The Western New York restaurant scene is unique in that its members are not just colleagues, they're a family. Much like the Buffalo population in general, the culinary crew cares about each other, and while they may compete for reviews, customers and accolades, they have each other's backs when it counts.
Tracy was diagnosed with ALS in 2010, and in 2011, started the Iron Event to help raise money for his care and a local culinary agricultural center. The event features an "Iron Chef"-style amuse bouche competition, with chefs sending out their best to tempt attendees' palates. There is also a ticket auction with more than $2,500 worth of prizes.
With more than 300 tickets sold and the Hotel @ the Lafayette's three ballrooms packed to the chandeliers, it's safe to say the Iron Event closed out its fifth successful evening with full stomachs and satisfied taste buds.
This year's dishes were sent out by chefs Edward Forster (Buffalo Proper), Jennifer Boye (The Mansion on Delaware), Jeffrey Cooke (Osteria 166), Bruce Wieszala (Coppo), Chris Daigler (Bourbon & Butter), Lennon Lewandowski (Oliver’s), Steven and Ellen Gedra (The Black Sheep), Jill Forster (Nickel City Cheese and Mercantile), Edward Dolski (Foundry), Andrew Giordano (Lockport Country Club), Michael Obarka (Ristorante Lombardo), Matt DiCamillo (DiCamillo’s Bakery), Chaz Bulera (Riverstone Grill), RJ Marvin (Barrel + Brine), Frank Mercado (M&T’s Executive Dining Room), Victor Parra Gonzalez (Jaguar at the Bistro) and James Roberts (Toutant), with cocktails by Tony Rials (Bourbon & Butter).
Dishes ranged widely in style, complexity and execution, ranging from brie ice cream on a brown butter shortbread with spicy honey and nuts from Nickel City Cheese, to chicken liver mousse line with fermented black beans, puffed rice and a charred garlic scape (Beans n Rice, naturally) from Buffalo Proper and a red snapper ceviche from Jaguar at the Bistro.
New player Coppo, the brainchild of former Bourbon & Butter chef Wieszala, served a homemade spam sammie that showcased Wieszala's legendary charcuterie skills.
Newcomer Barrel + Brine sent out a traditional Bossam, shredded beef over rice with pickled vegetables and kimchi, to roll out the pickled fare the shop will soon sell on Carolina Street.
Guests were all issued ballots with which to vote for their favorites, rating them on a scale of 1-5 and then placing a "x" by the best of the night.
*Riverstone Grill for a duck confit tostada with roasted beet and apple salsa, chipotle cinnamon cream, dark cherry BBQ sauce and queso fresco
*Barrel + Brine for its bossam
*Lockport Country Club for the "Asian Beef Invasion," braised beef short ribs with chili, garlic and lime sauce, chopped peanuts, cilantro and scallions, topped with crispy won-tons
*Osteria 166 for an elk burger on a donut hole
*Barbecue force Toutant, sending out Roberts' succulent brisket.
Each of the offers was both delicious and beautifully presented, but what was even more so was the spirit of camaraderie that pervaded the competition.
As one diner remarked while shoveling down Buffalo Proper's Beans n' Rice: "If I were to get sick, I hope they'd show up this way for me."
If the annual success of the Iron Event is any indication, I think they would. Because that's Buffalo. Even when we're competing, we're all in this together.
Info: The Iron Event, Sept. 14 at the Hotel @ the Lafayette
Lizz Schumer writes about food, drink and whimsy for Buffalo.com and other publications. She is the content manager for Resurgence Brewing Company and can be found online at facebook.com/lizzschumer, @eschumer and lizzschumer.com