Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Small Business Spotlight: Rust Belt Love

"Some people cringe when I tell them I work primarily with brides, but I don't think I've worked with a single bridezilla!" Owner of Rust Belt Love Alyson O'Connor told me.

Rust Belt Love, a local full service design firm, has found its niche within the wedding industry in Buffalo and Western New York. "We are really about creating the specific look and feel our customers want for their events. It's great to sit down with our clients who don't know what they want or the styles they like, and after our initial meeting be able to put their ideas into drawings. We have an extensive proofing process because we want to make sure we create exactly what our clients want."

For Rust Belt Love, the design process starts with the invitation. "It is the usually the first thing your guests will see, and sets the tone for everything after that." Alyson always encourages her clients to think outside the box by picking a few different styles to start with, even if it is something you don't think you will like. Over the past few years, Rust Belt Love has worked with clients who really loved one style, but during the design process, and after looking at samples, ended up going with something totally different. In addition to invitations,  Rust Belt Love will create place cards, menus, programs and more. They can also consult on centerpieces, ceremony design, favors, bouquets and other event necessities!

Beyond weddings, Rust Belt Love works on corporate events, birthday parties, baby showers/announcements and other special events.

The concept for Rust Belt Love was created about three years ago by owner Alyson and her sister Megan. The pair had helped design weddings for family and friends and decided to take it to the next level. After Megan finished up her Master's degree and found a full-time job, Alyson's husband Nick took over the business side of things. Last year Alyson and Nick welcomed a baby girl, Samantha, and Alyson quit her full-time job in advertising to be able to work from home and focus on running Rust Belt Love. "It is truly a family business. I couldn't do it without the support of everyone around me, both of our families, and we are so lucky to do what we love in a city where not everyone gets to find their niche."

When talking about Buffalo and the WNY area, you could tell the passion for the city they share. After moving back to Buffalo close to seven years ago, Alyson and her husband moved into an apartment in Allentown and fell in love with the area all over again. "The people, the arts scene, the night life, the fierce loyalty of other ex-pats, we knew we were home! The name of our company says it all, we truly have so much love for the rust belt, we couldn't imagine being anywhere else!"

Rust Belt Love also has a store on Etsy where they sell cards, gift tags and drawings. If you need thank you cards or have friends having a baby it is THE place to shop! Check out the "Congratulations on your bean" card and the "Congratulations on two peas in the pod" card! Absolutely adorable!

Some fun facts about Rust Belt Love: they have a 100 year old letterpress that they use for all their cards on Etsy and a 100 year old guillotine paper cutter they use to cut all their paper with. The studio is housed on the third floor of their Elmwood Avenue home, and is filled with furniture that has been passed down through the generations. 

If you are interested in learning more about how Rust Belt Love can take your design dreams and make them a reality, you can find all their contact information on their website (which is also full of samples). Consultation appointments can be set up, and once you meet with Alyson, you will start to feel the wedding/event planning stress disappear. They offer packages to accommodate different budgets and can work within your price limits. 

You have hundreds of options when deciding how to spend your wedding/event budget, but Rust Belt love is more than just a number on the budget sheet! They will give you an experience, a theme, and a memory you will never forget!

Alyson O' Connor, owner of Rust Belt Love, working hard

Monday, January 7, 2013

Break'N Eggs Creperie in Williamsville

We kicked off our restaurant adventures in 2013 at Break' N Eggs Creperie on Main Street in Williamsville. This new restaurant has only been open since mid September 2012, and it's been on our "must try" list since we heard about it. It is located next to Trattoria Aroma in a small plaza near the new hotel build. The small restaurant only has seating for around 35 people, but what the restaurant lacks in seating, it surely makes up for in quality and atmosphere. The restaurant has a "Rustic French" feel to it with browns and beiges as the color palate. The ceiling features gorgeous wood beams that we thought were a unique way to cover up a boring tiled ceiling. A beautiful wood floor and wood tables finish off the look. 

When we arrived there were no tables of two available, so we waited a few minutes. The owner came over and offered us and another couple a "community table" that sat six. Neither of us had a problem with it, so we were sat a lot quicker than I thought we would be. Our waitress promptly brought us menus and took our drink orders, and it quickly became apparent that we would have a hard time deciding what crepes to order. 

Our table was seated right next to where owner, Bob Sweeney was working on the crepes. The restaurant features an open kitchen setting to allow for customers to see their food being made, and to be honest I felt like I was watching a show! It was an added bonus to see the workers in the kitchen as they prepared the meals. As we watched Chef Bob prepare the different breakfast, lunch and dessert crepes we all "oohed" and "ahhed" wondering which was which. I finally settled for #12 ($11.25) on their menu: "Savoury crepe" with chicken, asparagus, roasted red peppers and a mornay (cheese) sauce (see picture below). My boyfriend ordered #15 ($13.95), also a savoury crepe with beef tenderloin, caramelized onions, mushrooms, goat cheese and a blueberry chipotle sauce.  Each crepe came with a small side salad of mixed greens with their homemade maple balsamic vinaigrette.  

Our meals were prepared for us within about 6 minutes and we were excited to dig in. Both of our crepes were outstanding, bursting with flavor and the crepes were perfectly cooked complimenting the meats and veggies. The side salad was dressed with the most delicious homemade dressing I've had. I left there wishing I could take a bottle with me. 

We didn't want our meal to be over, so we asked for the dessert menu and settled on #33 - a strawberry dessert crepe filled with strawberries, a strawberry sauce, whipped cream and topped with honey butter and some powdered sugar (see picture below). 

The prices are on the higher end for breakfast, but it is well worth it. I wouldn't say this is somewhere we could make our regular breakfast/lunch spot, but we will be back to try more menu items soon. If you have family/friends in from out of town, this would be the perfect breakfast spot to take them if you want something a little more upscale. 

The staff was very friendly and both owners checked in on us to see how the meals were and made a point to say goodbye as we put on our coats. It was definitely a wonderful experience and we are so excited to have another fun spot in Williamsville to check out. 

The entire time we were there, they were on a steady wait, but the wait time moved along quickly and no one seemed to mind. The only downside we could find about the restaurant was the parking situation. They only have five or six spots outside the building to park in (or other plaza spots if there are any). As soon as you back out you are almost in the street, so just be cautious of that. 

If you are in the area to shop on Main Street, or are just looking for a great new culinary adventure, get over to Break' N Eggs Creperie. I can guarantee you won't be disappointed. 

Staff working at the open kitchen, one of my favorite features

#12 - Chicken, asparagus, roasted red peppers and mornay sauce

#33 - Strawberry dessert crepe with whipped cream and a dollop of honey butter on top

Friday, January 4, 2013

Krystal's Favorite Buffalo Things - 2012

Here is year two of Krystal's "Favorite Buffalo Things" (Oprah style). The following list includes memories, food, drinks, places, meals, attractions, etc...that I experienced in 2012. 

There are 29 categories - one for every year I've been alive. The list is in no particular was whatever came to me first!!

Enjoy the list!

1.) Favorite wine - Vineland Estates Sparking Riesling. During the 2012 Ice Wine Festival in Niagara on the Lake, my boyfriend and I had the chance to try this champagne for the first time. We fell in love with this. I know it's not "Buffalo", but it's close enough and I consider Niagara on the Lake our close friends!

2.) Favorite meal - Black Rock Kitchen & Bar. The meal was grilled shrimp over soft polenta with roasted cioppolini onions and Gorgonzola cheese. Throw in a lump crab and cucumber salad to start, some local Flying Bison brews and the best atmosphere in Black Rock, and it left me inspired and excited about Buffalo food. 

3.) Favorite menu item - Falafel Bar's mushroom hummus - it's a meal in itself topped with mushrooms and caramelized onions and served with warm pita bread. Perfect anytime of the year!

4.) Favorite dessert - Lake Effect Icecream's Loganberry was my favorite last year, and I can't help but put the local artisan ice cream shop back on my list this year. This summer they introduced "The Aud" a beer infused ice cream with chocolate covered peanuts. It is absolutely outstanding and is "Buffalo sports" in a scoop!

5.) Favorite cheap eat - I was absolutely honored to be selected as one of the "foodies" this year in the Buffalo Spree's November edition of Buffalo "cheap eats". In that issue, I gave my top five list, but there was one that without a doubt stands above the rest...Cantina Loco! It is the hot spot for dinner/drinks with friends after work, with family for a fun night out, and with a date. The $4 veggie quesadilla is outstanding (and loaded with veggies and cheese). The $28 pitcher of margaritas may not seem cheap, but believe me, it's an extra large pitcher that will fill a lot of glasses! 

6.) Favorite concert spot - I continue to be impressed with the work that has been done at Canalside. The venue change for Thursday in the Square (to Thursday at the Harbor) and the Buffalo Rocks the Harbor concert series have been my favorite summertime way to spend an evening. The generous space down at Canalside allows for comfort and many options. You can stand next to the water, bring a chair to sit on the grass or get up close if it is a band you really enjoy. I am excited to see what is next for Canalside in 2013!

7.) Favorite local shop - Tea Leafs WNY - As someone who starts pretty much everyday with a cup of tea, this store is a little bit of heaven to me. With probably close to 100 (or more) different loose leaf teas available for purchase, owner Sydney Hoffman has expanded the perfect niche shop, located on Main Street in Williamsville.

8.) Favorite blog - Angela Keppel's "Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time". The blog tackles one street in Buffalo per post and explores the history of the street, its name and more. Angela, a local urban planner, has a great passion for Buffalo and its history, and I love learning more through her eyes. Stay tuned for an upcoming post about Angela's blog and other local blogs that I enjoy reading.

9.) Favorite fundraiser - Ride For Roswell - 2012, was my first year participating in the event, and I cannot get over how well run and just beautiful the event was. I participated in honor and memory of my Grandma Sondel, who passed away in 2001 from pancreatic cancer. It was the first time I'd been on a bike in over ten years, and I was terrified with the amount of people participating that things wouldn't turn out well. Every aspect of the event is run perfectly - from food for riders, to stations to hydrate, road guards at nearly every turn, and the whole general flow for the event. Outstanding event, that raised over $3 million dollars for one of Buffalo's greatest resources. I am already looking forward to 2013's event in June!

10.) Favorite hidden gem - H.H. Richardson Complex - At around 59 acres, the complex can hardly be called "hidden" but many people don't know about the rehabilitation work going on at the complex to make it a functional space again. I had the chance to tour the inside of the complex over the summer for the first time, and it has become my Buffalo obsession of 2012. Every aspect of the building is fascinating and the architecture is so deliberate and beautiful. I am thrilled to begin docent training in January - March to learn about the building more and be able to share my passion and love for it with others in 2013. Stay tuned for dates :)

11.) Favorite "family" activity - Rotary Rink ice skating - If you haven't had the chance to go downtown to check out the ice skating rink, it is something you need to do this winter. If you own your own skates, there is no fee to skate around. Skate rentals are $2 for children and $3 for adults. There are a handful of free skate rental days as well, so check out the Buffalo Place website for more details! 

12.) Favorite community moment- I had the chance to participate in B Team Buffalo's "City of Light" event in December which decorated over 50 houses in Buffalo's Old First Ward. The extreme dedication to the City of Buffalo that the B-Team Board members (and all members and volunteers that day) was uplifting and inspiring. In addition to decorating houses, a carnival was held, giving out gifts to the local children, and dinner was served for the entire community. These type of events continue to give Buffalo its name "City of Good Neighbors" and I was thrilled to participate in it this year.

13.) Favorite "car ride away" trip - East Aurora, NY - The City of Buffalo is full of hundreds of things to do throughout the year, but on top of that, we are positioned in the state just a car ride away from so many other things. Take East Aurora for example (a 25 minute car ride) - the Main Street is filled with fun shops and restaurants where you could easily spend an afternoon...but add in the historic Roycroft Campus and you have a day filled with history too! If you head out there make sure you stop at Vidler's 5 & 10 and stop at Firefly Cupcakes for a sweet treat!

14.) Favorite outdoor spot to exercise - Canalside strikes again! What could top FREE outdoor Zumba, Pilates and Yoga classes all summer long? Working out while looking at the waterfront and getting to watch the sunset as class wraps up is definitely one of my favorite memories in 2012. If you aren't one for fitness classes, jogging along the water or walking is the perfect activity - filled with so many great sights to see (just don't stop at the ice cream stand afterwards!). I'm already looking forward the classes in 2013.

15.) Favorite local athlete - Jenn Suhr. This summer, while it was a beautiful one in Buffalo, I spent a lot of time in front of the television watching the London Summer Olympics. I followed pole vaulter Jenn Suhr's story closely and couldn't wait to watch her represent WNY and America in early August. She took home the gold and also has a silver medal from the 2008 Olympics. It was definitely a proud moment for Buffalo, and brought a tear to my eye!

16.) Favorite festival - I fell in love with the Glen Park Art Festival in Williamsville. While it's not a very large festival, the two day affair highlights local artists and has a full lineup of local musicians. Glen Park is absolutely beautiful to visit in the summer. I took my boyfriend's seven year old son to the event this year (just the two of us), and we had a blast. It was fun bonding time, and we walked away with some cool Buffalo items (and an ice cream cone from Sweet Jenny's)!

17.) Favorite "quick bite" to eat - Peking Quick One in Tonawanda. Tucked away in a plaza on Somerville Avenue (the street I grew up on) it was a hidden gem until this past year when many bloggers and food critics started reviewing it! If you want authentic cuisine

18.) Favorite "Buffalo" tour - I had the pleasure of checking out a handful of different Buffalo tours throughout the year, but I absolutely fell in love with Open Air Bus Tours. My favorite one was The Whirlwind Tour that captured many of Buffalo's architectural gems. 

19.) Favorite Buffalo political race - I might get a lot of flack for this one, as I'm not a seasoned political writer or expert. In fact, I usually make it a point to NOT talk about politics. That being said, I really enjoyed watching the race for Erie County Comptroller. Growing up, I knew the name Stefan Mychajiliw as a public relations professional (and often commented on how I wanted his job in the Ken-Ton Schools) . When I heard he was running for the position, to say I was surprised was an understatement. While I'm aware he has very little "experience" for the position, I thought his campaign was a fun public relations story to watch unfold. I'm going to be watching his new position closely and am interested to see what he can accomplish in the position. I think he can offer a lot to the City and I'm looking forward to seeing what is next!

20.) Favorite Buffalo inspired food - I had the chance to try sponge candy ice cream this summer when I took a Buffalo Bites food tour on Elmwood Avenue. The ice cream was made at Watson's, and it was incredible. Watson's did a great job incorporating the flavors, and it is the perfect indulgence on a warm Buffalo day!

21.) Favorite "sight" - I had the chance this summer to get on the water in friends boats and also aboard The Spirit of Buffalo sailboat. Whether on water or land, the Buffalo Lighthouse always makes me smile. You can enjoy it while sitting at The Hatch, or anywhere along the waterfront. It is just beautiful and I think I've photographed it from every angle possible! Check out the "Around Buffalo" tab for some shots of it through the years.

22.) Favorite not-for-profit - In its first year, Special Spaces Buffalo was able to makeover bedrooms for a handful of Buffalo children fighting diseases. The organization is solely run on donations and volunteer help and we are planning a fundraiser for them in early 2013 to fund a room makeover for a beautiful young lady. More information will be coming soon, stay tuned!!

23.) Favorite concert of 2012 - I attended a handful of free concerts throughout the year, but my favorite was O.A.R. at Artpark on August 1st. Fun venue, good crowd and great performance by one of my favorite bands. Only downside, getting out of that place is a mess!

24.) Favorite Lovin' On Buffalo moment - 2012 was a wonderful year for Lovin' On Buffalo. I had two newspaper articles written about the blog, was featured in Buffalo Spree in November and  was nominated for "Best Local Twitter Feed" in the Artvoice Best of Buffalo awards. The last one was quite a surprise to me and I couldn't be more thrilled. Social media is not only a passion of mine, but part of my job description, so to be recognized by the community (all write in votes) for this is truly awesome. While I didn't win, I had a blast at the awards ceremony with my boyfriend and am hopeful I'll be nominated again this year!

25.) Favorite "new" restaurant - I checked out so many wonderful restaurants during the year and it's impossible to list a favorite, but here's my top 3: Liberty Hound, Pan American Brewery & Cantina Loco. Each has been a great addition to the food scene in Buffalo and each offers such a different, but great atmosphere. If you haven't checked any of them out yet, make it a point to in 2013!

26.) Favorite Buffalo connection - This year, I met so many great people who really are making a difference in Buffalo. If I had to pick one I'm glad I can call a "friend", it is Robyn Zimmer, creator of the Embrace The Difference line of jewelry. Robyn's line of jewelry (I received a piece of the line for Christmas thanks to my boyfriend!) is not only gorgeous but is benefiting charities throughout WNY. Of course, there is a two degrees of separation story there too, I found out my boyfriend taught Robyn's children at Amherst High School! There's ALWAYS a Buffalo connection!

27.) Favorite street - Well Elmwood will always be my favorite street, but this past year I really got to know Hertel Avenue better. They have great restaurants, fun shops and I can always find a parking spot! Plus, The Cheesy Chick (my favorite Buffalo food truck) spends a decent amount of time on Hertel!

28.) Favorite "12 Missions in '12" Moment - I had a great time providing support to as many charities as I could in 2012. It was a lofty goal, and while the last two charities will have fundraisers that had to be pushed to early 2013, I am really proud of all I was able to accomplish. I especially LOVED dropping off the hygiene bags to Catholic Charities. The staff was so appreciative and they made me take a picture! I know they will go to good use and I'm excited to drop off a few more boxes I have put together in the past few months!

29.) Favorite Buffalo customer service moment - If you are from Buffalo you are either a Wegmans shopper or a Tops shopper. For me, it's Wegmans and I can't get enough of their customer service. They are active in social media and anytime I need something always respond back quickly. However, there were  two other occasions where I needed something and they went above and beyond. In March, my boyfriend and I were looking for small cannoli shells and they didn't have any on the shelves. A bakery worker took them out of boxes they use in the bakery and personally wrapped them up so they wouldn't break. We didn't ask her to go to all the trouble, but it was outstanding. Later in the year, one of my favorite types of sushi was not on the menu for the day, and when the sushi chef noticed me walking away they asked if there was something else they could make for me. I told them what I was looking for and they prepared a fresh roll for me within a few minutes. It was the best sushi I've had and a wonderful, wonderful customer service moment!

PHEW! 2012 was a great year for Lovin' On Buffalo and I can't thank all of our dedicated readers enough for all your support throughout the year. Here's to 2013!!