Due to a busy holiday season, we somehow forgot to include Chef Steve Gedra’s favorite meals from 2016. Our reigning Chef of the Year had an amazing year. He continued his epic late night pop up series Midnight Mass, kept kicking ass at his West Side restaurant alongside his wife and talened staff and was invited to cook dinner at the James Beard House in October.
I (Donnie) haven’t had a lot of special meals this year due to time constraints and baby stuff, but two of my most memorable meals occurred at the Black Sheep. The Snout to Tail Dinner with Chef Bruce Wieszala and Chef Carmelo Raimondi in March was fantastic and a tribute to the magical T-Meadow pigs. Call me a hipster all day Mark Supples, that sh*t is delicious. My 2nd meal was the first true meal away from our newborn daughter Charlie, having brunch at The Sheep a couple weeks ago. Maybe it was the pure exhaustion or just the rush of being out of our living room for the first time in weeks, but the meal from the top down was exactly what we needed.
Anyways, here’s what Steve had to say about his favorites from 2016. (Sorry again for the late posting).
Steve Gedra (Chef/Owner of The Black Sheep): As always, I am flattered to be asked to voice my opinion on such a broad forum. Big ups to Buffalo Eats for letting us speak our minds beyond our collective realms. I always struggle with these, to the point where I missed last year totally. One of the most poignant factors in this struggle is me attempting to assess on a personal level what constitutes a great meal. As I progress through my life and my career, it constantly changes. Of late, the factor that becomes more prevalent is context. Meaning, what is happening around you? Who are the people you are experiencing this with? What is the environment? Are you happy? Are you sad? What are your expectations for this? It’s a lot to think about, and quite possibly I should just shut my brain down and just let it fly, but I’ve always been shitty at that, but the point of my being asked to do this is to dig into how I perceived these moments well after the fact in most instances. It’s cool to rehash it. It makes me think about being on the other side of the door, and how I drink in a meal cooked and served by others in an environment that is pivotal to my success as a restaurant owner and Chef. So, I implore you to cut me some slack, perhaps. Just because I may have left out some really special and meaningful moments does not mean that they were not important. Most of you reading this know me well enough to know that all it takes is 5 minutes face to face to bring out how I feel about you as individuals.
As far as my recall goes, the first baller meal I had in 2016 was at Uni in Boston. Ellen and myself were in the Commonwealth because one of our dear friends, who on many occasions, including our 2nd night of Black Sheep being open, drove to Buffalo and blessed us up. This dude is a career firefighter in Roxbury, and he was turning 50. So we raged with him and plenty of lunatic Irish expats for 3 days. Our last day, we decided to get a hotel room in Back Bay. We took a nap that Rip van woulda been proud of, and hit up Uni at the Eliot Hotel. This place is owned by Ken Oringer, who is a legend, and they just recently converted it from Clio the restaurant into Uni, which was at one time a sushi bar located in the lower level of the same dining room. Holy. Shit. We were so fried from the madness of the birthday that we only drank tea. No booze at all. Took a look at the menu, which is large, varied, and weird as shit, and just started blazing the shit up. Lamb laap (which I totally jacked and put on the menu at the Sheep), percebes that came out on a plate that contained an insurance liability hot river rock that was meant for you to heat the barnacles up on. Legit Otoro from Japan that made me fully understand why people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for tuna. The fucking “Uni spoon”— top quality sea urchin roe, quail egg yolk, caviar. I left that joint mesmerized by Ken, as I have been on multiple occasions.
Next up was not exactly the best place, but being at Polish Villa 2 surrounded by all of my friends for my homey Tom’s parents’ funeral brunch. Tom and his family lost their mother and father basically within 5 minutes of each other while they held hands. It was one of those deals where the gravitas of what was happening didn’t hit me until much, much later. The food was ok. The people there, celebrating two amazing lives, made me full of hope that we all come together for what is important.
Again to the point of context, Ellen and I escaped to a cabin near Pulaski, NY for like 3 days in the summer. We left on Sunday after brunch, drove 3 hours, and stayed in this cabin near a swimmable lake. For us, this is a feat. Our last time being away, completely alone, was Mexico in May of 2015. The second day we were there, we started a fire, and ate pizza Hobo pies until we almost burst and fell asleep at 3pm for like 5 hours. Restaurant life. Nothing but glory and profit, right?
Another one, just to give a shout out to a local spot as well as my wife and I’s affinity for diners, was the first time we hit up Nick’s Place on Amherst Street. I have long trumpeted the virtues of Sophia’s, often waiting outside in the winter to crib a seat at that joint. You have to remember that I moved away from Buffalo on January 1, 2002, when I was 24 and didn’t return until 2009. We immediately buried ourselves into Europa and then Black Sheep. So please excuse my ignorance of local common knowledge, we still lack a lot of what most non-restaurant or restaurant people consider common knowledge. I was smitten from jump. Then I started to hear tell of the fact that Sophia and Nick are brother and sister. I was loyal to the family program already, and I still love sophia’s, but GOT DAMN Nick’s put an arrow through my heart. The home fries at Nick’s are the simple beauty that a real cook strives to achieve. In all of my 25 plus years being a shit head cook from Nantucket to New Mexico, I’m telling you that these home fries have no equal. I dunno what the Greeks call their mothers, all I know is that I’ve been called malaka, but Nick and Sophia’s 80 something year old mom is prepping those taters.
I’d hate for this to get chopped so i’ll make it quick. When I ate a Lait Cru on their first night it goose bumped me. I ran over right before they closed and Old Ass Will, who spent 2 years in my kitchen, and my big sis Jill, who got me on the path to cooking when I was 15, presented me and a really simple and delicious meal that I hung my head over and savored for more minutes than I am usually afforded. My big sis opened a restaurant across the street, and Willie is back.
Best meal by far of 2016 for me was Del Posto in NYC. It was the day after we cooked at the Beard House, the next day was my birthday, the day after my birthday was my 7th anniversary (which I believe me and Ellen celebrated once?), most importantly my dining companions were my parents, my big sis Jill, Ellen, Kate Hey (our wrecking machine GM), and Bruce and Amanda Wieszala. (Amanda and I are also birthday buddies, so much celebrating.) I’ve wanted to eat at Del Posto for a very long time. I was absolutely gobsmacked by the best service I’ve ever witnessed, and after 9? courses, I walked out humbled once again. The maitre ‘d asked how our meal was and I replied, “ I don’t even know how to cook food. I need to hit the books.”
There’s a bunch more, but I am one of many. If you wanna discuss your best and maybe hear some of mine, come sit at the bar at Black Sheep and we’ll go deep. We all know that will happen.
Thanks again Buffalo Eats for the chance to express my feelings. It means a lot to all of us.