Cozy Date Night at Black Button Distilling

Cody and I are really bad at date night. We go out with friends, and always celebrate birthdays and anniversaries with dinner, but when it comes to trying something new together “just because,” we stink.

But it’s a new year and time to try new things. Plus, it’s January in Buffalo and the winter blues are a very real thing. So we ventured out to spend Saturday night at Black Button Distilling‘s Buffalo Cocktail Bar and Bottle Shop. Black Button has the coziest bar inside the Apartments @ the Hub, with a patio for fruity summertime cocktails. Inside, the big windows let in lots of light, even on a late afternoon in January. The tall tables are made out of well-worn wood from bourbon barrels.

Date night at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

A NYS Farm Distillery

We started with a drink from the bar, choosing from a long list of seasonal cocktails and local craft beers. Because Black Button Distilling is a NYS Farm Distillery, they can only serve New York-made products at their distillery, which is near Rochester’s Public Market.

Their Buffalo bar isn’t bound by the same rules, but supporting local business is part of their DNA (over 90% of their spirits’ ingredients are grown or produced in NYS) so their draft list was filled with Buffalo brews. I had a Bespoke Bourbon Cream-based cocktail (more on that later) and Cody opted for a White Bronco IPA from Lewiston’s Brickyard Brewing Company.

Craft beer on draft at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

We probably could have been content sipping drinks and nibbling on the meat and cheese board other couples were enjoying, but because this was date night, we opted for Black Button’s Hands-On Seasonal Cocktail Class. We started with a tasting of the distillery’s flagship spirits: Citrus Forward Gin, Straight Bourbon, Apple Pie Moonshine and Bourbon Cream.

Spirits tasting at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

Apple Pie Moonshine from Black Button Distilling

Every one was incredibly smooth. As a bit of a lightweight, I only finished the two I really enjoyed: Apple Pie Moonshine, made from cider fresh-pressed from Lynoaken apples (grown in Medina!), whiskey, cinnamon, vanilla and brown sugar, and Bourbon Cream, a mix of Black Button’s bourbon and farm-fresh cream.

Seasonal Cocktail: Cereal Party

This cocktail tastes like a coffee milkshake and to be honest, it wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. Maybe a little more complicated than pouring a beer from the kegerator, but definitely easy enough to make at home. Crafting this cocktail was the most fun part of our date night, partly because our Black Button Ambassador loved helping us figure out what, exactly, we were supposed to be doing.

We started with the Bespoke Bourbon Cream, adding cold brew coffee (also from Rochester) and house-made nutmeg simple syrup before topping with nutmeg and its namesake ingredient, Lucky Charm marshmallows (!).

Cocktail class at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

Making Cereal Party at Black Button Distilling in Buffalo

This concoction went down soooo smoothly and it’s definitely easy enough that I’ll be making it again at home. We sipped our cocktails and tasted some of Black Button Distilling’s other delicious (non-alcoholic) products, including Bourbon Bacon Ketchup and Apple Pie Moonshine BBQ Sauce. Both were incredible and would make really good gifts, no matter if your significant other or friends are more beer drinker or liquor lover.

Apple Pie Moonshine BBQ Sauce from Black Button Distilling

Black Button Distilling’s Swan Street location is conveniently near a lot of other cool places to spend a few hours with your favorite person, which makes a cocktail class a great way to start a downtown date night!

I received a cocktail class at Black Button’s Buffalo Cocktail Bar and Bottle Shop in exchange for a review on Succulents and Sunnies. The thoughts I share here are always my own!

4 Birthday Gift Ideas for Your Favorite Buffalo Gal

Girls from Buffalo love Buffalo. They love exploring Buffalo, plastering their walls with Buffalove and supporting local makers. There’s no better time to indulge your favorite Buffalo gal with all things Buffalo than her birthday! Need a few ideas? I’ve got you covered.

1. Half Hoop Pin Earrings from Peg’s Hardware

Walk through almost any Buffalo boutique or market and you’ll find a crowd around Peg’s Hardware’s delicate jewelry. These hoops are just different enough to make a statement, while still being totally acceptable for everyday outfits.

Half Hoop Pin Earrings from Peg's Hardware | Buffalo Birthday Gift Ideas

You can find these, and other beautiful jewelry, in their Etsy shop.

2. An Overnight Stay at Hotel Henry

If your Buffalo gal prefers experiences over things, treat her to a night at Hotel Henry (or any one of Buffalo’s beautiful historic hotels). Lots of local hotels, Hotel Henry included, are offering great deals on all-inclusive packages for the winter and spring, which make for a perfect birthday staycation.

Once you arrive at Hotel Henry, there are so many great ways to fill a weekend within walking distance: the Burchfield Penney, Albright Knox, Delaware Park, and shops and restaurants in the Elmwood Village. Make it a romantic weekend; make it a girls’ weekend; make it a family weekend.

Check out Hotel Henry’s current offers on their website.

3. Let’s Go Buffalo Pennant from Oxford Pennant

If your favorite Buffalo gal is a Bills, Sabres, Bulls, Bandits, Beauts or Bisons fan, she needs this pennant. It’s going to look so good on her wall (and her Instagram).

Let's Go Buffalo Pennant | Buffalo Birthday Gift Ideas

Shop all of Oxford Pennant’s flags, banners and pennants online.

4. A Mug from Ritual Clay Company

Drinking morning coffee (from, say, Goodrich, Public or Steamworks) out of a handmade mug feels so special. This Rochester-based potter creates gorgeous, thick-walled mugs that are sure to set your girl up for a good day.

Ritual Clay Company Mug | Goodrich Coffee | Buffalo Birthday Gift Ideas

If my experience is any indication, this gift arrives at your front door with lightning speed (just a day or two after ordering), making it a good option if you’re short on time.

Browse mugs and more on Ritual Clay Company’s website.

The Dreamiest Brunch in Buffalo

Buffalo is a small enough city that when a new restaurant opens, especially a photo-worthy one, you hear about it. More than a year after Rowhouse‘s opening in 2017, people are still talking about (and taking pictures of) it.

I had yet to stop in until this weekend, when a friend from high school home for the holidays mentioned she wanted to try one of the “best spots” Buffalo had to offer. We opted for brunch rather than pastries from the case, because we had a lot of catching up to do. Plus, who could not want to spend as much time as possible in this beautiful space, still decorated for Christmas?

Eating upstairs at Rowhouse in Allentown, Buffalo, NY

A Historic Home

One of my favorite things about Buffalo is how old it is. The power and wealth concentrated in this city at the turn of the century fascinates me. Buffalo’s residents and visitors are still benefiting from the architecture, art and advancements these families left behind.

Rowhouse takes its name from its home in a trio of row houses along Delaware Ave. called Midway Plaisance. This block of homes is unique in Buffalo, a city of sprawling mansions and even larger lawns. Just blocks away, the heart of Allentown is filled with stately homes and Millionaire’s Row, also on Delaware Ave., is a short drive away. However, as Buffalo’s downtown grew north, wealthy families opted for a style of building seen in other crowded cities in the late 1800s: the row house.

Row houses along Delaware Ave. in Buffalo, NY

The beautiful restaurant, cafe and bar calls three of the 11 remaining row houses home. The heart of Rowhouse was built for Dr. Bernard Bartow, a co-founder of Children’s Hospital, and converted into commercial space almost a century ago. Arches that mirror the massive front door open into the buildings on either side, which now house a cafe, lunch counter and cocktail bar.

I can’t imagine this building as the home it was built to be, because it is so good at being a cozy restaurant and event space.

A Seasonal Menu

We settled into a small table on the second floor and ordered lattes to enjoy while deciding on food. On a cold day filled with flurries, the brunch menu of stick-to-your-ribs comfort foods made with local ingredients sounded delicious.

Latte at Rowhouse in Buffalo, NY

We both settled with the quiche of the day, which came out of the kitchen spotted with sweet potatoes, onions and Brussels sprouts. It was just the right amount of food to go with our conversation on everything from engagement rings to health insurance, and all the things 20-something millennials worry about in between.

Of course, a latte with brunch didn’t quite feel like enough caffeine for a trip to Target on the Saturday after Christmas, so I ordered a drip coffee from the cafe to go. The dark roast blend was delicious and provided the perfect prop for a few more pictures.

Coffee at the counter at Rowhouse in Buffalo, NY

Pastries stacked at Rowhouse's cafe

Cocktail lounge at Rowhouse in Allentown, Buffalo, NY

LIC’s Breweries are Worth the Lyft from Manhattan

Every other year my dad’s family spends Thanksgiving in New York City, the huge metropolis both of my dad’s siblings call home. Hanging out with my cousins, catching up with aunts and uncles and reading the paper with my grandparents is a wonderful way to spend a long weekend. Every visit, we see a little bit more of what New York has to offer, from My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center (wayyy funnier than I expected) to the New York Transit Museum (trains are cool no matter how old you are). We almost never venture from Manhattan or Brooklyn, because the neighborhoods where my family lives have so much to offer.

This visit, we wanted to check out a couple of breweries, something Cody and I almost always do when traveling. As it turns out, nothing in Manhattan looked quite like the small taproom we usually gravitate towards. Of course, Brooklyn has a ton of options, but public transportation in the pouring rain after dark didn’t seem like that much fun. Long Island City was just a $7 Lyft ride over the Queensboro Bridge, so that’s where we ended up.

Big aLICe Brewing

The businesses of Long Island City really like incorporating LIC into their names. This brewery did it well though, changing the spelling of Allis, the distinct generator their name is inspired by, to use the initials.

Just like good breweries everywhere, Big aLICe is in a nondescript industrial building. The bright green door opens into a small, cozy taproom with a little bit of a view of their brewing equipment. The atmosphere would remind Buffalonians of the original CBW space or Buffalo Brewing Company. We were greeted by lots of bartenders who knew what they were talking about, friends hanging out and a really cool (if not 100% accurate) map of breweries around the country.

IPA at Big aLICe Brewing in Long Island City

Entrance to Big aLICe Brewing in Long Island City

I chose a flight of 4 so I could try the Lemongrass Kolsch, NYS Pils, Hibiscus Gose, and Ways and Beans (a porter that I tried solely because of the name). Everything was great. I think the gose was my favorite, which is true of the last few breweries I visited. Cody opted for two IPAs, both of which even I liked.

Fifth Hammer Brewing Company

Because it was still pouring rain, we took a 2 minute Lyft ride rather than walking to Fifth Hammer Brewing Company. I bet this place is really cool in the summer, with a big garage door that opens on to the street. The huge taproom here was a nice breath of fresh air after spending a few days in traffic, Fifth Avenue crowds and busy restaurants.

On the November night we visited, the one thing I couldn’t get over was how dark it was inside. I had to position my glass strategically over the Christmas lights in the corner to take a picture of it…

Beer at Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City

Entrance to Fifth Hammer Brewing in Long Island City

My Cranorangutang (an American sour with cranberry and blood orange) was just sour enough to make it nice for sipping. Cody tried 2 of the IPAs, liking 1 enough to order it again rather than try the last IPA on tap.

We might not have been in Manhattan, but we were definitely still paying New York City prices at both breweries. Considering we drove down with my parents, ate at my aunt’s house most meals and spent the day walking, we weren’t too upset about spending $40 per brewery.

We finished the night with giant, cheap slices of cheese pizza at sLICe (I wasn’t kidding about the name thing), which tasted great. We headed back to Manhattan happy, full and ready to sleep a few hours before a loooong drive back to Buffalo.

Playing Tourist for a Morning

When my sister Paige comes home from Salem, it’s usually for a holiday. So, when she spent a weekend at home just because this fall, we had to head downtown for a little sightseeing. We packed three tourist-worthy stops into just a couple hours.

Buffalo City Hall Observation Deck

This has been on my Buffalo bucket list for years. We finally made it to the 28th floor of Buffalo City Hall, which offers 360° views of the city, both inside and out. Of course, it was cold on the ground and even colder 350 feet up. But what is a late-fall morning in Buffalo without a brisk breeze? 

The bird’s eye view isn’t the only thing to look at here. The murals in the lobby, ornate Art Deco elevators and location on Niagara Square add to the draw of City Hall. 

View of Buffalo from City Hall Observation Deck
View of Buffalo from City Hall Observation Deck

Public Espresso + Coffee

Paige wanted to see Jaime Schmidt’s new murals, which weren’t a part of the space last time she had free time in town. So, we walked to Hotel @ The Lafayette from City Hall for lunch and coffee. 

PSL at Public Espresso + Coffee

The best part about Public is how immediately you feel at home. Everyone is always so friendly, which is something I really value as a tourist, even in my own city. The amazing grilled cheese and tomato soup didn’t hurt.

Wildflowers for Buffalo

Just a block from Public is another piece of art that I wanted to see, Louise Jones’s Wildflowers for Buffalo. 

Louise Jones's Wildflowers for Buffalo

It seems like every time I blink, Buffalo’s collection of public art is more impressive. To be good tourists, we had to check out one of the newest pieces. The purple coneflowers (which my mom grew dozens of while we were growing up) looked stunning against the blue sky, despite the freezing cold wind.

Green Water and Blue Skies at Green Lakes State Park

We knew this fall’s vacation to Smugglers’ Notch State Park would be a bit of a drive from Buffalo. We also didn’t want to take more than a couple days of vacation after enjoying a lot of long weekends this summer. To make the trip to northern Vermont more manageable, we made Wednesday night reservations at Green Lakes State Park, just outside of Syracuse.

This park is just as old as Allegany State Park and in both parks many of the existing trails and buildings are thanks to Depression-era CCC efforts. What’s different about Green Lakes is that it feels like a little oasis just outside the busy suburbs of Syracuse. You could hear the planes at the airport take off and land from our campsite.

This may be why Green Lakes has received a lot of love the last few years. The bath houses in the loops were both beautiful and very clean, the beach was closed but still perfectly groomed and new grass was growing by the playground.

Green Lake at Green Lakes State Park, Syracuse, NY

We picked Green Lakes State Park as our stop on the way to Vermont because of the Instagram-worthy lakes, which are indeed green. The layers of water within Green Lake and Round Lake don’t mix. The minerals of the deeper layers are what makes the water the blue-green color. It’s also incredibly clear and you can rent kayaks with clear bottoms to see more of what lies below the surface.

Our original plan for our time at the Park was to bike around Green Lake, starting at the beach and taking the short path at the south end of the lake to make our way around Round Lake as well. It turns out you can’t bike around the lakes, so we only saw Green Lake before hitting the road.

Green Lake at Green Lakes State Park, Syracuse, NY

I didn’t expect the water to be so green. It was cool to see the water between the trees every few yard as we walked. We’ll definitely be back because I so badly want to swim and kayak in this water!

A Classic Birthday Buffalo Brewery Tour

We have visited a lot of Buffalo’s craft breweries but never organized a proper brewery tour – until a few weeks ago. To celebrate Cody and his brother’s birthday, as well as a friend’s upcoming move, we rented a big yellow school bus and hit some of our favorite breweries.

1. 12 Gates Brewing Company

It’s still weird that 12 Gates is in an industrial park. However, I’ve never received bad service here and our brewery tour was no exception. We were the only group in the taproom, so I didn’t feel bad about tasting some new brews. The Coffee Porter on nitro was everything I wanted it to be on a cold, rainy day.

Coffee Porter on nitro at 12 Gates, Buffalo, NY

2. Flying Bison Brewing Company

I don’t have a go-to beer here, so I usually branch out a little bit more than other breweries. This time, I tried the Bisonberry Kolsch, which was refreshing after the creamy porter.

Stained glass logo at Flying Bison, Buffalo, NY

We ordered pizza and had it delivered here, which is, according to the Carbone’s delivery driver, totally fine. The pizza was delicious and tasted great with the beer.

3. Community Beer Works

Alpaca Porter and beer list at Community Beer Works, Buffalo, NY

I can’t get over how welcoming CBW’s new space is. It’s the perfect mix of good beer, repurposed industrial space, games and natural light. We stayed here for a drink (I had an Alpaca Porter) and a few more friends of friends joined our group.

4. Resurgence Brewing Company

Resurgence’s beer isn’t my favorite, but their space is an awesome place to end a brewery tour. Morgan, Shannon and I split a flight while watching a few intense games of giant Jenga. My personal favorite was, of course, Vanilla Cappuccino Pumpkin Ale.

Pumpkin Ale at Resurgence, Buffalo, NY

It was nice to visit some oldies-but-goodies, especially with Buffalo getting so many new breweries in the coming months.

I wouldn’t have changed anything about the breweries we visited or the order we visited them in. Coming from the Northtowns, we didn’t have time to fit all the breweries downtown or in South Buffalo. There are so many good options north of downtown I really didn’t feel like we missed out.