Friday, July 12, 2013

Taste Of Buffalo 2013: Healthy Option Preview

Don't call me a kill joy. I love the Taste of Buffalo. A lot. It's the first event I put into my calendar when the new year hits and I countdown to all the deliciousness in one place. Besides sampling a bunch of new items each year, I always have a sample of Fat Bob's mac & cheese, used to love getting a Polish Villa pierogi (they are no longer a part of the event) and finding some ice cream from Nick Charlaps (Side note - This is my personal attempt to request the guys at Lake Effect Ice Cream join the fun next year. I'll work your booth, for free if you do!). 

This year though, for the first time, I'm going to attempt to do the Taste of Buffalo a little healthier. I have been doing a great job losing weight over the past month and a half (15 lbs. down and still going), and summer is always tough in Buffalo (or anywhere for that matter) because of festivals, summer picnics, and ice cream. 

It's not going to be easy. I'm not even entirely sure it's doable, but I'm going to try my best. Thanks to Independent Health and their mandatory, "healthy option" for each restaurant, I spent a lot of time investigating the choices and narrowing down some options for the health conscious Buffalonian who wants to enjoy all the fun without feeling left out. Fun fact: Special props to The Taste of Buffalo, as they are the ONLY food festival in the country that has the healthy option requirement! 

PLEASE NOTE: I don't know the fat or calorie content for most of these items. The Taste of Buffalo lists that to qualify as a "healthy option" it needs to have a lower fat, sodium and cholesterol count. I'm not sure how liberal they are with this, or the specific requirements. You can find out more information on the Healthy Options Buffalo website. 

Krystal's Top Five Healthy Finds:

Alex's Place Restaurant: Garlic Grilled Shrimp Skewers (7 tickets). 
*If you are a seafood lover, the shrimp skewers sound like a great pick for a low calorie option with a lot of flavor. 

Anderson's Frozen Custard: Loganberry Ice (3 tickets)
*According to the Anderson's website, 4.5 ounces of flavored ice is only 92 calories with no fat. Skip the ice cream and try a local flavor instead!

Go Veggies Cafe: Spinach Burger (8 or 4 tickets)
*I haven't checked out this cafe yet, but I'm excited there is another vegetarian option in Buffalo. The spinach burger sounds intriguing, and I'm looking forward to checking it out at the slider size (with only half the bun!)

Lloyd's Taco Truck: Krazy Korn (6 or 4 tickets)
*Vegetable topped with all sorts of yummy deliciousness = yes! (Even if what it's topped in isn't really "healthy", it will be among your favorite items of the day - I guarantee it!)

Manhattans: Purple Popeye Sandwich (7 tickets)
*Their website lists the item as a "crispy breaded eggplant topped with spinach, roasted red peppers, provolone and asiago cheese drizzed with honey dijon mustard." Everything about that sounds delicious, and while probably not the healthiest of the "healthy" items on the list, it's worth a shot! 

Each restaurant has a healthy option and has a heart next to its description. You can find the full restaurant menu list, HERE

Remember - you can get "taste" portions of most menu items for 2 tickets - so you can always go a little healthier by getting the smaller sample size of items you really want to try. 

As they say, "everything in moderation". I'm going to do my best and will report back and update this post after the Taste with my reviews on these and other items. 

If weight loss or eating healthy isn't an issue for you this weekend, you need to try the bacon wrapped ribs from R & R Barbecue. They sound, look and smell incredible. 

Cheers, Buffalo! To great food and 30 years strong as one of the nation's largest food festivals!!

Lloyd's Taco Truck - Krazy Korn

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Being A Docent in Buffalo

Krystal outside the Richardson
Olmsted Complex
This year, I've taken my Buffalove to another level by training to be a docent (tour guide) in Buffalo. I went through the training program with Buffalo Tours over the winter months, and then a training with the Richardson Olmsted Complex in early spring. In late spring, I was also offered a job with Buffalo Bites Food Tours as a tour guide.  

A question I always get on my tours is "How did you get involved?". For me, The Richardson Olmsted Complex had always been a mystery. Going to college at Buffalo State, I always drove past it, heard stories about the Complex, and wondered what was going to happen to such a vast land of buildings. Last summer, they offered a short tour season, and I was lucky enough to get a spot on one of the in depth tours. From the moment I walked inside the Complex, I was in love. It may seem like an odd reaction for a mental health facility, but hearing about the history of the Complex and seeing the simple beauty in the architecture, I saw firsthand this true "gem". 

Towards the end of the tour, our tour guide mentioned they would be looking for volunteers to help at events throughout the year. I quickly grabbed a card and think I sent an e-mail before that weekend was over. I volunteered at the Museums by Moonlight event held in the Fall and then learned they would be adding a group of docents for the 2013 season. It was a no brainer. 

As for Buffalo Bites Food Tours, my boyfriend and I took a tour with the owner, Laura Reed, last summer. We had an absolute blast, and Laura and I kept in touch after the tour. Early this year, she approached me to see if I would be interested in joining her team, and I couldn't say no. The Buffalo Bites Food Tours explore the Elmwood Village of Buffalo. Throughout the three hour tour you walk to six food stops and learn about the history of Buffalo and the Elmwood Village along the way. What could possibly be better?

Since my training has been completed for both, I've had the opportunity to lead, co-lead and chaperone various tours this summer. The response has been outstanding. People are genuinely interested in Buffalo, have a passion and excitement for the way things are going in our City, and always leave the tours with a good impression. It's an incredible feeling sharing my passion for Buffalo with those around me, and I can tell they all appreciate the small additional tidbits we throw in!

Here is my "insider" perspective on tours:

Richardson Olmsted Complex - The Richardson Center Corporation, the non-profit Board that is overseeing the redevelopment efforts of the Complex, is offering over 30 public tours this summer from one hour basic tours ($15), two hour in depth tours ($30), plus photography tours, family tours and more. All tours take you through the first floor of the Towers Administration building and ward buildings, and the specialty ones add additional floors. Throughout the tours the docents discuss the history of the Complex, its key players (H.H. Richardson, Frederick Law Olmsted/Calvert Vaux and Dr. Thomas Kirkbride), the present state of the Complex and the future. 

If you don't know what's happening at the Complex, rehabilitation efforts are underway, and the Complex currently boasts a gorgeous showcase space that shows off the potential of the Complex. 

Whether you are an architectural nerd, a Buffalo history buff, or have driven past the Complex a million times but never really knew what went on there, this is a tour for you. This summer is the perfect time to get on a tour; come fall, redevelopment efforts will begin to kick into full swing and getting the before and after perspective will be an added bonus! 

If you are planning on taking a tour, my suggestion - ask questions! I always tell my tour goers that my goal is to have them learn something new about Buffalo, one of the key players of the Complex and have fun. If you are taking a tour, remember you MUST wear closed toe shoes (no flip flops or sandals). 

If you can't make a tour, get down to the Complex in August anyway. The newly redone 9 acre South Lawn will be open as a public park for all to enjoy. I've had the pleasure of watching it all come together each time I have been at the Complex this summer. The project should be completed by the end of the month and it already looks gorgeous. 

The new location of Firefly Cupcakes
is just one stop!
Buffalo Bites Food Tours - Three hours of sampling some of the best food Buffalo has to offer? If that isn't motivation enough, add the backdrop of the eclectic Elmwood Village and some Buffalo history to the mix and you have the perfect afternoon in Buffalo. Worried about eating all that food and ruining your summer diet? Don't worry, we walk almost 2 miles over the 3 hours and I've been told there are actually no calories on food tour food (actual results may vary)! 

The tour costs $42/person, although Laura posts $10 off coupon codes - check her Facebook/Twitter pages for discounts. You receive enough food to be comfortably full, with time in between food tastings to walk it off. 

Owner Laura Reed was inspired after taking a food tour with some girlfriends in New York City. Her dream was to bring that concept to Buffalo, and last summer her dream became a reality. In its 2nd year, Buffalo Bites Food Tours are gaining popularity and there have been talks of adding a second food tour in a different neighborhood in Buffalo. 

Whether you are a lifelong Buffalonian or visiting from out of town, there is really something for everyone on a Buffalo Bites Food Tour. While I've spent many days and late nights on the Elmwood Strip, and frequented many of the restaurants on the tour, Laura gives you some history on the businesses and the foods you sample, and business owners have been known to chat with patrons during the tours. 

If you are planning on taking a tour, my suggestion - try everything! Unless you have a dietary restriction (which you can let the team know about beforehand and they can accommodate you with another food selection), give everything a try. In some tasting locations you have a choice on which item you get, so pick one you never have tried before. It will make the tour that much more enjoyable. 

Be a tourist in your own City this summer, Buffalo! Make sure you bring all your out of town guests with you too! 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ride For Roswell 2013: Post Ride Thoughts

Starting line - 30 mile early route
I crossed the finish line just shy of 10:00am. 
I biked 30 miles in memory of my Grandma Carol Sondel. 
Lovin' On Buffalo fundraised over $800 to help fight cancer. 

I know none of these things are particularly extraordinary; many were done quicker, rode further and raised more, but I helped let cancer know its days are numbered. 

I was one of 8,000. Our $800 was part of 3.8 million that was raised. 
Those things ARE extraordinary. 

Saturday, June 22nd was a gorgeous day in Buffalo to bike! The 30 mile river route was filled with gorgeous scenery and many excited route guides who cheered us along as we rode past them. Our rest stops had great food (special shout out to the Praxair rest stop) and the company along the way helped make the 30 miles go by fast! 

It was an emotional day. As we lined up to start and the Emcee asked cancer survivors to raise their hands, the tears started flowing. They started flowing for my Grandma, who lost her battle so quickly, for the survivors who have gone through so much and are on a bike ready to ride 30+ miles, and for their family and friends who have been along with them on the journey. 

In the weeks leading up to the Ride For Roswell, their social media feeds were asking for help to fill a "critical" volunteer need, so I offered to serve as a Ride Marshal for my route. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I ended up finding it very rewarding. My boyfriend and I pulled over about 6 times to check on people who were either injured or had bike problems. We did what we could and off we went. Everyone was so appreciative and thankful for helping. 

My boyfriend, who can ride much faster than me, often jumped ahead. I knew he would finish before me, and as I came across the finish line he was there cheering me on. My name was said over the loud speaker as I crossed and it was such an incredible feeling. I am so proud of myself for taking on a longer route, on very little training, and getting across that finish line in a respectable time. 

Everyone at the Ride was great. Volunteers, staff members, sponsors, and riders were filled with pride and happiness. Though a sad day for many who were riding in memory of those they lost, it was also a day of hope. Hope that Roswell Park is closer to a cure. Hope that cancer won't mean a death sentence in the years to come. 

Congratulations to everyone on each and every single route. From 104 miles down to the 3 mile family ride, you all took time out of your weekend to be healthy and active for a good cause. 

Thanks to my family and friends who make donations, and to my boyfriend who was there to cheer me on and motivate me to finish. 

Together Buffalo, we can truly make a difference for Western New Yorkers and the world!

The countdown to the 2014 Ride for Roswell is on! Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Ride For Roswell 2013: Pre-Ride Thoughts

Almost twelve years ago, I watched cancer take my Grandma from me. I’ll never forget the moment I found out about her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer as my Dad fought back tears telling me, “3 months to live.” This vibrant woman who cheered on the Bills at every home game, polkaed away at parties, and found time to be at all our soccer games and dance recitals, was quickly slipping away from me. 

No one in our family would ever be the same. She was the glue that kept us all together. After the night we learned of her diagnosis, it only took a few weeks before she was gone.

This is just one story, and I’m just one person, but this morning I’m riding 30 miles in memory of Carol Sondel and all the other Grandmas out there who have missed out on watching their grandchildren grow up because of cancer.

7,999 others are biking with me this morning on various routes, all with stories of loss, love and overcoming the odds.

While there will surely be tears shed as I ride through those 30 miles, there will also be a happiness I can’t quite explain. A pure joy knowing others out there want to take a stand against cancer and raised millions of dollars to help find the cure. A pride in knowing Roswell Park is in Buffalo, NY, making a difference for people all over the world.

Thank you to everyone who donated to my Ride (Dick Sondel, Bernie Youra, Debbi Testa, Sharon DeFelice, Matt Testa, Aaron Mason, Alyson O'Connor, Angela Keppel, Suzanne Kashuba, Elizabeth Kresge, Jill McAnaney, Julie Tobin, Lisa Yuhnke, Laura Reed, Steve Foster, Catherine Janese, Casey Herko & Cindy Wagner).

Thank you to all the volunteers that will cheer me on throughout the 30 miles this morning. 

A special thanks to my boyfriend, Geoffrey, who will be biking beside me through it all. 

And thanks Grandma, from wherever you are watching me. I’m so proud to be your Granddaughter, and so lucky to be a Sondel.

Follow along with me on Twitter throughout the day. Don't worry, I won't be riding and tweeting, but will post before, at rest stops and after. I'm looking forward to also serving as a Ride Marshal for the 30 mile route. To everyone participating, stay safe! Ride right, pass left!

See you at the finish line! 

#Ridespiration #RFR13

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

CALL FOR ACTION: Ride For Roswell 2013

This Saturday, June 22nd, Roswell Park will host their largest fundraiser of the year, The Ride For Roswell.

Last year, I participated in the event for the first time. I biked 20 miles in memory of my Grandma, Carol Sondel, who died of pancreatic cancer back in 2001. You can check out my recap of last year's day, HERE. It was quite inspirational. 

Roswell Park is a huge part of the Western New York community, helping thousands of people from all around the world battle cancer and find treatments and cures.

I don't know a single person who hasn't been touched by cancer in some way. Whether it's a family member who lost their life to cancer, a personal battle with it or a friend or colleague you've seen go through it, we can all benefit by the work Roswell Park is doing. 

So, how can you get involved? I have three great ways:

1.) Donate today! This year, I will be riding 30 miles in memory of my Grandma, and all those who have lost their lives to cancer. I lost my Grandma way too early in my life, and if my riding can keep some other girl's Grandma around longer, I have made a difference. You can find my personal page, HERE. Thank you for your donation!

2.) Volunteer! The Ride For Roswell is still looking for volunteers to help out during the day. As they say, "It takes a village", and if you have ever been to The Ride For Roswell you can see why volunteers are so critical to the success of the day. You can check out all the open volunteer opportunities for the opening ceremony on Friday night and all day on Saturday, HERE. Around 100 volunteers are still needed! If you are already signed up to ride, they are also looking for riding marshals for many routes. 

3.) Share this post! If you are already booked this weekend or don't have extra money to donate, please share this post. Post it on Facebook, Twitter e-mail it to friends/family who may be interested, or mention it in passing when you are out. 

I'll be thinking about all my generous readers as I cross the finish line on Saturday morning. Thank you for making a difference in Buffalo! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Omakase Buffalo - "Acadiana"

Cooking up the crawfish
I'm going to let you all in on a secret. Well, a part of the secret anyway. 

Buffalo has an underground dining club. Omakase Buffalo was started about a year and a half ago by a group of local chefs and foodies who wanted to bring amazing cuisine to diners willing to try something new and different. 

I learned about Omakase Buffalo towards the end of 2012 and quickly applied to be on the waiting list. About a week ago, I received an invitation to attend an event entitled, "Acadiana" after the French Louisiana region.  

The premise for the group is based on trust. Very little information is given about the events in order to keep anonymity. Guests are not allowed to share information about who the chefs were, who they dined with or where they dined before or after the events. The only thing you can share, are photos of what you ate/drank.

Omakase Buffalo certainly isn't for everyone. A big part of why they do what they do, is to get people to expand their palate and think outside the box when it comes to food. You are asked to try everything, enjoy the company of people you probably have never met, and retain the level of anonymity. 
Time to dig in!

For me, the event proved to be an incredible day. Our meal included a Southern Louisiana tradition, the crawfish boil, which was something I'd never experienced before. In addition, we sampled the New Orleans hurricane and sweet tea drinks, an amazing jambalaya with outstanding andouille sausage, slow cooked jumbo shrimp, a delicious sweet potato pecan pie, and even a little moonshine! 

You can get the answers to some "frequently asked questions" on their website, and if you are interested in being added to the waiting list, can apply here

If I can think of one word to describe Buffalo right now, it's creative. I'm continually amazed at the amount of creative minds in Western New York working together with one goal: to help reinvent Buffalo. Omakase Buffalo is another prime example of this creativity. 

Start eating outside the box, Buffalo. You will be amazed by what you find!

Jumbo shrimp
Jambalaya with chicken and andouille sausage

Thursday, June 6, 2013

REVIEW: 710 Main Theatre: 50 Shades! The Musical

Last night I had the chance to combine two of my favorite things; live theatre and social media! I was one of a handful of people selected to live tweet during 50 Shades! The Musical at 710 Main Theatre (you can check my live feed out from last night by following me on Twitter @lovinonbuffalo).

Typically, being on your phone during a musical is a big no no, but in recent years theatres have been embracing Twitter and social media to engage their audience before, during and after the show! It's actually quite genius, if you ask me. Who doesn't appreciate a personal mention or retweet from the cast/Twitter handle for the show? 

I'm thrilled that organizations like Shea's are beginning to explore these options and thinking more "outside the box" when it comes to promotion and reach! If your company isn't invested in social media on some level, you really need to consider it. Fast. 

The theatre itself holds 625 seats and offers an intimate setting with really no bad seat. The stage is small and front row is up close and personal with the actors. The lobby area has a small bar. The theatre was formerly Studio Arena, but they have been closed since 2008 due to financial problems. 710 Main Theatre opened its doors in fall 2012 and has hosted a number of great shows in its first year. They just announced the lineup for the 2013-2014 season. Check it out HERE.

50 Shades! The Musical is a parody musical based on the book 50 Shades of Grey by E L James. The musical opens with a book club meeting where they decide to read the book. What follows is the book club's journey through the book and all the hilarious and dirty fun that ensues. 

From the moment the show started, to the very last note, I was laughing, sometimes to the point of tears. While I was a little worried I'd be lost since I never read the books, I never felt  that way during the show. The show offers around 10 original musical numbers, some that parody other musicals, and contain amazing one liners. 

Almost as good as the performance was watching the reaction of the audience throughout the show. It was clear I wasn't the only one enjoying it! 

The cast even tailored the performance to the Western New York audience, mentioning Buffalo, Mighty Taco, Medina and more. 

All eight cast members had moments of brilliance, but standouts for me were Jose, played by Nick Semar and Carol played by Jessica Kemock. 

The show is perfect for a girls night out, and by the second song I was wishing my entire group of girlfriends were with me to laugh along. It's a must see for the women of Buffalo, and men will get a kick out of it too. It does offer a very "risque" dialogue that is not suitable for those under 18, but doesn't take anything too far! It's the perfect balance of flirty and naughty. 

Performances run through the weekend and tickets are a reasonable $37.50/$47.50. There are even some discount coupon codes out there if you look hard enough! 

Last night was another reminder for me that we are so lucky to have amazing theatre options in Buffalo. There is so much diversity - small intimate theatres, college campus productions, Shea's mainstage with internationally known productions and everything in between. 

710 Main Theatre should be added to your Buffalo bucket list over the next year. I know I'll be back!