The New York Post has compiled a list of the best book releases of the week, and lo and behold, a Buffalo NY cookbook made the list. Actually, The Buffalo New York Cookbook made the list. The cookbook, by Arthur Bovino, a food and travel writer based in New York, features a number of Buffalo’s hometown favorite recipes, including Buffalo chicken parm, stuffed banana peppers, Buffalo wing pierogi, the definitive Tom & Jerry drink, and pit- roasted barbeque Buffalo wings.
For The New York Post to add a Buffalo cookbook to its weekly list of suggestions is rather unusual. It’s not often that Buffalo makes the news in The Post. In fact, it’s so unusual, that I decided to connect with Bovino, to inquire about the cookbook, his passion for Buffalo fare, and The Post selecting his latest work. Bovino told me that when it comes to The Post being very NYC-centric, “I’m trying to change that – I’m working it.”
You live in NYC. What is your relationship with Buffalo?
Before the books, there wasn’t a relationship. I live in the East Village and have lived in New York City for nearly 20 years, but I’m actually from Long Island originally. I’d just always known I was going to have to do a wing pilgrimage one day and as a pizza nerd and list-maker, I had been obsessing about checking out the pizza scene for years. The book (the project started out as one book) was an excuse to do both. I just discovered so much more than I’d anticipated.
What is your favorite recipe to cook?
This is a tough, tough call. How about a top 10? The Bleu Bayou wings, stinger taco, cream of Buffalo chicken soup, and Buffalo rock shrimp tempura are all really, really delicious. The Buffalo bacon, Buffalo fried rice, Tom & Jerry cocktail, and stuffed banana peppers are all great too. But if I had to narrow things down, I’d say the riggies may be my second favorite (even though they’re not from Buffalo) with the Buffalo chicken pot pie as my all-time number one.
What do you think about a peanut butter and jelly wing? Or an apple pie wing?
Sigh. Nothing can just be itself anymore. Everything has to be everything else! Lol. If I’m honest, if these are the house specialties and I’m visiting a place, these will not be my first picks but I will feel obligated to try them. I’m not such a purist as to say these kinds of fusion flavors shouldn’t exist. But I’ve been food spelunking long enough that I can say with authority that they typically aren’t very good. I feel about this the same way I feel about Hawaiian pizza: Is it good? Like, is the pizza actually good? I never want to order it, but I’ve had the occasional good Hawaiian slice. I feel the same way about these kinds of wings… most often they’re not good, but I have occasionally been pleasantly surprised. If you’re going to make them, make sure they’re actually good.
Were chefs willing to give out their recipes?
Some. Damn, that reminds me: Chef Mike A’s recipe for Oliver’s spinach loaf might crack my top three favorite recipes. I got DM’d messages from extended family of Santora’s, learned some of the secrets of Buffalo pizza dough from an expert on deep background, chef Ed Forster was my stinger consultant, and I watched chef Marshall Grady make wings in his kitchen. I interviewed dozens of chefs, bartenders, servers, and restaurant owners and peppered them with questions until I got enough bits to string together and what I couldn’t get them to give me in written out recipes (which chefs are notoriously bad about) I was ultimately able to research and successfully recipe test.
Interestingly enough, Bovino came out with another Buffalo foodie book earlier this year called Buffalo Everything: A Guide to Eating in “The Nickel City”. That book is upwards of a 400 page read that explores the ins and outs of Buffalo’s restaurant scene.
Bovina visited 100 restaurants, researching the history of the dishes, and talking to chefs about Buffalo fare such as beef on weck, sponge candy, and Ted’s Hot Dogs. According to Brian Hayden, Communications Manager at Visit Buffalo Niagara, “Bovino penned perhaps the most authoritative guide to Buffalo food ever written.”
100 restaurants? I don’t know if I have eaten at 100 Buffalo restaurants. How long did it take?
I moved to Buffalo for a total of a month and gained about 25 pounds. There were many days I hit six to eight places. A few where I hit 10. I wish I’d taken some photos of the backseat of my car — there were always at least two or three takeout containers back there. Any chance I had to meet people and share meals was very welcome.
What was the most memorable restaurant?
Anchor for sheer notoriety, Elmo’s for their triple-dipped wings. Toutant for one of the best sandwiches (the fried bologna) I’ve ever had, Grange for the best two meals I had in the same day, Schwabl’s for a sense of history and warmth while sipping a Tom & Jerry in February while waiting for my memorable beef on weck, McPartlan’s for a sense of neighborhood and a great slice of pie. I’m not trying to sidestep… it’s just that places were special for their own reasons. (This is how I ended up turning one book into two.) But if I have to say name one meal, I’d say Las Puertas.
What is your favorite Buffalo food?
You’re killing me with the ultimates 😉 lol. I fell in love with the pizza style. I’m ruined for wings now. Tom & Jerry cocktails are now a fixture of my family Thanksgiving and Feast of the Seven Fishes. But right now as you’re asking me this, if I could only have one dish, I wouldn’t blink twice to lay out the money for airfare to eat my favorite beef on weck.
What was your biggest takeaway from both books?
That Buffalo is a fine, friendly city with some great food, and it’s been right under the noses of New Yorkers without being given its due for far too long. I hope in some small way these books will help change that.
Now, Buffalo food lovers have two very different options when it comes to selecting their favorite informative resources – one based on recipes, and one based on eating out on the town. That should leave people satiated for a while, especially with the holidays upon us – there’s no doubt that these two books are going to be best sellers with hometown foodies who are always talking up the rich and diverse culinary scene that continues to impress, both locally, and now in The Big Apple.