Local Restaurant Week 2012
Western New York Local Restaurant Week is approaching! Mark your calendar forÂ Oct. 15 â€“ 21.Â Local Restaurant Week is a bi-annual event that celebrates the vital role our local, independent restaurants play in contributing to our cultural identity and regional economy. It is a way to celebrate and promote our regional food culture. It gives consumers the opportunity to be adventurous and try new restaurants for a fixed price of $20.12 and encourages diners to skip national chain restaurants in favor of supporting local independents — something I am a fervent champion of any day of the year. Profits from each dollar spent at our locally-owned, independent restaurants stay in WNY and make our community stronger.
An astounding 200 restaurants areÂ participating in our area, and the results createÂ $10 million plus staying in the local economy on a yearly basis. Starting with just 60 restaurants in spring of 2009, Local Restaurant Week has grown incredibly.Â Click here to visit the website for Local Restaurant Week.
I was fortunate to attend the “Preview Night,” which was held at Mike Aâ€™s at the Lafayette last night. (It was in the stylish, yet dimly lit second floor, so please pardon the weird flash on the photos.) I enjoyed a lovely meal with people I consider friends more than colleagues. What could be better? Well, dining on truly exceptional food and sipping great wine helps guarantee satisfaction.
The first course was a sashimi sample from Chef Mike Andrzejewski of SeaBar. Since SeaBar is one of my favorite restaurants — if not my sole favorite — in Buffalo, I am quite familiar with the offerings. The fish is always incredibly fresh. The plate included salmon sashimi topped with toasted sesame seeds, scallop, octopus, tuna and more. The tuna was bright in flavor and color (a beautiful shade of red) and the salmon was laced with the perfect amount of fat. The thinly sliced scallops and octopus were complemented nicely by the wasabi and wine. The courseÂ was served with Chateau Niagara Winery’s 2011 GewÃ¼rztraminer.Â The vineyard’s owner explained that the wine’s tendency toward a floral aroma is reduced a bit in this variety. The predominant character is spice, with mint and lime on the finish. It works well when paired with spicy food, such as the wasabi with the sashimi. For the Restaurant Week special at SeaBar, guests have the option of aÂ Chef’s Assortment of maki roll, nigiri, a handroll and sesame noodles. If you’ve never been there and you’re a sushi and sashimi fan, give it a go. If you’re feeling cooked fish,Â opt for the soup, cucumber salad and wild striped bass with ginger lime sauce. I’m sure neither will disappoint.
The pasta course was pasta bolognese from Chef Michael Obarka of Ristorante Lombardo. Handmade tagliatelle was topped with a classic bolognese made of veal, pork, beef and pancetta, and finished with Parmigiano Reggiano. The deliciousÂ pasta was also studded with carrots, celery and fresh parsley. It is being offered among several other tasty sounding dishes as a second course for their special.Â Chef told us they use house cured pancetta, saying “we try as much as we can to get our ingredients from the ground up.”Â It was paired with Arrowhead Spring’s 2008 Meritage Reserve. This current release is a blend, and the owner said he’d put the blend up against any Bordeaux. It was quite satisfying with the pasta indeed.
The next course was my favorite of the pack — a foie gras burger served on a grilled baguette with red onion compote from Chef Mike Andrzejewski of Mike A’s at The Lafayette. The burger, as with any dish Chef Mike touches, did not disappoint. The onion compote was only more incredible when paired with the whole grain mustard. The textures of both enhanced the smooth foie.Â The burger is being offered with Flying Bison Beer for $20.12 or guests can enjoy an appetizer and glass of wine for $20.12 with the purchase of any steak (menu price). While I don’t think the latter option is a bad one, especially if you’re dining at the restaurant for the first time and craving a steak, I would opt for the burger because it was exceptional.
Surf and turf: lobster with stracchiatella cheese and basil pesto / braised veal cheek with Yukon hold potato purÃ©e and pan sauce from Chef/owner Joseph Jerge from Mulberry Cafe. The cheese was similar to buratta and incredibly tasty. I could have eaten an entire plate of it. The veal was rich and glazed with a light but flavorful jus. The lobster was tender and its flavor transformed when eaten with the pesto and cheese. Mulberry’s is offering a dynamic (changes nightly) three course tasting menu for their special.Â The dish was served with Leonard Oaks Estate Winery’s 2011 Reserve Riesling. The vineyard’s grape grower discussed the rapid growth and advancement in the horticultural and viticultural scene in Ontario, and his part in bolstering the efforts to experience that in Western New York. He said he decided to go a little risky when selecting this wine pairing and went for the acidity point. He feels the wine says a lot about the region on the whole because the fruit used comes from far-reaching farms — with some fruit sourced in the Lewiston area, in the Cambria area and from his land.
For dessert, we enjoyed a cheesecake quartet from AcQua Restaurant. The four kinds were chocolate, coffee, fruit and plain served with crystallized mint. The mint was French mint with crystallized sugar cane.Â I’m not sure where the cheesecake sampler came from because the dessert offering for the special at AcQua is homemade apple crisp with cinnamon ice cream following two other courses with several options. At any rate, the coffee cheesecake was the most remarkable of the quartet.Â The final course was served with Johnson Estate Winery’s sparkling ice wine. It is the first and only sparkling ice wine in the country. It was actually my second time tasting the wine, since I had it on the farm tour I attended last month, and it is sweet, but rather enjoyable. It is made in the champagne method, which means that a second fermentation happens in the bottle, and I think that’s the key to its elevated status beyond a sweet ice wine.