This year, more Western New Yorkers took advantage of new ways to pursue food as entertainment and found places to connect with like-minded souls. I would expect that as more diners seek out new and unusual routes to satisfaction, restaurants will find ways to take their money.
There’s IN, the biweekly industry night that top Buffalo chef Mike Andrzejewski hosts at Seabar with culinary event organizer and Buffalo Spree food editor Christa Glennie Seychew. Started in 2012, IN has become a regular habit of fans of adventurous food and restaurants. Then there’s Seychew’s Nickel City Chef culinary battle series, in its sixth season. If the past is any guide, its four dates will sell out the day tickets go on sale Jan. 4.
Now there are hard-core food lover events like Omakase Buffalo, the semi-underground dinner series held in a different location every time. That’s in its second year as well. New in 2013 was Midnight Mass, where Steven and Ellen Gedra allow their restaurant, Bistro Europa, to serve as a stage to another chef in town. The point is to allow guest chefs to deliver a performance they couldn’t sell every day, before an audience that’s so into food they’ll come out at midnight to eat whatever the chef wants them to eat.
Midnight Mass sells out quickly, partly because the place has only 28 seats. Still, it seems like a sign of movement.
All of this creative ferment is aided by Buffalo’s food bloggers, independent voices on dishes, restaurants and the personalities behind them. Led by Donnie Burtless and Alli Suriani of www.buffaloeats.org, these passionate amateurs are sharing their appreciation of Buffalo restaurants on the Internet for all to see.
There also has been a boom in brewery investments, representing a dramatic expansion of craft beer production capacity in Buffalo and its environs. Three new breweries planned for Buffalo suggest heady days to come for drinkers who like to taste their beer, even if it will be well into 2014 before the first brew is poured. As Resurgence Brewing Co. announced plans for a $1 million microbrewery and beer garden on Niagara Street, it joined Gene McCarthy’s in the Old First Ward and Big Ditch Brewing Co. on Ellicott Street in lining up to provide fresh beer to thirsty Buffalonians.
Finally, I would like to once again thank the University at Buffalo for its Chinese student recruitment program, which has indirectly led to the opening of more Chinese restaurants near the Amherst campus featuring authentic menus. The flavors are aimed at UB’s Chinese students, but everybody from vegans to Sichuan fireball fans can find dishes to enjoy.