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!

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.

Celebrating the First Day of Fall in NOTL

When I have a free autumn Saturday and a desire to gaze at acres of vineyards, I usually head to the Finger Lakes. Sucking the juice out of concord grapes while picking bunches for jelly with my grandpa will forever be one of my favorite things about fall. Because Penn Yan holds such a special place in my heart, and I don’t really like wine that much anyway, I always forget about how close Niagara-on-the-Lake’s beautiful wineries are.

Tourism Niagara Canada invited the Buffalo Bloggers to take in a few of Niagara-on-the-Lake wineries on what turned out to be a beautiful first day of fall. I hadn’t been to NOTL since a very fun long weekend there when I was in elementary school. (My parents were very early adopters of the staycation trend.) The picture-perfect vineyards, fun tastings and adorable Queen Street are a blogger’s paradise.

Blue skies over Konzelmann Estate Winery

Wine tasting at Konzelmann Estate Winery

Our first stop was the beautiful Konzelmann Estate Winery, which greeted us with panoramic views of the Toronto skyline over their vineyards. I learned a lot about wine on our tour of the facility, from growing and harvesting to fermenting and aging. Our guide grew up on a vineyard and you could tell he loves sharing everything he knows about wine and winemaking.

I don’t particularly like wine, but I really enjoyed all the wines Konzelmann offered to us, even bringing a bottle of the Peachwine home.

Next was Small Talk Vineyards. Our first impression was how Instagramable this cute winery is. Arches covered in flowers and grapevines, brightly colored doors, and funny speech bubbles in adorable typography guided us toward the door.

Here, we tried two wines, neither of which I loved. However, this winery is also home to Shiny Apple Cider. Their cider varieties all start with the same base and are mixed with different flavors, for some really tasty results. The Bootleg Cider, a combination of hard apple cider and whiskey, was delicious. As they describe it, “It’s like apple pie and vanilla ice cream had a delicious alcoholic baby that they raised to be a respectable member of cider society…”

Grapevine covered arches at Small Talk Vineyards

Shiny Bootleg Cider at Shiny Apple Cider

Our group chatted under the beautiful blue sky on the pretty patio before heading to dinner at Bistro Six-One for pasta and pizza. We headed back over the border full of wine, spaghetti and sunshine, with a whole lot of pictures for our Instagram grids.

No Bad Choice at Ellicottville’s Steelbound Brewing

After a weekend of camping at Allegany State Park with Cody’s family, we stopped at the new Steelbound Brewery on our way through Ellicottville. Camping with the Jones clan means almost constant eating, so we were not hungry for a meal, although everything coming from the kitchen looked great.

Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

Taps at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

We ordered two flights, mixing and matching Steelbound’s huge draft list. Cody went with 8 IPAs (which wasn’t even all the IPAs on the list) and I went for a more eclectic combination. I enjoyed everything, from the Blueballs (their much, much juicier answer to ECB’s Blueberry Wheat with 600 pounds of blueberry in every batch) to the Fat Porter.

Flight at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

Flight at Steelbound Brewery, Ellicottville, NY

For a new brewery (they opened in May of 2018), these guys have very impressive beer and a huge distribution network. They’re really embracing their tagline (“Where Buffalo meets Ellicottville”) with lots of Bills references and a big presence at this year’s Buffalo Beer Week.

If you’re heading to Ellicottville for Fall Fest, doing some last minute camping or hitting the slopes this winter, it’s definitely worth stopping at Steelbound!

Root & Bloom: Vegan Comfort Food in the Comfiest Space

I am by no means vegan or even vegetarian, especially when cooking for myself. I do love my Oh She Glows cookbook, but most of the time, I find vegan recipes more complicated and intimidating than their conventional counterparts.

However, if someone else is going to cook without animal products for me, I’m all in. While Paige was home last month I recruited her to go check out Root & Bloom, one of Buffalo’s newest restaurants and its first vegan-only eatery.

Good Vibes Only

Any business that uses “Gazebo” as part of their address probably knows a thing or two about creating a unique atmosphere. Walking off of Elmwood and into the hidden, tree-lined courtyard Root & Bloom calls home feels like stepping into a secret garden. I’m not sure there’s any way to truly capture the airy space in photographs, but I sure tried.

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

I just couldn’t get over the layers of the space: macrame, linen and copper on wood, lace against bark, wrought iron over pavers and brick peaking through leaves. I have a feeling that each year will lead to a cozier feel. It just seems like the kind of place where beautiful knick knacks are accepted with open arms.

The staff was friendly and when we stopped in on a Thursday night, the dinner crowd was lingering, continuing to chat over their empty plates. There was absolutely no pressure to move along or order dessert, just conversation and an itty bitty kombucha-fueled buzz.

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

Root & Bloom | Gazebo in Elmwood Village | Vegan Restaurant

The Dinner Menu

Root & Bloom serves both brunch and dinner. We thought about squeezing in Sunday brunch as a family, but a weeknight dinner gave Paige and me an opportunity to wander down Elmwood before and after dinner.

The dinner menu features vegan staples (cashew cheese, tofu and jackfruit) blended into dishes even the most committed carnivore would recognize: tacos, BBQ sliders, and mac and cheese. While everything looked delicious, we both chose the Ricardo: corn tortilla tacos filled with fried avocado, pico de gallo, cabbage, pickled red onions, mango rice and a habanero lime cream drizzle. Paige chose to wash her tacos down with chia citrus water, while I went for Bootleg Bucha’s blueberry lavender variety.

Root & Bloom | Vegan Restaurant | Fried Avocado Tacos

Everything was absolutely delicious, and the serving size made us glad we had parked a few blocks away!

The restaurant’s indoor space will open this fall, so Buffalo can continue to enjoy the creative vegan menu during Buffalo’s colder months. I’ll definitely be going back for more for three reasons:

  1. Brunch (no further explanation needed).
  2. A robust weekend specials menu and the Saturday night Uprooted series.
  3. The gazebo’s Instagramable aesthetic means both 1 and 2 are constantly popping up in my social media feeds!

Amity Coffee Co.: Coffee and Community on Main Street

Spending Mother’s Day in Penn Yan meant being there for Amity Coffee Co.’s opening weekend in the beautiful Main Street space that used to be home to Publick Coffee Bar.

Amity Coffee Co. | Penn Yan, NY

Paige and I loved walking down to Publick when we were visiting, so we were pretty disappointed when it closed earlier this year. Amity taking over the beautiful shop makes for a great way to start weekends in Penn Yan.

From the gorgeous windows facing the street and exposed light bulbs to the marble-topped table and comfy leather chairs, every element of this space has been perfectly crafted. And the coffee is great too.

Amity_Coffee_Co_Penn_Yan_2-min

Amity Coffee Co. | Penn Yan, NY

We ordered a cappuccino and a latte, our usual coffee shop fare. They were delicious, as expected, and paired with friendly service. We enjoyed our drinks tucked into the back corner in deep leather chairs while we chatted about our summer plans and took about a million pictures of the store

On the cloudy Sunday morning we stopped by, families were celebrating Mother’s Day with coffee and pastries, and grabbing drinks to go.

I truly hope visitors keep supporting Amity, because I love having somewhere besides Dunkin’ for my weekend caffeine fix. I know I’ll be back next time I’m in town.

Amity Coffee Co. | Main Street | Penn Yan, NY