The other night around 11pm, our good friends the Shacks (Mama, Papa, and Little) texted The Boy and I asking if we wanted to go to Buffalo the very next morning. Papa Shack lured The Boy with promises of Anchor Bar wings. I was free, as I usually am, but The Boy had to do some juggling with his schedule but he made it work. We arranged for care for the pups and set off for that crazy border town of Buffalo.
Growing up in Syracuse with extended family in Westmoreland all I knew of Buffalo was that my mother student taught there when she was in college, and she always said that it was so very far away and even more snowy than Syracuse. I never thought much of it beyond that. But moving to Toronto gives Buffalo a whole other meaning and purpose. Outlets, cheap flights, Niagara Falls and of course the home of Buffalo Wings, most famously from the aforementioned Anchor Bar. Beyond that I really had no reason or desire to stop in Buffalo. That being said, the promise of a any kind of spontaneous trip sounds good to me.
We ended up forgoing the Anchor Bar for a recommendation from friends of the Shack's, Kentucky Greg's Hickory Pit, a BBQ joint in Depew not too far from the Buffalo airport. Location alone may make a person skeptical about the quality of food, but the Shack's and the Hoffelby's (the Boy and I) are willing to try just about anything, anywhere, once especially if it comes on a recommendation.
We pulled up to this little hole in the wall, the kind that the uninitiated would drive past without knowing what they are missing. The Boy and I would have driven by it had it not been our destination, that is if we were even in Depew, NY. The hole in the walls are always my favorite discoveries, so I was excited at the prospect of what we would find inside. The Shack's were already there and much to my empty tummy's delight had taken the liberty of ordering the cornmeal crusted catfish fingers, which were placed on the table within second of the Boy and I sitting down. The catfish fingers totally hit the spot, lightly fried and coated in yellow and blue cornmeal with a hint of Cajun seasoning. The cornmeal added a crunch to the flaky fish which was perfect dunked in the side of tangy tartar sauce. It was a great start to the meal and left us with a promise of what was to come.
All the adults ordered various BBQ items, Papa Shack & I got pulled pork sandwiches, the Boy got a BBQ beef sandwich and Mama Shack a 1/2 rack of ribs. And then there was Little Shack our resident fish lover who had to get the Beer Batted Haddock. The food came out pretty quickly and we all dug right in.
I ordered the Petite Pulled Pork Sandwich because it came on a small hamburger roll rather than large slices of Texas Toast, I topped it some coleslaw and got a side of macaroni salad. The pork had a great smoky flavor and came with no sauce on it, which was perfect since there was a bevy of sauces on the table. I added some of Kentucky Greg's own BBQ sauce and a bit of their hot sauce. Kentucky Greg's BBQ sauce was nice and tangy which went which went perfectly on the hickory smoked meat and with the touch of hot sauce I added. I love tangy BBQ sauce so much better than sweet, the sweet sauce is often cloying and overpowers all the other flavors. This tangy sauce enhanced all of the flavors in the sandwich from the smokey meat to the crisp and creamy slaw, it was perfect. The macaroni salad was a basic elbow macaroni with mayonnaise big chunks of onions, celery and red pepper. It wasn't fancy but was well-balanced and was my perfect side dish for a smokey pork sandwich.
We all tried some of Mama Shack's big plate of ribs. Each rib was super meaty with a crispy coating and the slightest glaze of sauce, giving them a crispiness and stickiness that, for me, was reminiscent of an Asian spare rib. I bit into the rib and was hit with the spice rub first then the delicious smoky pork with just the right amount of rich fattiness. Even though I was beyond full from my own lunch, I couldn't help but finish the delicious and flavorful rib.
With our bellies full and hunger satisfied, we got into a cars and headed over to Wegman's because what is a foodie trip without a little grocery shopping? At least that's how the Hoffleby's and the Shack's roll. My biggest coup was an amazing deal on unbleached all-purpose flour ($.99 per bag) which will come in quite handy as I begin my holiday baking and a couple of sugar pumpkins to replenish my pumpkin puree stores in the freezer. The Shack's got a ton of black cherry soda for Papa Shack and a couple of other great deals too. We even got Wegman's discount cards, which I know will make grocery stops a regular part of our trips over the border.
Elmwood Village was our next stop for some sponge candy at Watson's Chocolates, and stops at Penzey's Spices and D'Avolio. We parked in from of the Globe Market which promised Specialty Food & Gifts and Artisinal Bread & Cheese which obviously meant we had to stop in. While they had all kinds of Stonewall Kitchen goods and some delicious sounding teas, I was drawn in by the Exotic Vosges Chocolate bars. I picked up a Mo's Bacon Bar and a Black Salt Caramel Bar. I can't wait to try them!
Our next stop was D'Avolio's Olive Oils & Vinegars. As their name indicated they carry a slew of Olive Oils and Vinegars. Between the 5 of us we probably tried every oil they have to the point that Little Shack and the Boy were "hopped up on olive oil," something none of us knew could happen. It may have been more of the start of a food coma from BBQ, Sponge Candy topped with a whole bunch of olive oil. We all fell in love with and brought home the Pincholine olive oil, a late harvest oil from France and 18 year aged Balsamic Vinegar. They had a ton of flavored oils and vinegars, but we went with the basics and may just have to return to pick up other flavors another time.
The final and my favorite stop was at Penzey's Spices. I was so overwhelmed by everything they had that I didn't take any pictures. Mama Shack and I wandered around smelling all kinds of ground and whole spices, they even had 4 or 5 different types of cinnamon. I was so overwhelming but so great. I made out with some Mexican Orgeno, Their regular chili powder which had a great smokiness too it and some smoked Spanish paprika (inspired by the Laughing Moon Dark Chocolate Smoked Paprika Chocolate Bar). I could have easily bought the whole shop, but refrained just a bit. I actually can't wait to have an excuse to go back to this store when I'm not on the verge of a food coma and exhausted, because I know I'll do so much more damage.
|Little Shack bummed to go home, but at least he got his loose leaf tea|
Just a reminder for all of my Toronto readers: The Art of Cookingpresents Jamie Oliver for one night only November 18 and I get to offer you a $10 per ticket discount on General & VIP tickets and a $20 per ticket discount on groups of 5 or more. Just click here and you will be taken to the discounted ticket page or if you go through the Art of Cooking main page just enter the discount code JN29. It's truly a great opportunity and I hope you'll all join me.