Posts Tagged ‘festival’

3rd Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest

Hello faithful readers, it’s been a while, but I have not forgotten about you (thank you, both of you – if you get the reference you’re awesome!) I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been busy doing something super fun, but that would be a lie. It’s simply winter, where it’s dark and cold and you just want to sit on the couch and catch up on tv. And you want to detox from the holiday season, which is mainly the reason that I hadn’t had a single bloody mary in 2018…until now! The Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest was upon us once again, at Buffalo Riverworks for the 2nd year in a row.

I tried to be proactive and buy tickets for Jeff and his girlfriend, since he misses out on tickets every year, and then he turns around and goes off to Mexico! So this year J and I were joined by an old friend and her boyfriend, and since last year was a bit of a massive cluster of packed be-coated bodies, I wanted to go a little later to try to avoid it all. Thankfully Step Out Buffalo provided a coat check this year, and perhaps because they offered a special noon early entry ticket, when we got there a bit after 1, there was a good amount of room to move around, no long waits for drinks, and we even snagged a table to use as a home base. Score! Once again 10 different bars were gathered to provide us their best – er, well 7 different bars. 3 were participants the year before, and of the remaining 7, 4 of those I’d had before. So although the returning bars offered a different drink this time, there really were only 3 cocktails that were completely new to me, which adds to my sad feeling that this year was a little underwhelming.

Black Button Distilling
Ingredients: Tomato juice, ground up pickles, horseradish, garlic, habanero peppers, Worcestershire, lemon juice, salt, pinch of sugar
Garnish: Black olives, Colby Jack cheese, tortilla chip

Black Button Distillery

I have no notes on this drink, basically because I still don’t care for their mix, and thus I have nothing to say.

This Little Pig
Ingredients: House roasted tomato confit, tomato juice, fresh squeezed lemon juice, celery salt, fresh ground black pepper, A1, Worcestershire, garlic concentrate, pickled dill bean juice, fresh horseradish, house smoked meatball
Garnish: Dilly green bean, bell pepper, bacon glazed with brown sugar and Frank’s Hot Sauce

This Little Pig (has a terrible blurry photo grr)

Gorgeous and delicious garnish (I’m a sucker for green beans), with a mini meatball hidden at the bottom of the cup, this was an early favourite and ended up being my choice for best of the day. It had a strong horseradish flavor, and a good amount of spice. My only complaint is that it was a taaaad too thick, with a lot of debris. A bit more blending would make it pretty perfect. I am not familiar with this restaurant, but this drink makes me intrigued.

Delicious, delicious bacon wrapped green beans from This Little Pig

Thin Man Brewery
Ingredients: House beef stock, lemon juice, house pickle juice, Worcestershire, celery salt, black pepper, sambal, tomato juice, Thin Man Black Francis stout, horseradish
Garnish: Maple and rosemary glazed fried pork belly, spicy pickled green bean, carrot, onion (however the girl at the booth said it was sriracha glazed pork belly and I believe her.)

Thin Man

The 2nd repeat of the day, I had tried Thin Man’s bloody last year while there watching the Kentucky Derby. It was rather mellow and a tad sweet from the addition of their stout. It wasn’t very spicy, but a decent offering, and a different choice if you are tired of bloodies that are overly harsh with pickle juice flavors.

Merge
Ingredients: Fire roasted tomato, onion, pepper, jalapeno, ghost pepper, carrot, cilantro, raisin puree, salt
Garnish: Pomegranate paprika salt, smoked carrot, tofu jerky, almond “ricotta” stuffed olive, beet pickled cauliflower

Merge

Merge is/was high on my list of top bloodies ever, and definitely best of Buffalo. However this offering was not what I had in the past, and I don’t know what they offer at the restaurant anymore. This drink was ok, but I certainly hope they still offer their classic version. This one was very sweet, which I realized later came from raisins…which I hate. Given all the peppers listed in the ingredients, it was not very hot. Merge is a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, so the jerky was tofu, and was delicious. If you weren’t told it wasn’t meat, you wouldn’t know.

At this point, walking back to the table with my Merge drink, I was distracted by this:

Whaaaaat?

This my friends, is a Bloody Mary Donut…..you read that right, a Bloody Mary Donut. I don’t know what’s really on it besides bacon, but Fry Baby served up this creative and delicious piece of food art along with their plain, maple bacon and…another kind of donut. Is it tomato frosting? Maybe! Probably! Is it celery drizzle, not totally sure, could be citrus. But I do know it was tasty.

Breakfast is served! Merge bloody mary with bloody mary donut and plain donut from Fry Baby

Acropolis
Ingredients: Salt, pepper, celery salt, Worcestershire, Frank’s, sriracha, lemon juice, pickle juice, Weber’s horseradish mustard, horseradish and tomato juice
Garnish: Feta stuffed queen olive, pepperoncini, lemon and bacon

Acropolis

This was a strong flavored drink, and a bit too much. The spiced rim plus the flavors in the drink made it a bit too salty with an overwhelming celery flavor. It did have a full slice of bacon, which is always appreciated! With less salt, it would probably be a solid classic cocktail.

Rusty Nickel
Ingredients: Tomato paste, Worcestershire, lime juice, spice, extractives (is that a word? it was on their sign) of celery, pickle juice, pepper, celery salt, 3 different hot sauces, chipotle mix
Garnish: Chipotle lime seasoned pickle, Ru’s pierogi, custom chipotle lime meat stick from Get Linked, celery, lime, cheese cube, black olives

Rusty Nickel

Another repeat from last year, but with a completely different offering, they won the well deserved Best Garnish award. Ru’s Pierogi are delicious, and I believe this one was their stuffed banana pepper pierogi. I lost my cheese cube, but with all that other amazingness, who cares? The drink itself smelled spicy, like cayenne or taco mix, maybe chipotle. It tasted good, however maybe it was just mine, but it was a little chunky and it needed to be chewed. All it needs was a good straining and it would be a great offering.

Garnish game on point!

Colter Bay
Ingredients: Tomato, Mexican hot sauce, taco seasonings, cayenne, smoked paprika, cumin
Garnish: Taco Bell hot sauce packet, dorito rim

Colter Bay

Welp….no. I try to be nice in my reviews, even when I don’t like something, but this was awful. They offered a beef on weck cocktail last year, which had issues but was decent. This year they went with a Doritos Loco theme, and it failed miserably. I couldn’t figure out the terrible chemical taste until I read the sign and saw “Taco Bell hot sauce”…that’s exactly it. My cup lacked a dorito rim, which while it wouldn’t have improved the drink, still would have tasted fine on it’s own. We didn’t realize at the time, but you were supposed to also take a 2nd cup of a turquoise/green liquid shooter to drink after. No idea what it was, but nothing could improve this drink.

Burning Buffalo
Ingredients: V8 juice, Worcestershire, horseradish, Tabasco, black pepper, celery salt, smoke
Garnish: Fresh mozzarella, tomato, salami, pickled banana pepper

Burning Buffalo

Burning Buffalo was another recent favorite from last year, and their drink at the fest didn’t disappoint. They ended up winning Favorite Bloody, and I can’t begrudge them that. It was similar to This Little Pig’s, as it had a strong horseradish flavor. A solid choice for sure.

Billy Club
Ingredients: Tomato juice, lemon juice, lime juice, Lea and Perrins, Frank’s, sriracha, jalapeno brine, onion, salt, garlic salt
Garnish: Lemon and olive

Well, that looks boring Billy Club.

There was a small olive hiding at the bottom of this tiny sample. Boring. Come on now, even if you don’t go all in with pierogi and meat sticks, you can put in a little more effort than throwing an olive in a glass. Their drink last year also lacked garnish, though they supposedly ran out last year. If that’s the case, you should learn from your mistakes! The drink was a simple classic offering, with a good tomato flavor, not bad at all.

Rowhouse
Ingredients: Wood grilled roma tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, V8 juice, cold pressed bell peppers, carrots, celery, beets, fresh garlic, onion, black pepper, smoked paprika, celery salt, Broadway Market horseradish, Worcestershire, Tabasco
Garnish: Cheddar bacon puff, celery with herbed cream cheese and micro greens

Rowhouse

The staff of the Rowhouse table dressed up in a 1920s theme, with pin stripe suits and flapper dresses. I wish I could have given this drink a better shot, but I found it very hard to drink with the microgreens in it. The little puff was good, a bit smoky, and the drink seemed like it was ok. I just was tired of chewing chunky drinks. Rowhouse is a neat space on Delaware, surely we will get there for brunch sometime, and I’ll try the bloody again for a proper review.

Besides the 10 bars, Studio Hue was set up once again offering DIY coasters for $5, and several other vendors were around offering different hot sauces, bloody mary mixes, shrub, and gorgeous cookies:

Unfortunately, I don’t know who was selling these beautiful cookies.

If you got bored, there was an escape room mobile truck outside, and if you were really adventurous and willing to freeze your face off, you could try out Riverworks’ new grain elevator zip line. Personally, I’ll wait until summer for that!

Like I mentioned earlier, this year felt a bit underwhelming. I believe the price went up again, with no option for a cheaper “designated driver” ticket, and while the returning bars did offer different bloodies this year, there was nothing that seemed really new. The sample sizes seemed rather small, some just a few sips. The coat check and space was a vast improvement though, so A+ for that. We still had a good time, but something felt missing this year.

Maybe it’s because my friends wouldn’t get in the photo with us. 🙁

Me and J, Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest 2018

Rochester Bloody Mary Fest!

I can’t remember if I had mentioned it in previous posts, but Step Out Buffalo decided to ply their trade in Bloody Mary Fests down the thruway in Rochester. I’ve posted at least one drink I’ve had in Rochester, but despite having several friends there, and going to college half hour away, I have not spent all that much time in the next big city down the canal. When the Rochester fest was announced I bought tickets right away, put in for a vacation day, and made plans to have a great afternoon.

The fest was held in the Main Street Armory, which turned out to be SOB’s best venue yet – a big open space that could set up the bars with enough space to accommodate the crowd, with the other vendors in the middle. There was room to walk around and there weren’t big lines running into other big lines, which made for a much more pleasurable experience than Buffalo’s fest at Riverworks this year. 10 Rochester bars participated, and it was the same format as the Buffalo fests – one ticket per bar, and vote for the best overall, the best garnish, and most creative. They scrapped the fancy online voting they used in Buffalo for good old paper ballots in fishbowls, guaranteed to work (since I wasn’t able to get the online vote to work in Buffalo, this was a good change).

After tickets went on sale, SOB decided to offer designated driver/bloody mary hater tickets for $5 like they did for the first Buffalo fest, so I got one of those for J, leaving me with an extra regular ticket. I knew that someone I was friends with in Rochester liked bloody marys and finally I realized who it was. Nan! So I invited her to join us, and we had a great time.

So in the order in which we tasted them, I present the Rochester Bloody Mary Fest (all vodka once again provided by Tommyrotter Distillery):

1. The Revelry
Ingredients – Whole peeled tomato, celery & cucumber juice, hot sauce, curry tincture, Japanese seven spice, Sal De Gusano
Garnish – Sal De Gusano rim, Thyme, Basil

“Blood Runner” by The Revelry

The cucumber taste was immediately noticeable, so for me that’s usually a no go. That said, it wasn’t too bad. It was definitely the spiciest of the 10 offerings, and it had a good balance of salt to the other flavors. It may have been Nan’s favourite.

2. Orbs
Ingredients – Tomato juice, horseradish and worcestershire, thai basil, black pepper, celery salt, lemon, cayenne, Old Bay
Garnish – Chorizo meatball, pickled purple cauliflower, pepper jack cheese cube.

“Orbs Bloody Mary” by….Orbs.

If there was an award for prettiest Bloody Mary, Orbs would win. They just looked gorgeous. I liked the meatball, it had some spice to it, but the drink itself was primarily flavored with horseradish. It was quite strong, and the mix was very sweet.

3. Honeoye Boathouse Grill
Ingredients – Mr & Mrs T’s Mix, worcestershire sauce, A-1, lime, lemon pepper, celery salt, old timer’s horseradish
Garnish – Thai chili shrimp, fried ravioli, chicken cordon bleu ball, wild garlic boneless wing on one skewer. Shrimp, olive, pepperoni, pepperoncini, cheese and pickle on another skewer.

Holy Garnish for a fest!

“The Boat House Morning Antidote” by Honeoye Boathouse Grill

The Boat House definitely had the biggest garnish (but not the craziest, stay tuned) at the fest. J took the Thai shrimp on the skewer, and the plain shrimp in the drink and he said the Thai shrimp was delicious. We had eaten before we left Buffalo, so I wasn’t hungry, and add in all the drinks and I couldn’t finish my garnish. The drink was very sweet again, with a good tomato taste, and it was better than just plain Mr and Mrs T’s. Their sign mentioned 2 other garnishes, a Hawaiian Shrimp skewer with the Thai shrimp, blackened shrimp and pineapple, and an antipasto skewer with spinach artichoke crustini, but I don’t think they were serving either of them. Everyone had the skewer that we got.

4. Cub Room
Ingredients – Fresh horseradish, lemon and lime juice, red wine and cacao nib reduction, house steak sauce, house habanero hot sauce, celery salt, tumeric, Worcestershire, chipotle peppers, kosher salt, black pepper, tomato juice
Garnish – Bacon blue cheese and date meatball.

“Hair of the Wolf” by Cub Room (Apparently I forgot to photograph my sample)

Like Orbs, the Cub drink’s main flavor was from horseradish. It was a bit watery, and despite the long list of ingredients on their sign, it didn’t taste like much. I don’t know how that’s possible, now that I’m looking at the list, but it really didn’t have a strong flavor and I didn’t find it spicy. The meatball was a classic style meatball, and wasn’t bad.

5. Blu Wolf Bistro
Ingredients – Beef stock, green tomatoes, pork rub, tomatillo, garlic oil, hot sauce, cucumber, lime, green peppers, pineapple, jalapeno, roasted garlic, horseradish, baby spinach, cilantro, celery seed, black pepper, dark chili powder, cayenne, Worcestershire
Garnish – Wild boar, cream cheese jalapeno popper, CRAWFISH!!!

“The Celtic” by Blu Wolf Bistro

And the award for most horrifying Bloody Mary goes to *drum roll* Blu Wolf Bistro!!! IT’S STARING AT ME!! IT HAS 8 LEGS and CLAWS!!! Holy crap. I can handle peeled shrimp, but not ocean critters that still have their exoskeletons on (plus a friend once told me crawfish taste like garbage). I was never going to eat it, but had I wanted to, I wouldn’t even know where to start! As for the drink, it was the first green bloody of all the fests. It had a half spiced rim, and itself had a good amount of spice. It was a tad thick, and I can’t say I loved it. It was strong on the tomato flavor, where as my homemade green mix made mostly from tomatillos was tart and better in my opinion. This mixture might be better suited for a gazpacho.

6. Bitter Honey
Ingredients – Tomatillo, peach cordial, habanero, lime
Garnish – chili salt, habanero coin, dehydrated peach, lamb jerky

“Not So Bitter Bloody Mary” by Bitter Honey

Right after the first one, we had another green bloody mary. This one made entirely of tomatillo, I find it hard to consider it a bloody mary. It was delicious, but it tasted like lemonade. It was fruity and sweet, not at all savory even with the meat chunk. I couldn’t detect any spice to it, and maybe they ran out, but the only part of their listed garnish that we got was the lamb jerky. It was refreshing, and I had a 2nd one before we left to reset my mouth from all the tomato, but if I had ordered this expecting and really wanting a savory bloody mary, I’d be sad. It’s totally marketable, but just under some other name.

7. Roam Cafe
Ingredients – House made fresh tomato/veggie juice, fresh horseradish, celery salt, cracked black pepper, hot sauce, steak sauce, Worcestershire
Garnish – Pork belly, pickled pepper, Hoisin cucumber

“Belly Up” by Roam Cafe

So even though this drink had an evil cucumber garnish, it was my favorite of the fest. They made the entire mix fresh from scratch with all local ingredients, and you could tell. It tasted nice and fresh with a good balance of flavors. It tasted a bit meaty, and it didn’t have a ton of spice, but it was a solid offering, and it was my vote for Best of Rochester.

8. Black Button Distilling
Ingredients – Original mix, tomato juice, cucumbers, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, horseradish, fresh garlic, Worcestershire powder, habanero puree, soybean oil, lemon juice, dried onion
Garnish – Pepperoni, cheese curd, olive

“Black Button’s Bold Bloody Mary”

Having just had Black Button’s mix at their Buffalo location, I don’t have much else to say about it. I still don’t love it, and I still can’t quite pin point why, except for the cucumber. If you want more, check out the full review.

9. Nosh
Ingredients – Yellow tomato puree, ground tortilla, onion, garlic, bay, corienader, cumin, chili powder, black pepper, salt, sugar, kimchee spice, Worcestershire, horseradish, olive brine, celery seed, dijon, sriracha
Garnish – Chorizo deviled egg

“Devil’s Dawn” by Nosh

I feel like I would have enjoyed this one more had I drank it earlier in the fest, as by the end you get pretty tired of drinking bloodies (yeah, I know!!). It was a thick orange color and featured a deviled egg that was nicely flavored, apparently with chorizo, but I thought it was from chili powder. The drink itself had a smoky flavor, as if from smoked paprika, but that wasn’t in the ingredients list either, ha! It wasn’t very spicy, but it had a decent flavor.

10. Hogan’s Hideaway
Ingredients – Smoked tomato puree, tomato juice, horseradish, Worcestershire, olive juice, salt, pepper, lime juice, dijon, Tabasco, smoked ice
Garnish – Smoked bacon crumble, smoked salt rim, kale chip

“Smokey Mary” by Hogan’s Hideaway

Sourced from all local ingredients, and smoked this one was a close 2nd on my favourite list from the fest. They use heirloom tomatoes, and while it smelled smoky, it didn’t translate into the drink too much. It was spiced from the horseradish, but I didn’t get much pepper spice from the Tabasco. It might have had too much salt, but it could have just been salt that fell into the drink from the rim. I would do without the kale, as the chip didn’t hold up and just got soggy, and then got in the way of my drinking.

The official winners were:
Most Creative:
3rd – Blu Wolf Bistro (my vote, I think)
2nd – Nosh
1st – Bitter Honey

Best Garnished:
3rd – Blu Wolf Bistro
2nd – ORBS Restaurant and Bar
1st – Honeoye Boathouse Grille (my vote)

Best Bloody Mary:
3rd – Orbs Restaurant and Bar
2nd – Black Button Distilling
1st – The Revelry
(My vote was for Roam)

As a whole, Rochester had a great bunch of bloodies to offer. I liked that it was an open space with room to move, but they didn’t have the “distractions” of the Buffalo fest, like the pinball or craft groups. They had a photo area with props, but no dedicated photographer taking photos there, just people using their phones. If SOB combines the larger space of Rochester, with the added fun of Buffalo, next year’s Buffalo fest could be the best yet!

Me, J and Nan 2017! (boy this photo has weird coloring that I couldn’t fix)

Until next time, Cheers!

Photos from the fest

Better late than never!

The 2nd Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest!

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.)

Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest 2.0

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, tobacco, jalapeno.
Garnish – watermelon radish, pickle, pastrami

I wonder how long it took them to notice there was “tobacco” in the drink! haha!

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.

The Grange – Beet Box Bloody

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 (I’m sorry these photos suck)

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.

Deep South Taco – Buffalo Traditional

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. 

Rusty Nickel had great signage

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.

Rusty Nickel Brewing – Mango Mary Hop Trot (we lost our sweet table spot, and had to resort to standing at the stage)

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)

Nice day for a….RED WEDDING

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.

Lloyd’s Red Wedding

5. Sear
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

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!

The SEARious Bloody Mary

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

Winfield’s Pub

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

Billy Club

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.

A 2-fer – Billy Club “Pour Choices” on the left and Colter Bay “What the Weck” on the right

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

Colter Bay

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.

9. Pasion
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

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.

La Sangre de Pasion

10. Sophia’s
Ingredients – Vegetable juice, Frank’s hot sauce, A1 sauce, Worcestershire, olive brine, celery salt, black pepper
Garnish – Lemon, celery, olive, pepperoncini, tabasco (?) onions, bacon

Do you really think they had tobacco onions?

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.

Sammy’s Simple Bloody Mary

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!

J, me, and Jeff – Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest 2017

*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.

Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest!!

The day finally came, the Buffalo Bloody Mary Fest! If you recall, I was bummed because the event sold out before Christmas and none of my friends bought tickets in time. In the weeks before I had friend after friend begging me to find them tickets, with no such luck. I did have one friend manage to buy one from someone through facebook, so J (our DD since he doesn’t like Bloodies), Jeff and I headed to Shea’s to enjoy a nice Buffalo Sunday.

The Beautiful Shea's Theatre

The Beautiful Shea’s Theatre

A gorgeous Buffalo winter day, good for standing in line.

A gorgeous Buffalo winter day, good for standing in line.

10 bars/restaurants participated in the Fest, offering up their best take on the Bloody Mary and the most creative garnishes. I sampled them all, even the ones I’ve had before at the actual restaurants, but my reviews here are going to be pretty quick. All the drinks featured vodka from local distillery Tommyrotter.

1. CRaVing
Ingredients: Tomato, fennel, beets, horseradish, celery, sriracha, and house vegan worcestershire.
The drink was fairly watery, but was very peppery with a good spice level, though I didn’t detect any horseradish flavor at all. I thought it was pretty good, but unfortunately they lose points for not having any garnish whatsoever.

Hydraulic Hearth bartenders frantically mixing drinks

Hydraulic Hearth bartenders frantically mixing drinks

2. Hydraulic Hearth
Ingredients: Fresh made tomato juice, fresh squeezed lemon juice, Old Bay seasoning, smoked paprika, dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce, bacon, basil, garlic, pepper, salt, celery seed, red and green tabasco.
A thick, sweet, lemony drink with a smoky almost chipotle taste. It had a very fresh tomato-y taste, and I’m impressed they found such good tomatoes to use in the winter. Garnished with lemon, pickled green bean and bacon, it wasn’t very spicy despite the tabascos listed on the ingredient sign. It was pretty good, if a tad different due to the sweetness level.

Hydraulic Hearth garnish pile

Hydraulic Hearth garnish pile

3. Bar Bill
Ingredients: Bar Bill Bloody mix, pepper, celery, salt, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, lime, horseradish, Bar Bill hot sauce.
This drink, potentially, had the best garnish – some kind of chicken wing dip fried wonton. I say “potentially” because had it been freshly fried, it would have been excellent. Given that they had to make hundreds of them for a festival, they weren’t as crispy as I imagine they normally would be. The drink itself was suuuuuper salty. I couldn’t drink mine, Jeff liked it though.

Oshun restocked their shrimp!

Oshun restocked their shrimp!

4. Oshun
Ingredients: Lemon and lime juice, fresh horseradish, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, onion, olive brine, celery salt, fresh garlic and hotsauce.
If you remember from my previous review a few weeks ago, I had issues with the fact that they advertise a shrimp garnish on their Bloody, but did not deliver. Well this time, they did! The drink was still as tasty as it was at the restaurant.

5. Trattoria Aroma on Bryant
Ingredients: Tomato juice, lemon juice, orange juice, garlic, celery, salt, pepper, horseradish, onion, Worcestershire, beef reduction, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, jerky, ranch aioli, fried onions.
Another Bloody that I’ve had before, but unlike last time which was a midweek night, this seemed to be more like what I expected from them – a fresh made drink, not from a bottle. Garnished with fried onions, it had a very smoky taste, and the pickled jalapeno garnish, which I thought was just a regular pepper before I ate it, provided a giant hit of spice. J and I have been there a few times for dinner, but they are still on my brunch hit list. At this point I became a bit overwhelmed by drinks, as J was making the rounds and picking more and more up for me, so I didn’t end up finishing this one 🙁

Getting overwhelmed

Getting overwhelmed

Cole's line up of Bloodies

Cole’s line up of Bloodies

6. Cole’s
Ingredients: Fresh cucumber, kale, celery, tomatoes, Cole’s Bloody Mary spices, tabasco, Grey Poupon mustard, cilantro, pepper, celery salt, sour mix.
Each restaurant had a sign on their station with their ingredients list, and I must say I did NOT look at this sign before grabbing this bloody from Cole’s, or I would have passed. So many things about this drink that I hate. Cilantro tastes like shampoo to me, and cucumbers are the devil. Blleeeeecccch. Needless to say this one went into the garbage. It did have a nice garnish of celery, shrimp, olive and cheese (and they gave me a free garnish later on when I was walking around taking photos) I’ve had their Bloody late night when I used to get out of work in time on Tuesdays, which were just ok, but I hear good things about Cole’s Bloodies at brunch, so it’s still on my list to visit some weekend.

7. Buffalo Proper
Ingredients: Fresh pressed tomato juice, roasted tomato puree, charred jalapeno, caper berry, horseradish, Worcestershire, tabasco, lemon.
Another bloody I had before, when we went there last year for Lloyd’s brunch. I didn’t mind it, but I’m not sure this offering was the same. It was very different from the others on offer at the Fest. It was very tomato-y and clearly very fresh with lots of pulp. It wasn’t very spicy this time, but perhaps they were going mild for the crowd. Garnished with olive, cucumber (evil!) and a grape, now that they offer their own brunch, it may be time to go back.

The A'ole Pilikia from Ballyhoo

The A’ole Pilikia from Ballyhoo

8. Ballyhoo
Ingredients: Ballyhoo Bloody mix, pineapple, horseradish, habenero, mango hot sauce, Korean BBQ, lime, coco lopez
Called the A’ole pilikia, this is Ballyhoo’s Hawaiian Bloody, and it was the most unusual one of the day. Garnished with pineapple and grilled spam with a spiced rim the drink was very very sweet and pineapple-y. There was a mild amount of spice, even though there was habenero in it. It wasn’t bad, but it was too sweet for me. The reason I started drinking Bloody Marys was because I was tired of having sweet drinks all the time.

9. The Lodge
Ingredients: Tomato juice, lemon and lime juice, olive juice, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, pepper, horseradish.
Another restaurant we visited for brunch last year, I don’t feel like what they offered today was an accurate representation of the several Bloodies they offer on their menu. Jeff couldn’t stand this one at all, and I didn’t think it was bad, but it had an overwhelming pickle flavor despite pickle juice not being listed as an ingredient (perhaps it was too much olive juice?). It had a “breakfast salt” rim (whatever that is), and a LOT of it. It did, however, feature candied bacon and I took the drink with the largest piece of bacon in it 🙂

Bloodies from Providence Social

Bloodies from Providence Social

10. Providence Social
Ingredients: I don’t know because I must have been nudged when I took a photo of their sign because it is one giant unreadable blurred mess.
Last but not least, Providence Social, which we had visited before and quite liked. Garnished with pickled carrot, onion and cucumber (again!) it had a smoky yet pickle-y tasted to it and good spice level.

Isn't Shea's gorgeous??

Isn’t Shea’s gorgeous??

The first year for any festival is always kind of up in the air – it could be great, it could be a bit of a disaster, especially for an event that ended up more popular than anyone expected. Plus, food and drink events in Buffalo can get a bit overwhelming (see also: Buffalo Soup Fest, which I love, but is always too crowded.) I don’t know how many tickets they sold, or what the capacity of the Shea’s lobby area is, but I was impressed that for the most part, it wasn’t a giant crowded clusterf***. There was such an outpouring of disappointment over the event selling out, but I hope if they have it again next year they don’t go too big with it. It was a nice size, in a gorgeous location (as opposed to the hideous convention center), and it seemed to go off without a hitch. Step Out Buffalo did an excellent job, and we had a great time, although next year I should be a judge!!

(I’m not posting the terrible blurry “photo booth” picture of us haha. Maybe when they post the “official” photo.)