino, co-founder of Lloyd Taco Trucks. “We get requests to bring the truck to new locations on a daily basis. We wish we could satisfy our fans’ Lloyd cravings more often, so we are asking them to kindly support the cause and pledge at whatever level they are able.”

Kickstarter provides a means for business owners and entrepreneurs to offer unique products and experiences in exchange for monetary support. The system is “all or nothing funding,” which means a project must reach its goal before time runs out or receives nothing. Lloyd fans will have 30 days to pledge their support toward the company’s $12,500 goal.

“We imagined what would be most valuable to our fans, including exclusive and priceless offerings,” said Chris Dorsaneo, co-founder and chef of Lloyd. “Rewards include a year’s supply of burritos, a private five course meal with wine pairings, and even a Lloyd speed pass, which moves the bearer to the front of the line every time.”

Pledge levels start at $10 and offer a variety of accumulating rewards for each gift. All donors will get to sign the truck, receive a Lloyd bumper sticker and a free taco. Those pledging $2,000 or more will earn a catered party for up to 50 guests with a personalized menu featuring their favorite Lloyd specials.

About Lloyd Taco Trucks

Lloyd Taco Trucks is a traveling Buffalo food experience serving fun, fresh, Taquería style food. Childhood friends, Peter Cimino and Chris Dorsaneo, conceptualized Lloyd when they realized Western New York lacked palatable, affordable street food options. The timing was right when Dorsaneo moved back to Buffalo after working around the country in high end restaurants and resorts, and Cimino sought an entrepreneurial concept to take Buffalo by storm. Tomatillo pork tacos, braised beef burritos and tricked out nachos are the menu staples that keep hungry Buffalonians coming back for more. Lloyd has won many esteemed awards, including Artvoice’s “Best Street Food” and Buffalo Spree’s “Best Tacos in Western New York.”



A tip of the hat to the Buffalo News’ Colin Dabkowski, who Tweeted this: 

[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/colindabkowski/status/168714052506357760″]

Foodspotting is a social photography network where people share pictures of restaurant food. It’s useful to help you decide where you want to eat, and what you might be interested in ordering. Indeed, the top “noms” on Foodspotting for Toronto are “Xiao Long Bao” and “Chicken Karaage”. The top “noms” in Buffalo are chicken wings. Apart from a couple of dishes from Seabar, Blue Monk, and Sweetness 7, almost all of the Buffalo bests are wings and pizza. 

If you want to find out more about the use of social media in the local food scene, the Buffalo “Social Media Club” is hosting a panel discussion tonight at Artisan Kitchens & Baths at 200 Amherst Street from 6 – 8:30.  The Whole Hog and Roaming Buffalo food trucks will cater the event, which will feature discussions from:

  • Christa Seychew – Food editor at Buffalo Spree, Producer of Nickel City Chef series, and overall expert on local Buffalo food scene.
  • Donnie Burtless – Creator of BuffaloEats, one of the area’s premier restaurant review websites.
  • Beth Manos Brickey – Creator of Tasty-Yummies, a popular blog featuring mouth-watering recipes and beautiful food photography.
  • Deborah Clark – Owner of Delish Cooking School and Pasty shop, and advocate for social media use.


Tonight at Artisan Kitchen & Baths at 200 Amherst Street from 6 – 8:30pm, a fundraiser will be held to support a local farm that finds itself down on its luck. $30 gets you in. There will be an auction to raise money, a gaggle of chefs will prepare comestibles for your enjoyment, there’ll be music and a roomful of foodies with whom to mingle. 

Brought to you by the people behind Nickel City Chef, “A Big Fuss” is intended to be an annual event to benefit a local farm or farmer who finds himself down on his luck (or hers, as the case may be). The identity of the event’s largesse won’t be identified, as it would only do further harm to an already precarious situation. 


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