Tour of Buffalo

While I have visited Buffalo many times over the past 35 years as my husband grew up in the Buffalo area and has many relatives in Western New York, we’ve never had the time to be “tourists” and check out some of the happenings in a resurgent Buffalo.

A late lunch would be a great way to start our visit, and a trip to the world-famous Anchor Bar (Amherst location) for classic Buffalo wings and Beef on Weck was a must. Yes, the original Anchor Bar location in downtown Buffalo is where “Buffalo Style” wings were invented.

The story goes, “on March 4th, 1964, Dominic Bellissimo was tending bar at the now famous Anchor Bar Restaurant in Buffalo, NY. Late that evening, a group of Dominic’s friends arrived with ravenous appetites. Dominic asked his mother Teressa, to prepare something for his friends to eat. Teressa deep fried some chicken wings (the part of the bird that normally went into the stock pot for soup), and flavored them with a secret sauce. The wings were an instant hit and it didn’t take long for people to flock to the bar to experience this new taste sensation. From that evening on, Buffalo Wings became a regular part of the menu at the Anchor Bar.”

Buffalo Wings & Beef on Weck – delish!

The lunch special combo was more than filling. The wings were crispy and saucy – mild for me and medium for hubby – served with bleu cheese dressing and celery on the side. The slow-roasted rare roast beef was juicy and tender, piled high on a classic kimmelweck roll – a roll topped with kosher salt and caraway seeds – served with horseradish sauce. This sandwich is another classic Western New York treat that is hard to find outside of Buffalo.

Pete the Peacock rests on the desk at the Lafayette Hotel.

The city is also known for its classic architecture built in the early twentieth century. At that time Buffalo had grown to become the eighth largest city in America. The booming commerce and industry provided great wealth and some of the most prominent architects of the era were selected to construct magnificent new buildings.

Ellicott Square Building, completed in 1896. Painted grey in 1971, the surface is terra cotta.

Explore Buffalo (explorebuffalo.org) offers a variety of tours focusing on various interests. There are several walking tours in the Downtown area, and Neighborhood Tours focusing on different parts of the city and the Beyond Buffalo Tours focus on surrounding suburbs. There are also special tours in the winter months that are mostly indoors, and in the summer, kayak and biking tours are added.

Detail on the Guaranty (formerly Prudential) Building.

We selected the “Masters of American Architecture Tour” which showcased some of those beautiful turn-of-the-century buildings. We began in the lobby of the Hotel at the Lafayette on Washington Street. The docents led us on a two-hour tour with stops at the Guaranty Building (designed by Louis Sullivan & Dankmar Adler), the Ellicott Square Building (by Daniel Burnham & Co.), St. Paul’s Cathedral (by Richard Upjohn), St. Joseph’s Cathedral and the Old Post Office (now part of the campus of Erie Community College).

Details on the Ellicott Square Building

Comfortable walking shoes are highly recommended and cameras are encouraged (with the exception of the interior of a couple of buildings where photos are not allowed). This tour is $15 for adults; $5 for students. There is also an Explorer Pass available for $60 per person which gives you a year’s access to the over sixty tours and other events offered by Explore Buffalo.

While not part of the tour, just across the street from the Lafayette Hotel is the Largest Mural in Western New York (80’ x 160’), painted by international artist, Louise Jones. This mural, painted on the side of the Sinclair Building on Washington Street, was commissioned by the Albright-Knox Museum’s Public Art Initiative. The painting features flowers that are specific to New York.

The largest mural in Western New York by Louise Jones.

And if after the tour you still haven’t had your fill of great architecture, head over to Buffalo City Hall. This art deco building, dedicated in 1932, is stunning both outside and inside, with a wealth of artwork and design work throughout that reflects the history of Buffalo and the area. The building is imposing in size and can be seen from just about anywhere in the city. You can take the elevator to the 25th floor and then climb 3 flights of stairs for spectacular views of Buffalo and Lake Erie.

Buffalo City Hall
Skyline from the Observation Deck atop Buffalo City Hall.

Wire Mill Saloon and BBQ, Redding, CT

12 Old Mill Road, Redding, CT (203) 544-9988
https://wiremillbbq.com

Wire Mill Saloon & BBQ

The Wire Mill Saloon & BBQ has been serving up tasty creations from their custom-made smokers for over five years. Chef and owner, Gino Marsili, attended Johnson & Wales Culinary School in Providence, RI, and then moved to St. Simons Island, GA, to open a fine dining Italian restaurant. While living there, he met his “Georgia Peach”, Robin. Many of the current recipes come from friends and family of Robin’s.

The restaurant name reflects the area’s history. The Gilbert & Bennett Manufacturing Company was a mill that produced wire fencing and other industrial items. Gino’s Dad, Vinny, worked at the mill for 34 years. There is a photo of him at work in the mill as well as other photos and signs from the mill hung throughout the restaurant.

Prior to transforming into the Wire Mill BBQ, the restaurant was a deli. Gino subsequently purchased a locally-built smoker and set about learning the smoking technique. The deli quickly became a BBQ destination and Gino’s father-in-law custom built a commercial grade smoker for Gino to expand on his venture of BBQ specialties. Two years later the Wire Mill Saloon and BBQ was opened in the Georgetown section of Redding.

The smokers were a smokin’!

We began our lunch adventure to Wire Mill with appetizers – Bootsie’s Brunswick Stew for my husband, and a ¼ Rack of Baby Back Ribs for me. The stew was a good sized bowl, full of chicken, pork, okra, corn and mildly hot spices. The ribs were tender and flavorful – smoked just right with hints of cherry and apple woods. They were just firm enough to hold on to the bone, but pulled away with ease. Served on the side was their White BBQ sauce that is ranch-based with the tang of horseradish. A nice complement to the savory ribs.

Bootsie’s Brunswick Stew

The Wire Mill serves Memphis-style dry rub BBQ, with an assortment of house-made BBQ sauces on the table including Classic BBQ, Honey and Vinegar. All of their sauces were a little tangy with a vinegar base.

1/4 Rack of Baby Back Ribs with White BBQ Sauce

Since the appetizers were so filling, we decided to split a combo platter for our meal (the menu mentions a plate-sharing charge, but that has been discontinued). We decided on beef brisket and pulled pork – with another ¼ rack of ribs on the side! Combo platters come with two sides and cornbread – we chose the hand-cut curly fries and macaroni and cheese.

The brisket was thinly sliced to show off its nice pink smoke ring – the mark of true BBQ. Dave thought the brisket could have had a bit more flavor in its bark (the outside that gets all nice and crusty when smoking), but I thought it was sufficiently flavorful and juicy. The pulled pork was a classic taste, piled high on the platter. There were plenty of leftovers to package up for home.

Combo Platter with Brisket and Pulled Pork

They also offer smoked chicken and homemade smoked sausage – items to try on our next visit. The menu includes sandwich versions of the smoked meats as well as burgers and salads. There is a children’s menu available for those under 12, and homemade desserts too (though we were much too full to even think about dessert).

Another offering is “Family Feast Take-Out Meals” which serve 2-4 or 5-7. It is suggested to call early to guarantee availability. You can also get smoked meats by the pound “to go”.

Prices are comparable to other BBQ restaurants we have visited with appetizers ranging from $6-$14 and platters from $18-$28. Sandwiches and burgers are served with homemade chips, pickle and cole slaw and range from $11-$14. Salads are served chopped with your choice of dressing and have the option to add smoked meat on top. The full bar offers up your cocktail of choice as well as locally brewed beers.

Manager Matt assisting a customer with his take-out order.

The t-shirts that the staff wore had some fun sayings on the back. “Puttin’ the South in Your Mouth” and “You can smell our butts for miles!” brought more than a few chuckles to be sure.

The Wire Mill is not a large space, so expect a wait during busy times, though when the weather is nice they also have quite a few tables on the patio. They are open Tuesday-Saturday 11 am – 9 pm, and Sunday 1 pm – 8:30 pm (or sooner if they sell out!).

B.J. Ryan’s BANC House, Norwalk, CT

B.J. Ryan’s BANC House – BBQ & Crab; 16 River Street, Norwalk, CT

https://www.bjryans.com/bj-ryans-banc-house-bbq-and-crab-norwalk

New England is known for its seafood, and in recent years, it is also becoming known for its traditional-style BBQ. B.J. Ryan’s BANC House (BANC stands for BBQ-and-Crab) is located in downtown Norwalk, CT, in the midst of the busy business district on River Street. They are heading into their eighth year of serving up regional BBQ and crab favorites, along with a large assortment of appetizers, sides and homemade desserts. They also sell their own line of sauces for you to enjoy at home.

I discovered this restaurant while scoping out “Groupons” for a Christmas gift for my hubby, Dave. He loves his BBQ – both eating and smoking his own on our backyard smokers. We decided to head down mid-afternoon on a Saturday for a late lunch/early dinner when it would be less crowded. And it was – when we first arrived we were the only ones in the dining room. Our server was pleasant and described the various dishes for us.

The sunlit dining room.

Starting with appetizers, Dave had to try their Poutine, which is French fries covered in gravy and cheese curds. We added the optional beef brisket to top it off. It was served in a large bowl with lots of gravy and melted cheese. The brisket was tender and had just the right amount of smoky goodness. The gravy wasn’t as thick as we’ve had on other Poutine but still tasted quite good.

The Poutine – French fries, gravy, cheese curds and brisket!

I wanted to try the Giant Nug Crab Cocktail that I had seen on their website. The lump crabmeat was tender and the three sauces were all tasty (Dijonnaise, House-made Cocktail and, especially yummy, the Chipotle Aioli).

Giant Nug Crab Cocktail

While everything on the menu sounded wonderful, we decided on the Smoked Meat Sampler, which supplied an ample offering of all of their smoked treats (St. Louis Ribs, Baby Back Ribs, Lazy Bacon, Beef Brisket, Pulled Port, Pulled Chicken and BANC House Sausage). We added sides of Skillet Cornbread, Mac N Cheese and Beale Street Beans with Pork. The cornbread was served in a small cast iron skillet, giving the edges of the bread a nice crunch. It was served with a side of maple dipping sauce that added a nice sweet touch to the cornbread. The Mac N Cheese was creamy goodness with a blend of several cheeses and a light topping of bread crumbs. I don’t like beans, but Dave thought the pork was the best part.

Mac N Cheese, Beale Street Beans with Pork and Cornbread accompanied the Sampler.

The Sampler Platter – the main event. Everything was nicely smoked – but not too smoky. The flavors of the juicy meats came through in every case. The Baby Back Ribs were the more flavorful of the two styles of ribs, though both were yummy. I had never had Lazy Bacon before – it was leaner than I expected and was almost like a pork jerky, but tender.

The Sampler Platter

While this platter was meant to serve two, it could easily feed four with the sides. We brought home enough food for another full meal. Needless to say, we did not choose any dessert!

Will definitely return to try some of their other menu items. Prices were in line with other BBQ restaurants we’ve visited (the Sampler Platter was $29.95). They do offer a Kids Menu with nine selections at $7.95 each, and a nice selection of salads and sandwiches in addition to entrees. Their “Prohibition Menu” has an extensive selection of cocktails, bourbon and whiskey tastings, wines and more.

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me and Pete the Peacock as we travel and photograph our way across this big beautiful country of ours! We’ll explore our natural resources as well as the creature comforts of good food, a nice place to lay our head at night, and places to explore. We’ll talk to “locals” of the area to get the inside scoop on the best places to go – often off the beaten path.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Lone tree at Walnut Beach, Milford, CT during the last sunrise of 2018.

We ended 2018 with a fabulous sunrise at Walnut Beach in Milford, CT, joining a group of twenty or so other photographers. It was an unusually mild morning for the end of December, with barely a breeze stirring.

Pre-dawn clouds, Walnut Beach, Milford, CT

There were some wonderful rippling clouds in the sky that added drama to the warming colors.

Sun rising next to Charles Island off Walnut Beach, Milford, CT

The sun rose in a fiery ball to the right of Charles Island, just off the coast of Walnut Beach. There is a sandbar that allows you to walk to the Island, however, you need to be very aware of the tide cycles as it is not unusual for people to get stranded on the Island once the tide rolls in.

Waves of clouds after sunrise in Milford, CT

Normally once the sun rises higher in the sky it is difficult to photograph as it is too bright. On this morning the clouds just got better and better with the rising sun. This was taken about 45 minutes after the sun broke the horizon. The ripples in the clouds were quiet dramatic and made for some wonderful images.