Farm to Table Fairytale in WNY

“Okay, I feel like I’m in a Hallmark movie.” – @chessabond

Any second, Reese Witherspoon was going to walk in to the party donning a stunning makeover from her neighbor and lock eyes with the strapping man who moved back to his hometown to care for his Mother and run the family farm while building houses with his bare hands and donning a dirty-yet-clean unbuttoned plaid shirt with his best jeans for the night.

Farm to Table, Medina NY

Now the exterior scene is set for the 3rd Medina Farm to Table dinner that shuts down Main St. every summer and fills the air with laughter, music, and wine bottles popping.

We’ve told you once, we’ll tell you twice- Beau and I hail from Niagara County originally and take it pretty seriously when something incredible is happening up in ‘the country’ towns. It’s equally important to pay attention to our hometowns if they are making an effort to preserve and start something new in order to thrive and grow. We truly never knew about this humble, delicious event until we met up with Scott and Alix of the Shirt Factory Cafe (and boomerangs of WNY, who host the blog In a DC Minute). We had followed one another for a while on social and when the two took over the Shirt Factory Cafe in Medina, they invited a small handful of influencers out to test an upcoming Toast Bar they’re releasing and to talk about how Medina is changing. (see our visit to their cafe here!)

After conversing about childhood, hometowns, farms, city life, teaching, food, social media, and the interesting fact that Buffalo is pretty behind regarding the use of their micro-influencers…Scott and Alix invited us to the Medina Farm to Table Dinner that was developed this year by Zambistro (the original inception restaurant of the event), Mile 303, Mariachi de Oro, Sourced Market & Eatery, and Shirt Factory Cafe. All are local Medina restaurants collaborating to put on a 200 person dinner in the middle of the Main St.. The Orleans Renaissance Group hosts the dinner and it typically sells out in under 2 hours. You can get your tickets next year at MedinaAlive.com

Lobster & Corn Hush Puppy, Zambistro

Okay, so you’ve been to a farm to table event. So have we. But not like this. Medina literally shuts down their street and lines up two huge, long tables which are set with wine glasses for pairings, silverware, simple yet stunning Joanna Gaines-style fresh flowers, live music from Dark Road Duo and Road to Azure, and an entourage of servers delivering food to you as chefs and winemakers stand by your table to share the ingredients and design of each course. There are 200 people here- more than your usual event- and each restaurant serves up a different course which ultimately proves the massive collaboration. We were seated with Scott and Alix who graciously and brilliantly gave us the history and connections of all the owners, chefs, building owners, and family involved. We needed a map! Another influencer, Francesca Bond- a writer for Step Out Buffalo, The Buffalo News, and her own blog Vintage Lillies – sat across from us. To our immediate right were total strangers who became friends by the end of the first course.

Corn, Beets, and Some Berries Walk In To A Bar, Mile 303

Everyone was so damn friendly and happy, how could this not be a movie? All proud (and rightly so) of their town, this event, and having visitors come in to see what it is all about. The scene was perfect since Medina has kept their original buildings and did not fully give in to urban renewal. The canal sat within feet of us and we noticed that almost all of the storefronts were occupied whether it was restaurants, barber shops, paint studios, or the local lady who sews anything you require. Of course we found one degree of separation or at least the knowledge of one anothers’ town- like the older gentleman diagonal from me who lived on a road in Newfane across from my childhood home, the gal who grew up in Albion and knows the old cobblestone homes of the Bacon Family on my maternal side, and retired teachers who knew some people we name-dropped from Lockport and Medina. The beauty of strangers sitting side by side as the sun glistened atop architectural peaks at sunset.

Mariachi de Oro

The food was incredible. Fresh, delicious, beautiful. Almost all ingredients used were also from the local Canal Village Farmer’s Market in town. (*squee!* we love it!) We had no idea this town boasted such a culinary surprise. Wine pairings were collaborations with other Niagara and Orleans County makers like Schulze, Chateau Niagara, Leonard Oakes, Freedom Run, 810 Meadworks, and Liten Buffel. Hearing from local owners and Scott himself, the returning generation is working toward reviving this town little by little and opening their doors and arms to any and all who are curious to explore.

‘Eh, the drive is far.’ Oh boo hoo, people. You’ll miss out on a lot of things in WNY if you have that mentality still. If you stop and think about it, we have so many towns and communities within a small radius that are hidden gems and are begging to be polished and history to be re-learned. Our renaissance isn’t just in Buffalo- it’s in our whole region of Buffalo Niagara. The trickle effect of success is seeping out beyond the downtown walls and incredible. 

Berry Chocolate Cake, Shirt Factory Cafe

We’ll be talking about the Medina Farm to Table Dinner for a while. That’s how memorable and fun it was. We are so glad we have teamed with Scott and Alix and look forward to the next adventures we can uncover in Medina…and within other towns. We are glad to have met the charming Francesca Bond who is a young lady going places with her writing and immense experience at such a young age. We are glad to have met the locals of Medina, swap travel stories, escape a wine fiasco, and give a standing ‘O’ to the chefs and servers at the end. Keep exploring and keep learning- it’s how our part of New York is going to thrive.

Chicken 3 Ways, Zambistro

The perfect blurry night selfie with Scott and Alix

Lockport, NY: Erie Canal, Lockport Caves, and Lake Effect Ice Cream

the front of Lake Effect
the front of Lake Effect

Both of the Buffalovebirds hail from Niagara County. Specifically, one is a Lockport Lion alum! Forty minutes from downtown Buffalo, at the corner of route 78 and 31, twenty five minutes south of Lake Ontario- Lockport has quite the history behind it, regardless of it being under the radar in Western New York. The Erie Canal, a 360+ mile canal that extends from the Hudson River in Albany to Lake Erie in Buffalo (a connecting route via water from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes), is the most prominent landmark in LP. We get a kick out of being tourists in our hometowns and wanted to share a great day date idea for you, next time you venture out in WNY.

Start your day with a 2 hour cruise along the Lockport Canal, where you can experience the view of the man-made canal, see the ‘Flight of Five’ locks from the 1840s, and pass under raised bridges and the only set of double-locks along the canal.

QUICK INFO:

Lockport Locks & Erie Canal Cruises

210 Market St. Lockport, NY 14094

(716) 433-6155

adults $17.50, kids 4-10 $9

www.lockportlocks.com

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Inside the Canal Side building (clear to see from the road), is a cafe where you may grab a bite to eat- unless you have reserved a cool lunch & cruise deal already. It’s easy to book online or through the phone. Group rates are also available (a great tour to take your out-of-town guests, too!). After you’ve taken your historical canal tour, hop off and head up to the Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride. Lasting a little over an hour, this tour gives you an industrial history on Locks 34, 35, 67-71 built in 1838, hydraulic tunnels that gave off water power, and hear about Birdsill Holly. (who??!! ah, the guy who invented the rotary pump, the 2nd place winner of the most patents in the US (Thomas Edison in first).)

QUICK INFO:

Lockport Cave & Underground Boat Ride

5 Gooding St. Lockport, NY 14094

(716) 438-0174

adults $12, kids $7

www.lockportcave.com

The boat ride is relaxing yet a little spooky! It’s also a blast to take the tour the week of Halloween as well! Make sure you wear safe shoes as you will be walking on even ground and in a boat. You can reserve through their website, as well- and of course calling or stopping by the office, too. After all of that darkness- step out in to the light and walk over to Lake Effect Ice Cream for some addicting artisan treats! Locally owned and established in Lockport, Lake Effect has taken Western New York by storm and has begun selling their deliciousness in Wegmans & Tops- even at the Transit Drive-In! (how we wish they had a shop in downtown BLo or Elmwood!!!)

QUICK INFO:

Lake Effect Artisan Ice Cream

79 Canal St. Lockport, NY 14094

www.lakeeffecticecream.com

@lake_effect_ic

app: lake effect ice cream (free!)

Owned by two Lockport teachers, their ice cream has humorous local names which are created using local ingredients, offers gluten-free flavors, and best of all- is rich and mouth-watering!

the DL on the flavors (how does one choose!?)
the DL on the flavors (how does one choose!?)

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quaint inside seating area. also space to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine!
quaint inside seating area. also space to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine!
Glazed Red Velvet Donut sundae (made with Paula's red velvet donuts!) and a waffle cone filled with Peanut Butter Epiphany
Glazed Red Velvet Donut sundae (made with Paula’s red velvet donuts!) and a waffle cone filled with Peanut Butter Epiphany

So take a drive out to Lockport to brush up on your local history and savor a cold cone which will leave you scouring the grocery isles for your own personal pint!

**the popular crowd of LP: the creator of volleyball (William G. Morgan), the inventor of the human canonball (William Leonard Hunt aka- The Great Farini), supermodel Kim Alexis