Autumn is such a beautiful time of year—and it’s the perfect time to visit Buffalo and Niagara County, USA. We’ve already told you that , and as the cold sets in it signals the beginning of an impressive performing arts season. With 22 professional theatre companies there is something to discover for everyone. Catch touring Broadway shows at the stunning Shea’s Performing Arts Center or check out a multi-modal, avant-garde performance by Torn Space Theater. No matter what you choose (why not select a few?), the city offers solid entertainment at a fraction of big city prices.
Buffalo isn’t all Falls and performances though. Add sipping your way through the Niagara Wine Trail or dining in surprisingly modern eateries with some truly fine cuisine, and you have the makings of a cosmopolitan destination worthy of any weekender for a girl’s getaway or lover’s retreat.
Savor the Taste
Located just minutes from the Falls, Savor is the fine dining, teaching restaurant for Niagara Falls Culinary Institute students. The large space has a contemporary, open feel, and is bright with several distinct areas. A large chef’s table and open kitchen, filled with all-local ingredients sourced from area farms, gives Savor a genuine farm-to-table taste and feel. Because the produce is locally sourced, the menu changes with the seasons, allowing the students the opportunity to experiment with different foods based on growing seasons.
With floor-to ceiling windows, the sun shines in and illuminates the comfortable space adding to its contemporary feel. The restaurant boasts a wood-stone oven (with really tasty pizzas), an impressive wine selection with a generous bar area, and everything is overseen by a healthy mix of professionals and students. Make sure to try the Steak in the Grass and BLT pizzas, as well as the gnocchi with wild mushrooms, roasted tomatoes, and artichokes in fresh pesto cream sauce.
Before you leave, stop by the Culinary School’s on-site pastry shop. The sight and smell of the pasties will have you wanting to try one of everything.
The Niagara Wine Trail, USA doesn’t get played up as much as its Canadian counterpart, but it is home to several award-winning wineries that are worth a visit for anyone driving through for a weekender. Make sure to visit several wineries where you can sample local Rieslings, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc and Sauvignon Blancs in addition to meads, ciders and the sweeter, late harvest and icewines.
Long Cliff Vineyard and Winery is a family run business, with a fun family farm story. Originally a Welch’s grape farm, Grandpa DeMaison turned the place into a winery and will tell you that all farming “is about patience” and that “while Niagara’s known for sugary sweet, pop-style wines, we’re swimming against the stream with our semi-dry wines.” Try the Blauer Himmel, a semi-dry red blend made from Blaufränkisch grapes (similar to gamay). Created for the late Grandma DeMaison, you’ll enjoy the dark red fruit on the nose with the taste of raspberry, blackberry and pepper with clove on the finish. It’s full flavored and lightly sweet, with soft tannins making it an easy, enjoyable sipper.
The selection over at A Gust of Sun are spot-on in Grandpa DeMaison’s sugary description, so it will appeal to anyone who enjoys sweeter wines. During your tasting you’ll enjoy perfectly paired local chocolates for a nice bonus. Sweet Diamond ’14’s bouquet of sweet honey blossoms will hit you before you lift the glass, and is packed with rich tropical fruit flavors. It lingers well on the tongue with a long, silky finish, pairing perfectly with a tart, key lime, coconut white chocolate. Also try their signature wine, the Trismegistus. A dry red blend of Cab Franc, Cab Sauv and Merlot, you’ll get the earth and mineral notes on the nose, with a full, deep, dark red fruit flavour on the palette, this wine pairs perfectly with a blackberry, cherry and raspberry dark chocolate.
Taste your way through the Niagara Wine County one winery at a time, and round out your experience with a visit to a local farm, antiques shopping, or a stay at any of the boutique B&B’s throughout the region.
Rustic, with Love
Supper at Carmelo’s is an absolute must when in Lewiston. The cozy restaurant has a lovely rustic atmosphere, and the staff treat you like family. Chef Carmelo Raimondi’s motto is “food is like life, the less you complicate it, the better it tastes,” and its unlikely his meals could taste any better. Begin your adventure with the lobster ceasar, with large chunks of meat, generously portioned, buttery, light, and silky smooth. Also try the crispy squid served with mixed greens, smoked peanuts and chili-lime dressing. The dish is crisp with a slight bite, and spiciness, with flavors that all blend together beautifully.
The pasta highlight not to be missed is the lumache, made with large, Florida gulf shrimp, vodka sauce and basil-pignole pesto. Slightly buttery, and creamy, it is absolutely delicious, and will leave you wanting to lick your plate clean. Absolute perfection.
From Scratch Tastes So Good
Toutant is a delightful Southern-style restaurant that enjoys a full house, day after day. Housed in a beautifully renovated, century building, it combines old with new in both aesthetics, and family food traditions. The restaurant takes its name from Chef James Robert’s great grandfather’s Louisiana turn of the century trapping, and fishing camp. Most items on the menu are created from scratch, in-house, and dishes are made with loving attention to detail. Boasting a vast, hand curated whiskey collection, and beignets that would give Café Du Monde’s offerings a run for their money, make your reservations early, and make sure to arrive hungry.
Luxury Accommodations, Fantastic Views
The Giacomo cannot be missed in the Niagara skyline and it shouldn’t be missed on your travels. The striking art deco building was painstakingly restored to grandeur, after spending years abandoned and neglected. Luxury at its finest, the building houses spacious residential and hotel suites with soaring ceilings, pillow-top beds with crisp linens you won’t want to climb out of, and beautifully appointed décor. Visit the top floor lounge area for breathtaking day and night-time views of the thunderous Falls.
Enjoy complimentary valet, and concierge services with staff that are friendly, charming, and eager to please. The Giacomo Lounge offers a wide variety of drink options, various seating areas, and a gorgeous granite bar—it’s a great spot to enjoy an evening. You’ll absolutely love the included European style continental breakfast, including eggs, fresh waffles with all the fixings, bacon, sausage, a variety of breads and spreads, and your pick of teas, and fresh coffee, make sure you’re up in enough time to indulge.
Whether it’s shopping, art hopping, taking in music or a show, discovering the wine trail, or new eats, Niagara, Buffalo, and their surrounding areas has something to offer for all, and is sure to please, any time of year. Consider visiting this Autumn and even into the Winter months. Part of Buffalo’s renaissance includes an array of winter-related attractions for the entire family, your girlfriend’s retreat, or couple’s getaway.