Super Sunday Brunch at Fat Bob’s

The Superbowl has come (and gone) and being from Buffalo, by default I have to hate the Patriots. So booo on that admittedly incredible comeback. In reality, I am not a football fan (Go Sabres!), but I am a brunch and bloody mary fan, and Fat Bob’s Smokehouse was having a Super Sunday Brunch with a “build your own bloody” special. Sign me up!

I have had Fat Bob’s standard bloody before, and having re-read my review to refresh my memory, it wasn’t fantastic. It was a good start, with a tasty house made mix, but lacked anything to make it special. Enter their BYOB menu.

Fat Bob’s BYOB menu

So many choices! Where does one even begin?

At the top I suppose. Priced at $6.50 to start, my assumption is that if you didn’t choose a vodka (or other liquor) for an additional dollar, you would get well vodka and not a Virgin Mary. I was overwhelmed with all the choices for additional flavors, and extras to add. With so many choices, J decided to create one for me as well.

Double Fisting!

My creation:

  • Ketel one
  • Fat Bob’s hot sauce
  • horseradish
  • home made bacon
  • jalapenos
  • pickle
  • pepperoni
  • cheese cube

My BYOB creation

Once again, their mix had a good tomato flavor, and adding in their hot sauce and horseradish turned what was formerly a bit of a let down into a great, SPICY, tasty drink. Usually I’m a fan of my bacon being super crispy, nearly burned, but when it’s house made and thick, I’ll accept limp bacon. It was delicious (I had some more from the buffet too). Sadly, unless I somehow missed it at the bottom of the glass, my pickle and pepperoni were forgotten, but I got the standard celery (which was listed as an add-on) lemon, and lime garnishes.

Baaaconnn.

J’s creation:

  • Tito’s vodka
  • Fat Bob’s hot sauce
  • Cajun seasoning
  • crushed red pepper
  • A1 steak sauce
  • bitters
  • cayenne pepper
  • grilled cheese
  • shrimp skewer

Garnish game!

It’s really neat how the “same” drink can turn out so very different. This cocktail had a sweet taste to it, along with more citrus notes. It was spicy, but it was hard to tell if it was spicier than my creation, as my tongue was already burning. I didn’t feel like it was overwhelmingly Cajun, but perhaps the flavor got overpowered by the hot sauce and other additions. Topped with half a grilled cheese sandwich and 4 shrimp, it also had the standard lemon, lime and celery garnish.

Grilled cheese FTW!

For anyone who was overwhelmed by the BYOB choices, they still offered “classic” bloody marys with a variety of liquors to choose from.

I forced J to try both, as I continue to palate train him, and he didn’t hate them! Our waitress came by and saw me with both drinks though, and she was concerned that he didn’t like his. J told her I had a blog, and they were both for me, and then the catering manager came to talk to us, and they’re going to read this post, and man, that puts the pressure on to 1. write a post worth reading and 2. not be mean. Luckily, both drinks were tasty, and other than a few missing garnish choices, I have nothing bad to say 🙂

I honestly don’t know if Fat Bob’s offers brunch normally, but if they don’t, they should keep this BYOB menu available. I imagine it can get annoying for the bar tenders, but they have a good base mix to start from, and with all the choices on the list, a guest can create the perfect drink for them.

2 shots of my drinks from the Fat Bob’s Instagram, taken by Cory Watson. I was the first to get a grilled cheese.

Burning Buffalo

It seems like Buffalo is having another new restaurant open every week. We go out for dinner twice a week and we still can’t keep up. We have a list of places we have yet to visit, and new ones keep getting added! Burning Buffalo is a new restaurant and bar on Hertel Ave, and we tried to go a few weeks ago but they were closed. Turns out we tried to go the day before their official opening. Oops. But we made it there eventually.

I was starting to get a little sad, because honestly, I haven’t had a local bloody mary that blew me away in a while. They’ve been mostly alright, but nothing GREAT! When I saw it on the menu I was hesitant to order it, only because I wanted something yummy to drink, and I was scared of being disappointed again. But I gave them a chance anyway.

Enter the terrible dark bar photography.

The Burning Buffalo’s Bloody Mary

The Burning Buffalo Bloody Mary. Served in a pint glass for $8, and garnished with lemon, olive and a full celery stick, this cocktail is labeled “Local” for featuring Niagara Distilling’s 1812 Vodka and a house made mix. Advertised as smoky and spicy, I was a little nervous since the last bloody I had that was labeled “smoky”, in St Louis, was really too much. Fortunately, this bloody was a fantastic mix of smoke and spice. It didn’t taste like they stirred it with a lump of burned wood straight out of the campfire. The spice wasn’t overwhelming, but it was definitely present, as well as a lot of visible pepper. And if you needed more, there was definitely some pickle flavor as well.

I was impressed at first taste, and I had J take a sip as well. He is still scared of bloody marys, but even he said it was pretty good. I’ll learn him one day!

Burning Buffalo’s bloody is one of the best I’ve had locally in a while. Definitely try it. I also had their turkey club sandwich, which included a stuffed banana pepper, and it was fantastic.

Hearth + Press

Another cold and snowy night in Buffalo. While the southtowns were getting pounded with lake effect snow, downtown was only getting a dusting, and it was dinner time. The theater district, and Main St, has been having a bit of a rebirth now that the city has reopened the street to cars, leading to several new restaurants opening in the area. We decided to try Hearth + Press, the newest stone hearth pizza restaurant.

Hearth + Press is a bit of a weird combo. Given it’s location in the business area of the city, it markets itself as a coffee shop and lunch spot, hence the “Press” part of the name (press referring to French press, and not panini press, as I assumed). The menu offers a variety of sandwiches, salads, pastries and coffee along with their Neapolitan pizzas.

And cocktails.

San Marzano Bloody Mary

J immediately saw there was a Bloody Mary on the menu, so my choice was made. I think it was around $8, and served in a rocks glass, the drink features a house made mix of San Marzano tomatoes, the same tomatoes they use for their pizza sauce. Garnished with an olive and lemon peel this is how drinking it went:
me: (first sip)
j: Ha! That face!
me: (stirs drink, mixing up whatever may have settled to the bottom of the glass)
me: (second sip)
me: (sticks tongue out featuring chunks of tomato)

What to say? You know, I don’t like giving bad reviews. I usually conveniently forget to review the drinks that have been downright bad, because what’s the point? But sometimes you just have to do it (like Templeton Landing). This drink is a paradox. All at once, this drink was watery and chunky. That first sip contained a very liquidy drink full of chunks…actual chunks…of tomato. This was not the Ragu-like chewiness of one of my St Louis bloodies, which was entirely thick, or the Burning Asphalt mix which was like ketchup. It was like opening a can of diced tomatoes in juice. Even though the drink was freshly made, I thought maybe there was just a lot of debris that settled to the bottom of the glass, so I stirred it up. You could bring up entire chunks of tomato on the straw. The 2nd sip was more of the same, chunks of tomato that have to be chewed. I may be weird, I don’t like hard things in soft food, like fruit on the bottom yogurt, but it was just not right. Which is a shame, because San Marzano tomatoes are delicious, and the drink itself did not taste bad. I just can’t. I tried to finish it, but I couldn’t (and that’s rare). There was no hint of spice at all (I did not request a spicy drink, because I just assume there is some spice), and other than possibly pepper, there was no other flavors beyond tomato.

As it stands, I would never order this drink again. My advice: keep making a fresh mix, but strain, strain, strain!

As a whole, we didn’t have a great experience. It was uncomfortably cold inside, despite an open hearth oven, and (as we discovered) a portable heater behind J. Our pizzas were fine, featuring a sweeter dough which I enjoyed, but we were not blown away, and I would try something other than the pomodoro and pesto pizza that I ordered if we return. Basically we had to eat as fast as possible, so we could get out of the cold, and back outside into the cold which didn’t feel much different.

New York Beer Project

2 years ago one of my friends and co-workers invited me to be a part of our company’s trivia team for Cradle Beach’s “Buffalo’s Smartest Company” fundraiser each spring. Our company won a few years ago, but as they like to pick on me, we haven’t won since I joined the team. 🙁 I like trivia, and showing off weird knowledge, even if I do feel pretty stupid now that I’ve finished my first season playing Learned League (I came in 18th of 24, and had several competition days where I scored zero, boo!) So of course, bar trivia is a good mix of smarts and spirits, and we will attend different styles at different places around Buffalo, the most recent one occurring at the New York Beer Project in Lockport, NY.

J and I headed over there a bit early, as we had nothing else to do, and good thing we did! We were told it started at 9 but when we got there at 8:30, it had already started. We joined in late as The Dirigible Plums, as we waited for our other friends to show up, and the quiz master gave us a free 10 points to make up for missing most of the first round.

We’ve visited NYBP before and tried all their beers, but J got a flight again, and I decided on trying their Bloody Mary.

New York Beer Project Bloody Mary

Served in a hurricane glass for $10, the NYBP had some garnish game going on – cheese cubes, pepperoni, pepper, bacon, shrimp, and olives on a skewer. The drink had a good amount of spice, good tomato flavor, with a hint of pickle. It was a decent offering from a brewery, and I’d have one again if I wasn’t in the mood for beer.

We ended up winning trivia night, by a lot. Guess we didn’t need those free 10 points!

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year!! And happy anniversary to Bloody Queen City! I bought the domain a year ago today, so it’s time for a new review.

I wanted to have a bloody on Christmas morning, but I woke up too late and didn’t have time to enjoy one before going to the parents to celebrate, and then work (boo!). Then I wanted to have a bloody on New Years Day, but again, I woke up too late, and didn’t have time to enjoy one before work (boo again!). But given that we were up until 9am celebrating, I was allowed to sleep until 4! (Hey, we work til 4am, our Champagne toast happens closer to 6am.)

I have yet to have one in 2017, so we’re going to have to settle for one of the drinks I have in the archive. Deep South Taco‘s Mexican Bloody.

Deep South Taco is a fairly new Mexican restaurant in Buffalo, a little more than a year old I believe. They just opened their 2nd location on Hertel Ave, the first being on Ellicott St downtown. We’ve gone there quite a bit, as they have a nice big patio in the summer, and of course, delicious food and drinks. It took me a long time to finally try one of their 4 Bloody Mary offerings, as I always get margaritas with Mexican food, and we haven’t yet been there for brunch.

Another terrible, terrible photo, but there was just no way to capture this one.

The Mexican Bloody features El Jimador Blanco tequila, Mexican spiced bloody mix, and a chicharron for $7.50. Served with a spiced rim, lemon, and lime, along with the chicharron it was very tomato-y with a touch of a burned taste, like ghost pepper or habanero, but in the end was not very spicy. There was visible pepper and a hint of celery salt. There wasn’t much of a taste from the tequila, which is good for me, since it’s not my booze of choice unless it’s in a margarita. It is a decent offering, but much like other drinks I’ve had at Mexican restaurants, for me I’m sticking with the margaritas. (And being my first chicharron, I’ve decided I’m not quite a fan of them.)

810 Meadworks

I’ve been slacking. While we were at dinner a few weeks ago, J pointed out that I hadn’t blogged any drinks in a while. So that night I had a bloody mary but I got lazy posting about it. Now I’m 3 drinks behind, but that ends today! I’m going to start with the most recent one though, 810 Meadworks, and work backwards.

J had found a blog entry about local cocktails, and it featured 810 Meadworks as having WNY’s best bloody mary, which meant I had to try it. Somewhat unfortunately, we live about an hour away from 810, which is located in Medina, NY so it was a bit of a drive, but there is also a fantastic Mexican restaurant in Medina, so we made a night of it.

If you are not familiar with mead, it is an alcohol made from fermented honey, and it may have been history’s first fermented liquid! Since it’s made with honey, mead typically tends to be sweet, with even “dry” meads being sweeter than what you’d expect if you are used to dry wines.

My first, and previously only, mead experience was from a meadery on the west side of Seneca Lake, Earle Estates Meadery. While in the area with my parents, and aunt and uncle, we stopped in and did a tasting. I don’t remember my other family members being a fan, since they typically go for very dry wines, but I thought it was different and some were very tasty (in particular, their Cruisin’ Cranberry.)

810 Meadworks opened in 2014, with 8 different meads on tap. That number has grown to over 20, and we tried them all! Flights cost $5, for 3 – 2oz mead samples, which you can pair with some very creative handcrafted chocolates, or other small plates (there is no kitchen in the tasting bar so you’re looking at cheese and crackers, breads and spreads, to go along with your mead.) After your flight(s), if you’re still looking for more, they sell mead by the glass, and mead cocktails – which is where the bloody mary comes into play.

The Ghost of Mary

Presenting The Ghost of Mary! For $4, owner and brewmaster Bryan DeGraw, put together this little drink with his Royal Squeeze mead infused with ghost peppers, V8 bloody mary mix, and 2 spears of pickled asparagus for garnish. He asked if I wanted it very spicy, or just regular spicy, so of course I said “Very!”, which meant 2 oz of the ghost pepper mead. (Regular spicy would be made with just 1 oz, and mild would be made with a serrano and thai pepper infused mead instead.) The drink was different than your usual bloody mary, as the mead gives it a sweetness that vodka or other liquors do not. And the ghost peppers definitely made it spicy, probably too spicy for some people, but not for me! It was a simple drink, with a big taste, and I definitely recommend giving it a try if you are in the area.

As I said earlier, we tried all the meads currently on offer and I would say I enjoyed almost all of them. I didn’t try Fresh Territory, a pineapple cucumber mix, because cucumbers = evil, and strangely neither of us cared for their most popular mead – Sweet Devotion. But they had a special release Maple Tap, aged in a bourbon barrel, that was right up J’s alley and came home with us, along with a ghost pepper Royal Squeeze for me, and a bottle of Cheeky Keen for a gift. Check them out if you’re in the area, or as we did, make a special trip. (And if you want some great Mexican, give Mariacha De Oro a try!)

***
In related news, The Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest is returning in 2017, this time being held at Riverworks, which allows for a larger crowd. Tickets for the fest sold out in less than 4 days, again! Glad I got mine on the first day. Can’t wait!

Brunch at CRāVing

Sunday morning, we woke up fairly early (for night shift workers) after attending an Oktoberfest the afternoon before and going to bed early. Up early means brunch! It was a cool fall day, but nice enough to take a walk and get some food. I suggested we try Lloyd’s Taco Factory. We had their brunch before, when they were just serving out of their truck in partnership with Buffalo Proper, but now with a brick and mortar location they’ve started offering their own brunch. We made it to the restaurant only to find it closed! Now what? Time to cross the street and check out what CRāVing had to offer.

On their brunch cocktail menu, CRāVing was featuring a Traditional bloody mary for $8.50, but also offered Adam’s Bloody – Tomato, fennel, beets, horseradish root, celery, sriracha, worcestershire, lemon, lime and vodka for $10.50.

Adam's Bloody at CRāVing

Adam’s Bloody at CRāVing

Garnished with an olive and lemon slice, it didn’t look particularly fancy (especially after last weekend‘s bloody!) It was very watery, with a touch of horseradish tang. It had a good spice level, but none of the flavors were particularly strong. It didn’t have a strong tomato taste, and I couldn’t detect any fennel or celery flavor. It wasn’t mind blowing, but it was drinkable, and for whatever reason, it felt healthy!

J commented that I’m supposed to be making him taste my drinks, to palate train him, so he finally had his first taste of a bloody mary…and his last. LOL

Twelve Whiskey Barbecue

Last October we headed to Arizona for the Phoenix Taco Fest, and this year we decided to go down to Pittsburgh for their first Taco Fest at Hop Farm Brewing Company. Because who doesn’t like tacos? (Admittedly, I did not like tacos or Mexican food until the last 10 years. But you can forgive a child for not being an adventurous eater, right? Now, I’d say it’s probably my favorite style of food.)

I contacted a friend in Pittsburgh to let her know that we’d be in town, and she sent me a photo of a wonderful looking, massive bloody mary, and plans were made to meet at Twelve Whiskey Barbecue for brunch.

Jesus. Christ.

Jesus. Christ.

omg-cat_278783_gifsoup-com

Look. At. That.

A different view of the magnificence.

A different view of the magnificence.

Presenting the Big Azz Bloody. Where do I even start with this thing? Well let’s start with the price. $15. $15!!! For all of that!!! That seems totally completely reasonable! Considering I didn’t need to order any food to go along with it (well I ordered 2 fried eggs because it was breakfast and all), it was a cheaper brunch than usual all things considered.

Served in a larger than normal mason jar, this thing was loaded with goodies. For the big stuff, there was a full grilled cheese cut into 4 triangles (as it should be!), a chicken finger, a slider, and waffle fries. For the little stuff, there were 2 slices of sausage, a pickle, olives, jalapeno slices, a celery stalk and cocktail onions.

A close up look.

A close up look.

I was really so overwhelmed by the garnishes, that I don’t have a lot to say about the drink itself. My immediate reaction to the first sip was that it was very tomato-y. There was a bit of spice to it, and it was definitely drinkable. (They also offer an ordinary bloody mary that I would imagine contains the same mix.) As expected, putting hot garnishes on a cold drink, they did not stay warm, but that’s ok, they were all good.

I am almost sad that the drink was such a meal, because I’d have liked to try some of the dishes on their brunch menu, but I just knew I would not need to be eating anything else with this massive cocktail. And as it turned out, by the time Taco Fest rolled around later that afternoon, I was still not hungry, so add that to the rain (because, of course), and long lines at the event, the fest wasn’t that exciting. :/ I managed to stuff some tacos into my face, and they were decent, but by then it really started to pour so we just couldn’t enjoy it. There is potential there, as every Taco Fest has potential, but it just didn’t do it for me this time around.

Lake Placid take 3

The 2nd part of our vacation brought us back to the Adirondacks, and this time we stayed in Saranac Lake. It’s still near Lake Placid and the High Peaks, but I had not stayed there before. We wanted to hike another High Peak, but I was nervous about my stamina (rightfully!) and we decided to do our first of the Saranac 6 peaks instead – Ampersand. Not a High Peak, but it was more difficult than the one we did last time, Cascade Mountain, and boy am I sore, still, 4 days later. It probably didn’t help my legs that we also did a 7+ mile rail bike ride the next day, which was super cool.

The peak of Ampersand Mountain

The peak of Ampersand Mountain

I was not expecting to have any bloody marys on this leg of the trip either, even if my favorite Bloody Bar is in Lake Placid, but I was wrong.

On our last trip, we thought there was a definite lack of places to sit outside and have some drinks with a nice lake view. The main street in Lake Placid goes right along Mirror Lake, with plenty of restaurants lining both sides, but while many/most of them have large windows to look at the lake, few seemed to have patios. Well that has changed now, with the Top of the Park, exactly what we were looking for.

Look at that view!

Look at that view!

Or look at that view!

Or look at that view!

Top of the Park had a great cocktail menu, a nice bourbon list (according to J) and a good mix of small plates. A few drinks options had captured my interest before seeing the bloody mary, and having to go for that (well at least, go for that one first!)

How pretty is that drink??

How pretty is that drink??

Definitely the prettiest bloody mary I’ve had in a long time, just looking at it made me excited to try it. Clearly it was made with care, garnished with a dilly bean, sun dried tomato, lemon, olive, and a bacon straw (that you can’t see). The garnishes were nicely placed and not just plopped into the drink, plus they were creative! Bacon and beans aren’t entirely unusual, but make the bacon into a crispy straw, and it’s a nice touch. The mix had a lot of visible pepper, and had a nice tomato flavor. It was pretty mild, but I didn’t ask for it spicy, and I wonder what they would have added if I had. It might have wrecked it, if it was a vinegary hot sauce. It was a good drink in a fantastic location. We proceeded to try a number of cocktails off their menu, and a few plates, and would definitely return there again in the future.

I thought that night in Lake Placid would be our only time in town, but we wanted to buy a few sweatshirts, so we drove back the next day. Enter my favorite Bloody Bar, The Breakfast Club. I’ve reviewed them twice before, so I didn’t think I needed to go back, but alas we needed breakfast, and there they were, drawing me in with their menu of bloodies…The struggle is real.

The Asian Mary

The Asian Mary

This time I went with the Asian Mary. I couldn’t remember if I had tried it on our very first trip there, I think I may have, but nothing wrong with revisiting it! Made with their house mix, the drink is made “Asian” with the addition of soy sauce, sriracha, and wasabi. Garnished with lemon, lime, celery, olive and pickled ginger with a salt rim, look how pretty this one was too! Again, the drink wasn’t just some booze and tomato juice poured into a glass with some citrus. It was very spicy and a tad sweet, with a hint of nose burn and from the wasabi. Delicious. Another great offering from The Breakfast Club.

Lake Placid, the reigning Queen of vacation bloodys!

Boston!

Vacation time again, and this time for real. We didn’t have ideas for anything super huge and exciting to do, but we figured we’d go to Boston to visit J’s sister, and then make our way to the Adirondacks since we had to cancel our trip there in June. So that was the plan of attack, but it turns out his sister was going to be in Berlin. Jealous! I want to be in Berlin! We stayed at her place anyway, took care of her cats (one giant, one tiny), and played tourist for a few days.

Our first day, we bought tickets for a whale watch and a visit to the New England Aquarium. The day was a little chilly for a speedy boat ride, and we were warned that the seas were pretty choppy. We got about a half hour into the ride, out of Boston Harbor, and the captain decided it was too rough and they were going to have to cancel the trip. *sadface* So we turned around and headed back to shore, refunds for all, no whales for anyone. The Aquarium was nice though, with a big penguin exhibit in the center, and lots of tanks of crazy ocean life.

One of my favorite South Park moments: Cartman singing Poker Face in Whale Whores episode

One of my favorite South Park moments: Cartman singing Poker Face in Whale Whores episode

We had no real plans for the evening, and after dinner we headed out to a Buffalo Bills Bar to watch the home opener. Now, I really don’t care at all about football but it was something to do. That specific bar was PACKED though, so we went around the corner to find a place, and stumbled upon The Fours (apparently America’s best sports bar). I wasn’t planning on having a bloody mary, but it presented itself in front of me, as a drink called the Flea Flicker, so I guess I had to!

The Fours Boston

The Flea Flicker

The Flea Flicker – Kettle One Vodka, Housemade Bloody Mary Mix, Guinness Floater, Spicy Salt Rim – $11. The drink had an olive garnish with a lemon and lime plopped in the drink. There was no real spice to it and the tomato flavor was not super evident, somehow. There was a smoky hint to it, and a little sweetness from the Guinness. It wasn’t bad, definitely drinkable, but it wasn’t great.

In prepping for the trip, of course I googled the best bloody marys in Boston, but nothing really jumped out as a “must have” drink. I was fine with not trying any during our visit, but in the end I did want to get brunch before leaving for Saranac Lake on Saturday, so I re-googled the list and settled on trying Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, near Harvard. It wasn’t far from where we were staying, easy to get to on the subway so we could get back to the car and hit the road, and had one of the more interesting ones on the list.

The Maria Basilico

The Maria Basilico

Russell House Tavern featured 4 different drinks on the menu, your standard house bloody, one made with mezcal, one with aquavit, and the one I chose: The Maria Basilico with Basil-Infused Vodka, Meletti Amaro, Cucumber, House Bloody Mary Mix for $11. At first taste the drink was super thick and pulpy, the mix had a lot of visible debris, and was almost chewable, but it became more tolerable after a good stir. It was very spicy, with hints of basil flavor and citrus, with maybe a tad of horseradish. Garnished with cucumbers, which I ignored, it was a decent drink, but it wasn’t as super out of the ordinary as I was expecting.

As a whole, from the internet lists of “best of Boston” and the 2 drinks I had, the city can surely step up their game. I was expecting all kinds of crazy offerings featuring lobster, or other seafood, for garnishes. J’s sister had another recommendation for a place, with a “menu” of vodkas, mixes, and garnishes to choose from that perhaps would have been a better choice but it was just too far away for our purposes this time. Guess we’ll have to visit again!

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