We’re beginning to think if you look up the definition of summer events in Buffalo, it would list food as the top requirement. Not only is food a staple of seemingly every event – from a concert to a lawn fete – but there are festivals devoted to specific edible delights. While we know exactly what we’re headed to eat at many festivals, sometimes the choices can be overwhelming. We’ve broken down nine food festivals to help you plan your menu before you go.
Scandinavian Folk Festival
July 15-17, Gerry Rodeo Grounds in Gerry (scandinavianjamestown.org)
OK, no Swedish Chef jokes about this Chautauqua County festival. We love the lingonberry angle here. A staple of Scandinavian cuisine, lingonberries are sometimes called “mountain cranberries” and grow wild in Sweden. Swedish meatballs come with lingonberry “sylt” or jam for the perfect savory and sweet combo. Tender meatballs in a creamy gravy paired with the sweet/tart lingonberry jam are unbelievably delicious.
Lingonberry jam comes on Norm’s Korv Burgers. Korv (sausage) meat is formed into a burger that’s served on a limpa (rye) bread bun. Swedish pancakes (think crepes) are served with lingonberry jam (10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 17 only).
Also try: Kaldomar (stuffed cabbage), bruna boner (brown beans), rotmos (mashed potatoes or rutabaga), boiled potatoes with dill and more. Thankfully lutefisk (dried whitefish) isn’t on the menu, but funny T-shirts about lutefisk are plentiful.
July 16, Village of Hamburg (hamburgburgerfest.com)
When at BurgerFest, have a burger. Arrive starving because there are lots of good choices from local joints: Armor Inn’s Tennessee Slider; Big Belly’s barbecue sirloin steak burger; Danny’s South stuffed pepper burger; Uncle Joe’s Diner mini weck burger; Grandview Drive-In shredded beef or pizza burgers.
For folks who like a simple burger, the Kiwanis Club of Holland and Boys & Girls Club of Eden will be serving a standard. Most intriguing is the Hamburg GOP serving a GOP Burger. (What could that possibly be?) Our picks are Lomo Lomo Food Truck’s Thai Penang Burger or Churrasco Burger.
St. John Maron Catholic Church Lebanese Festival
July 29-31, 2040 Wehrle Drive, Williamsville (stjohnmaron.org)
Hummus, tabouli, kibbi (bulgur/meat dish), pita – get them all here. We go right for the labor-intensive grape leaves. (For those who have never made them, they are time consuming and eaten all too fast.) The meatless are stuffed with a spiced rice filling. The meat version adds ground beef to the mix. Stuffed grape leaves are cooked in lemon juice and olive oil with some fresh tomato.
We love that this festival is relatively guilt-free. Items like hummus and tabouli are actually good for you. Plus, you and your vegetarian/vegan/gluten-free friends can gather round to eat without much fuss and muss.
Eden Corn Festival
Aug. 4-7, Route 62, Eden (edencornfest.com)
Corn is a must-have here. Served by the Eden Volunteer Fire Department, the super sweet corn is picked fresh daily, then boiled in water that gets better over time as the sugars are released into the water. Dipped in a heated butter bath, simply add salt and pepper. (Grab a wad of napkins.)
The stand also serves fresh-cut fries, so you could make a very starchy/salty meal of the two. Between 400 to 600 bags (five dozen each) are used each year. Other noteworthy eats: Eden’s own Weidner’s barbecued chicken (weidnerbbq.com) and clam chowder at the American Legion clam stand (it often sells out).
Spring Garden German-Polish Celebration
Aug. 13, 3838 Two Rod Road, East Aurora (springarden.com)
We are Poles, so you can imagine the irony when we visited the German-Polish picnic a few years back at Spring Garden (a German club) only to learn the Polish dinner had sold out. (Our opportunistic brother-in-law got one of the last dinners.)
Alas, we’d go for this year’s pork schnitzel dinner anyway. (Schnitzel refers to meat, pounded thin, coated in egg, breaded then fried.) While some eat it plain, we’re going right for the version with a creamy mushroom/wine gravy. Spätzle (those soft egg noodle/dumplings) served on the side, will soak up the sauce. Red cabbage and applesauce round out the dinner. A Polish dinner also will be served with golabki, lazy pierogi, red cabbage and cukes with sour cream. Dancing to the German and Polish bands will help work off your meal.
Cuba Garlic Fest
Sept. 17-18, Empire City Farms, 105 South St., Cuba (cubagarlicfestival.com)
Don’t plan on kissing anyone after this great little festival. Items to home in on: Moonwinks Restaurant’s garlic potato soup, EisenHearth’s garlic pesto wood-fired pizza and garlic knots, plus stuffed banana pepper and garlic pesto pierogi from Babcia’s Pierogi. Can you say carbo-licious?
Don’t miss all the unique garlics for sale at the Garlic Marketplace too. Buy them to cook with at home, or even plant some in the garden this fall.
Corpus Christi Church Dozynki Polish Harvest Festival
Sept. 24-25, 199 Clark St. (corpuschristibuffalo.org)
We love a festival that reminds us of a Polish wedding (minus the bride and groom). Drink, polka and more importantly, eat. Go right for the Polish Platter with pierogi, golabki (stuffed cabbage), sweet and sour cabbage, and smoked Polish sausage. The church notes it makes around 1,000 each kraut and cheese pierogi (potato are available, too, but our grandmother never made those, so we don’t count them). Golabki are a labor of love, with around 600-700 made for the event. The party begins each day following Mass at 11:30 a.m. So go early and say a prayer you won’t be disappointed if they sell out of your favorite.
Busti Apple Festival
Sept. 25 (11 a.m. to 5 p.m.), Lawson Road, Busti (bustihistoricalsociety.com)
While log hewing, shingle-making and flax breaking are worthy tasks to learn about at the Busti Apple Festival (which started as the Pioneer Craft Festival) in Chautauqua County, the real work goes into homemade apple pies. Visitors can purchase a piece of pie to eat or an entire pie to take home. More than 300 pies are made for the event using a variety of apples to create a perfect pie in taste and texture.
Fresh-pressed cider is on the menu, along with caramel and candy apples and mini-donuts all made fresh. We’re told youngsters really get into cranking the antique hand-cider press. All proceeds fund the maintenance of the museum and historic grist mill which operates during the Apple Festival.
Newfane Historical Society Apple Harvest Festival
Sept. 25 (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), 2685 West Creek Road, Newfane (newfanehistoricalsociety.com)
The Historical Society celebrates apple blossoms in spring and then a harvest festival in the fall at its Country Village museum. The festivals serve as fundraisers. Flea market, vendors, demonstrations, re-enactments and more are planned. And of course food, including Art Gladow’s famous chicken chowder.
Kevin Luckman inherited the chowder-making job (Art oversees the operation now). The chowder is filled with cold-weather veggies like carrots, cabbage and celery, along with chicken. Purchase chowder by the bowl, quart or gallon. Bring your own container for takeout. Come early; more than 140 gallons usually sell out by 1 p.m.
If you miss out on the chowder, also on the menu are apple cakes – a vanilla cake topped with spiced apples that’s served with vanilla ice cream. We can’t think of a more delicious way to celebrate the Western New York apple season.