June 2009


by Doug Sitler

In the summertime, Buffalo is bursting at the seams with social events, big and small. A few weeks ago I attended the cozy “Party on the Portico” shindig at the Buffalo & Erie County Historical Society with a few co-workers and discovered the perfect way to wind down the week or begin the weekend. I guess the best way to visualize this event is imagine a really cool lawn party behind one of Buffalo’s most historically significant buildings.

The reason why I’m talking about a past event is because the next “Party on the Portico” is this Friday, June 25 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. with the jazz-outfit Babik playing on the stately back terrace of the Historical Society.

After paying a $15 admission fee in the front lawn, which includes three drinks (including Buffalo’s yummy Flying Bison beer) and hors d’oeuvres, you walk through the musuem’s foyer to the back veranda. Strolling out onto the portico you are greeted with a signature Buffalo panoramic view of Mirror Lake and its Japanese Garden, the Marcy Casino, and the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

No ear-splitting rock music here, instead you’ll discover the music as the perfect background soundtrack to good conversations with friends or stimulating discussions with strangers.

The band plays on the top of the stairs, with attendees standing at the bottom of the staircase, sitting on the terrace’s walls, or off to a side lawn area. Unlike some music events, there is plenty of space to spread out and enjoy the band and the people-watching. The event is more than just music as you can take 15-minute introductory tours of the museum from knowlegable docents eager to show you the organization’s amazing collection.

If you’re looking for an intimate evening that is distinctly Buffalo, check out the next “Party on the Portico.”

To learn more about the “Party at the Portico” go to www.buffalohistory.org.

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by Matt Steinberg

FiammaWhen my wife and I were looking for a special place to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, the idea of going to Fiamma Steak kept coming up. (Apparently we weren’t the only people to have that thought that evening. A friend and his wife of three years were there, along with another couple commemorating 34 years of wedded bliss, all of us within 40 feet of each other.) It’s a somewhat new steakhouse along Buffalo’s new “Restaurant Row”, Hertel Avenue, and has been getting a lot of positive buzz lately. And when I mentioned to some colleagues that we were going there, the universal response was “Oh, that place is SOOOO good!”. So our hopes were understandably high when we walked in on Saturday night.

The atmosphere is a comfortable combination of white (actually tan) tablecloth elegance and urban cool, with minimalist, streamlined wall and table accents. However, the emphasis here is definitely on the food. We started with what seemed like an entire squid worth of calamari that came with 3 very tasty dipping sauces, the best of which was a creamy, lemon-dill concoction, followed by a big shared bowl of Classic Onion Soup. This was not your typical French Onion soup – the broth had been reduced to maximize it’s beef flavor, the sauteed onions added an interesting hint of sweetness, and it was topped by a thick slice of interesting Gruyere cheese. I had considered getting a salad for myself, as I had heard that they were outstanding. But not wanting to let my eyes get bigger than my stomach, I passed, so I could concentrate on the entree. In hindsight, that was a very good idea. Fiamma, like most steakhouses, sells each item à la carte, but the tradeoff is portion size. We ordered the creamed spinach and lobster and crab mac and cheese, both of which more than enough for two people. A word about the mac and cheese – if you go to Fiamma, get it. The kind we had was a special that evening, but I’m sure the main menu version is just as good. It’s shell pasta covered in a tangy cheese sauce, with a crispy chipotle pepper topping that adds an unexpected (and divine) spiciness to it. Kraft dinner it ain’t.

But all of these delightful starters and side dishes are merely warm-up acts to the evening’s main event, the steak. All of Fiamma’s beef is wet aged and then marinated, giving it a depth of flavor that’s hard to match anywhere else. My wife ordered the 12 oz. Goat Cheese Crusted Filet Mignon, and I chose the 18 oz. Cast Iron Ribeye, both of which were grilled over a woodburning fire. From the first bite, I could tell that all of the hype is warranted. My steak had a thin, flavorful crust, just enough marbling to keep it very juicy, and it was topped by a thick cream and herb sauce, while my wife’s filet was melt-in-your-mouth tender. This was the best steak I have ever had – I tried to eat it slowly and savor every bite, but that was simply impossible. I’m glad I had the foresight to skip the salad – as it was, I couldn’t finish my meal, but that just extends dinner into lunch the next day.

Fiamma is not an everyday type of place, as the prices are what you’d expect at a high-end steakhouse. But if you’re looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion with a meal you’ll remember for weeks, located in a cool neighborhood, try Fiamma. You won’t be disappointed.

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by Carolyn Batt

SunsetBayNow that June’s here, the beach is one of the most popular weekend destinations for Buffalonians. With nearly a dozen sandy shores along Lake Erie all within a half hourdrive, Western New York offers a variety of great places to soak up the sun.

Beaver Island– A half-mile beach for swimming with adjacent nature trails and picnic areas. Perfect for spending the day with your family.

Sunset Bay– Famous for its beach club, Sunset is the place to be on Sundays. There’s barely an inch of sand left by mid-afternoon as hundreds flock to catch the rays, play beach volleyball or have a drink at one of its bars.

Angola-on-the-Lake– The site of Mickey Rats Beach Club and Captain Kidds Waterfront Restaurant, the crystal clear waters and soft sands make this gorgeous beach a favorite destination. Grab a bite at Captain Kidds or a drink at Mickey Rats and make a day—or night of it!

Southern Ontario also offers a variety of beaches and many prefer to jet across the Peace Bridge for an afternoon of sun. As of June 1st, you’ll need a Passport, Passport card or Enhances Driver’s License to go across.

Crystal Beach– Once a well-known amusement park, Crystal Beach has preserved its legacy of being a fun place to spend the day. Plenty of sand and rock-less water make this beach the place to go for spending the day in the water.

Sherkston Shores– A family beach resort, Sherkston maintains its own little community with restaurants, a grocery store and accessibility through golf carts. This is one of the only beaches that allows you to drive your car right onto the beach.

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by Kelsey Bradbury

ChocolateBarAlthough I’ve never been a chocolate fanatic, I found myself infatuated this weekend when I visited The Chocolate Bar, located on East Chippewa Street, in the heart of downtown Buffalo.

Not only does The Chocolate Bar serve chocolate, but the atmosphere is as indulgent as the name implies—from the warm wood paneling, to the background of melodic R&B songs, to the red rose petal that adorned my plate of cheesecake. The wall facing Chippewa Street is made of glass panels, and from a table inside, the view of Buffalo’s street life is delightful.

My companions and I all chose desserts off the menu. I ordered the “NY Style Cheesecake,” a rich round serving of cheesecake with strawberries and chocolate shavings on the side. Two of my friends ordered ice cream sundaes; the servings were gigantic and perfectly decadent in large stemmed glasses with whipped cream on top. The “Dip Your Own Berries” was another popular choice at my table, featuring a martini glass filled with warm chocolate and a plate of strawberries.

For patrons over 21, The Chocolate Bar boasts a selection of both classic and dessert themed alcoholic beverages, and has been voted the best martini bar in Buffalo, with a variety of classic and dessert martinis, including Raspberry Truffle, Swedish Fish, and Jolly Rancher. The Chocolate Bar also serves several flavors of “Alp’accinos,” which are milkshakes made with expresso and liquor. Perhaps the most unique offering at the bar is the chocolate shot glasses filled with the liquor of your choice.

And despite a name that implies a focus on specialty desserts and drinks, The Chocolate Bar delivers a fine selection of delicious sandwiches, paninis, soups, and salads.

Musical selections such as “Ooh Child (Things Are Gonna Get Easier),” “Beat It,” and “Don’t Stop Believing” helped set a relaxing, playful mood throughout the restaurant. Those who visit The Chocolate Bar on a Tuesday night can enjoy live music by Sax Man Slim from 8–11 PM.

The Chocolate Bar is open daily for lunch and dinner and can be accessed from inside the Hampton Inn, or from the street entrance at 114 Chippewa Street. For more information, including a full menu, and list of upcoming events, visit www.buffalochocolatebar.com.

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gallery_walkby Doug Sitler

Allentown is most definitely one of Buffalo’s most celebrated and beloved neighborhoods. The historic district is chock-full of art galleries, restaurants, shops, and some of the city’s most colorful residents. A great way to fully explore Allentown is by participating in the monthly “First Fridays Gallery Walk” event: a free self-guided art gallery walk throughout the beautiful and inspiring neighborhood.

Allentown’s cozy streets built generations ago provide the perfect setting for some urban exploration and an intimate look at Buffalo’s energetic arts scene. Most of the arts spaces are doors apart, thus you can experience numerous showings in a relatively short walk. Some of my favorite stops are Buffalo Big Print (the name says it all), College Street Gallery (small gallery with an ever-changing exhibition schedule), Hero Design Studio (nationally recognized poster art designers), and El Museo (featuring multi-cultural artists). There are also some new additions to the Allentown arts scene that I am eager to survey, including the arts collective Sugar City on Wadsworth Street.

After your gallery exploration, there are no less than 37 food and entertainment establishments awaiting your visit. Some restaurants, including Merge and Allentown Hardware, feature ongoing art showings inside their establishments so essentially you can dine within the confines of an art exhibition.

For more information and a map regarding the First Fridays Gallery Walk in Allentown, click here