Allison Ewing (Co-owner of BreadHive). I usually write up a meaningful home-cooked meal for these but let’s be serious, the best food I had this year was whenever I would hang out with Christa Glennie Seychew who has rapidly become my BFF (best food friend.) Whether it’s because I don’t tend to take myself out anywhere special or whether she lends a special alchemy to the menu-navigating process I am not clear – or maybe good conversation is another sense through which we experience a meal. Anyway, the one I’d single out is meeting Christa for a drink or two at Oliver’s in early summer and finding out we were to be enjoying selections from the new tasting menu. And I choose that evening because I went for that “drink” straight from Hydraulic Hearth’s patio, where we’d gathered BreadHive’s new staff for the first time and shared drinks, laughs, stories and pizzas – and I’d eaten about a pizza and a half already if we’re being honest, which I am. By the end of the night I was very happy and very, very full because there was no way not to enjoy every bite of the exquisite stuff that kept showing up on the bar at Oliver’s. This upcoming year I’m hoping that my best meal will be something I cook myself, since I haven’t been doing a lot of that since opening the bakery. It’s time to start using my kitchen again. (Pictured above: Chef Ross Warhol’s Carrot Cake at Oliver’s)
Mike Dimmer (Chef/Co-owner of Marble + Rye). I don’t get out much. I originally thought writing about my best meal of 2016 would be harder. Lucky for me, Buffalo has some seriously amazing shit happening when it comes to food. For starters, brunch at The Dapper Goose. Dipping eggs was the first thing I saw. Right up my alley, they should have been called Eggs for Mike Dimmer. Poached in a bed of tomatillo salsa verde, a few pieces of toast…….incredible. Next, a charred broccoli special with romesco, smoked grapes, nuts, frisée. Not to mention every cocktail had was intelligent, well crafted and perfectly executed.
Moving on, I have only had the chance to dine at Brad and Caryn Rowell’s, The Grange Community Kitchen, for lunch, but even more props to that team for blowing me (and anyone who dines there) out of the water. Amazing falafel and hummus, but let’s talk about pastrami for a second. Thick cut, because it’s so good it can be served that way. House mustard and Grange Rye. Mike Thill, you killed this.
Next, dinner at Oliver’s under the amazing Chef Ross Warhol. I was head over heels for the rosemary and lavendar marcona almonds at the beginning, and they’re free. Had a fantastic duck and spatezel dinner, but not before Ross hit us with a few of his signatures. Beet with coffee-chickory soil, Ross’ favorite cheese with honeycomb. Oh ya, let’s not forget one of the best things I’ve ever tasted, Ross’ infamous Hearts of Palm sorbet. Seriously unbelievable.
Finally, I have been lucky enough to attend the past two pop-up dinners known as The Crucible, hosted by David Roque, Manny Ocasio, and Fred Polone. If you’re looking for delicious, creative and seriously thoughtful food presented with incredible wine and booze pairings, you cannot miss the next one. These three guys not only work tirelessly on the planning of these events, but grind like no other when it comes to providing a top-tier tasting menu experience. They love to tell stories through their food. The hope is to take you on a bit of a journey during your meal with an overall tone that ties everything together. It almost scares me to see what these guys are capable of, and it’s surely only the beginning. Their Goat en Crepinette w/ daikon butter and black chimichurri was hands down one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. As I said, I thought this would be harder, but as my diatribe suggests, it wasn’t. It’s never been hard to find good food in Buffalo. It’s just that as of late, it’s getting even easier to find the mind-blowing.
RJ Marvin (Owner of Barrel & Brine). Let’s face it…2016 fucking sucked. Literally every one died and I, for one, am glad it’s over. I suppose it had it’s perks though. Barrel + Brine opened up in 2016, Every Time I Die released their best album to date (Donnie edit: true story) and The Black Sheep had the distinguished honor of cooking in NYC at the James Beard House. For me, going to NYC was out of the question, but thankfully Steve, Ellen and crew set up a preview dinner a few days before they scurried off. That was it for me. That was the best meal I had in 2016. Maybe because most of my meals in 2016 came out of a take-out container and I ate them while watching Naked and Afraid reruns.
The Black Sheep Presents: The James Beard House Preview Dinner started off like most nights at The Sheep; a few shots of bourbon, few cocktails and a few hugs. Once our bodies were painfully warm we made our way outside to the patio to sample passed hors d’oeuvres. Even though I placed a fake mustache over my real mustache I was cut off from eating any more of the pork croquettes. I was forced to have my wife ask for more as i ate them from her hands like a baby chipmunk. Once inside we sat at a table filled to the brim with people you wouldn’t want sitting together in your restaurant. We we’re loud, boisterous and proud. Course after course was exceptionally fun and when the dinner was over we continued drinking and I blacked out and don’t remember the rest of the night. I think McDonalds was involved. It was.
Shit….maybe it was the Korean short rib dinner surrounded by friends. We drank a lot that night too but I think David Murphy made apple pie on a grill. With ice cream. It was in face awesome.
Aaron Ingrao (Photographer). Stand out favorite meals for 2016 come from two bars from a group of my favorite places to eat and drink: Buffalo Proper, Vera, Mes Que and Ballyhoo.
Proably my favorite after-ride meal, the Mesclun salad (add chicken) at Mes Que. If Mes Que happened to be out of chicken, they would fry up a couple eggs and throw those on the salad. After a good mountain bike ride, that was an awesome shot of super tasty protein. Of course that would accompany my favorite Mes Que drink, the Louis Suarez.
Looking back, overall, I probably ate more The Reggie Veggies at Ballyhoo than any other meal the entire year, including whatever I cooked at home. That, of course, would accompany my favorite Ballyhoo drink, the Tallyrand.
Seamus Gallivan (Co-Founder of Slow Roll Buffalo & Larkin Food Truck Tuesday). My favorite meal of 2016 was a homestyle lobster feast in Cienfuegos, Cuba, that’s memorable not only for its perfection on the plates but also the profound conversations with our host. A couple friends and I stayed at “casas” – basically a B&B setup – that offered breakfast and dinner better than most local restaurant options. Except for Casa Tacos in Havana – Cuba isn’t known for tacos but that place is the truth! We didn’t realize each order was actually three tacos instead of one, still ate em all…
…In Buffalo, my favorite meal was the pig roast gospel brunch presented by The Black Sheep at Hydraulic Hearth. Chef Steve Gedra and his crew did the roast right – tended to it overnight like a light-sleeping baby – and offered multiple sauces while stepping up a slew of old-school sides like beans and greens, scalloped potatoes, slaw and grits, and gettin funky with the likes of asparagus salad and yakina savoy. I’d wanted for years here to put on a gospel brunch with top notch food and music as is common down south, and he took it beyond my experience or imagination – as I imagine most folks reading this already know, Steve is a jedi.
Victor Parra Gonzalez (Co-owner of Casa Azul). On November 3 we had recently learned that plans for the progress of Las Puertas had gotten lost in revision for second time and that we would had to resubmit everything. And with no proof of the previous approval, the restaurant didn’t have a true sight on end for ever finishing the work. Loosing a set of plans in City Hall means any permits currently posted are no longer valid and now have to be reapplied for. That day also happened to be my sister Diana’s 22 birthday and our Father was in town from Mexico. After a heart shattering morning and a lot of frustration, I decided to call my Mother and we orchestrated one of the biggest feasts of the year.
I drove to the local store and shopped for some seafood to make ceviche (scallops, red snapper, green apples). Course number two was a leg of lamb that we roasted slowly in our closed down kitchen at LP. We paired that up with roasted fingerlings and drank so much wine that we quickly forgot that the restaurant probably wouldn’t up for a couple more months. That by far has been the best meal of 2016. Surrounded by both of my parents and celebrating my sister, who is my best friend.