Others have reported on architect Karl Frizlen’s bid to purchase the West Side’s remarkable Horsefeathers building on Connecticut Street. His plan for a green restoration and conversion project would turn the top four floors of the space into large apartments with two and three bedrooms, while the basement and the first floor would function as a food market.
I have heard much hypothesizing both on the street and in publications about what this food market will look and smell like, and who it will cater to. As a co-founder of the Elmwood-Bidwell Farmers Market, Frizlen understands the value that access to fresh, healthy food can bring to a neighborhood and its community. For three or four years, he and friend Patrick Lango–one of the farmers market’s most outspoken farmers and owner of the increasingly well-respected White Cow Dairy (check your May issue of Saveur)–have devised to bring a unique food project to Buffalo. This plan has been amalgamous, it has morphed and mutated, it has made strides and taken hits. It was first to be a co-operative style market with members at its core and farmers dropping off foods on consignment, it was to have opened on Amherst Street, and then later in Black Rock. This plan–to bring fresh, local food untainted by a corporate agenda and mark-ups that benefit the retailer but not the foodmaker–has always been at its core, regardless of the set-backs and gains the actual project has undergone.
—-Potential tenants scout the Horsefeathers space
Admittedly, I have known Patrick and Karl (to a lesser extent) throughout this entire process, and despite frustrations and disappointments at the center of their drive is innovation, dedication and truth. So it’s just food, you say, what can dedication and truth have to do with food? I suggest any of you to ask that of Lango or any other serious food artisan. You will come away with a new found respect for the ingredients, the quality, the passion and the integrity of whatever food is in question, be it yogurt or pickles, beef or jam. There are plenty of pretenders out there, both corporate and mom and pop operations, who play on the marketing side of being “local”, or being “homemade”, or even “European”, but if you look beyond the advertising, it is easy to see cheap ingredients, a wavering commitment to the customer when dollars are at stake, and the desire to do more with less in a way that, in the end, is not beneficial to the product or the community.
So when Frizlen set his sights on Horsefeathers, the food project he and Lango had been working away at seemed like the perfect fit. A trip to Eco-trust’s building in Portland, OR had gotten Frizlen thinking about a mixed-use situation that would be beneficial to the building, its tenants and the neighborhood. Eco-trust, a not-for-profit with sustainability and responsibility at the core of its mission, had rehabilitated a building similar in structure and period to the Horsefeathers building. Offices and meeting spaces occupy the top floors, while street-level floor functions as a coffee house and home to a variety of small, green retail businesses (see inset image).
—Eco-Trust building in Portland, OR
But Horsefeathers will be different. Sustainable housing will take up the majority of its footprint, but the the revised Lango/Frizlen food project is at its heart. Lango’s White Cow Dairy has signed the master lease for the basement and the first floor. Considering Patrick a friend, and having read every report on the project I noticed that all of them mentioned the food aspect of the undertaking, but most misreported the concept, or did not offer a clear view of the project. I asked Lango to shed some light for us on what the Horsefeathers food project really is, and, what it hopes to achieve.
To say that Lango has his own style would be an understatement. He may be a dairy farmer who lives in East Otto, NY and is making what some are inclined to consider the world’s best yogurt, but he was also a NYC adman, a script writer and an artist, of sorts. His personality and drive are what makes this project special, so I’ve included his thoughts here in the form in which they came to me. Below you will find Lango’s take on the project, unedited.
—Frizlen’s Horsefeathers Elevation
(hand-picked foods from around the corner)
of all the wonderful, fresh foods grown & made in our western region
really only the best examples (from every food group) are going to be found at Horsefeathers Market
if choosey mothers choose ‘Jif’, then choosey food lovers, who care (and are willing to understand) absolutely everything about where their food comes from, what goes into it, and who the hell is making it… can find (exactly) what they’re looking for, the moment they stroll in the door of historical Horsefeathers Market – Buffalo’s newest/oldest real foods emporium… and, if they come at the right hour – there’s a good chance they’ll see what they’re about to eat – being made right under their noses – which means it can’t go home with you, much fresher
people seeking ‘nutritional information’ in their personal food choices, are going to be able to absorb as much real (& non-confusing) factual food and farming information that they will ever need, by simply watching a fresh tagliatelle carefully roll out of the pasta machine, into a box, into their bag with cream, chicken livers, mushrooms & crunchy parsley for supper; and, nothing they’ll taste from that wonderful, homecooked meal will ever be coming from further than fifty (50) miles away
no vermont or ithaca, or hudson valley cheeses…
Horsefeathers Market will spawn, germinate, train, supply, and celebrate every kind of foodmaker from here…
if somebody’s not making it (yet), and it can be made here, Horsefeathers will provide the food science, the site, the training, the ingredients, and the market to produce & sell it.
goat cheese is goat cheese: you take good, fresh goat’s milk, you control the situation, and what you’ll get, once you know what you’re doing: is beautiful food, every, single time…
it’s no miracle – it’s absolutely normal – and a hundred years ago, it was ‘normal’ all over western new york for farmers and foodmakers to be making every, single, kind of food they could, from what was immediately on hand at the farm…
that’s what Horsefeathers is doing.
and, if you still want ‘lively run’ goat cheese, you’re really going to have to run lively elsewhere to buy it, because as good a cheese as it is, it’s not from around here, which means: you won’t find it at Horsefeathers…
Horsefeathers Market is original food basics: bread, cheese, pickles, eggs, fruit, dairy, meat, pasta, vegetables, wine, cider, mushrooms, and beer
most everything available at Connecticut & Normal streets will be made there,
and if it can’t be made there, it’ll be grown or m
ade nearby, and sold there
there will be a bakery, a dairy bar, a certified kitchen for fresh food production, a pasta factory, a cafe/bistro, and collection of food stalls for fresh food walkaway
the cellar at Horsefeathers, will facilitate the ‘underground’ food world, fermenting pickles & chutneys, climate controlled rooms for curing meats and cheeses, growing mushrooms, fermenting wines, meads, ciders, and craft beers – where beer clubers can hone their skills in traditional brewing.
the Energy Center will be another key feature of the cellar at Horsefeathers, with bikes and rowing machines wired for production of electrical current used throughout the facility to power small appliances and lights; where people can earn ‘energy credit’ for power produced to trade against the cost anything purchased at Horsefeathers Market
for immediate food satisfaction, the dairy bar stocked by white cow dairy, and the Horsefeathers cafe/bistro will offer the most simple selections of everything fresh on hand : soups, breads, sandwiches, side dishes, tapas creations: for example – the fresh cut potato – where varieties of local spuds are mashed, baked, fried, souped, sauced, saladed, pancaked into anything and everything ‘potato possible’, the same would occur for apples or squashes, and any and other fresh regional specialties
Horsefeathers Market promises to be a totally complete food and farming experience, with a cultural cross-section of ethic food varieties from all nearby neighborhoods, serving as the hub and the home for a handful of street cart food ambassadors, who will be able to prepare their menu in the Horsefeathers kitchen, then stock their carts and roll out onto the streets of Buffalo to share the experience…
If you are a serious foodmaker, or are interested in becoming one, you can contact Patrick Lango via email.
Lead image of Patrick Lango with his sidekick and food enthusiast, Jeff. First inset image of vendors touring Horsefeathers. Both by Christa Glennie Seychew
Eco-Trust image and Elevation courtesy of Karl Frizlen