Archive | American food RSS feed for this section

Winging it in Buffalo

1 Apr


Rainbow and rainbow bridge at Niagara Falls, Canadian side


Mr Kim and I have just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary.  For our first we went to Athens, for our second we visited Tuscany and for our third we were in Toronto, checking it out before moving here. This time we decided to explore closer to home and so hopped over the border to Buffalo, NY.  Our hop was more of a crawl; crossing the border into the States at Lewiston, just above Niagra Falls was a very slow process, taking about two hours.  And we soon discovered that the best place to see the Falls really is Canada.  The view from Niagara, NY, especially for the majestic Horseshoe Falls is pretty restricted and what you can see most clearly from the US side is the number of people who’ve gone to look at the Falls from the Canadian side.  Thankfully we had time to swing by Canadian Niagara on our way back, with perfect weather and a rainbow piercing the foaming water as it tossed and tumbled over the edge of the Falls.


Niagara Falls from the US side


Niagara Falls from the Canadian side


Now you may be wondering why we decided upon Buffalo as the object of our Good Friday excursion; we were certainly asked the question by plenty of Mr Kim’s colleagues, who seemed slightly incredulous that it might be our chosen destination.  Well there was a one word answer – ‘wings’.  Buffalo is home to the original deep fried chicken wings, a delicacy greatly enjoyed by Mr Kim.  Given that Buffalo is a mere two hours or so from Toronto (excluding long border crossings) it seemed like the perfect place to take the car so it could stretch its legs.  Of course when we got to Buffalo there was no question of where we would to go to eat wings.  The Anchor Bar is place where it all started, in 1964, as it explains on its website (although if you look at the Wikipedia site you’ll see there’s plenty of ambiguity about their exact history).  This was when Dominic Bellissimo, tending the bar, asked his mother to prepare a snack for his friends.  What appeared was deep fried chicken wings in a sauce Teresa Bellissimo whipped up and despite the fact that at that time chicken wings would be more usually thrown in a stock pot the dish rapidly became a huge hit.


We were staying at the Delaware Mansion hotel in Buffalo; a huge 1860s house on Delaware Avenue that was originally built for the industrialist Charles F Sternberg.  Sternberg died before being able to enjoy the ornate home he had created and the size of the building meant that it wasn’t long before it was being used as a hotel, with an additional wing created at the back.  After many years of hard times the hotel was restored and refurbished in the early 2000s and now offers a series of comfortable rooms with the grand reception rooms at the front of the mansion forming the dining, billard and longue areas.  We were particularly impressed that the hotel provides a taxi service, offering to drive to the Anchor Bar and pick us up when we’d finished our meal – great service!


The Anchor Bar was pretty busy when we arrived so we sat and had a beer at the bar. The walls are covered with number plates from across the States and Canada, with a shelf of motorbikes above them.  Not being the world’s greatest expert on motorbikes I enjoyed the cartoon of a general being asked by one of his soldiers ‘What was your greatest victory, sir?’ The general replies, ‘Eating 273 chicken wings at Frank and Teressa’s Anchor Bar’.  It didn’t take too long for a table to be ready and then we were ushered into the restaurant.  The décor looked like it had remained the same for years, close and cosy, the walls covered with photos of stars who’d eaten at the bar, interspersed with a diverse range of artwork – Mr Kim and I spent time discussing the portrait of Christopher Columbus.  The atmosphere was completed by the live jazz band. Neither of us are good with hot wings so we went for mild (20) and medium (10).  With fries and a Caesar salad this was more than enough to keep us going.  The mild, with hindsight, were perhaps a bit too mild for us; next time I think that we’d go for medium wings straight.  The wings were good and juicy though, served with the obligatory blue cheese dressing and celery, and the Caesar salad was full of crunchy croutons.


Wings and Caesar salad at the Anchor Bar, Buffalo, NY

Buffalo isn’t just about wings though.  We enjoyed taking in some of the monumental architecture that dates from Buffalo’s days of confident prosperity of the early 20th century as we drove over to the Allbright Knox Art Gallery.  The Allbright Knox has a fantastic collection of modern and contemporary art, ranging from Picassos and Matisses to a large scale Sol LeWitt installation on the walls of the main staircase.  Temporary exhibitions included the quiet, early works by Agnes Martin (I loved the print of the kitchen mixer), the mesmerising audio-visual works of Kelly Richardson  and the intriguing House of Collective Repair created by the Allbright Knox’s artist-in-residence, Dennis Maher.   Our only sadness was that entry to the Art Gallery is round the back, and stately front façade all too easy to miss.


Henri Matisse, La Musique, 1939


Le SolWitt installation on Allbright Knox staircase


Agnes Martin lithograph, Untitled, c.1952 – spot the kitchen mixer

We finished off the day by a little bit of antique hunting at Clarence, about 20 minutes drive from Buffalo and a spot of shopping at the outlet mall.  There’s plenty to pull us back to Buffalo, especially as we didn’t have time for the Frank Lloyd Wright complex, the Martin house and I’m sure we could always find room for a few more Anchor wings (though maybe not the 273 the General boasted of in the cartoon)


A great bit of local baking history in a Clarence Hollow antique shop


A little bit of exercise in the Allbright Knox, one of my favourite paintings, Giacomo Balla’s Dinamismo di un Cane al Guinzaglio, 1912


A little bit of rainbow in the Allbright Knox, Francis Celentano, Gamma, 1970  


A little bit of meat in the Allbright Knox, Chaim Soutine’s Carcas of Beef, c.1925