4 Tacos Every Buffalonian Needs to Try

Cinco de Mayo marks a battle between Mexico and France that happened in 1862. Of course, Americans have turned this historic event into an excuse to eat and drink our Mexican favorites. And I’m here for it.

Cinco de Mayo seems like as good a time as any to share a few of my favorite tacos from local Mexican eateries. If you’re looking for a tasty way to support Buffalo’s taquerias and Mexican restaurants, here’s what I recommend:

La Divina’s Potato & Poblano Taco

Contrary to popular belief, not every taco needs meat. La Divina stuffs two corn tortillas with a delicious combination of hashbrown-style potatoes and poblano peppers crisped on the flat top. This is what vegetarian dreams are made of.

Potato and poblano taco from La Divina in Kenmore

Casa Azul’s Carne Asada Taco

I’ve never had a bad taco at Casa Azul, but the carne asada is my favorite. It’s simple and delicious. You can trust me on this one, because I had just about everything on the menu when I partnered with them for Dining Out For Life last fall.

Four tacos, including carne asada, at Casa Azul in Buffalo

I take most of the pictures that end up on this site, but the wonderful Caitlin at Reilley Photography is to thank for the photos from Casa Azul!

Cantina Loco’s California Fish Taco

If you were, for some reason, looking for the perfect combination of a Buffalo-style fish fry and Cantina Loco‘s creative tacos – this is it. It’s a burrito-sized taco with a health serving of fried fish and slightly spicy slaw, and it’s delicious.

California fish taco from Cantina Loco in Buffalo paired with a margarita

Maizal Mexican Kitchen’s Pollo de Tinga Taco

Maizal Mexican Kitchen does classic, no-frills tacos right. You can’t go wrong with this combination of chicken, tomatoes, peppers and onions. Plus, an order of three comes with Spanish rice and refried beans, so you’re definitely not leaving hungry.

Pollo de tinga tacos from Maizal Mexican Kitchen in Amherst

There are so many incredible tacos to choose from in Buffalo. Next on my list are Taqueria Los Mayas (for both the zucchini and corn and breakfast tacos) and literally anything from Las Puertas.

5 Steps for Growing this Summer’s Garden

Staying home isn’t all bad. While I’m sure it will only get harder as the weather gets warmer, for me and Cody, isolating ourselves means more conversation, more music, more cooking and more time to think about how our “gardens” will look this year.

For now, I only plant in containers; I don’t want to change our rented space in any way that would leave it worse off when we move out. I also don’t love weeding and containers make managing weeds a million times easier. The last two summers my planting strategy had been haphazard at best. I stop at the nursery on the way home from work, put what looks nice in my cart, and call it a day.

There’s nothing wrong with that strategy. I actually really loved how the planters on our porch turned out last summer, so I’ll probably take a similar approach to them this year. However, my vegetables have been less than stellar the last few summers and this year there’s a new space I want to fill with blooms.

Last Saturday was Buffalo’s first truly nice afternoon. We spent hours outside, not really planning to get much done, just glad to be out of the house. I started going at a patch of weeds, vines and small trees that had slowly expanded over the last couple of years. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. By Sunday afternoon I was left with a blank slate between our garage and the neighbor’s fence.

Empty space between garage and fence

I hadn’t realized what an eyesore the corner had become until it was gone. Now comes the fun part: what’s the best way to fill this space? I’ve been searching Instagram, gardening blogs and Google images for inspiration. My biggest challenge is that the space gets literally zero direct sun. I tracked it every hour just to be sure. Nada.

My goal is to create a space that we can set up lawn chairs in and enjoy after work. I want to use what was until very recently an ugly corner and make it a welcoming space where I can spend an hour reading or writing with a cup of tea or cold drink.

Hand drawn mockup of new garden

It’s going to take some time to create that corner. Lucky for summer me, spring me has a lot of time on her hands. Here’s what’s on my container garden to do list:

  1. Order seeds. With extra time on my hands, I’m going to try to start some what I would normally buy from a nursery. Earlier this week, I ordered cucumber, spinach, cherry tomato, cilantro and lettuce seeds from High Mowing Organic Seeds. I also bought nasturtium and mint seeds from Renee’s Garden.
  2. Plant seeds. Buffalo’s last frost date is at the beginning of May, so we’re just about a month away from planting outside. For most veggies, this is the perfect time to start seeds inside. Hopefully, the seeds I ordered will arrive this week or next so I can get them in soil.
  3. Buy materials. I love the containers on our front porch, so I’ll get a couple more of those for the new spot. It will also need some stakes and a few 2×8 boards to wrap some of the more utilitarian containers I’m planning to use.
  4. Build. Even though it’s too early to put plants in the ground, I want to lay out containers and see how everything will look. That way I can edge the new space, add the wood and put up wire fencing before seedlings go in.
  5. Plant! I’ll still go to the nursery for most of my flowers when it’s warm enough to plant outside. There will be two planters in the new space, which will need to be shade-friendly. Two more planters will go on the front steps, which get a lot more sun. I’ll also plant the vegetables and herbs I started inside.

Fingers crossed that the extra work now will pay off this summer. I can’t wait to have a cozy space to enjoy time outside!

A Quintessentially Portland Day Trip

My sister, Paige, has lived in New England for just over two years. I’ve visited in the dead of winter and for sunny summer trips through coastal Massachusetts towns. Last summer, we ventured a little further during my four-day stay in Salem.

Our first day, we enjoyed Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum and farmers’ market, along with a delicious charcuterie board (at Gulu-Gulu Cafe), at a leisurely pace. The next, we walked (miles) through Boston and Cambridge. We spent our last day laying on the beach in Beverly for an unseasonably warm June day.

The biggest adventure of our long weekend adventure was a quick trip to Portland, Maine. I hadn’t been to the city since a family vacation in the mid-2000s, long before I cared about good coffee, craft beer or Instagram-worthy lobster rolls. The drive from Salem to our first stop, Tandem Coffee Roasters‘ Congress Street location, was just over an hour and a half, making it an easy day trip.

Coffee at Tandem Coffee Roasters' Congress Street location

We enjoyed lattes and pastries alongside tourists and locals alike before heading down Congress Street to do some (very thorough) window shopping. The collection of shops lining the streets both downtown and in Old Port are the perfect combination of art galleries, curated collections and well-known favorites. After a couple of hours popping in and out of shops, we were ready for lunch.

Patio at Highroller Lobster Co in Portland, Maine

Lobster roll at Highroller Lobster Co in Portland, Maine

Our only meal in Portland had to be a lobster roll. We opted to split a lobster roll and a basket of fries on The Highroller Lobster Co.‘s colorful patio. While the frosé looked amazing, our next stop was East Bayside’s breweries.

We sipped on flights at Lone Pine Brewing Company‘s Portland tasting room and Goodfire Brewing Co. While the patio at Lone Pine was packed, walking around to the back of the building, where Goodfire is located, provided a much more relaxed environment, albeit with fewer options on draft.

Sunny patio at Lone Pine Brewing Company in Portland, Maine

Pint of beer at Goodfire Brewing Co. in Portland, Maine

The brewery-lined street is perfectly located for a walk along the Eastern Promenade Trail. And our walk just so happened to be at the same time as a puppy play date at East End Beach. We headed back to the car after a long loop through the neighborhood, ready for a snack-filled drive back to Salem.

View of sailboats from Eastern Promenade Trail in Portland, Maine

My Focus for 2020

I’ve kept exactly one New Year’s resolution in my life. One year in high school, I vowed to make my bed every day. I’m still pretty good about doing it on the mornings I don’t go to the gym before work. Other than that, my resolution track record is not great.

This year, I want to try something a little different (for me). Just like a million other bloggers and Instagrammers, I’m choosing a word to focus on this year, rather than one hard and fast resolution. I’m incorporating this word into my life in multiple ways, all with micro-steps that will, hopefully, make failing pretty difficult.

So, without further ado, let me introduce my focus in 2020: investing.

My focus on investing this year is a reflection on how much time and effort I put into working and saving in 2019. I spent a good part of last year feeling burned out, thanks to a lot more freelance work than I should have committed to and more weekends away than at home.

While I love being busy, last year felt like being busy for the sake of being busy. I never felt fully present. I was either at home writing for a client while battling FOMO or spending time with friends while stressing about getting everything done for the end of the month.

In 2020, I want to focus on thoughtfully investing my time and money into things and experiences that make life better, not busier.

Investing in My Skills

I love working. That’s part of the reason it’s so hard for me to see burnout coming, even if everyone around me can spot it from a mile away. This year, instead of spending all of my creative energy on other people’s projects, I want to save a little bit of it for myself.

I’m excited about investing in these professional-ish skills in 2020:

  • Learning basic Photoshop and Lightroom skills
  • Opting for manual camera settings once in a while
  • Writing for fun, not just because it’s on my to do list
  • Upgrading and expanding my blog’s footprint

Investing in a Home

This is a big one! It’s also a big reason I said yes to one or two too many projects last year. It’s going to take a lot of time and energy (and money) to find the house that becomes our forever home but I’m really, really excited to tackle this investment in 2020.

Investing in Experiences

In 2019, we didn’t take a real vacation. There were a lot of wonderful weekends away, but they’re just not the same. We’re in the midst of planning our first week-long vacation since our 2017 trip to Costa Rica and it feels so good.

We’ll watch more than a few of our favorite people say “I do” this year and I want to have the time and energy to truly enjoy these celebrations. The same goes for concerts, brunch, beach days, family time and a lot of other things I wasn’t 100% committed to last year.

4 Can’t-Miss Murals on Hertel Ave.

It had been a little while since Julia Jornsay-Silverberg (who you may remember from our adventures at The Grange and Buffalo’s secondhand book stores) and I explored Buffalo together. We decided to change that this fall. On a chilly October afternoon, we headed to one of our city’s hotspots to check out the growing collection of murals the neighborhood has to offer.

Hertel Ave.’s street art is an impressive assortment of big and little, broad strokes and detailed imagery, and whimsical and methodical. According to Hertel Walls, you can see all the murals the street has to offer in a half-hour walk.

With me taking a million photos and Julia vlogging about our adventure, we took double the time and didn’t quite make it to some of the furthest pieces. That was okay; we did fit in all of our favorites and saw some of the newer additions to Hertel Ave.’s walls too.

In our opinion, these are four murals you can’t miss on Hertel Ave.

1. Hertel Postcard

Hertel Postcard by Vincent Alejandro

Local artist Vincent Alejandro’s mark is visible on both ends of the street. On the east end is Hertel Postcard, welcoming visitors to the historically Italian neighborhood. At the other end of the neighborhood is the alley that Alejandro’s Hertel Alley Street Art Festival calls home.

This mural is across the street from both Lake Effect Ice Cream’s Buffalo location and Daily Planet Coffee, making it the perfect background for Instagramming your sundae or morning brew.

2. Lookin’ Good

Julia Jornsay-Silverberg vlogging in front of Lookin' Good by Casey William Milbrand

Some of Western New York’s most colorful murals are the work of Casey William Milbrand, including Lookin’ Good on the side of CRaVing. This retro rainbow of a mural was even vibrant on the cloudy fall day Julia and I stopped by.

3. Magic Buffalo

Magic Buffalo was one of the first murals to grace Hertel Ave. when it was completed in 2017. It’s at the corner of Colvin and Hertel, where it greets many of the neighborhood’s visitors arriving from the Northtowns. This magical piece of public art, by Bunnie Reiss, is a beautiful fusion of our city’s namesake animal and Eastern European folk art.

4. We Are Here

We Are Here by White Bicycle on Hertel Ave.

This geometric interpretation of the neighborhood’s streets satisfies my need for neat lines and crisp corners. This might just be my favorite mural on Hertel Ave. It’s not big, but there’s something about the five-color palette, the scale and the message of unity I really love.

To see our afternoon on Hertel Ave. through Julia’s eyes, check out her vlog!

On the Water in October with Brookdog Fishing Co.

Last time my dad, sister and I were out on the water with Ryan of Brookdog Fishing Co. it was a beautiful 90° day on Lake Erie. He assured us there’s more to fishing in Western New York than catching smallmouth bass all summer long. We took his word for it and booked a fall fishing trip with Brookdog this year.

We met Ryan at 7 am, just as the sky was beginning to turn from grey to pink. As the sun rose, the fog lifted from the water and the trees, just beginning to change from green to brilliant yellow, lit up. If nothing else, it was a gorgeous day to be outside. Of course, simply hanging out on the water is not Ryan’s style. After a fish-filled trip last summer, we knew we’d see some rod-bending battles throughout the day.

Fishing for salmon in Devil's Hole

A bent fishing rod as fog rises over Niagara River

The original plan was to fish for salmon (among other things) in the lower Niagara River. This year’s salmon run isn’t as impressive as in years past, at least not in this Lake Ontario tributary. After a couple of beautiful early morning drifts in Devil’s Hole left us empty-handed, we headed downstream for some native species.

We weren’t disappointed, and it wasn’t just because we broke into the delicious breakfast sandwiches Ryan packed for us. Over the next five hours, Ryan coached us through catching smallmouth bass, lake trout, a gorgeous rainbow trout and a huge walleye. We also thoroughly enjoyed drifting along in the calm water, soaking in one of the last warm(ish) days of fall.

The Lewiston-Queenston Bridge as seen from the Niagara River

Holding a lake trout caught in the Lower Niagara River

After a day like this one, I’m sunburned, sore, and thinking there’s no way Paige and I will ever be able to top this Father’s Day gift.

Why I’m Dining Out for Life (and You Should Too)

There are few mottos I connect with more than Casa Azul‘s “Work hard. Be kind. Eat tacos.” That’s why I’m so excited to be partnering with the team at Casa Azul, led by Zina Lapi, for Dining Out For Life this year. Thanks to the generosity of local restaurants like Casa Azul and local corporate partners, when you dine out with me on October 1, 2019, 25% of the cost of your meal goes straight to Evergreen Health.

Dining Out For Life at Casa Azul

Chef Zina passing tacos out of the kitchen at Casa Azul

So what is Dining Out For Life, exactly? Dining Out For Life raises funds to support people affected by HIV across the country. Here in Buffalo, those funds go Evergreen Health’s initiatives, like HIV prevention and complete care for individuals living with HIV.

If you’re unfamiliar with Evergreen Health, they provide chronic illness support; HIV prevention, treatment and care; substance user healthcare; LGBQ and transgender services; and more from their locations in Buffalo and Jamestown. As you can probably imagine, it takes a lot of money to do that much good.

Dining Out For Life has raised over $1.2 million in Western New York, just one of the reasons it was named Best Food and Drink Fundraiser by Buffalo Spree this year!

Eating tacos at Casa Azul

Not that you need an excuse to eat tacos, but Dining Out For Life does happen to fall on a Tuesday! If you’re not sure what to order, let me suggest the Potato & Poblano and Carne Asada. With a classic margarita, of course! For all the details on the big day, check out the event on Facebook. I’d love to see you at Casa Azul for dinner on October 1st!

Thank you to Caitlin at Reilley Photography for squeezing this session into her incredibly busy fall schedule for me!