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Lighter fare featured at many places

Dear Janice, My lady and I enjoy light meals -- mostly appetizers. We enjoy Tantalus in East Aurora. Can you recommend a similar place in the Buffalo/Amherst area? -- Fred, Buffalo

It sure is a great way to eat. Luckily, the 2011 dining scene centers around what are trendily called "small plates" -- think first courses or appetizers. In many local restaurants, you can just stick to that part of the menu and be fine.

But have you been to Sample, 242 Allen St., in Buffalo? This restaurant is devoted to the small plate idea. Most of its offerings are hors d'oeuvre size and they are well prepared, even witty. Some examples include the Sample Breakfast -- cardamom French toast topped with pork belly and a teeny tiny sunnyside-up quail egg; mussels and frites; and a trio of 4-ounce servings of soups with a house-made breadstick.

The restaurant is so on trend that it even has a mission statement -- they want to "reinvent the restaurant experience." So there.

Next, you might try a brand new restaurant, The Delaware, at 3410 Delaware Ave. near Sheridan in Tonawanda, a former ice cream shop that specializes in bar food. There are hand-cut and freshly made potato chips with spicy dip; battered asparagus frites; and pork tater tots, just like the tater tots that come out of the freezer case but this time filled with pulled pork, cheese and onion. Even the Creamy Tomato Soup comes with little grilled cheese fingers. It's noisy there so don't plan on much conversation -- but it can be fun.

Deviating from the upscale small plates theme, Fred, have you ever considered dim sum? Dim sum are the tiny, delicious Chinese dumplings and other bits that come out course by addictive course, and those plates mount up fast. They used to be offered from carts, but those days are gone around here as far as I know. You have to go to the Toronto area for that. Around here, try the family-owned Peking Garden at 3666 Delaware Ave., Town of Tonawanda, on weekends.

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