Niagara Holiday Market
On Saturday afternoon, I met up with fellow Buffalo food bloggers to tour the Niagara Holiday Market and nibble our way through it. I received the kind invitation to participate from Christa Glennie Seychew, Food Editor for Buffalo Spree and owner of Feed Your Soul, which includes the popular Nickel City Chef competitions. While exploring the market, our group traveled around the market for two hours, exploring the sheds and tasting a variety of vendors’ offerings.
In the “marche at the market,” you can peruse a food hall with many holiday gift ideas and artisan eats by Adam’s Apples, Chrusciki Bakery, Sarah Walley Macarons, Niagara Popcorn, Brothers of Mercy Foundation, Bavarian Nut Company, Massachusetts Avenue Project and Blackman Homestead Farm. My favorites in the marche were Sarah Walley Macarons, which I can attest are delicious and world-class quality, and Blackman Farms’ apple butters and juices, which I enjoy throughout the summer and fall thanks to their presence at the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmer’s Market the past few years. Other interesting products of note include Mass Ave’s raspberry apple vinaigrette and salsa, and Brothers of Mercy’s olive oil and olives. This space resembled a small shoppe, and allowed smaller companies to be a part of the market by being housed together in a single space.
Next, we visited Sample‘s shed, where owner and Executive Chef Adam Goetz introduced us to his cuisine. He told us he decided to offer food he’d like to eat if he were walking around the market. The menu focuses on pizza, panini, wraps and soups. The soups change daily — on the day we visited, there was roasted red pepper bisque and beans and greens. They are also serving their famous s’mores and hot cocoa. We tried the Pizza Margherita (fresh tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese). I’ve dined at Sample on Allen Street many times, and I’ve enjoyed their catering at several lovely parties. Their food is fun, consistently delicious, and they do a nice job with presentation.
Kornerstone Coffee, based in Kenmore, is a gourmet coffee purveyor focused on beans that are locally roasted on a daily basis. When we walked up to their shed, it smelled so warm and inviting. They provide fair trade and organic options, and the varieties are available at area farmer’s markets (Clarence Hollow, East Aurora, North Tonawanda, Williamsville). Perhaps most enticing besides the aroma, Kornerstone offers free home delivery in the Buffalo area. I recommend checking out their coffee at your local market or online. Ironically, I just realized this is the coffee my own mom and mother-in-law have recently been enjoying!
Barker Chocolate Box was our next stop. Offering a wide variety of chocolate confections, made from scratch, they create sweets for wedding favors, gift baskets and more. During our visit, we sampled white chocolate peanut butter cups, black forest crunch and chocolate fudge. The shed had many varieties of fudge, including some unusual and intriguing flavors, such as chocolate raspberry with pistachio nuts. The owner hopes to open a store front soon, but in the meantime, you can visit them online.
Visions of Sugar Plums had a tent that brought a smile to my face on a chilly winter afternoon. They make pesticide free jams from the harvest at their pesticide free berry farm in Kendall, N.Y. near Brockport. Their signature flavor is triple berry jam, and my taste of it left me wanting more. The jam had a smooth texture and a natural sweetness that was just right. The same went for the strawberry, which was a good sign. The best part? They have a reduced sugar option that is made as simply as it sounds — using less sugar, no artificial sweeteners. I tasted that variety in the strawberry and it was perfect. I wouldn’t have wanted it any sweeter. They also make handcrafted chocolates and fudge.
Vetter Vineyards is a 100 acre estate winery with 25 acres of grapes, located in Chautauqua County. The grapes are grown right on the estate; none are imported. With 20 different types of grapes grown and 25 different kinds of wines, they offer an array from chardonnay to pinot noir. For those who like sweet dessert wines, they have Love Potion, a concord grape wine with a hint of chocolate, as well as sweet cherry and blueberry wines. Vetter is part of the Lake Erie Wine Trail and has a sister winery, Seven Vines.
R&R BBQ Truck was the first food truck we visited that day. The owners told us all their food is homemade, and the pulled pork is by far their most popular menu item. When asked what their signature is, though, they said the preparation of their beef brisket is noteworthy. We tried the pulled pork wrap, which is BBQ pulled pork with cole slaw inside a flour tortilla. Their chili-mac is macaroni and cheese made with small pasta shells, tossed with meat chili. Lastly, we sampled their corn bread. Beyond the market, you can find R&R at Main and Huron downtown, and at a host of local businesses and colleges where they are invited to vend.
The Roaming Buffalo owner told us a bit about where they’ve been and where they’re going. They want to take their Buffalo themed food truck beyond WNY, with plans to bring a truck to Charlotte and Tampa. We tasted Roaming Buffalo’s chicken wing soup, which was cited as customers’ favorite menu item, the BBQ bacon cheddar burger, chicken wings, and Buffalo balls — deep fried dough balls tossed in cinnamon and sugar. They also serve Buffalo favorites such as beef on weck and Sahlen’s hot dogs.
Biscoff is based in San Francisco, but they shipped a huge truck of merchandise to the market. Their products are being sold at both a shed and in the marche.
DiCamillo Bakery is set up right near the ice skating rink, and has a pastry case stocked with their signature Romano pizza (without mozzarella, but with grated Romano cheese and sweet tomato sauce), peanut stick doughnuts, and other Italian confections. They also have gift tins, with speciality biscotti; locally grown and canned peaches, which are a signature item; torrone and panettone (imported from Italy); and fresh baked breads.
Next up, we visited the cozy shed that houses two of Buffalo’s best bakeries: Zillycakes and Delish. Dessert options abound here, ranging from cupcakes and cookies to mini cheesecakes and cannoli. I had the chance to try a couple new things here, including Zilly’s mini cream puffs and Deb’s polenta cookie, which features a hint of lemon. It’s a subtle and soothing dessert option that reminds me of my dad’s favorite Italian packaged cookies, which happen to be the only packaged cookies my family eats. I still had the chance to gobble down a chunk of my favorite local bakery cookie though, the “amazing cookie” from Delish. It’s amazing that after eating all that food elsewhere, I was still very interested in eating Zilly’s cupcakes and Deb’s cookies. There’s always room for dessert…if it’s quality dessert, that is!
Rounding out our tour, we visited the Village Inn, which is located on Grand Island. Their market menu boasts an impressive lineup of soups, all made from scratch, including beer cheese, Southwest chicken and lemon Tobasco clam chowder. They also offer beef on weck, fried bologna sandwiches and other portable eats. They focus on comfort food, so I went straight for the beer cheese soup because I love making it myself. It was tasty, had a solid beer to cheese ratio, and warmed me right up.
My favorite part about the market, perhaps even more than the food options, was the array of local shopping options. The epitome of them being the independent, small artisans gathered together in tents and sheds, such as the Gallery 464 and Etsy spaces. Some of my favorite gift ideas in the entire market were the beautiful and funky handcrafted items among the Etsy tables. (Side note, but related item: if you don’t know what Etsy is, click that link immediately!)
One last thing: I mentioned Christa at the beginning of this post. She is truly one of the most generous, humble and enthusiastic people in the local food scene, and she recently released a book called Nickel City Chef: Buffalo’s Finest Chefs and Ingredients. Check it out here — I own it and can attest that it’s very well done. It would make a great gift for a passionate local restaurant goer or food lover. Enjoy this great book and your trip to Niagara Falls!