Share this article

print logo

These can’t-miss treats enhance pleasures of the season

Cannoli

Where: Italian Festival

There are other fine cannoli available at the Italian Festival, but most of those can also be obtained at other times of the year.

Not the Muscarella’s cannoli, whose rich ricotta filling, crisp fried shell and generations-in-the-making reputation has customers lining up on Hertel Avenue festival after festival.

For four days (July 16-19), descendants of the Buffalo bakery family get back into the business.

This Italian Festival will mark 100 years since the Muscarella bakery first opened, said family spokeswoman and assistant cannoli filler Angela Berti. It also marks the last year of service of Muscarella family cannoli chairman Anthony Muscarella, who will be handing the reins to the fourth generation of Muscarellas.

“We invite everyone to come to the corner of Lovering and Hertel to see what history tastes like,” Berti said.

Clams

Where: Steve the Clam Guy at MT Pockets, 1519 Hertel Ave.

Clams – raw, steamed and stuffed – are a Buffalo staple. That makes declaring your choice for the best clams in town a sure-fire argument starter.

What is beyond debate is that Steve Meli is the rare clam guy with a following of his own. In more than 30 years of selling clams and other seafood delights in the Queen City, Meli has opened up his summertime-only business in numerous venues on Elmwood and Hertel avenues, and an assortment of waterfront locations. During the winter he flies back to Las Vegas and drives a limousine.

He’s back in town, and MT Pockets is the 2015 Clam Guy site.

What draws the crowds, besides Meli’s passion for fresh seafood, is seven different kinds of clams casino, including Cajun, crab-and-shrimp, lobster, and his Casino Royales, topped with shrimp, scallop and lobster all on one half-shell.

Does his casino breadcrumb mix contain garlic? “There’s enough garlic in there to make you talk with your hands for the rest of your life,” he said with characteristic gusto.

He’s usually got a wide selection of oysters too. People can find him from around noon to 10 p.m., except for Sundays, when he serves from around 5 to 10 p.m.

Corn

Where: Eden Corn Festival

The festival celebrates one of Western New York’s best homegrown foods. Nothing comes close in taste to fresh cooked sweet corn picked the day or even hours before being eaten.

Eden Volunteer Fire Company #1 runs two stands that serve corn and fresh cut curly fries. The festival is the company’s major fundraiser. From current and past members to wives, children and grandkids, everyone pitches in to husk, cook and serve.

Corn comes from four Eden farm families: Agle, Zittel, Henry and Brawdy. It’s picked as needed throughout the festival to ensure freshness. While it varies from year-to-year, between 400-600 bags (each five dozen ears) are used.

A time-honored tradition, corn is cooked in the same water over the course of the festival to maintain the natural sugars. Once cooked, the corn is rolled in a heated butter bath and served. (Un-buttered is available, but who would eat that?)

Like shoats to a trough, patrons head to tall tables stocked with salt, pepper and plenty of napkins to stand and eat the super sweet, absolutely fresh corn that is both tender and crisp with each bite. One could make a meal out of the corn and curly fries, which are also cut to order using locally grown potatoes. For a full dinner, we recommend a little maneuvering. Gather your corn and fries from the firemen then meet up at the Eden Chamber stand for chicken barbecue for a true taste of summer.

The Eden Corn Festival runs Thursday, Aug. 6 through Sunday, Aug. 9. edencornfest.com

Fried dough

Where: Anywhere

At nearly any fair, lawn fete or festival, you can find a food truck frying up these oversized warm discs of dough. They are deceptively simple to make and even easier to suit to your taste: add a dusting of powdered sugar, a sweet mixture of cinnamon and sugar or perhaps a dollop of jam or jelly. Whatever your choice, one bite of fried dough will take you back to your childhood.

Fried mashed potatoes on a stick

Where: Erie County Fair

This unusual treatment of the spud became a favorite junk food for Food Editor Andrew Galarneau when he attended the fair last summer. Cubes of garlic mashed potatoes were battered, deep fried and skewered on a stick. Be sure to dunk the pieces in the seasoned mayonnaise dipping sauce.

Kettle corn

Where: Bye’s Popcorn, Route 78, Olcott (byespopcorn.com)

In life there are folks who eat popcorn, then those who are popcorn connoisseurs. For them we offer up Bye’s Popcorn in Olcott. Located along Route 78 (Lockport-Olcott Road), Bye’s opened in 1923 to serve beachgoers fresh popcorn and caramel corn. In 1970, Patricia Drewes took over and today, along with her daughter Trisha, continues the tradition.

Bye’s is really a roadside stand. So (safely) launch your vehicle along the side of the road and be prepared to wait because the popcorn is that good.

Popped fresh, Bye’s uses a special white popcorn kernel that is more tender when popped. While the lightly salted popcorn with butter is delicious, it’s the caramel versions folks drive miles for.

A secret recipe of homemade caramel is used to create three original versions: plain caramel, caramel with red skinned peanut and caramel cashew. Sticky, sweet and crunchy, it hits all the high notes of snack food. New this year is the deluxe version with cashew, almonds, pecans and Brazil nuts. Call ahead. It goes fast. Bye’s will do its best to accommodate.

Trisha notes Bye’s popcorn has no preservatives and travels well, too. Served in a wax paper bag, if you cannot finish, simply put the entire bag into a Ziploc and into the freezer. Many customers stock up at the end of the season to make it through the winter.

Bye’s is open for the summer through September 4-10 p.m. daily and 1-10 p.m. weekend. Then weekends October-November. Open the first three Sundays in December for the preordered two-gallon holiday tins. Cheese popcorn is available at this time too. Bye’s opens for the season in March for the Olcott Polar Bear Swim. byespopcorn.com

Milkshakes

Where: Taffy’s, 3261 Orchard Park Road, Orchard Park

An area fixture since 1949, Taffy’s sits at the busy “Five Corners” intersection in Orchard Park serving favorite summer fare including char-broiled hot dogs, burgers and fries. But it’s that chalkboard listing more than 100 flavors of milkshakes or “Moo’s” as they call it, that truly tempts. How popular are the Taffy’s milkshakes? So popular, they need their own food truck which you can find at various outdoor locations throughout the area.

Those Moo’s come in two sizes, regular (24 ounces for $4.88), which is so thick and creamy it’s large enough for two, and the family sized quart ($6.99). Add $1 for a malt. The shakes are made with real milk and hand-packed ice cream. If that’s too heavy for you, try the fruit sparkler, in flavors like creamsicle, made without the milk.

Among the many Moo flavors are Cottoncandy, Fruit Loops (lemon, orange and cherry), Fuzzynavel (peach, orange), Burrrberry (blueberry, strawberry) and Hurricane (pineapple, coconut, banana). Love bananas? Try the Banana Nut, Banana Squeeze, Banana Split or Banana Foster. Chocolate fans have more than 20 choices including Cara Moo (marshmallow, caramel, chocolate), Orange Truffle (orange, chocolate), Strawberry Cheesecake Truffle, Fluff n Nutter and Black Forest.

Souvlaki

Where: Canal Fest of the Tonawandas

If you’re exploring Canal Fest, you might hear a faint “Ole, ole, souvlaki today” rising from Holy Protection Orthodox Church’s food stand on Youngs Street, not far from the intersection with Niagara Street. One reason the sound may be distant at first is the line of expectant customers, likely the longest for any food stand at the annual summer festival.

Why do these festivalgoers dodge fried dough and kettlecorn for a Greek classic? The heart of the souvlaki – well-seasoned, tender beef or chicken – is grilled as you wait, while puffy pita bread is lightly toasted for each order. Lettuce, onions, tomatoes, feta cheese and a special Greek dressing are the add-ons as desired, although these also stand proudly in the spotlight for the vegetarian souvlaki.

Don’t be intimidated by the line: it moves quickly, as eight or more employees during peak time can serve six to eight sandwiches per minute. Events

Looking for food-centric events? Add these dates to your calendar:

Taste of Buffalo: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, Delaware Avenue, downtown

Canal Fest of the Tonawandas, July 13-19.

Galbani Italian Festival, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. July 16-20, along Hertel Avenue in North Buffalo.

Taste of Niagara Falls, noon to 10 p.m. Aug. 1, Old Falls Street, Niagara Falls.

Erie County Fair, Aug. 13-23, Hamburg Fairgrounds.

Eden Corn Fest, Aug. 6-9. American Legion Grounds, 2912 Legion Drive, Eden.

Burger Fest, 11:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. July 18, Main and Buffalo streets, Hamburg.