Now, back to business. We loaded up the family truckster on Saturday morning with a beauty queen and our fancy threads, and hightailed it to the Queen City (Buffalo) for the Miss Niagara pageant. Needless to say, a good time was had by all. There was shopping and eating and eating and shopping, plus some sequins and a lot of laughter. The best kind of weekend getaway!
Nine out of 10 busboys find these pretty young things ogle-worthy
My parents, our Miss TI Allison, our former Miss TI Kristina and I did dinner at the Creekview Restaurant in Williamsville for a number of reasons. First off, Allison’s a vegetarian, so going to Grover’s for cheeseburger soup, wings and gigantic, sloppy burgers wasn’t going to fly. In addition, we were staying at the lovely Courtyard Amherst, and attending the pageant in Lockport, so going all the way into Buffalo proper for dinner would have been out of the way. Incidentally, this hotel is going through a pretty luxe renovation right now, the rooms were reasonable, clean, and had a cool extra sink area outside the bathroom that was a nice feature. A good place to stay if you decide to give Buffalo a try.
The atmosphere at Creekview is instantly welcoming. The warm, knotty-pine-paneled walls and gorgeous, rushing creek view render you relaxed and ravenous before the menu can even hit your table. We ordered a very Buffalonian starter: stuffed banana peppers, as well as a Mediterranean mezze plate that I knew Allison would enjoy. Stuffed banana peppers seem to be on the appetizer menu of every restaurant in Buffalo, from four star to wing dive. These passed the hiccup test with a hefty dose of capsaicin, and were stuffed with a nice, firm, herbed ricotta. They were swimming in a buttery, spicy light broth. It could have just been EVOO and juice from the peppers, but I liked it. These babies aren’t for the faint of heart or the ulcered of stomachs, but they suited me just fine, and Dad seemed to like them, too.
The mezze platter of toasted pita triangles, pesto, tapenade, roasted red peppers and goat cheese was a hit with the whole table. Dad was the table-side preparER of macked-out pitas for each of us, constructing perfect bites of creamy cheese and righteous, earthy black olive tapenade. The pesto with this was very light compared to even the pesto I make at home. I suspect there was some parsley cut into this, very little pine nut and parmesan in the sauce, and a blended oil instead of straight EVOO.
I didn’t get a picture of Dad’s butternut squash soup, but if this is du jour when you hit the Creekview, order it. It was very complex for a squash soup, which is so often cloyingly sweet. This rendering was cheesy, with a hint of nutmeg and something else, I’m guessing beer, to cut the saccharine squashiness and add splendid depth of flavor.
Rather than order a full entrée, I chose two items off Creekview’s small plates list for my dinner. I wasn’t crazy about the shrimp and grits, and honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking ordering these above the Mason Dixon line. The shrimp were cooked a little past how I prefer them, and the sauce they were in – a loose, garlicky, spiced tomato sauce – was satisfyingly garlicky, but not deep enough in flavor for me. I like my shrimp and grits sauce redolent with Worchestershire and hot sauces, and green onions. Whither the green onions? The grit cake was firmer than I like as well, but nice and cheesy. I just think grits need to be creamy in order to meld with the sauce and make a cohesive dish. Apparently, Creekview’s chef has another point of view, which is fine, but I’m not a fan.
Pet peeve: the plate wasn’t wiped before it was brought to me. See all the red splatters?
The potato pancakes, however, completely saved the day. These were super – thin, fried discs of shredded potatoes and onions, made surprisingly sweet either by the onion or maybe some shredded apple in the mix? I’m not sure on that one, but what I do know is that the chunky, homemade apple sauce served alongside was bangin’, and the sour cream and bacon also accompanying made for one happy, big Shelby who was no longer hungry.
Dad ordered another item from the Buffalo pantheon of required eating: beef on weck. For the uninitiated, this is a roast beef sandwich on a “kimmelweck” white roll studded with coarse-ground salt and caraway seeds. Creekview’s is served with really gorgeous French fries and a side of horseradish. With all the salt, you’d think this would be one of my faves, but I actually find the caraway seeds to be overwhelming. Dad liked it, and said the beef was tender, but I don’t think it knocked him out, necessarily.
The other notable dish on the table was Allison’s ravioli, in a basil and walnut pesto cream sauce, accented with artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers. Allie was a fan of her dish. Again, I found the pesto flavor to be a bit timid for me – but maybe that’s because I’m not a big walnut person? I love an old-school, classic Genovese pesto, rich with cheesy pine nuts and nutty parmesan. None of this wimpy, parsley and spinach-infused walnut pesto tomfoolery! Goodness, I’m digressing from the dish, which Allie quite liked. The ravioli were nice and firm, the sauce wasn’t overly heavy, and the artichokes tasted fresh rather than canned. It was good, and look how pretty:
Again, though: see the feeble plate-wiping attempt that did not succeed? Only Type A me would ever notice this. Oh, and the judges on Top Chef.
Kristina ordered the penne parm, and Mom had the chopped sirloin. Neither were bowled over. Mom’s steak was a little overdone, and I think Kristina’s was a little blah. In addition, our service was rather slow, although it was Saturday evening and the place was jamming. We wanted dessert, but had to rush to make the pageant after spending an hour and 40 minutes on our three courses. I took a vote on the BHS score, which I have averaged and rounded up per my own prerogative (it is my blog, after all) to a 6.5. And that’s about right – while some of the items on this menu were lovingly crafted, others were sort of weak. The ambiance was lovely and the hostess friendly, but our server was just the slightest bit gruff, and if any of the busboys stopped and stared at our table again (remember: beauty queens, fancy threads), I was going to throw pesto on them.
You know, I would actually recommend Creekview Restaurant as a fantastic lunch stop. I was most happy with the smaller plates and appetizers on the menu, and despite my caraway aversion, Dad’s sandwich looked pretty yummy. That soup was killer, and the pancakes were divine. So add Creekview to your standby list for a future Buffalo visit, and stay tuned, because next week, I have a review of the breakfast spot we hit the following morning, which completely knocked my socks off: Betty’s, on Virginia St. in Buffalo.
I’m so glad I was finally able to make it out to Western New York for a blogging trip. To add to the fun, Shawn, Melinda, BLD and I are visiting Big Hungry Rob and Big Hungry Chris in Rochester at the end of March, so I’m hoping for some yum-o writing after that. I want to head back to Buffalo to hit up a few more notable establishments, like Grover’s, which was featured on my beloved Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, as well as Pano’s (one-time sous chefery of Gabe Aubertine, of Bella’s and Fireside fame), The Chocolate Bar, and Fat Bob’s Smokehouse. Do you have a favorite Buffalo eatery I need to check out, or do you live there and would like to host me for a weekend? Spill it in the comments, below! My personality is big, my hunger is bigger!