Amongst my many varied likes are tasty food, cold beer and cute brunettes. Not necessarily in that order.
So you can only begin to imagine my delight when I was granted a weekend jam-packed with all three.
This past weekend, I was honored to be able to serve as a judge for the pierogi contest at Buffalo's Dozynki festival on Saturday. I was also fortunate enough to judge appetizers at The Taste of Lockport on Sunday.
The weekend began normally enough - waiting for my girlfriend to get out of the bathroom. (Seriously, girls, what do you do in there and why does it take so long? Every man in America is dying to know).
Then we packed up the kids and headed to North Tonawanda for the Thunder on the Niagara jet boat races, which I knew would be a real treat for my girlfriend — who probably took 1,000 pictures of the boats— and her son — because what six year old boy doesn't want to watch jet boats race?
After we got our fill of jet boats (and the kids got their fill of PB&J), we headed to the heart of Buffalo for the Dozynki Harvest Festival at Corpus Christi Church where I saw some old friends, did some 12-ounce curls, and feasted on pierogi in an incredibly wide variety of flavors from standard sauerkraut to cheeseburger (with all the fixings). I was one of 20 judges for the pierogi contest and while it was certainly fun, in honesty, it wasn’t easy because there was not a single bad pierogi amongst the offerings. In all honestly, some were simply more awesome than others.
My favorite pierogi of the day a beef on weck created by Brian Marek. Sadly, our table didn’t get a chance to try the top vote getter in the non-traditional category, a reuben pierogi. But I had a reuben pierogi last year and can understand why it would win.
After pierogi, we bowled at the Corpus Christi Club across the street from the church. I won, of course, (with a measly 120) but Heather and the kids did great, too. Then we trekked back to Lockport to rest up for day two of my great Western New York eat-a-thon.
Sunday had been planned out for months. I took the night off work so I could spend it serving as Heather’s tag-along, carrying coffee, protecting her from her adoring fans and whatever other odd jobs I’d be given. Heather is, among other things, co-president of the Lockport Business Association, which oversees the Taste of Lockport.
However, early last week I secured a spot as a judge in the appetizer category of the Taste, a role I’ve served in a few times since the Taste began just over a decade ago. So what had been planned as a day of me following my girlfriend around became another day of hard labor, forcing down delicious goodies.
As was the case the day before, I can honestly say that there wasn’t a single poor offering put in front of me as a judge. There were some offerings, however, that were more spectacular than others. My personal favorite was a meatball on a stick from Middleport’s Alternative Grounds Caffe.
After the judging, there was some walking, more eating, and of course, washing all those tasty morsels down with cold beer. It was such a hard day.
Between Dozynki and the Taste, I ran into far too many people to even begin to name drop without leaving people out and offending, so I won’t. But it’s always nice to get out and see people — especially those I haven’t seen in a year or more.
Sadly, I missed the Erie County Fair this year — one of my favorite annual pilgrimages — but with so many other things going on, I barely missed it.
Scott Leffler is a professional food taster and an amateur columnist — at least in some people's eyes. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler where he can name drop at will.