Delaware Ave. & Niagara Sq., Buffalo, NY 14202
Web: Taste of Buffalo 2009
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If there's anything certain about the annual Taste of Buffalo, it's this: you're guaranteed to find plenty of American and Italian offerings to choose from, including everything from local favorites and Southern cooking to upscale items. This first part of our look at foods and drinks from the 2009 Taste of Buffalo focuses on noteworthy American and Italian items we sampled; part two discusses more far-flung ethnic offerings, part three talks about desserts and drinks, and our 2009 Golden Fork Awards highlight the best items on our list. Details on the festival itself are available in our short Guide to the Taste of Buffalo 2009.
Fiamma Steak. Fiamma was offering the Tenderloin Slider - a nice mini steak burger that was good, but had a sweet cream topping that two of our tasters didn't care for - and the Frutti di Mare Seafood Salad, which consisted primarily of shrimp and squid, and had the advantage of being very light - a nice break from heavier foods on a summer day.
Orazio's. We were intrigued and ultimately pleased by the Steak & Dandelion Sandwich, a split roll with thin-sliced steak and a generous topping of thick, green, spinach-like dandelion stems. While some might have felt that it could use a little extra something, others would appreciate the interesting balance of natural flavors.
Giacobbi's Pasta and Pizza. One of the most resoundingly disliked items we sampled, everything in the Crab and Shrimp Bisque in Bread Bowl was off - the blah soup, the seafood, and the bowl, which used terrible bread.
The Como. Goodness in a half clam shell, the Golden Fork Award-winning Stuffed Clam a la Como was loaded high with tomatoes and stuffing, yet the taste of clams was still obvious inside.
Amici Ristorante. We liked the Pork Bracciole, a cross-sectioned roll of pork, bread crumbs, and cheese, but our tasters had divided feelings on the Four-Cheese Stuffed Banana Pepper, which tasted as if it was loaded with a single, very runny white cheese. Only one bite of the Pepper contained a kick of spiciness; the rest was sweet, arguably overly so. Both were served with hunks of Italian bread and sesame seeds.
Ms. Goodies. This fried fish sandwich with a funny Junk Yard Dog name keeps winning awards for a reason. A grilled pita wrap with a hunk of fish in the center, topped by french fries and coleslaw, essentially transforming a Fish Fry into a one-handed eating affair. There may be no better city in the U.S. to make a sandwich like this make sense.
Garri's Bar-B-Que. By comparison with the Junk Yard Dog, the Cat Fish Nuggets might have seemed relatively tame in concept - they're just battered and deep-fried catfish - but there was something about their moist cores, the nice but not overbearing batter, and the hot sauce served on the side that just really worked well for these; the batter accommodates dipping sauces wonderfully. We started out expecting that they'd be fine, and walked away noting that they deserved a Golden Fork Award.
Mr. Bones. Credit Mr. Bones' smart marketing for generating attention for the "Secret Weapon," an item that might not have won interest if it had just been named "Spun Potato Fries." It's amazing what a change in texture and shape can do for French Fries, say nothing of being served literally fresh from the oil, with a little sprinkled salt. We had to force ourselves to stop eating these during our testing, and only succeeded when there weren't many left.
Cecilia's Ristorante. Beautifully presented but boring in flavor, the Caprese Skewer was a full cherry tomato sliced in half with cubed cheese and cut orange pepper between the tomato pieces, vinaigrette splashed on. These would make great hors d' oeuvres served at an at-home party.
Donnie's Smokehouse. As another of the good but not amazing items we tried, the Smoked Gourmet Red Potato cup contained small red potatoes that had been cut and chunked, then mixed with a sweet, slightly spicy tomato sauce. As a side dish at a restaurant, we'd order it again.
Other American and Italian food vendors at the Taste of Buffalo have been profiled in more extended Buffalo Chow reviews, including Bravo!, Chester's, Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, Fat Bob's Smokehouse, Jim's SteakOut, Just Pizza, Lafayette Tap Room, and Mister Pizza. Read more on this event in our Taste of Buffalo 2009 Golden Fork Awards roundup and basic show guide.