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Portuguese restaurant debuts in East Aurora

Western New York’s first Portuguese restaurant has opened in East Aurora.

Bica e Vinho is located in the former East Aurora powerhouse, 261 Mill Road, beside a Cazenovia Creek waterfall.

The food menu is small, to start, with nine offerings, but the place only opened Aug. 24.

“We make a pate from imported sardines, our octopus is from Portugal. Everything, down to our spices, comes from Portugal,” said owner Lisa DeCarlo. There’s cod cakes, a Portuguese panzanella salad, and seared octopus or shrimp, with Portuguese chimichurri and hot sauce. For the do-it-yourselfers, there’s Portuguese chourico sausage diners can grill to their liking over a tabletop burner.

The wine list is much more extensive than the food menu at this point, with 22 of Portugal’s wine regions represented by the glass, DeCarlo said. Counting bottles, she said, Bica e Vinho is offering wine from all of Portugal’s 26 wine regions, plus the Azores and Madeira islands. There’s also port and fortified Madeira wines.

“I’m half Portuguese, and we fell in love with Portugal six years ago, and started traveling there,” said DeCarlo, who runs the place with husband Dan Buscaglia.

By trade, she’s a designer for construction build-outs. When she saw the former powerhouse, she figured she’d move her design studio there, and perhaps open a small coffeehouse, she said.

They returned to Portugal for coffee training, and came back planning to open a complete restaurant. “We seat about 60 people and have two patios,” she said.

Hours: 11 a.m to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday; 4 to 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Phone: 714-9298.

Sun picks Williamsville: Sun Restaurant, Buffalo’s first Burmese place, is expanding to Williamsville with its third location.

Owner Kevin Lin said he’s working on making Sun’s menu of Burmese, Thai and Asian fusion dishes available by mid-November. He hopes to have about 120 seats and a patio at the former Great Northern Pizza Kitchen space, 5759 Main St.

“It’s been my dream to open a location there to get more customers,” said Lin.

The menu will be largely unchanged from his original location, 1989 Niagara St., which he opened in 2010 with his wife Stephanie.

Sun Roll, a quick-service operation specializing in Burmese sushi burritos and other fast fare, is open in EXPO, the upscale food hall at 617 Main St.

The Williamsville location will have beer and wine, and a sushi offering Sun’s specialty, sushi based on black rice, a nutty rice variety akin to wild rice. “I will serve white rice sushi too,” he said. “But black rice is still our specialty.”

New distillery: The old Barrel Factory has a new craft distillery, Lakeward Spirits, and a trendy fermented tea maker, Snowy Owl Kombucha.

Lakeward Spirits makes all-grain vodka using barley, wheat and rye. It will release a gin in the fall and a rum in time for the holidays. Whiskey will eventually join its lineup as well. All of its raw grains and malt are grown in New York State in Niagara, Genesee and Monroe counties.

The company’s Grain Canyon vodka retails for $32 per 750 milliliter bottle. The name Grain Canyon comes from a local nickname for the cluster of grain silos cut through by the Buffalo River.

The company worked with the Buffalo Riverkeeper to create its water conservancy best practices. As part of that, it came up with a 5,000-gallon reservoir under the lobby which recycles its coolant water. The company also gives its spent grain to local farms for composting and feed.

The distillery’s 21,000-square-foot space boasts several reclaimed elements. It also includes production space, two barrel rooms, a reception space, and a tasting room. The second floor has two holes that allow visitors to look onto the production floor.

“We mill, mash, ferment, distill and bottle at the Barrel Factory,” said Chris Sasiadek, a vice president at the distillery. “The only things we don’t do are grow the grain or malt it. Both are done locally, though.”

Snowy Owl Kombucha is owned by Andrew Bannister and Tara Sasiadek, Chris’ wife.

The Barrel Factory is located at 65 Vandalia St. in the Old First Ward. - Samantha Christmann

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