Big — a sequel

Once again, doubters, the trip to Buffalo was made bearable because of the food. Which was a good thing because we had to fly rather than take the train because my consort, once again, overbooked himself and fucked us both. (The security kabuki was totally ridiculous — at LGA I actually told the bureaucratic groper “this is bullshit” and was lucky she must have been well-medicated.) We had an over-the-top dinner the first night at the Delaware, with fried calamari wings-style, complete with the hot sauce and the blue cheese dip, plus that great, huge Reuben. Bob, though, made the mistake of ordering something relatively healthful, some take on roast chicken, which was pretty wan. In a bar, order bar food. As always, though, bonus points for Buffalo-size pours for about half what those wines would go for in Manhattan.

(Next day I regretted not noticing the soup of the day at Joe’s Deli, the joint Bob remembered for rye bread when he was a kid, was essentially a liquefied Reuben. Instead I had a decent muffuletta while he gloated with a superior Cubano. Either was enough to feed a small village if not a medium suburb.)

Dinner the next night was cooked by us at the boyhood home and all from the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers’ Market, which was cranking on Saturday morning. We got an insider’s tour and culled outstanding beef, corn, tomatoes, squash, basil, wine and of course that killer White Cow Dairy yogurt. On our own we found the most amazing potatoes; they looked like Yukon Golds but the women selling them said they were a local variety “but just as good.” Holy crap — they were 10 times better when mashed. Christa also snared us a free hefty cinnamon roll from one stand, so we headed to the bakery where it was made, in a hard-knocks neighborhood also home to a really impressive urban farm with greenhouse and tilapia ponds. The Five Points people grind their own grains and, it turns out, have the best idea for iced coffee: make coffee ice cubes, then pour hot coffee over them. It’s pure coffee to the last sip, with no dilution.

We should have stayed at the boyhood home and finished that $40 worth of Niagara wine, but we needed a walk before the monsoon and so set off for the closest bar. Which was right out of Stephen King — locked up, lights off in the dining room, teevee on over the bar and lights on in the kitchen but not a soul in sight. (Maybe this is more a Pacino script.) So we forged on to Torches for a thoroughly unimpressive experience. I mean, really: Bar napkins printed with an ad for a bartending school? When the guy slapping them down needs a refresher course? If you don’t have the hospitality gene, maybe you should live on straight wages.

But we lucked into Sunday brunch at Trattoria Aroma, walking in with no reservation and snaring a table in the bar — who knew it was such a happening place? (I guess everyone who knows $10 includes coffee and a pastry buffet.) And I doubted sandwiches could get any more gargantuan, but the special panino must have had half a steer in the “meatloaf” in it (quotes theirs). Plus it was also loaded with spinach, Fontina and a sunny-side-up egg. Bob’s special pasta looked almost dainty by comparison but was actually a big bowl of good rigatoni with sausage, green and yellow beans and sun-dried tomato pesto, all topped with an oozy egg. Calling Mae West . . .

Over at the Epi Log I noted that the scene at the farmers’ market was almost a parody of the clichés of designer dogs and show babies and shining, happy faces. But as at all markets, the food keeps it real. And that’s how I wound up with half a steer between the bread: I saw Hanova Hills on the menu, and Bob pointed out that that was the same farm that had sold us the outstanding grass-fed beef the day before. We’ve come a long way from the days of esoterically sourced ingredients only on fancy menus. Now what’s good enough for a Ste Alice is accessible even to the woman who was buying corn next to us using food stamps. That corn, BTW, was three for a buck. At Wegmans, ears were five for $2.