Best Meals of 2016: Part 2

Brad Rowell (Chef/Owner of The Grange Community Kitchen). This years list of my best meals starts at Morcilla in Pittsburgh (pictured above). I dined here twice this year. Once with some of my guys from The Grange and the second time with my wife Caryn on our anniversary. Morcilla nailed service, a fun ambiance, and excellent spanish food.

In April I was in Denver and had some ridiculous ly good dishes at Bar Dough (We named one of our pizzas at The Grange after their chef) as well as an amazing clam and nduja pizza at Pizzeria Locale in Boulder. Thinking about this honestly though every meal I share with my daughter and wife are my real favorites. Go Bills.

Bobby Finan (Co-Founder at Tommyrotter Distillery). With the growth of Tommyrotter, I was able to travel quite a bit around New England and take in the region’s austere beauty over the course of 2016.  As you wind through meandering country roads that pass by fields and farms or ride the coast and smell the brine-y air of the Northern Atlantic, you begin to appreciate the wild nature behind the New American Cuisine that has developed in the Northeast and particularly in Western New York in recent years.

This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to have dined in a number of restaurants in New York, Hudson, Boston, Philadelphia and, of course, Buffalo. Despite having too many great meals to count at establishments both local and far, my favorite meal of 2016 did not occur in a restaurant at all, but rather around a fire pit in Buffalo’s Allentown neighborhood.

Back in February, Brandon Davis, my brother-in-law, and I asked Chef Edward Forster to come cook with my brother, Patrick, for his birthday.  Patrick is a very proficient and enthusiastic home cook and was eager when we told him that he’d be cooking with a local chef for party of eight. He didn’t know who he’d be cooking with, what they’d be cooking or how they’d be cooking. Chef Forster, Brandon and I were all coming off the Netflix opioid that was season one of Chef’s Table. We agreed it would be blast to cook with fire and coals inspired by the Argentinian pit-cooking of Francis Mallmann…minus the Hermes scarves, fur coats and band of attractive nomad cooks (and lovers?) that he keeps around him.

The menu was beautifully simplistic and we ate from our laps in the glow of the fire.  In retrospect, it perfectly captured the wild nature behind our food that I would come to appreciate in the months ahead. While there was no service to critique, the ambience was full of flickering fire light and the crackling of coals; perfect. Hot, savory food, plenty of wine and the company of family and friends surely influenced why this was my favorite meal of 2016.

Cracklins at Prohibition Pig (photo from FB Page)

 

Will Petersen (Executive Chef at Lait Cru Brasserie). This has been a pretty good year for me, eating wise. I am lucky to have some great friends who cook the best food in Buffalo, but I am going to have to say my best meal was while I was away in Waterbury, Vermont. While spending a nice week camping along the reservoir in craft beer country. The Prohibition Pig is is right on Main Street in Waterbury and they offer one of the best beer lists that I have seen in a very long time (RIP Blue Monk). With breweries like Hill Farmstead, Lawsons, Alchemist on tap, I had to go and check it out. Luckily, we planned this part of the trip around the delivery day for two of the local breweries, so we got super fresh and delicious beers.

Its one of my favorite things to sit by the service station at the bar because I like to see the action happen. After starting out with two half glasses of Hill Farmstead (one Edward and one Susan) it was time to start ordering food. Starting out with appetizers, getting the Duck Fat Fries (all the dipping sauces), as well as the Release The Cracklin (pictured above) with a spicy thai dipping sauce nam prik. By the time I was finished eating the apps it was time for another drink this time going with Lawsons’ Sip of Sunshine (holy shit that is a great beer) and the cheese board, olives and pork pate, and chicken liver mousse came out. One (3) more Sip of Sunshine and we finished the second round of food and drinks. Finishing up with burgers and a slider trio with fried chicken, those were washed down with a Heady Topper and a big smile. The meal was memorable because after kayaking three miles earlier in the day and hiking, it was the perfect meal after a day in the woods. A close second is the meal I had at Kuni’s last week, just so good.

Sean Wrafter (Owner of Wrafterbuilt). True best meal that I had this year was a cheeseburger with fries at the Best Western in Madaras, Nicaragua. The food was actually pretty mediocre but we had just spent a week without hot water, air conditioning, or paved roads. It was the night before we flew home and we had a great experience – but a little taste of America was just what the doctor ordered.

Tessa Lowe (Owner of Primrose Path Boutique). Reflecting on 2016 fills with me waves of emotion. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world with my best friends, learned a lot about myself, and am excited for what is in store for the new year. The common thread between these things, and what I live for, is experiences. I don’t need material things, I crave knowledge and building relationships with good, interesting people. Typically, that’s over indulging in food and drinks.

One of my favorite meals of 2016 was just a couple of weeks ago at a friend’s place. I had no details on the dinner party except for time and location, which was enticing for me. There were no expectations of an opulent spread or meeting wonderful new people, but that’s exactly what happened.

2/2 (pronounced Two-Two), Chef of Kaydara, known around town as the unofficial Chartreuse ambassador, and Andrew Muhlbauer prepared a meal fit for royalty (with an adventurous appetite). The entire meal was an memorable experience; from seeing Andrew use a blow torch to put the finishing touches on the pâté to 2/2 hand feeding the crew elk tongue and heart as he sliced it. Knowing that one of the guests hunted what we were feasting upon made it even more special. The pheasant roulade was perfectly executed, but my personal favorite was the Widgeon/puddle duck congee with thin slices of elk tongue.

No dinner party would be complete without imbibing throughout the evening; the liquids we indulged in were on par with the glorious food. The Nelson Survin Sour Mashed Double IPA by To Øl was the perfect beer to whet my palate and finishing the evening with a line up of El Dorado 12, 15, and 25 year rums from Caputi Liquors was obviously a special treat.

Cheers to all of the amazing memories of 2016 and to the beginning an exciting new year. With all of the amazing new restaurants and bars popping up in Buffalo, there’s sure to be a lot to experience and celebrate in the near future.

Matt Kahn (President of Big Ditch Brewing Company). I’m pretty sure the best meal I had this year was breakfast at Perks Café. I was somewhat crushed when they moved from their downtown Broadway location (which was a block from our brewery) to their Elmwood location. One of the joys of my 2015 life was to get to the brewery at 6AM, help Corey mash in a batch of beer, then stop by their place for their Cinnamon Apple French Toast. However, I find in 2016 that when I’m having a rough morning, the drive up Elmwood, followed by a breakfast sandwich on ciabatta and a coffee helps me calm the storm a bit. Everything at Perks tastes and feels real to me. If Big Ditch is my yin, then Perks Café might be my yang.