Vegetarian Buffalo had previously posted about the Taste of Buffalo, but to get a true idea of what to expect at this festival, here is an account from the 2014 event
Along Delaware Ave on a gorgeous Saturday morning, there were plenty of paid parking lots available for a close walking spot to the action. This writer parked farther down along a side street for free because it was a rare beautiful day in Buffalo and there was no excuse not to get some walking in. On that note, I might offer up the suggestion one wears well fitting tennis shoes instead of Old Navy flip flops, but I’d never actually tell you what to do. First I bought some ticket at the front tent: I thought I’d go easy and start off with $15 worth of food, which bought me 3 sheets of tickets ($5 = 10 tickets). As suggested in the last Taste of Buffalo post, I took a guide and stepped to the side to see what this year had to offer. I dog-earred the pages of the booths I wanted to sample. Then I quickly checked to see what order the booths were laid out in, and began my journey from the top.
My very first stop was at Merge. I’ve been a huge admirer of this place for a while because of their vegan and gluten free menu options, and had my first visit there not too long ago. So even though I’ve tried this place once, I thought the Seitan Wings garnered a try, so I laid down 4 tickets for a taste of their signature item with vegan ranch dressing. The seitan was crispy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, smothered in Frank’s hot sauce, and best of all, offered no bones to pick. The vegan ranch dressing cooled the buffalo bites down just enough to make the experience thoroughly enjoyable. These babies were amazing! Without a doubt, I will be going back to Merge within the week just to get a full order of these delicious bite sized “wings.”
My next stop was Cecelia’s Ristorante where I tried their featured item, the Fried Cheese Ravioli with Tomato Sauce. Fantastic, absolutely delicious! The ravioli was crisp, light, and yet full of seasoned flavorful cheese stuffing. The tomato sauce was fresh and I’m so glad I put down the 5 tickets for the two instead of sampling just one. These aren’t your typical fast food/freezer aisle fried ravioli, these are something special.
Following that was at Louie’s Hot Dogs for their veggie dog. I had it smothered with relish, ketchup and mustard, and while tasty, I wished I saved the 5 tickets because I’m pretty certain that was a Morning Star hot dog. My only other regret for the Taste of Buffalo was immediately following the veggie dog when I ordered the taste of The Riverstone Grill‘s Lobster Mac & Cheese. I don’t actually like lobster. I’ve tried it on a few occasions prepared different ways and none of them have actually wowed me, and most likely never will. But The Riverstone Grill is known as a fine restaurant, so I thought perhaps this is a time to give lobster another shot. I should have coughed up the two extra tickets for the Wild Mushroom & Gorgonzola Risotto Balls, because once again I did not care for this variation on lobster. Actually, I didn’t care for this variation of Mac & Cheese either. And so that was the end of my venturing out to try things I wasn’t feeling.
I continued my way down the ever crowding street, dodging strollers and idle talkers, “pardon”-ing my way through massive lines that stretched into the middle of the street, and ever searching for the said wine slushies in the previous post. In my ventures I crossed Sun Restaurant and the Black Rice Sushi Roll caught my attention. And so I paid up the 4 tickets for a sample (2 pieces) of the roll. Then I was asked if I would like the mango or the salmon version. Oh, ho! Well, since it was a warm day and my dietetics schooling is always with me, I went for the one that would be safe to eat in any temperature. The girl then asked if I would like some sweet chile sauce to go with it. I paused, giving one second to think, and then asked how she prefers it. She smiled and nodded, “It’s really good with the sauce.” And so she drizzled a touch of the sweet chile sauce on the Mango Black Rice Sushi Roll. I am so glad she did! I stepped to the side to pop the rolls in my mouth and they might have arguably been the best thing I ate all day. Might have been, mind you. The girl serving me gave me a coupon for a free mango sushi roll, and so even though I intended to certainly order To-Go as I grabbed their take out menu, I will 100% be venturing out to their location on Niagara street to get a free full roll of that amazing morsel I just ate.
I continued my way around the square, nearly ending my round-about through the Taste of Buffalo, almost giving up all hope of finding the wine slushy I so longed for (as the day really was getting warm), and then hark! There it was! Merritt Winery and their original Wine Slushy. I got close and, in a moment of irritation, discovered I was shy 2 tickets for the wine slushy. I turned on my heels, performed an upstream battled against the crowded throng, and threw down $5 more for another sheet of tickets.
This year there was another slushy option in addition to the Sangria mix. XTC was a bit sweeter and featured notes of pomegranate. That was really all I needed to hear from the girl serving up the slushies as I paid 8 tickets for the “sample” size. It’s actually a full 6 ounce drink, but for 16 tickets you can get a souvenir sippy cup full of the slushy, which I suppose makes the 8 ticket one a sample. I don’t really need a souvenir sippy cup nor the additional amount of slushy, and honestly, the 8 ticket size was just right.
I happily sipped at my slushy as I meandered around the rest of the square. I found the final place I was looking for at the turn and went up to the very well decorated Caribbean Experience booth to ask what was in the Vegetable Patties. The gentleman said it was a mixture of corn, peas, and carrots. I paid the man 3 tickets for the vegetable patty which was absolutely delicious. The patty was a tasty gruel of seasoned veggies pinched in a flat pastry. You may laugh, but it was magical. It could have used some kind of sauce or something else because the pastry made the texture a little dry, but as I still had plenty of slushy it wasn’t a big deal. The flavors were incredible though, Caribbean Experience really has their recipe down.
I chilled out in the shade for a moment while I counted my remaining tickets and flipped through the book to see what they would buy. May Jen Chinese Restaurant had a Vegetable Lo Mein for 7 tickets that previously caught my eye, but I also wanted something of a desert. Since you can pretty much judge a restaurant by their Crab Rangoon, I allocated 5 tickets to May Jen and looked to see what 2 tickets would buy me. Paula’s Donuts Donut Holes. Done.
Since I was making my way back to the car Paula’s Donuts came up first. Being from Missouri, I like to think myself more Southern than most people in Buffalo (you real Southern transplants know that’s not the case), so I had to go for the Red Velvet Donut Holes. Lawd have mercy, those were tasty! A crispy, sweet icing outside and a soft, moist, cake-like inside. Mmm-mmmh! After that I made my way to May Jen’s and placed my last 5 tickets down for 2 crab rangoon. 5 tickets well spent! The crispy wrapper was thick and held the cream cheese filling perfectly. Not only that, but once it cooled I was able to peel it apart relatively easily and use the dry part of the wrapper to scoop out the filling, which is my favorite way to each a rangoon. The filling was really good! I did pour a little duck sauce on it, but honestly, it didn’t really need the duck sauce. The cream cheese mix was fantastically blended and didn’t really need the addition, I’m just a sucker for sauces is all.
And with that, my 2014 Taste of Buffalo outing was exhausted. The day had grown warm, the crowds pressing, and my pockets bare, and it was all worth it! The $20 worth of tickets let me try 9 different restaurants/wineries and I was most certainly full. Some were better than others, some will certainly be seeing me around soon, and overall I got to try completely new places that I had never experienced before nor would I have perhaps made my way there on my own. Based on my time frame, I didn’t get to catch any shows which I do wish time would have allowed me to see, but there is always next year! If you didn’t get to try the 2014 Taste of Buffalo, definitely make it a point to catch Taste of Buffalo 2015!
Left image courtesy Taste of Buffalo’s Facebook Page