Tag Archives: Buffalo NY food reviews

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Dear Digestion Suggestion Readers, I have transferred all of my food reviews, recipes and fiction over to my new website: www.smtraphagen.com. Please visit the site, share with others, and follow me!


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Buffalo Soup Fest Today at the Buffalo Convention Center. Don’t Miss Out!

31c64f_f277ae72ba6a40e4b466cd3f83c09f20_jpg_srb_p_1255_460_75_22_0_50_1_20_0Buffalo Soup Fest, previously scheduled for an earlier date, takes place today at the Buffalo Convention Center from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.

The fastest-growing event for food lovers in Buffalo, NY, the Buffalo Soup-Fest has spent the last four years providing tens of thousands of Western New Yorkers with some of the best soups in the area to help us alleviate those winter blues. For more information about this visit my new site www.smtraphagen.com


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Updated: British Chippy–Can Fried Fish be Healthy?

The British Chippy–a carved out fish and chip shop located off South Park Ave. in Buffalo NY. Taking route 5 from the south towns, I assumed that “off South Park” meant right off South Park. Not the case. I got off at Tift, thinking it was easier and turned onto South Park. Mind you, I have now been here twice and each time drove right past this place. It is located in what looks to be an abandoned warehouse; across the street is vacant property and some old industrial work sites. Hoping for the best, I walked inside to find that it was no bigger than my first apartment right out of high school (a studio by the way). There is no heat to speak of, and it was 10 degrees outside that day, and as there is no way to escape the constant opening of the front door, there is no way to escape the whip lash of cold air hitting you in the face.

images This aside, I took in the glass cased counters, chalk board and foe British pictures plastered to the walls. The red telephone booth wallpaper was quaint, and I love that all of their food items are written in chalk. However, the only authentic British look are the actual food items listed. Everything else right down to the telephone booth is wallpaper pictures. They offer tea or hot coffee ($2.00, rather cheap) and an array of British foods from battered Cod and Fish and Chips to Yorkshire Fish Cake or Sausage Roll. The items are traditional and they tout making the food in just that way….traditional. What hit my research nerve and got me digging for more information is their claim that British Fish and Chips are healthier than Fish Fry’s. Hmmmm……ok, I’ll bite. Right on their website they state that Fish and Chips has more vitamin C than an orange, it has fewer calories than other “popular take-aways,” and are only 630 calories. Well, I had to find out if this is true. According to the British Nutrition Foundation, a typical fish and chips plate has 840 calories–not 630. It is high in saturated fat and salt/sodium. And, while the fish itself does provide vitamin C, B12, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids, the batter around the fish is not healthy (although I will concede it is healthier than a typical American fish fry). Note also that the chips are not very healthy. However, with this I did find that the oils used to batter the fish contain more omega-3 and 6’s than other olive oils. Depending on the oil used, omega-6 can cause artery inflammation. Mono-unsaturated fats and omega-3’s are the safest for heart health. Most Chippie experts use either baking soda or carbonated water or beer as a rising agent to obtain that light, airy, an crispness that British fish and chips is known for. Doing this keeps the batter from becoming dense and dry (more commonly known as an American Fish Fry). Potato flour is used by some, and while starchy, can provide a less oily and healthier bite. Needless to say, everything in the British Chippy is authentic, British and expertly cooked as though it was right off the boat. My fish and chips ($12.00) came wrapped in white tissue (instead of newspaper), salt and vinegar was provided, and the fish (Cod) was perfectly cooked, juicy and flakey, with a thin veil of batter wrapped around it.fishandchips Upon asking my host if the staff are provided training, he stated, “oh yes, everyone undergoes British frying training to get our fish and chips right.” I was pleasantly surprised to hear this fact. So my first foray into the fatty fug of the British Chippy has had a mixed reception. Both the fish sandwich and fish and chips were very good, but the atmosphere is severely lacking, and while tasty (arguably tastier than a fish fry), I wouldn’t tout that is a “healthy” option compared to–well anything else really. All in all, an experience worth trying, but I caution against it for those with heart disease, gallbladder disease, IBS, lactose intolerance or a gluten intolerance.

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Under the Sea, Over it and Around it–Oshun’s Brings the Sweet Sea to Buffalo (GF)

It starts with a jovial tale of love, prosperity and fertility. It ends with a marriage between two deities. Oshun, the Orisha of fresh waters, marries Shango, venerated for his powers over thunder and lightening, he was known to be a colorful character.

And so it goes, Oshun’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar has opened in downtown Buffalo; perfectly situated at the corners of Genesee Street and E. Huron and not to far from it’s partner Shango’s Restaurant. images

This vibrant Art Deco restaurant has a strong mythological bend that carries you from story to history to present. Jim Guarino, owner/chef, resurrects this voodoo pantheon and shares it with the world. After signing a lease to its current location, Owner and team realized during construction that the once occupied Waldorf Astoria not only had a history dating back to 1946, but that many of the walls held their own mystic. It seemed kismet that this building would become the living space of Oshun’s Restaurant, upon discovery of water themed fresco’s hidden behind drywall. Not one, not two, but several fresco’s depicting water goddesses or mermaids were uncovered. Framed in mahogany wood, these show stopping fresco’s now greet you as you walk into the tranquil and open space.

Seating roughly 125 people, the restaurant has a dashing 60’s style bar. Horizontal to the bar is an oyster bar where you can try your hand at raw seafood. Partitions separate the tables from the lively bar areas, but give you unobstructed views of the beautiful sea blue colors and fresco adorned walls.

The food palate resembles that of the decor. A wild and eccentric menu, all plates are small, giving patrons the ability to share amongst the table or enjoy small portions for themselves. A perfect example of what I mean by eccentric would be the Bay Scallops ($12.00). These plancha seared scallops are served atop coconut rice, Burmese tomatillos, 20141213_201823fresh mint and popcorn. Yes that’s what I said–popcorn. My party and I looked at each other quizzically before diving into this strange and wondrous dish. However, it was in fact absolutely delicious. The salty crunch of the popcorn compliments the coconut flavor of the rice so well, that I almost forgot I was eating popcorn. While the scallops are small (roughly the size of the popcorn), they are fresh, and provide just enough chewiness that you don’t become overwhelmed with a giant scallop taking control of your mouth.

Next came the calamari ($9.00). This is a staple for me at any seafood restaurant. And any good restaurant worth its salt knows that in order to make a great calamari, it’s one part breading to two parts flavor. Meaning, easy on the breading–let the flavors from the glaze and seafood do most of the work. Oshun’s hits it out of the park. Lightly breaded, these fried squid are served with basil, pineapple tamarind glaze, atop grilled corn salsa. It’s the perfect portion size for a four top table; each getting at least 2 small servings.

Next we conquered the catfish ($12.00) and the Faroe Island salmon ($13.00). For those who are gluten free, the catfish is breaded in cornmeal; served with bacon vinaigrette and slaw. I’ve never been a big catfish fan, but this flaky fish was so mouth watering, I almost list it as a top contender for favorite seafood’s. That being said, the salmon, which is my favorite dish, is served as a grilled kabob with honey mustard glaze and sauerkraut. I will note it was just slightly over cooked, but delicious all the same. It is cut into five chunks and you are served three kabobs.2014-12-19 14.17.44

Our sides included orzo ($8.00) and olives ($4.00). The olives are the real deal; seeded and lightly tossed in olive oil and various pepper seasonings. The orzo I wouldn’t recommend. While the glazed onions and pancetta it is tossed with are excellent, the orzo itself is extremely overcooked, giving it a slightly slimy consistency.

This swarthy mix of voodoo myth meets city slicker not only works well for Buffalo, but works well for the style of food Chef Guarino has in mind. It’s a great scene that plays to the public nightly.

Oshun’s will be hosting a Christmas Eve. cocktail hour with drink specials and complimentary hors d’oeuvres from 3-6 p.m.

I highly recommend Oshun’s for your next dinner date.

Oshun on Urbanspoon

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A Central NY Review: Branca Restaurant

Branca logo

Branca Restaurant, 683 Pittsford Victor Rd in Pittsford NY, recently opened its doors under the ownership of Joshua and Jennifer Miles- owners of Revelry in Downtown Rochester. This restaurant invites customers to experience authentic Italian food the way they see it.

Having only been open for roughly five weeks, Branca is already jammed packed and turning people away- literally. You either have a reservation or you wait….for hours to get a seat. I witnessed this first hand as we ventured out to Rochester, a little over an hour drive, to dine at this unique restaurant. Our group included my lovely parents, who were smart enough to make a reservation. As we waited to check in, I watched as the cute couple in front of us (who looked like they might have been on a first date) asked for a table. This is how it went down:

Hostess: “Do you have a reservation?”

Cute Couple: “No.”

Hostess: “I’m sorry, we honor reservations first.”

Cute Couple: “Well then how about the patio?”

Hostess: “Our patio is reservation first as well.”

Cute Couple: “So we can’t get a table at all? I see tables open.”

Hostess: “Sir, we have reservations coming in. If you’d like to wait at the bar, we can seat you around 9 pm.”

That effectively ended their conversation and I saw the couple stalk past us in a huff. Tisk tisk. When you have a restaurant who’s chef is directly off the boat (correction- he’s from Naples), and all the food is made by hand, you don’t take any chances- you make a reservation. Lesson learned for you future goers.

On to the restaurant itself. We made our way to the bar to have drink while our table was being prepped. Trying to take in all of the nuances of the restaurant was a bit daunting. There was a lot to look at. The light fixtures all have a rustic industrial vibe with Edison style bulbs. Every square inch of the walls are covered in reclaimed barn wood (a style for which I absolutely love). And when I say every square inch I mean every square inch. A beautiful ceramic wood pizza oven sits to the left of the bar, barso while you are enjoying a glass of vino you can watch them top, flip, toss, and bake a thin crust pizza. Various Italian meats hang from a display window off the kitchen and the kitchen itself is partially open for view.

Wine in hand, we took our seats at our table and started perusing the menu. There are two things that pleased me right away, first we were asked if there were any food allergies or special dietary needs (big bonus) and second, the menu is simple and short. I was slightly concerned at the amount of dairy dishes I saw and I wasn’t sure how the chef would accommodate someone who is lactose intolerant when many of the dishes seemed to center around this ingredient.  As a precaution I took my lactaid and carried on.

We ordered two apps- a wood oven pizza with prosciutto, light mozzarella and a sweet tomato sauce topped with fresh arugula ($15.00) and the Ricotta speziata pinoli e tartufo ($11.00). My dad had had this before and couldn’t stop talking about it. The ricotta is homemade and not only rich and buttery, but it had an airy weightlessness to it that made it divine. It comes with pine nuts and an aromatic black truffle spread accented with black truffle oil. While I could only have a taste, I watched as the rest of my party gobbled it up; leaving barely a crumb to be had. The pizza had a great smokey flavor, the prosciutto was thin sliced and added a great salty flavor to the mildly sweet sauce.

For dinner our dishes included Gnocchi ($17.00), Porcini Risotto ($16.00) and Ossobuco (a special for the evening). Now many of you will know Gnocchi as a hearty potato based dish- it is, and usually a staple for me when trying a new Italian restaurant. If a chef can make a great Gnocchi then it’s a fairly safe bet that they know their Italian dishes.  But the chef at Branca has recreated this favorite dish of mine. gnocchiIt comes with a meat ragu that consists of lamb shank, pork shoulder and beef slow braised and tossed in a light tomato sauce that has a hint of orange flavoring.  Upon the first bite, my mouth and my head were at odds with each other. Is it potato, is it pasta, is it something else entirely? The gnocchi was so light, it practically fell apart as soon as it hit my tongue. Picture a Pas de Deux; a basic ballet move that, when paired with the right partner, can transform any part of the lift into a complex and beautiful maneuver. The meat ragu was the perfect partner for the pasta, transforming this basic gnocchi into a complex and tantalizing dish.  The Ossobuco was paired with a aromatic saffron rice. Simple and slow cooked, it melted off the bone. The risotto is a hearty dish, thick and creamy and accented with porcini mushrooms, truffle oil and sausage. While my husband liked the risotto and I did try it, it lacked that earthy mushroom flavor. You must understand, this dish is a specialty of mine. I make it at home all the time. For my husband to say mine still tastes better is a big deal. He is an honest bloke and not one to mince words. It was slightly under cooked and lacked any real flavor (meaning, it was good but a bit on the bland side for my liking).  With that said however, I highly recommend pretty much any dish on the menu.

All the dishes are perfectly portioned and leave room for their amazing desserts- which of course we tried. dessertAn olive oil cake, rich in flavor yet flaky and light, had me melting into my seat. The tart freshness of the lemon zest, the richness of the olive oil and the hint of orange from the liqueur hit every part of your palate. This cake has to be one of my favorites to date. We also tried an apple crumble with gelato(a great fall dessert), a panna cotta(a northern Italian dessert) that consists of a rich silky smooth pudding hinted with anise and fruit, and a decadent chocolate truffle cake paired with a truffle flavored gelato. This last dessert had everyone of us digging into it. The chocolate was smooth and rich and oh my goodness good paired with the red wine we were all drinking. The vanilla gelato was infused with an amazing truffle flavor and flecks of chocolate. My mouth waters thinking of this dessert.

For a restaurant that has only been open for five weeks, this place has hit all the right notes.  Accommodating to food allergies, they will pair down any dish at the customer’s request. Branca brings a sense of real Italian culture and cuisine to the doorsteps of American lifestyle. It’s urban yet rustic decor is met with the charm and history of traditional Italian eateries. The chef adds elements of Sicilian style cuisine, mixes in northern Italian accents, and presents it with all the flare of a five star restaurant.  It’s a home run and I highly recommend this restaurant (minus the risotto), to any Western New Yorker out for a day trip in the Rochester NY region.

Branca on Urbanspoon


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