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5 compelling food and drink events for January in Buffalo

Comfort is necessary for January in Buffalo. It's bitterly cold and rarely sunny, the conditions that make Buffalonians tough – but also give them the reputation as a city that loves its food and drink.

January sparkles with these annual events, enticing attendees with gooey macaroni and cheese, hard-to-find craft beers and stomach-warming soups.

Here are five worth considering, with all but one of the events presenting multiple sessions.

Buffalo on Tap, two sessions: 1 to 4 p.m. and 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Jan. 11 in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center (153 Franklin St.); americaontap.com. General admission is $40; VIP, which features entry an hour early, is $60 in advance. See full ticket details.

America on Tap craft beer events now extend from Honolulu to Maine, and this is the eighth annual event in the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center. The second floor will be filled with craft-beer lovers on the hunt for new and old tastes; more than 100 beers will be available for sampling from roughly 50 breweries – from as close as Pearl Street to as far as Warstein, Germany.

Specific beers are displayed on the event website with a long line of sours and New England India Pale Ales – two of the trendiest styles – dotting the list. Decide on a few must-try beers in advance, then munch on a pretzel necklace and start sampling.

Mac Attack, three sessions: 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., 1:30 to 3 p.m. and 3:30 to 5 p.m. Jan. 19 at 500 Pearl's Forbes Theater and Grand Aeries Ballroom; Kiss985.radio.com. Tickets are $20 in advance.

Even with two sessions last year, the Mac Attack – where customers wander between restaurant booths to sample macaroni and cheese – sold out well in advance. The Entercom production has added an additional session for 2020 and gets cheesy in a new venue: the swanky and spacious 500 Pearl. Search for the Mac Attack on Facebook to learn the participating restaurants when they're released.

Admission includes a macaroni and cheese sample from each vendor, plus a chance to vote for your favorite to receive the Golden Noodle. The best part? Each person receives a to-go container so you don't have to gorge yourself on cheese.

Niagara Wine and Beer Fest, 5 to 9 p.m. Jan. 25 at Kenan Arena (195 Beattie Ave., Lockport); niagarawineandbeerfest.com. General admission is $30 in advance, with VIP for $55 and including entrance an hour early, reserved parking, a wine discount and a gift bag. See full ticket details.

A contrast from Buffalo on Tap, the wine and beer bonanza in Kenan Arena focuses exclusively on local businesses, with at least 14 breweries and 10 wineries slated to attend. Tragically Hip tribute band Strictly Hip and resilient frontman Jeremy Hoyle will handle the music duties.

Should hunger strike, a handful of area of restaurants will boast booths on site, including Shamus, Lock 34 and Molinaro's. Admission includes a $5 food voucher.

Wine and Chocolate Festival, two sessions: 1 to 4 p.m. and 5 to 8 p.m. Jan. 25 at Buffalo Grand Hotel (120 Church St.); wineandchocolatefestivals.com. Tickets are $30 in advance; designated driver tickets are $10; full ticket on Eventbrite.

The decadence and luxury of the wine and chocolate combination has lured scores of Buffalonians to this touring event each year.

The premise is simple: representatives from local and regional wineries pour wines for unlimited sampling; chocolate and cheese purveyors hang nearby for sustenance; out-of-town boutiques, crafters and jewelers complement the food-and-drink focus. Two sessions keep the crowd spread out so you don't have to wait 45 minutes for a sip of merlot.

Buffalo Soup-Fest, two sessions: 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 3 to 5:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Buffalo RiverWorks (359 Ganson St.); buffalosoupfest.com. Tickets are $4 in advance and soup samples range from $2 to $3 apiece. Parking is $5.

Soup-Fest is officially a decade old. The soup-sampling event's growth has been exponential: it quickly overcrowded the Millennium Hotel in favor of the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, and now Soup-Fest heads to RiverWorks for the first time.

Space is limited to 5,000 attendees – 2,500 at each session – with 25 restaurants offering at least three varieties apiece. Stay tuned to buffalonews.com for suggestions of soups to try; take an early peek at the menu.

Additional entertainment will include music by local singer-songwriter Sara Elizabeth and high-energy trivia by Quiz Master Dennis George.

email: btsujimoto@buffnews.com

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