Over the last two years we have sat down with 106 different people to record 103 episodes of our podcast, Eat It Up. Simply put, it’s been amazing. We’ve made new friends, heard great stories, gained new insights into the restaurant world and have been inspired to make Buffalo Eats even better. Last year we asked the 57 podcast guests from 2012 to tell us about their favorite meals from that year and we got 44 responses. This year we asked all 106 guests from both years and got 79 responses. Some of our guests sent us 30 words and others sent 800.
Today is part three (of five) featuring 18 podcast guests, check back tomorrow for part four. To see all of our 2013 Year End Coverage, click here.
Ben Tsujimoto (Online Content Coordinator for Buffalo.com, #16). Maybe it’s my slightly bizarre eating habits, but I remember exceptional dishes rather than exceptional meals. I know Buffalo’s “foodies” — I don’t like that term either — have fallen in love with Black Market Food Truck’s Black Market BLT and their various takes on the Banh Mi, but I think their Cemitas (pictured above) was the best singular food I’ve eaten this year. From the quality of the bread to the dissonant flavors, you can tell there was pretty extreme care in creating a sandwich that may have never been served before in WNY — especially not out of a truck.
Runners-up: Pork belly tacos from Smoke on the Water; Chipotle turkey sandwich from Globe (most underrated sandwich in Buffalo); Dirty South burrito from Lloyd Taco Truck.
Erik Bernardi (Owner of Lake Effect Ice Cream, #19). Best meal of 2013 in WNY: Party of 5 at Bistro Europa, we ordered virtually every app on the menu and special offered that night. I personally indulged in the braised oxtail which, after a salad with pork belly and the charcuterie board with lardo, was about as rich a meal as I’ve ever had.
Best out of town meal: Fuego Cocina y Tequileria in Arlington Virginia. As the whole menu is a la carte, there’s far too much to write, especially since we ordered a broad range of items including tongue, goat tacos, duck, tuna, and some serious margaritas with our entrees.
Kevin Purdy (Co-host of In Pod Form & Coffee Aficionado, #31 & #67). I’m going to cheat a bit and cite a meal from last year. Perhaps that still counts as part of the Buffalo Eats Fiscal Year. I was not handed a prospectus before submitting. Apologies all around.
A group of friends and I were offered a private dinner at Panaro’s in late December 2012, as one of our group is close with the owners and chef. Six couples arrived, one after the other, shaking off the heavy, wet snow. Growlers of Community Beer Works and bottles of wine were passed. It was a one-off thing. One chef, cooking his most comfortable dishes for a friend and his friends, in a small space on Delaware Avenue on a nearly cinematic night just before Christmas. Probably one of the five best meals I’ve eaten during my time in Buffalo, if not the best. Certainly among the most memorable. I think more people should know about Panaro’s.
Alan Bedenko (Blogger for Artvoice, #21). I’m going to cheat and give you two favorite meals of 2013.
1. Martin Cooks: August 22, 2013. It’s been a long time since I’ve enjoyed a night out dining in western New York that was as satisfying as this. Admittedly, we have cut back significantly on dining out of any sort and there are myriad local places that are well-regarded by people whom I respect, and I haven’t tried most of them. But I watched my Facebook feed get loaded up with incredible images of the food and ambiance at Martin Cooks that we had to give it a try.
Everything about this place is different – perhaps even groundbreaking. Martin is a talented and creative chef who is trying something unique. For dinner, at least, you don’t get a choice – you are given a menu with a wine pairing option. $60/person, two seatings per night. Simple.
You get 4 – 5 courses of lovingly prepared, delicious meals using fresh ingredients and contemporary techniques. The kitchen isn’t just open – you sit at a bar, so you can watch the action. You’re invited to come in and check out what’s going on. The wine guy – he knows his stuff and can make great recommendations. And every week the menu changes. In late August it was, naturally, a peach and tomato theme. Smoked salmon with peach puree. Toasted baguette with peeled tomatoes, tapenade, and whipped goat cheese. Pappardelle with tomatoes and cheese followed by a melon palate-cleanser. Chicken saltimbocca that was to die for tender, and a peanut butter & jelly dessert on shortbreads with pickled blueberry jelly (pictured above). We went back a few weeks later and the menu was completely different, but the food just as spectacular. This is a place, in a location, that deserves people’s support and admiration. I love what’s happening there and happily say it’s my favorite of the year.
2. Hindin Han: April 1, 2013. We spent a little over two weeks traveling through Croatia, and on the way from Dubrovnik took a day trip detour to Mostar in Bosnia & Herzegovina. We didn’t have a lot of time, but in our quick walk through the old town and crossing the iconic Stari Most, we saw a little restaurant with a terasse overlooking the roaring Neretva River below. Its name was on the side of the building, so I looked it up on my phone and grabbed the address. We returned to the car and I plugged the address into the nav system, and a short walk down a steep and narrow street – past at least one building still empty from the war – we reached a charming little place where we sat outside, listening to the rushing waters below.
The service? Typical Balkan peremptory – you order and the waiter responds, “mozhe”, which is directly translated as, “this is permitted” or “this is possible”. It wasn’t speedy, but it was worth every moment. We watched a guy fishing on the banks of the river. We watched tour bus groups following guides with different-colored umbrellas. We listened to the conversations that passed us by. We were at once immersed in a place that was at once European, but not quite. The food we ordered was your typical roadside Balkan grill fare. Raznjici – cubes of lamb meat skewered and grilled, served with a gorgeous slab of freshly baked, soft pita bread, some ajvar and onions for garnish, and a side of fries. (Always fries). Cevapcici – spiced mixed meat sausages also served with pita, ajvar, and a cheese curd thing called kajmak on the side, little onion and veg garnish, and a side of fries. (Always fries). It was outrageously inexpensive, too. 7 KM, which works out to US$5.00.
Afterwards? Turkish coffee. This is the very epitome of the south Slav experience. The meal was so simple, so familiar, yet so outstandingly good. This meal took me back to my childhood visits to old Yugoslavia, and introduced my kids to a new culture. The quality of the food was superlative, and the overall ambiance is unattainable elsewhere in the world.
Ivy Knight (Editor in Chief at Swallow & Cookbook Author, #65). My favourite meal of 2013 happened at a winery in the spring. It happened during this year’s Terroir Symposium, which is Canada’s largest hospitality symposium. The keynote speaker was René Redzepi and other notable guests included Kate Krader from Food & Wine, Magnus Nilson, Alessandro Porcelli, the editors of FOOL magazine, food writer Joe Warwick and many more. In a week filled with cold, sleety rain there was one day of perfect sunshine and blue skies and it happened to fall on the one day we needed for an outdoor meal at Norm Hardie’s Prince Edward County winery. All the guest chefs worked together beside the local chefs. Volunteers had arranged a beautiful pantry of ingredients from across the province – Ontario peanuts, fresh eggs, maple syrup, perch…At various jury-rigged and a few legitimate barbecues and fire pits the chefs created a feast.
We ate sitting on hay bales in the sunshine, with sips of Norm’s incredible Pinot Noir and sparkling wine from Hinterland Estates. Everyone was so happy. The miracle of the weather and communal spirit of the whole thing was really unbelievable. I’m glad I was lucky enough to be there and that I got to share it with so many incredibly talented chefs, which included, I might add, a certain Mr. James Roberts!
My straight up best dish of the year is the Tempura Prawns at Oddseoul. It’s dirty junk food and it’s awesome. They’re served with this pink sauce that’s Kewpie mayo, tobiko roe and chili paste. Also the Loosey is a crazy sort of burger on challah that’s dynamite. Love that place.
Corey Catalano (Owner of Big Ditch Brewing, #90). Bistro Europa, I had been wanting to check them out for quite some time. We sat down in the cozy 12 seat environment and ordered the slow cooked rabbit. Damn was the first word out of my mouth. I had never eaten rabbit before, so tender and flavorful. Not gamey at all. I was very happy to hear they were expanding to a new location. There is no way that quality of food should be limited to 12 people at a time. Their pierogies were also very tasty as well.
Adam Kern (Owner of My Buffalo Shirt, #41). Honorable mentions of some of my favorite meals from this year include the Dan Kabobs from Amy’s Truck and Mississippi Mud Slingers from Smoke on the Water. The Dan Kabobs I’m pretty sure I ordered on accident but it was an awesome combination of deep-fried breaded chicken, french fries, tomatoes, garlic spread, and hot sauce all rolled in a pita. The Mudd Slingers are thick smoked bologna slices with Budweiser braised onions and ball park mustard on a roll. Towards the end of 2013 I dabbled into the sushi world. Some of my favorites included the Beef on Weck roll from Seabar and the Joey from Sakura. I cant forget about Ice Cream. I was finally able to find Lake Effect ice cream in my area (at Orchard Fresh) and I can honestly say I am now hooked on it. My favorite flavor is The Aud, which is Sweet Labatt Blue ice cream loaded with roasted peanuts and chocolate covered pretzels.
Rich Tilyou (Owner of T-Meadow Farms, #37). My favorite meal in 2013 was an off the menu eight course dinner at Tabree in November. Chef Bruce kept dazzled us with the crispy, lighter than air pork skin, and charcuterie plate. The courses kept coming, and the entire experience gave my cousin and I time to really enjoy dinner with conversation to catch up on each others lives. The main course was a sous vide venison eye of the loin. It was perfect, tender, delicious!
Joe Kennedy (Owner of Spar’s Sausage Shop, #93). (Note: Joe’s top meal was submitted via his wife Beth.) I directed your question to Joe and this is a little embarrassing because he said his favorite dinner this past year was the Canadian Thanksgiving that I cooked in October. Thanksgiving is Joe’s favorite holiday because he says it’s Christmas without the bullshit but great food with family and friends. We don’t always have the energy to celebrate both Thanksgiving holidays but we try! The only requirement Joe had was to bring me home a smoked turkey breast and it was delicious as usual. So, here’s my menu! Roasted butternut squash soup with curry, apples and creme fresh. Smoked turkey breast with banger sausage stuffing. Roasted brussel sprouts with T-Meadow pepper bacon. Orange balsamic glazed sweet potatoes. Farmer Oles mashed potatoes with gravy. Coleslaw with Farmer Oles apples. Fresh cranberry sauce. Pecan Pie and pumpkin pie.
I was humbled when Joe told me his choice. We have so many good chef friends who own restaurants and consistently cook us phenomenal food, so I was wondering myself which meal he found memorable. I love nothing more than cooking for Joe and taking care of him. I’m as happy as a little girl!
Kerry Quaile (Bar Manager at Vera Pizzeria, #85). I thought long and hard about this and I have to say that my first meal ever at Rue Franklin last March blows everything else out of the water. Jon and I had a Bib Lettuce salad, Oysters and I got the White Fish as my main coarse topped with a little curry while Jon got the Venison. The portions were perfect and the flavors were amazing. The 175$ bottle of wine didn’t hurt either. Note: Jon Karel, who appeared on episode #36, also said this was his favorite meal of 2013.
Laura Anhalt (Author of Mexican Flavors, #59). My favorite dish this year was the Mac & Cheese at a restaurant called Jacob’s Pickles in NYC. Patrick and I took the train to NYC and stayed 5 days to actually go to some of the restaurants and/or places featured in the Best Thing I Ever Ate TV program. However, Jacob’s Pickles wasn’t on the list but the had the best darn Mac & Cheese ever!
But I have a tie… the Best Hotdogs ever were from the Shake Shack – also in NYC. As far as Junk food, the best Doughnuts I’ve ever had have been from the Donut Plant with flavors such as Tres Leches, Creme Brulee and Peanut Butter and Jelly (pictured above). I can’t pick my favorite, we ate a dozen of doughnuts between the both of us in about an hour.
Mike Andrzejewski (Chef/Owner of Seabar, Cantina Loco, Mike A’s, Tappo, #20). This years best meal was a stunner. I was in NYC, and have been looking for the meal that was inspiring: you know, the type of thing that really transcends a meal and makes you awestruck on every level. I’ve had some great dinners, good dishes and enjoyable experiences, buts its been awhile since I have been blown away. Then I made a reservation at Daniel, Daniel Boulud’s flagship in NYC.
I had called late and could only get a table in the lounge and I was happy with that, considering the food comes from the same kitchen as the dining room. I had asked however if a kitchen tour might be arranged and was told they would try but it depends on the nights activity. When we arrived we were welcomed at the door, by a hostess and a manager who didn’t have to ask my name, but told me they took the liberty of arranging a table in the dining room and their premiere captain will be handling our dinner. (Wow OK, I feel important now!) So the Gentleman came to our table, which was perfectly situated to see the entire room and watch the action. We discussed menu selections, and I secretly hoped he would be a little less formal, and I could pick his insider’s view for information on the restaurant and kitchen. I ordered a bottle of nice Champagne for Sherri and asked for a Non-Alcoholic cocktail for me and we decided on the menu we would dine on this night.
Throwing all self restraint out the window, we started with a supplement of ossetra caviar and another of the truffle Angollotti feature, the seven course tasting (each of us were to receive a completely different selection), then added on the Foie Gras presentation from the ala carte menu, as well as a portion of “barely cooked Scottish Langoustines “. The service staff went into what could only be described as the ‘Royal Treatment’ (although they seemed to be just as attentive to the tables around us). Our captain became increasingly open as the night progressed, never being overly familiar, but really entertaining, informative and knowledgeable. After our last savory course, Chef Daniel Boulud himself visited our table. The visit in itself was really great but the fact that he remembered me from an event he was involved in seven years earlier and spent about 15 minutes with us was pretty incredible. Two dessert courses later, some macaroons, french jellies and a tour of the kitchen later, we ended the best meal of the year. Probably the best of my life.
The only thing better than the service and attentiveness was the perfection of the food. Each course held a restrained brilliance. Every component of each dish meaningful and technically near perfect. Each course was followed by the next in an order that was sensible, yet still surprising and exciting. I had found what I was looking for and was exhilarated and humbled at the same time.
Bill Rapaport (Created Buffalo Restaurant Guide, #48). In looking over my own reviews from the past year on my restaurant guide, four restaurants come out on top. I had two memorable meals at Linguine’s in Bowmansville and at the Trattoria Aroma in the Elmwood Village: an exquisite lobster tail over linguine with lobster cream sauce and wilted arugula at the former, and the best lobster ravioli I’ve ever had, with fried leeks, in a prosecco-corn sauce, at the latter.
But for consistency of a wide variety of dishes over many visits, Rocco’s and YOLO, both in East Amherst, stand out. My wife and I agree that the best chicken marsala we’ve ever had, rich in flavor, was at Rocco’s, and a memorable dish of mussels in a wonderful marinara sauce, with chunks of tomato and basil, along with three slices of ciabatta bread and just enough strands of a very thick spaghetti to help sop it all up was one of the most satisfying meals I’ve had in a long time. That mussel dish convinced me that Rocco’s was a very special place, both for variety of cuisine as well as service.
YOLO has also consistently surprised us with wonderful dishes (and service), especially a fall-apart tender salmon dish in a blueberry barbecue sauce; an exquisite crab-stuffed lemon sole with sauteed artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, pancetta, and arugula, served with jasmine rice and a pesto cream sauce; and a salmon pasta with a heavenly tropical risotto that would have made a terrific dish all by itself.
Paul Vroman (Owner/Operator of Aunt Rosie’s, #75). When you guys asked me to write about my favorite meal of 2013, I was stumped on what was my favorite. Most times i can answer that right away with this meal or that meal. But this year I was lucky enough to have eaten a lot of great meals with great people. So here is a couple of them…
All of the street food in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico that my wife and I consumed on our honeymoon. From Smoked marlin tostadas to mole to shrimp ceviche to chicharron. Oh god, the chicharron. If you are ever there you should check out Vallarta Eats, they give tours of the hidden gems and them some.
A little closer to home I experienced some pretty amazing meals at Bistro Europa, including some late night tasting menus (thanks Steve) to some pretty cool Midnight Mass dinners courtesy of Steve, James Roberts (Ramen) and Ed Forster (Fried Chicken). Speaking of Ed, I was lucky enough to attended his first Workshop meal in Silo City, everything was spot on from the cocktails to the amazing meal either cooked in mini fryers (Rabbit Lentil soup croquette 2.0) or over open flames (Steak and Grains, pictured above).
And I really can’t forget all of the snacks at Larkin Square, thanks to everyone who feed me before my drive back to Rochester.
Mike Dimmer (Owner of The Black Market Food Truck, #53 and #100). 2013 has easily been the craziest, busiest, and most fulfilling year in my life. Running the truck quickly became a 24/7 job (as if we weren’t expecting that). Unfortunately, it didn’t leave a whole lot of free time to eat at all the fabulous food spots Buffalo has gained over the past year. When thinking about my best meal, though, the answer is easy. I was lucky enough to find almost every Sunday relatively free, and “Lunch with Lori” (my Mom) became a staple. We made our best attempt to try new spots when we could, but found ourselves mainly returning to Niagara Seafood. Vietnamese is one of my favorite cuisines and at this point, my mother and I have triumphed the entire menu, after many regular visits. It’s all great, and will always be a strong recommendation of mine. So in all, I can’t put my finger one one specific time, but any of my Sunday lunches with mom stick out as my best meal(s) of 2013. Love you, Mom.
Paul Tripi (Frank Gourmet Hotdogs, #62 and #100). The best thing I had in 2013 was the Banana Split at Central Michel Richard in Washington, D.C. I am not a huge fan of bananas, but it didn’t even matter w/ this dessert. Made up with artisanal ice creams and sorbet, chocolate and caramel sauces & loaded with fresh whipped cream… it was the best $12 I have ever spent!
Franco Kroese (Owner of Franco’s Pizza, #8). Well, anyone who knows me knows how much I love food! One of my favorite restaurants to go to is Sinatra’s on Kenmore Ave. I have been going there for years, and they never disappoint. One of my very favorite meals is their Sunday Pork in Sauce. If you have never had it, you don’t know what you are missing! The dish comes with a very generous portion of pork that has been simmered for hours. It is so tender you don’t even need your knife! The sauce is fresh and delicious! Of course it wouldn’t be the same without the side of pasta that comes with it. It is such a comforting and enjoyable meal. You can’t help but smile after you have eaten this dish! My mouth is watering just thinking of it! Enjoy!