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

Day Date: Shirt Factory Cafe

ICYMI, Beau and I hail from Niagara County. Yep. I grew up in Newfane and Beau in Lockport. Perhaps my roots a little more country than him and nonetheless, small-town life is what we know. So when there is a place ‘up north’ that is a must-see…we go!

How much for that baby in the window?

Shirt Factory Cafe is the latest place to be transformed and back on the map in Orleans County. New owners Scott and Alix (you may know them as @DCMinute) have taken over the former Robert H. Newell & Co. building and started its new evolution in to being a staple in Medina, NY. They invited us out to nosh on their soon-to-be revealed Toast Bar and we couldn’t pass it up!

The old Shirt Factory here was quite famous among celebrities around the globe

Medina is also going through a resurgence, like Buffalo just on a small town scale. Neighbors of the Shirt Factory Cafe include Mile 303, Zambistro, the vintage shop Ellen J Goods, and Mariachi de Oro. The Erie Canal flows through Medina and was once a popular stopover for trading. Now you can rent a hydrobike or kayak right in town at Pedal and Paddle Medina!

Scott and Alix’s introduction of a Toast Bar is so fun! They’re tweaking the toast now and we got a sneak peek invite to eat ALL OF IT.

Oh em gee.

I had to get a few bites in here and there before Beau ate them all. The cool thing about the ingredients is that Scott and Alix grow the beets and tomatoes in the garden at their beautiful farmhouse. They also source as many items as possible at local businesses like The Bread Basket in town for the toast.

Chloe approved!

The flight is really great for sharing and just one toast is enough to fill you up. Perfect for a to-go breakfast or lunch!

Their current menu boasts sandwiches, salads, coffee, and smoothies. Breakfast for those locals who need to pop in early and veggie options for those non-carnivorous eaters. We also shared an Avocado and White Bean wrap as well as a Bob Hope (turkey). I could eat the AWB ever day!

Scott and Alix are keeping a few old school Shirt Factory nostalgic items like photos and letters from early and mid 20th century shirt requests which is why we felt so proud to be inside their space. Keeping history with revitalized buildings is so important and they GET IT.

Medina is showing us glimmers of a new destination spot. With wineries nearby, water sports on the canal, and people like Scott and Alix (Medina boomerangs) determined to help shed its old skin there is no doubt you will be checking it out, too. Plans for the Shirt Factory Cafe are coming to fruition with ideas of an upgraded menu, Toast Bar, and eventually cocktails. In the same building, Hart Hotel is open and a boutique style place to stay. Medina is quickly becoming a great day trip or even staycation. Keep your eyes peeled on this one, guys. There’s a new town in…well…town. 😉