After a successful first outing, Step Out Buffalo brought back the Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest for a 2nd year, this time moving from Shea’s Theater to Buffalo Riverworks. The concept was the same, 10 Buffalo bars prepare their best Bloody Mary for a thirsty crowd.
Once again, the event sold out in only a few days, and Jeff was left without a ticket. I managed to find one for him a few days before so J, Jeff and I headed out to try them all (even J decided to try them, to palate train.)
It was a nice day out, but it is still winter in Buffalo, and having to park in an overflow lot down the street, that meant coats. So suggestion #1 to Step Out Buffalo for any future winter events of any kind is: COAT CHECK! It forced everyone to make their way through an already crowded space in bulky coats and jackets, and it got hot and uncomfortable after a very short time inside.
But on to the drinks! The samples were smaller this year, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, as by the end of the event last time, I got a bit tired of bloodies (sacrilege!) Tommyrotter Distillery provided the vodka again this year, and 10 different bars were in attendance, which was nice to see. My reviews will be pretty short again.
1. The Grange
Ingredients – Tomato, beet, carrot, celery, saline, horseradish, lemon, Worcestershire,
Garnish – watermelon radish, pickle, pastrami
With a spice rim, and a garnish of pickled jalapeno, meat chunk (actually pastrami), and sliced beet (actually watermelon radish), the drink had a distinct beet-y taste with a hint of smoke from the meat chunk. It was a tad salty, but a decent offering.
2. Deep South Taco
Ingredients – Tomato juice, black pepper, celery salt, horseradish, Frank’s hot sauce, steak sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon and lime juice, olive brine
Garnish – mini beef and weck taco, (savory churro bites)
Deep South Taco had the best garnish of the day, with their savory churro bites, sprinkled with chili powder, and a beef on weck mini taco. I was glad to see most of the bars stepped up their garnish game this year. The drink was heavy on the horseradish flavor, and was quite good. It was very different (and better) than their bloody I had at the restaurant.
Wikipedia: A beef on weck (also known as beef on wick) is a sandwich found primarily in Western New York. It is made with roast beef on a kummelweck roll. The meat on the sandwich is traditionally served rare, thin cut, with the top bun getting a dip au jus and spread with horseradish.
3. Rusty Nickel Brewing
Ingredients – House Bloody Mary mix, Ms. Brown’s London Porter
Garnish – pepperoncini, pimento stuffed Queen olive, sweet gherkin pickle, pepperoni, candied bacon, Wisconsin cheddar.
I grabbed the drink, and my hands were immediately sticky, apparently from the mango habanero puree, but I didn’t taste it since I didn’t quite know what it was, and I try not to lick random sticky things. I’m not a huge mango fan, so it was good that there wasn’t overwhelming mango taste to this sample, but it did make it quite sweet. Not bad, but not my style for a Bloody. 2nd best garnish of the day.
4. Lloyd Taco Factory/Truck
Ingredients – Vine ripened tomatoes 3 ways: roasted, pickled and fresh, red and green bell pepper, serrano chili, carrot, tomatillo, Lloyd rocket sauce spice blend
Garnish: pickled cherry tomato and onion pearl, (cilantro)
With the cilantro garnish, I admit I was scared, as I am one of those genetic freaks who hate cilantro because it tastes like soap. I was pleasantly surprised that there was no cilantro taste in the drink, but a strong onion flavor instead. It was reminiscent of salsa, with good spice, and it tasted super fresh. It may have been my favorite of the day. Jeff hated it.
Ingredients – Fire roasted tomatoes, chipotle peppers, tomato juice, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper
Garnish – house-made salsa verde with parsley, rosemary, garlic, olive oil, black pepper, salt and chorizo sausage
Sear had someone live blow-torching their chorizo sausage garnish – badass! The drink wasn’t equally badass though. It had a decent smoky taste, but it was fairly thick from using mass produced tomato juice, and the addition of what I thought was pesto, but apparently was salsa verde, gave it a flavor that was too much like pasta sauce. It was a tad oily from the garnish, so I didn’t want to finish it all. The chorizo was good though!
6. Winfields Pub
Ingredients – Fresh squeezed tomato, Winfield’s bloody mary spices, house mango shrub, Krista’s Jerkalicious sauce, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce
Garnish – Pickled beets, pickled mustard seed, mint
Another bloody with mango, this drink was, again, a sweet take on a typically savory drink. Watching them put the drink together, I thought there was cranberry jelly and shredded carrots in it, but apparently it was mango shrub, and pickled beets? I swear it was carrot. It had a good tomato flavor, but it wasn’t for me.
No photo because it was very hard to move around upstairs at this point, and the drink wasn’t particularly visually interesting.
7. Billy Club
Ingredients – Housemade roasted tomato juice, lemon and lime juice, housemade pickled jalapeno brine, Lea & Perrins, pepper, celery salt, Frank’s hot sauce
Garnish – Lemon, housemade pickle
We recently had dinner at Billy Club, and it’s one of the restaurants that I’d call….hipster pretentious. Not to say it wasn’t good, but it is a restaurant that serves lots of small plates, and in the spring will surely offer ramps – WHICH ARE NOT A MEAL – and it really bugs me. Ahem, I’m sorry, long story*. Ok I’m back now. Billy Club ran out of garnishes by the time we got upstairs to give them a try, but by the sound of it, we didn’t miss that much. The drink was very pepper-y and vinegar-y. It wasn’t bad, but it was nothing special.
8. Colter Bay
Ingredients – Tomato, olive and pickle juice, beef consumet, horseradish, mustard, Worcestershire, caraway, celery salt, Tabasco, salt and pepper
Garnish – Crouton, horseradish pickle
The What the Weck bloody had a fennel and salt rim, the ingredients in “weck”, which was a great addition to this drink. It had a super strong horseradish flavor, but it had a weird after taste, maybe the beef consumet? It had too much debris though, it would have been better with a bit less.
Ingredients – Tomato juice, cucumbers, red pepper, basil, celery salt, Worcestershire, lime, pineapple red wine vinegar, green tabasco, classic tabasco, tapatio, horseradish, salt and pepper, jalapeno, bitters
Garnish – Mini cubanos
Pasion is probably my favorite restaurant in Buffalo right now. It’s a Latin American restaurant, and when we go there, we order so many small plates, we never end up wanting our entree. By the time we were ready to try their bloody, they had a crazy crowd. I doubled up on the above 2, while Jeff waited to get his and J’s sample from Pasion. They had gotten theirs by the time I joined the crowd, and they both said it was worth the wait – they thought it was the best. I was excited! The mini cubano slider was delicious. But with all that build up, the drink ended up being a let down for me. I couldn’t tell why, but seeing the ingredients list, it was probably the evil cucumber. It was a bit fruity, with some spice and a spice rim. It grew on me, the more I drank, but I was sad to conclude that it wasn’t my favorite.
Ingredients – Vegetable juice, Frank’s hot sauce, A1 sauce, Worcestershire, olive brine, celery salt, black pepper
Garnish – Lemon, celery, olive, pepperoncini, tabasco (?) onions, bacon
Sophia’s was another one that had a big crowd, so we skipped it to try upstairs, and came back to it at the end. By the time we did so, they were out of bacon. Booo! With a spiced rim, and pretty standard garnishes, Sophia’s was the most classic drink at the Fest. Had we known, we should have started with this, and judged all the variations after, especially J since he was palate training. It was very tomato-y and had a very strong celery flavor.
If you got tired of drinking (ha!) this year’s fest featured some fun distractions. 2 local craft party companies were set up – Studio Hue and Buffalo Collective – offering quick crafts for $5: DIY flasks and custom pint glasses respectively. If crafting wasn’t your thing, SPACE brought several pinball machines, all with free plays, and Fabubus mobile spa was set up outside. There were snack tables set up with cheese and fruit, food available for purchase from Riverworks, and a couple vendors including ADK Blood Mary Tonic, which we picked up to review at a later date.
There was no panel of judges this year – so I didn’t get to be one. Instead they opted for public voting on the Tattle app. Unfortunately, none of us could get it to acknowledge that we were, indeed, at the Fest, so we were unable to vote. My votes would have been Lloyd for best, Deep South Taco for best garnish and Rusty Nickel Brewing for most unique. The actual winners were Sophia’s for best, and Deep South Taco for best garnish and most unique.
With the fest held in a larger location, that also allowed for a larger crowd. We intended to go a little later, in hopes to avoid having to wait in long lines for our samples, as last year it thinned out a bit after the first hour. Unfortunately, that was not the case, and we were often stuck in immovable crowds, unable to get a sample, and unable to get to a different restaurant. Riverworks is oddly shaped, so while they tried to put the restaurants back to back to provide crowd movement, it didn’t quite work out. I don’t have a suggestion to make it better, though, either. We skipped Sophia’s our first time around the main floor and headed up stairs because by the looks of the balcony railing, it looked to be empty. Wrong. Upstairs it was worse, as it was an even smaller space, with the same number of restaurants set up – plus the photo “booth” and 2 craft areas (and VIP. Yes, there was a VIP area, but we did not choose that route this time. I’m not sure it would be beneficial, as you still have to wait in long lines to get your samples, and then get back upstairs to a more open area to sample in peace). The crowd didn’t thin out until about 3:30, and by then many of the restaurants had run out of garnishes, and you wouldn’t be getting their best.
All that said, we still had a great time, and enjoyed all the different offerings. By the end, we were a little bloody mary-ed out, so we finished the afternoon with mimosas!
I have more photos from the fest to share, but I’ve been writing this for 2 hours, and I need to get ready for pub trivia!
*When we were in NYC for Hedwig and the Angry Inch and got stuck an extra night due to our flight being canceled our group had dinner at a restaurant in Brooklyn. There were 7 of us I believe, and we ordered the entire menu – mainly small plates, one of them being ramps. I didn’t know what ramps were at the time, but I quickly found out, they are not food. A plate with 5 pieces of, essentially, grass, is not a meal! It’s a garnish! It’s what you add to real food to season it! It makes me so angry! The other small plates were at least real food, but no where near enough to feed 7 people satisfactorily.