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Midnight Mass @ the Black Sheep

On March 25, the Black Sheep will host the latest installment of Midnight Mass, and all are welcome. Just don’t expect Christian liturgy or divine revelations (unless you really like food). This is worship of the secular, gastronomic sort.

Generally held the last Saturday night of every month, Midnight Mass is a playfully named pop-up dinner series that features the menus, skill sets, and unique visions of a rotating cast of guest chefs. No two installments of Midnight Mass are ever the same.

The Black Sheep co-owners Steven and Ellen Gedra have been organizing the themed, late-night dinners for the past four years. What started as a way to bring guest chefs and restaurant folk together for a delicious, affordable, post-shift meal quickly evolved into something much bigger, more complex, and with a following that extended beyond industry insiders. For a little perspective, at the first Midnight Mass in 2013, the Gedras served ramen with the help of Chef James Roberts, now of Toutant. In January 2016, Midnight Mass consisted of a five-course, dim sum-style Chinese New Year menu prepared by Chef 2/2 of Kaydara Noodle Bar.

“We did 600 plates in 2 and half hours,” said Steve. “It was fucked up.”

Recently, the Gedras decided to scale things back to find a happy medium between what the events used to be and what they had become. They started last month with a menu of Jewish comfort food curated by the Zemsky family. Midnight Shabbat, as the event was temporarily renamed (see lead image), was served buffet style, save for the soup, and seating was communal.

For the guests, that translated to heaping plates of soulful, tuck-worthy food and lively conversations with strangers. It felt exclusive and intimate but hardly fussy. In the spirit of the first Midnight Mass, bellies were full and camaraderie ran high.

What’s more, the food was incredible while managing to stay true to the hominess of a traditional family meal. For $40 per person ($15 dollars of which benefitted Jewish Family Services), guests had their fill of freshly baked challah, sour and half-sour pickles, kreplach and matzo ball soup, fork-tender charred beef brisket, smoked salmon and pickled herring on rye, tsimmes, crisp potato latkes, raisin-studded noodle kugel, haroset, apple cake, and black and white cookies. It was a meal that made me nostalgic for every Rosh Hashanah and Passover table I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting at. And it was a meal that made me lament that the city’s restaurants don’t dabble more in Jewish fare.

The Gedras will continue the laid-back approach in March when they welcome guest chef Jennifer Boye of Elm Street Bakery for a Midnight Mass late winter cookout. It will be a fun, informal affair that affords guests the opportunity to walk around and talk to the crew as they prepare the meal. The food, meanwhile, will lean retro (with some sophisticated or unexpected twists, no doubt).

“We’re harkening back to the fun cookouts our parents used to throw,” said Boye.

Tickets for the March 25 event are expected to go live this week, perhaps as early as today, and capacity is limited. Follow Midnight Mass on Facebook for details, including the much-anticipated menu, as they become available.

Written by Caitlin Hartney

Caitlin Hartney

Caitlin has covered local food and drink for Buffalo Rising since 2015, having previously written for Artvoice, the Public, and the Buffalo News. She works full time in marketing communications and is earning her master's degree in history at University at Buffalo, the latter of which occasionally informs her writing. Most importantly, she likes the word "moist" and doesn't care who knows it. How else do you describe a great piece of cake?

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