When your salivary glands prepare for the Taste of Buffalo, they usually anticipate platefuls of pulled pork, philly cheesesteaks and maybe a burrito or six -- not exactly heart-friendly food.
This year, the folks behind the Taste are trying to make it taste a little less greasy and a lot more nutritious by requiring each of its 57 participants to offer at least one healthy choice during the two-day event, which begins Saturday.
Don't put down your forks so fast. Festival favorites such as crab-cake-stuffed shrimp and smoked St. Louis Ribs are back for tasting. But for those who swear their skin starts to crawl at the mention of healthy food (defined by the Taste as containing no more than 30 percent of calories from fat and lower in cholesterol and sodium), wait until you hear the menu.
Did you ever dream fudge cake with raspberry sauce could be a healthy option? At this Taste, your dreams just may be coming true. Here's a look at the healthy choices being offered by some of this year's participants -- as well as their less waistline-friendly menu companions.
Eat healthy: Looking for a cool down? Try a cup of gazpacho, a cold vegetable and tomato soup loaded with fresh-from-the-garden ingredients, including cucumbers, zucchini, red peppers and yellow squash.
Indulge yourself: If you consider yourself a seafood savant, tasting the shrimp and crabmeat salad is a must. A combination of orzo, Gulf shrimp, crabmeat, scallions and a pinch of seasoning, the creation is tossed with a creamy shallot dressing said to resemble a ranch flavor with a hint of onion. It won best seafood item at the 2006 Taste.
>Tandoori's Royal Indian Cuisine
Eat healthy: If you're organically unadventurous, spinach chickpeas and Nann bread might sound out of your taste range, but don't let unfamiliar foods cause you fear. Give the nutritious flat bread and veggie combo a chance.
Indulge yourself: A couple of tomatoes, a dash of ginger and plenty of seasonings and salts are guaranteed to spice up your life, so get a fork and give the vegetable or chicken curry and rice dish a try.
>Fat Bob's Smokehouse
Eat healthy: Made with braised beef brisket, tomatoes, beans, veggies and seasonings, the Smokehouse's Texas chili is expected to carry a medium-spicy flavor without being a mouth-burner.
Indulge yourself: With a meat-dominated menu, the Smokehouse tent will be a carnivore's delight. Smoked St. Louis Rib won the 2006 Taste award for best meat item, but if you're interested in trying something new, change it up with a Southern-style smoked pulled pork or mac 'n' cheese.
Eat healthy: Looking for something a little offbeat, but simple in ingredients? Try JP's whole wheat portobella dijon wrap. It has roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, low-fat dijon mustard and roasted portobella mushrooms all rolled into a whole wheat tortilla wrap.
Indulge yourself: At a spice- and seafood-heavy Taste, plain chicken fingers can be the saving grace for kids (or finicky eaters). The dish comes with variety of dipping sauces on the side, including barbecue, sweet and tangy barbecue, hot sauce, ketchup and honey dressing.
Eat healthy: Those in the mood for a little Italian without the sauce can pick up a bowl of Panaro's pasta fagioli. A traditional Italian soup, the fagioli will combine two types of beans, pasta, fresh veggies and herbs and contain a kick of crushed red pepper. Top it off with a shake of Romano cheese, and you're set.
Indulge yourself: Honor the "Godfather" films and satisfy your sweet tooth at the same time by picking up some mini cannolis, stuffed with a sweetened ricotta cheese, rolled in mini chocolate chips and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
Eat healthy: Go fish with The Steer's sesame crusted, seared ahi tuna served over a salad of mesclun greens and finished off with a light wasabi- and honey-flavored vinaigrette.
Indulge yourself: Treat yourself for at least trying to go low-cal by letting some warm apple crisp melt in your mouth. Even if the Taste days are hot, you'll still be able to cool off, as the crisp is paired with a refreshing vanilla bean ice cream.
>St. Angelo's Restaurant
Eat healthy: Getting healthy doesn't mean giving up weekend favorites. Whole wheat pizza with sauce, fresh garlic and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese has the potential to kick a few calories and still satisfy your pie cravings.
Indulge yourself: If you want that garlic flavor but with a hint of grease, try the restaurant's steak-in-the-grass sandwich, which features steak, spinach and melted provolone cheese served on a toasted garlic bun.
Eat healthy: Get your sugar fix without the frosting. Instead, throw fruit into the mix and taste-test a cran-apple oat chewie, an altered version of the Village's oatmeal raisin cookie.
Indulge yourself: After taking home last year's Taste award for best dessert, the delectable decorative cupcakes are back, but with a different flavor: tutti fruiti summer delight, which includes a combination of four fruit flavors. Finished with a cherry on top, how can you refuse?
Eat healthy: If you're in a lighter food mood, pick up a famous Scharf side dish of light German potato salad. The 5 ounce sample includes brown onions, celery, a shake of salt and pepper and, of course, potatoes.
Indulge yourself: Following tradition, the restaurant will be bringing back its delicious potato pancakes, a staple at both the restaurant and previous Tastes. If you're too sick of spuds at this point, Scharf's is prepared, offering rouladen, a rolled steak stuffed with bacon and onions.
>Park Avenue Grille
Eat healthy: Start dinner with a nutritious dessert and grab a fresh fruit kabob with low-fat strawberry yogurt poppyseed dressing.
Indulge yourself: Having gained national recognition for its Buffalo wing burger, the Grille is bringing its specialty back to the Taste. The dish, which sold 4,000 at last year's festival, boasts a jazzy hamburger spiced with a blue cheese and hot sauce wing sauce, and is served on a bun.
>Clarence Center Coffee Co. and Cafe
Eat healthy: After heating up your taste buds with spices and sauces, cool them off -- way off -- with an ice-cold mango fruit and tea smoothie.
Indulge yourself: Grab some chocolate-covered espresso beans to snack on in between tasting booths.
>Louie's Original Footlong Hot Dogs
Eat healthy: An alternative to the high cholesterol, high fat summertime grill food, Louie's is offering a veggie dog, made with soy, ground veggies, garlic and seasoning. Although the veggie and hot dog may differ in ingredients, the restaurant claims the healthy choice tastes just like the real thing and will be served charcoal broiled to bring out the smoked flavoring.
Indulge yourself: If you just can't make the veggie commitment, and your stomach is still grumbling after a famous regular or footlong hotdog, go all out and grab a side of sinfully sweet sweet potato fries, served with a butter and honey glaze.