Tuesday, April 30, 2013

30 Wishes For Buffalo

I turned the big 30 this April!!!  All month I've been blowing out candles on cakes and making wishes. I started writing this list of my "Buffalo wishes" on my birthday, when I woke up early and couldn't fall back asleep. 

I can’t tell you what I wished for when I blew out my birthday candles (because then it won’t come true), but here are thirty wishes I have for this great city. I get some are far fetched, I know many may take another 30 years to happen, but some are already in the works and I can’t wait to see those wishes come true! 

Some of the wishes I have absolutely no control over, but in other cases I can do something, and I will. I hope you will too. 

So, in no particular order, here is the list...

Krystal's Wishes For Buffalo, NY

1. The obvious – The Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl (I’ll actually take a playoff home game, preferably in the next few years).

2. The other obvious – The Buffalo Sabres win a Stanley Cup.

3. They tear down the skyway and create a version of NYC’s High Line.

4. The Trico building is reused and filled with new business in Buffalo.

5. The Richardson Center Corporation finds additional tenants to fill all the remaining ward buildings!

6. The Buffalo Bills Stadium moves downtown. Make. It. Happen.  

7. All the grain elevators are reused and filled with great new Buffalo ventures (it starts with Silo City Rocks…who will be next?)

8. More breweries in Buffalo.

9. More bike lanes on the streets of Buffalo.

10. New business booms on Main Street.

11.Kenmore/Tonawanda change the no parking on the street rule. I grew up there and it always seemed like too long of a time period to me. I don't live there anymore, so it wouldn't apply to me, but still want to see it changed. 

12. Continued development at Canalside and seeing the old site of the Memorial Auditorium filled with new business. 

13. Buffalo’s Roswell Park finds THE cure for all cancers.

14. The full dream of restoration at The Central Terminal is completed and we have a high speed rail in the area.

15. I’m all about shopping local, but if there is one chain store I love, it’s Ikea. I want an Ikea in Buffalo.

16. The unemployment rate reaches an all-time low.

17. The population of Buffalo trends upward instead of down (but, you know, not so much to where my 20 minute drive to anywhere is compromised…haha, okay, I’ll accept a longer commute if it means more bodies in Buffalo). 

18. A TV show, based in Buffalo, NY airs and is a huge hit shining a lot of positive light on The Queen City!

19. A handful of big name celebrities buy condos/apartments/houses in Buffalo because it becomes "the city" to live in. 

20. New leadership in Buffalo creates positive change for a city ready for greatness again.

21. The Buffalo Police Department receives additional support which in turn reduces the homicide rate in Buffalo.

22. The Buffalo Public Schools find a way to enact big changes to make it a desirable school district for families.

23. The issue of segregation in Buffalo is properly addressed and not kept a secret anymore. I’ve seen a lot of talk about this in recent months, now we need to start changing the dynamic here. 

24. I have touched on this already, but more college graduates choose to stay in Buffalo because the jobs they want are here.

25. A personal wish for me is that someday I can move into downtown Buffalo. It is a dream I’ve had for many years, but hasn’t worked out for one reason or another – not that I am complaining, the path I’m on right now is right where I want to be.  

26. More school districts in WNY add or add more Buffalo history into their social studies classes.

27. The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus & UB School of Medicine work is completed bringing thousands more to downtown Buffalo on a regular basis.

28. Whatever needs to happen with the Peace Bridge Project happens (this is one project I haven't followed closely, but have been hearing about for years). 

29. Buffalo winters remain mild finally changing the national attitude that all it does in Buffalo is snow. A lot. 

30. For all of NYS - Government takes a hard look at air pollution and enacts stricter regulations for businesses. I'd like to see Erie County get an A in the American Lung Association's "State of the Air" report. 

What are your wishes for Buffalo?

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Restaurant Week Recap #3: Butterwood Sweet & Savory in Buffalo

Cheers to good food, Buffalo and new friends. In January, I started up the Lovin' On Buffalo book club. On Friday night, we hosted our second meeting to discuss "Buffalo Memories, Gone But Not Forgotten" at Butterwood Sweet & Savory. The restaurant is located inside the recently restored Hotel Lafayette. It is located on the lower level in what I'm told used to be the "speakeasy" of the hotel. To put it simply, the restaurant is gorgeous. It boasts gorgeous architectural elements, has plush seating for diners and has a gorgeous bar and display area for baked goods they sell. 

The restaurant is considered a "full service fusion restaurant that focuses on modern cuisine." They offer fun appetizer selections, small plates that feature foods from around the world, inventive entrees, handmade pizzas, and more!  The Restaurant Week special included either soup or salad, an entree and a chocolate lava cake for $20.13. 

I started with their "Sweey & Savory" mini salad which was incredible. A bed of lettuce came wrapped inside cucumber with candied beets, avocado, a tomato relish and a citrus vinaigrette. It was topped with truffle frites. and served with a small puff pastry. The flavors were incredible. It was a gorgeous presentation and left me wanting more. Others in my party ordered the Caesar salad and the soup of the evening which was a surf & turf soup and everyone was very impressed.

My entree (pictured right) was a braised short rib that sat in a french onion broth and was topped with a crouton and cheese. It came served with a side of vegetables. The short rib was executed perfectly and was breaking apart and filled with incredible flavor as I ate it.

As someone who gets French Onion soup almost everywhere I go, I was extremely pleased with this version. The broth was flavorful and the cheese and crouton topped it off perfectly. The presentation was nice and I quickly had nothing left on my plate. 

Other entrees at our table included duck, strip steak and salmon.  Everything came out looking beautiful and there were numerous ooh's and ahh's as people ate. The group, most of who had never been to the restaurant before (myself included), were just in awe of such a wonderful evening of food and friends. 

To finish up our meal, we were given a chocolate lava cake. It would not have been my first choice, since I'm not a big fan of chocolate, but it was the only option for Restaurant Week. If you are a chocolate lover, it was a perfect dish. It was extremely rich and gooey. It was a little too chocolaty for me, but I enjoyed the little I did eat. It sat over a fruit puree and some fruit and that was absolutely delicious. 

Within the restaurant, they have the Butterwood Retail Bakery outlet that has delectable pastries, pies and new artisan breads. Everything in the case looked great. 

The Hotel Lafayette has knocked it out of the park with their restaurant choices. Between the Pan Am Grill & Brewery, Butterwood Sweet & Savory and the upscale Mike A's, there is really something for every budget and palate. As for Butterwood Sweet & Savory, the food presentation and taste makes it very "upscale", but it is not priced as high as many upscale restaurants. 

I left there knowing for certain I'd be back with my boyfriend, and am excited to hear they are offering great nightly specials including Bring Your Own Wine (no corkage fees) on Mondays & 1/2 priced bottles of wine on Wednesdays. They are open daily at 11:00am and open at 10:00am on the weekends. They also offer a weekend brunch that I've heard great things about. If you are looking for somewhere to take Mom for Mother's Day, this would be my recommendation. 

The vision and dedication Rocco Termini had for The Hotel Lafayette, and his hard work on new ventures he is undertaking in the City are helping to reshape Buffalo as an incredible destination and place to live. After our meal we had the chance to tour around The Hotel Lafayette, and hearing stories of how rundown this place was years ago, I'm just so thrilled to see the turnaround and look forward to seeing what's next for Buffalo!

Casear salad (left) and Sweet & Savory mini salad (right)

Chocolate lava cake

For more reviews on Butterwood Sweet & Savory check out:   Butterwood Sweet & Savory on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 26, 2013

Restaurant Week Recap #2: Coco in Buffalo

If you haven't been down on Main Street near the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus recently, there is a lot of work going on to create a new transit station along with new buildings that will house the University at Buffalo's School of Medicine. The plans look gorgeous, and they will bring a couple thousand students and staff into downtown Buffalo on a daily basis once they are completed.

Nestled on Main Street across from the Medical Campus is a cute little French bistro, Coco. Coco opened back in May 2012 under the ownership that ran Le Metro (now closed) in the Tony Walker Plaza in Williamsville. 

If you are driving down Main Street, you may miss it unless you are looking closely. The restaurant doesn't have a large sign. Coco has a blue painted exterior with black awning and lights hanging from it. Once inside, though the space is small, it is very inviting and comfortable. The atmosphere is casual and the wait staff was friendly.

We arrived about 20 minutes before our reservation, so we grabbed a seat at the bar and enjoyed a bottle of wine (the Zum Riesling - only Riesling on their menu, and it was delicious). The bar area is trendy and they offer a fun cocktail menu as well as a wine list and good beer on tap (including Flying Bison Rusty Chain).

Once the rest of our group arrived, we sat down for our 6:00pm reservation. Sometimes, with big groups, and especially during Restaurant Week, you can feel crowded in your seat. I really appreciated the open feel to this restaurant. The arrangement of tables is well laid out and the dining area is gorgeous. 

The menu for Restaurant Week included a starter, entree and dessert. Between the six of us in my party, we tried each of the starters and they were all delicious. I chose the pea & carrot aranchini with arborio rice and mozzarella (pictured, left). I've tried aranchini at a few restaurants before, but this one was seasoned and cooked perfectly. The crispy exterior gave way to a flavorful mix of cheese, rice and vegetable. It sat on a bed of lettuce that was the perfect compliment to it. My boyfriend ordered the roasted red pepper bisque, and while it did have a bold spice to it, it was tasty too. 

For the entree course I went back and forth all day on what to order, everything looked great. I ended up going with the "Bagels & Lox" dish (pictured below) which was an incredibly creative and inventive dish. Playing off the traditional bagel and lox, the entree was a piece of pan seared salmon in an "everything bagel vinaigrette", with a cream cheese and chive risotto. It was topped with a beet marscarpone and had a chopped egg garnish. All I can say is, WOW! The entire dish came together beautifully, and getting a little piece of everything made the flavors burst. My salmon was cooked perfectly, and the risotto was outstanding. As I finished up my last bite (debating on whether or not to lick the plate clean), my boyfriend commented, "You clearly didn't like your dinner."

My boyfriend and one other guest in our party ordered the Moroccan chicken on the menu that came paired with a couscous with dried fruit and nuts. They both enjoyed it a lot, but said it needed a little more seasoning.

The other two Restaurant Week entree dishes were also ordered at our table: Porcini & Marscarpone Pierogi and the Steak Frites. Everyone enjoyed their meals, and there was very little left on plates. I had a chance to try some of the rosemary frites and they were amazing. Among some of my favorite french fries! One of the guests in our party commented that this Restaurant Week adventure was up there as her favorite. 

Our meals closed out with our choice of either a chocolate brownie with ice cream, a rhubarb shortcake (what I chose), or a unique avocado mousse. All the desserts were great!

We looked at the regular menu at Coco and it includes pizzas, entrees, and a handful of different types of mussels. While we were at the bar, another patron ordered mussels and they looked and smelled incredible. We all agreed we needed to come back for another meal and get them. 

With Restaurant Week wrapping up in a few days, I'd say that Coco should be a "must squeeze in" if you can fit it into your schedule this weekend. Call for reservations ahead of time. 

I love Restaurant Week in Buffalo for so many reasons, but the number one reason is because it opens my eyes to restaurants I hadn't heard about before. I didn't know Coco existed prior to looking at the participating restaurants, and I'm glad that the group I was going out with was looking to try something new. There are so many "hidden gems" throughout Buffalo and Western New York, and Restaurant Week gives local restaurants the chance to shine. Coco certainly did for us! 

Moroccan Chicken

Rhubarb Shortcake...a sweet ending to a perfect meal!

For more reviews on Coco check out Urbanspoon: CoCo on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Restaurant Week Recap #1: Mangia Ristorante & Caffe in Orchard Park

Welcome to Local Restaurant Week! One of two weeks out of the year totally dedicated to the great food this area has to offer. Restaurants offer dinner specials for $20.13. It's an excuse for me to go out to eat at least half the week because, "I need to blog about it". This week is no exception. I've set up reservations at a total of four local establishments starting with Mangia Ristorante & Caffe in Orchard Park. I'd previously been to Mangia for a fundraising event, but hadn't eaten off the dinner menu. 
We made the drive out to Orchard Park on a gorgeous spring night in Buffalo. The sun was shining and I didn't need a jacket. When we arrived at the restaurant, it was busy, and we took the last parking spot in the additional lot they have for guests. We were a few minutes early for our reservation, but were promptly seated at a table near the window in the back room. A few other tables were already enjoying their meals, and we were shocked by the enormous portion sizes! 

Our waitress shared the specials for Restaurant Week with us, as well as some other specials for the evening and we took a few minutes to decide. I, however, had the menu up on my computer at work all day, meticulously looking it over and trying to decide when I had a free moment. Every entree special they offered was something I'd eat, but I finally settled for a pasta dish, mainly because they are an Italian restaurant. 

The special at Mangia included your choice of salad (mixed greens with a balsamic dressing or a Cesare with anchovies), one of five entrees and a cannoli for dessert. They also are offering $20.13 bottles of Mondavi wine. 

Being a Polish girl, I'm not the proper critic of Italian food, but I brought along my Italian boyfriend and his Mom and Aunt, who grew up with traditional homemade Italian dishes from their Aunt Pat and other family members. The perfect place to start our meal then, was with some of Mangia's homemade meatballs in their red sauce. Our server brought a plate of meatballs out and I watched as their faces lit up as they sampled them. "It's the closest I've ever had in a restaurant to what Aunt Pat used to make." My boyfriend's Mom, Debbi said. The recipes truly have the "homemade" taste to them, and you feel lucky to be a part of the family for the night!
Along with the meatballs, we were brought out a basket of bread and pizza bread which was incredible. The olive oil to dip it in was outstanding too, with the perfect mix of seasoning. 

For our entrees, my boyfriend and I both chose the Penne Al Gorgonzola (pasta sauteed with chicken, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes in a gorgonzola cheese sauce). The pasta was cooked perfectly and the flavors all came together well. The cheese sauce was a little on the heavier side, not to say it wasn't delicious, and was very filling. The portion size was very generous and between my boyfriend and I, we took one plate home with us. 

The other entrees our table enjoyed were the Pollo Picatta (boneless chicken breast floured and sauteed in a lemon caper wine sauce served with roasted red potatoes and vegetables), Chicken Parmesan (not part of the Restaurant Week specials), and the lasagna. Everyone was extremely happy with their dishes and again the portion sizes were very generous. I sampled a little of the lasagna (which was the largest portion of lasagna I've ever seen) and loved the sausage inside. It had a little spice to it and really stood out in the dish. I'll be enjoying some of the leftovers tonight for dinner! 

The meal finished up with a large cannoli for each of us. My boyfriend rarely will eat dessert, but will always have a cannoli. For him, it wasn't his favorite, as the cheese was seasoned with a little bit too much nutmeg. For me though, I enjoyed every bite! 

Our meal at Mangia kicked off what I expect to be another fantastic week of dining out in Western New York. Mangia is located at 4264 North Buffalo Road in Orchard Park. They are open Monday - Saturday and serve lunch starting at 11:00am. They are open until at least 10:00pm, 11:00pm on the weekends. They were definitely worth the trip for us (from the Northtowns)!

Also on tap for this week are Coco, Butterwood Sweet & Savory and Cecelia's. We will have post reviews the day after those meals as well! 

Have you made a reservation to check out one of 200 locally owned establishments throughout WNY? If you have the time to spare, put aside the money and make a point to get out this week and explore all the great food Buffalo and Western New York have to offer!


Pollo Picatta (left) and Chicken Parmesean

For more reviews on Mangia Ristorante & Caffe check out Urbanspoon: 
Mangia Restarante & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Giving Back: Liz Callahan & B Team Buffalo

There are so many amazing volunteers in Buffalo who are making a difference on a regular basis. I've decided to write a bi-weekly "column" entitled, "Giving Back" that will highlight different organizations in Western New York and the volunteers who keep them going. If you know someone who has made a difference in Buffalo, please contact me at ksondel@hotmail.com

“I have a lot of passion for where the city of Buffalo is going, and I want to be a part of the regrowth!” Liz Callahan told me. 

Her face lights up when she talks about B Team Buffalo, an organization she joined four years ago after taking up her Uncle on an invitation to attend an event. Since that first event, Liz joined in the planning committee for their biggest annual event, “City of Light” and joined the Board shortly after. In 2012, she was voted in as Chairman of the Board.

B Team Buffalo is a not-for-profit organization that was started back in 2008 by a group of Buffalo residents. The group hosts a handful of events focused on supporting the communities throughout Buffalo. In addition, they coordinate volunteers to assist at community events during the year.

I learned about B Team Buffalo towards the end of 2012 and volunteered my time to help out with "City Of Light". The event brings volunteers into one neighborhood in Buffalo in early December to decorate houses for the holidays in the neighborhood and provide a carnival and meal for the community. I was impressed and thrilled to have found such a wonderful group of people. Since then, I've volunteered at additional events, and getting to know the members has been a blast. 

The energy B Team Buffalo brings to the area is contagious. Led by Liz and additional Board members, they are an ever growing, passionate group of young professionals in the area who are helping to shape Buffalo's future. 

I've gotten to "know" Liz from the few events we have worked at together and by following her Twitter feed. She is committed to making a difference in Buffalo and is always spreading the word about other community events. Liz is also involved in the committee for TedX Buffalo. 

Over the next few months, B Team-ers will be serving dinner at The Ronald MacDonald House, assisting with clean ups at The Central Terminal, volunteering at Pop Up Parks, and planning for their summer carnival event. More events continue to be added each month!  

"I fell in love with B Team because they are not limited to one event or one cause; they champion all of Buffalo and different events going on in the city." Liz said. "In addition to the volunteer aspect of the group, I've found it to be a great way to meet people and network."

Members have the opportunity to pick and choose which events they are able to volunteer for and can be as active as their schedules allow. Members are involved in suggesting future projects and can join committees for different events. B Team will typically send out e-mails every few weeks with upcoming volunteer opportunities. Members just respond to the appropriate person and receive their assignment. Anyone with an interest in volunteering is encouraged to join!

“We are a group of young professionals who are interested in making a difference in Buffalo. If you have an interest volunteering your time and resources, then you should get involved.”  You can reach out to Liz for more information by e-mail at liz@bteambuffalo.com. You can also find B Team on Facebook and Twitter!  

Liz is 3rd from the left at City of Light 2012. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

COMING SOON: Silo City Rocks

I went rock climbing once in my life. I was in high school, and my best friend Kristy and I took a few days to "vacation" around Buffalo.  We didn't have a lot of money to spend, so we picked out a handful of activities we'd never done and checked them out. Why we chose rock climbing, I'm not sure, but we fumbled our way up the wall, had a good laugh and went on to the next adventure. 

Fast forward almost fifteen years later: I'm standing inside a grain elevator in Buffalo looking up at the future home of Silo City Rocks. I'm off the wall excited about this project, quickly opening my wallet to support the project. It isn't about the rock climbing to me. With one failed shoulder surgery, and the other one in need of surgery, I'm never going to be a climbing fanatic. Sure, I'll give it a try, but, it's not about the climbing. It's about progress. It's about a change of attitude. It's about taking a dream in Buffalo and making it a reality. In a grain elevator. 

Walking around the grain elevator with one of the co-owners of Silo City Rocks, Jason Schwinger, I could feel the energy and passion he has for this project. 

So what exactly is the project? Schwinger and two other co-owners have teamed up to create a unique experience for climbers in Western New York. An abandoned grain elevator in Silo City will be converted into a rock climbing facility filled with climbing walls for children and adults. Climbers will have the chance to climb and repel off the outside of the grain elevator as well. In addition to space for climbing, Silo City Rocks will be home to a yoga studio, a history lounge and more! 

In March, the owners unveiled the project to the community and the response has been incredible. They launched an Indiegogo page asking the community to donate to the project and have raised over $15,000 to date. The donations will go to support the purchase of materials to get the project off the ground by Memorial Day weekend 2013.

"Since we unveiled the project, I've gotten dozens of e-mails a week asking how people can get involved with the project. In addition to making donations, we are in need of a lot of people to help clean out the space and work on the remodel." Jason told me. If you are interested in getting involved, you can contact Jason by e-mail at jason@silocityrocks.com.

The plans for the project are big. Jason knows the full dream won't be realized by the Memorial Day weekend opening, but they plan to continue to expand and add on. Climbing classes and workshops may be offered in the fall and more events and activities will continue to be added as they can. 

Though Silo City Rocks will take up a lot of space, it will still leave a large portion of the grain elevator empty. "We hope that Silo City Rocks starts sparking other ideas from Buffalonians to continue to fill this incredible space. The possibilities are endless." Jason said. In addition to the grain elevator they will be operating out of, there are a handful more in close proximity! 

In the past few years, reuse/rehabilitation/restoration projects in Buffalo have been fascinating. With the recently renovated Statler, Hotel Lafayette, a beautiful Canalside, plans to reuse the historic Richardson Complex, and more, Buffalo is setting itself up for an incredible future. Now, add the historic grain elevators to the mix and Buffalo continues to become an even more attractive destination.  

As Memorial Day gets closer, I find myself getting even more excited about Silo City Rocks. I'm looking forward to getting my chance to explore the walls, bum shoulders and all, and see another space in Buffalo reused. If you enjoying climbing, it is a must do this summer.

If rock climbing isn't your thing, maybe kayaking is? Jason also owns BFLO Harbor Kayak (which we reviewed HERE back in 2011. Check out the website for current pricing and hours). It's another great outdoor option for summers in Buffalo. 

Whether or not climbing is your thing, you have to appreciate what they are trying to do. I'm so proud of the people of Buffalo who are thinking outside the box to create all the wonderful projects that are in the works. 

Summer 2013 is going to be an incredible time to be in Buffalo. Stay tuned for more details as they come out...

Happy climbing!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Buffalo Festival Dates 2013

This week, I started laying out plans for summer 2013 in Buffalo. I've already purchased tickets to a few summer concerts, my brother is getting married in July, and my boyfriend surprised me with talks of taking a family cruise this summer! With so much going on, I needed a game plan to lay out the rest of my summer so I don't miss all the great festivals and events going on in the City! 

Summers in Buffalo fill up quickly. There are hundreds of events to choose from throughout the summer months, and while I can't do them all, there are a handful (or two) of summer staples I have to attend!

Here is a running list of some of the big Buffalo summer festivals. I'll put out a summer concert post towards the end of this month once they are all released! 

Here's to another wonderful summer in Buffalo!

2013 Summer Festivals In Buffalo, NY

Buffalo Niagara Film Festival: April 10th - April 14th

Buffalo Pride Festival: May 28th - June 3rd

Buffalo Greek Festival: May 31st - June 2nd

Polish Heritage Festival: June 7th & June 8th

Allentown Art Festival: June 8th & June 9th (11am - 6pm)

Juneteenth Festival: June 15th & June 16th

Discover Amherst Street Festival: June 15th

Buffalo Blues & Brews Festival: June 16th (12pm - 9pm)

Citybration: June 21st - June 23rd

National Garden Festival: June 21st - August 4th

Niagara Falls Music & Arts Festival - June 28th - June 30th

Taste of Diversity Festival: June 29th (11am - 7pm)

Old Home Days (Williamsville): July 9th - July 12th

Taste of Buffalo: July 13th (11am - 9pm) & July 14th (11am - 7pm)

Canal Festival: July 14th - July 21st

Buffalo Infringement Festival: July 26th - August 4th

Niagara County Fair: July 31st - August 4th

Italian Festival: August 1st - August 4th

Eden Corn Festival: August 1st - August 4th

Lucille Ball Comedy Festival: August 1st - August 4th

Chalk Fest Buffalo: August 3rd & August 4th

Taste of Williamsville: August 4th (12pm - 9pm)

Erie County Fair: August 7th - August 18th

Taste of Ellicotville: August 10th & 11th

Elmwood Ave Festival of the Arts: August 24th (10am - 6pm) & August 25th (10am - 5pm)

Buffalo Chicken Wing Festival: August 31st (12pm - 9pm) & September 1st (12pm - 7pm)

Beer & Bacon Fest: August 31st (12pm - 6pm)

Music Is Art Festival: September 21st (10am - 10pm)

Buffalo International Film Festival: September 20th & October 3rd - October 6th 

...more to come...