Blackman Cider Co. has officially opened its incredible new urban tasting room and retail market at 1250 Niagara Street. Owners/siblings Julie and Jeff Blackman unveiled the new farmhouse digs this past Saturday, much to the excitement of anyone who truly appreciates old world culinary delights, with a focus on NYS agriculture. Often times we hear restaurateurs and culinary artisans bandying about the words rustic and seasonal, without being completely dedicated to the cause. In this case, The Blackmans have gone beyond the call of duty to search out the best makers and purveyors in the state, to cobble together an artisanal experience unmatched in Buffalo.
Their new tasting room and market experience vaguely reminds me of the celebrated Vito’s Market that was once on Chippewa. The only difference is that The Blackmans have taken things to an entirely different level. They have hired some of the best minds in the artisanal food and beverage business, to create menus that are out of this world.
I stopped in last evening to check out the new digs, and to talk to the crew behind this new concept… which is actually one of the oldest concepts known to man. The tasting room is designed to mimic a farmhouse experience, according to Julie Blackman. To me, my visit was akin to eating on the set of a kitchen reality show, not because of the pomp and circumstance – rather it was the pure joy and excitement that encompassing every single aspect of the farm to table experience, combined with the boundless talents of the chefs and mixologists, including Peter Jacobi and Roydon Kim. Adding to the authenticity is the fact that The Blackmans also own an old world farm (and cider orchards) in Cambria, NY that has been around since 1852. That’s where Julie and Jeff cut their teeth and earned their stripes.
It was Julie who first started concocting value-added products to the repertoire, when she began making and selling fruit butters and apple sauces. That led her to opening Farmers & Artisans in Snyder, NY. From there, she began to roll out a line of blended fruit juices (apple, fruit, grape) that also did well in the market. It was around that time that Jeff set out to do his thing, and began to produce Blackman Cider. Before they knew it, Julie and Jeff’s worlds were colliding again, and the two set out to open Company B, an urban tasting room by Blackman Homestead Farm & Blackman Cider Co., which is what we are now seeing take hold on Niagara Street.
Today, we’re witnessing over 150 years of farm experience, married with some of the hottest culinary minds and techniques in NYS. Julie and Jeff told me that their goal is to “represent agriculture in NYS”, in the midst of an official tasting room setting for Blackman Cider. And I believe that’s exactly what they have accomplished… and will continue to accomplish. You see, they are hell bent on taking old world culinary ingredients and showcasing them in ways that are simply divine. For example, I was afforded the opportunity to sample something that was called Black Garlic Leather, made with dried black garlic that had been pressed into the form of super thin leather – I had never tasted anything quite like it. All I could think of, as I chewed the morsel, was, “How do I get more of this?” Then there was the pickled biquinho peppers… oh my! Every tasting that they threw my way was gobbled down without a second thought. As I ate the tasty bites, the presenters would talk about the various regions where the ingredients were procured, the vendors that sold them, the experimenting that went into crafting the dishes, and how they nailed final result with zero waste.
A visit to Company B is a voyage for the heart and soul. From the 28 taps, dedicated to NYS beers and Bootleg Bucha (yes, this is also the new tasting room for Bootleg Bucha products, with 12 taps of bucha varieties), to the market items sourced and curated by Farmers & Artisans, it would be easy to spend an entire afternoon here eating, drinking (full bar on the way featuring NYS wines and spirits), sampling coffees (including Tipico and Brandywine), tasting iced kombucha sorbets, sipping on bucha cocktails and mocktails, and simply taking in the homey farmhouse-inspired surroundings. Not to mention the scones, pastries, breads and other crowd favorites delivered daily from Farmers & Artisans.
If you can’t tell already, Julie and Jeff are really onto something. They are incorporating time honored cooking techniques (house pickling, sauerkrauts, jams, etc.) into dishes that are super seasonal, where you might find watermelon radishes or rainbow carrots on your plate, or you might find yourself eating a beet burger topped with pickled beet leaves.
The Blackmans have the ability to source from their own farm, other NYS farms (many that you’ve never hear of), and even Julie’s market in Snyder. They are here to represent NYS agriculture and the best craft beverage producers, according to Jeff Blackman.
At this point, the world is their oyster, which means that we all get to search for the pearls that they will inevitably produce for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a daily basis. Now, what could be better than that? The Buffalo food and beverage experience has, once again, been elevated in a way that has to be tasted to be believed.