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The Week In Yum March 29-April 4 Trader Joe's, Lamesa, Boots and Bourbon and Tabule

a million tulips from my friend, PJ

Saturday was my birthday. Not just any birthday either because on Saturday, I turned 50 for god's sake. FIFTY
birthday gifts and my beloved Neighours decorated my door
There I am, sitting at the half century mark and how do I choose to celebrate? Do I go for a huge party where we gather all of my friends, past and present and drink champagne till the sun comes up? Do I demand to be flown to NYC so that I can be standing on the top of the Empire State Building at the stroke of midnight and howl into the wind "YOU KNOW NOTHING JOHN SNOW!"

 Nope. I asked for a day trip to Buffalo, NY, so we could shop at the new Trader Joe's and Shack made it so. Some women might want to go on a shopping spree at Holt Renfrew or a day at the spa but noooooooooo, all I really want to do is go and buy some groceries at Trader Joe's. I have only been to the small, dingy Boston Trader Joe so, for me,  this store was a revelation. It is a brand new, bright, shiny store and, frankly,  I was completely overwhelmed. It was pretty jam packed seeing that it's still very new and it was a Saturday afternoon. Hard as he tried to mask it, I could not stop feeling Shack's impending meltdown if we stayed too long. He doesn't do well in crowded stores where people are bumping into you with their carts, blocking the aisles while they peruse the imported red peppers and lolly gag while he is trying to get to the damned cheese. 
I had a list that I had compiled based on recommendations from my American friends who shop TJs all the time and so I just started grabbing stuff. It was like a challenge on The Great Race. The Kid had a blast in the snack aisle and filled the cart with all manner of things dipped in chocolate. We got chocolate covered potato chips, caramels, chocolate dipped caramels that are rolled in pistachios and dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Of course, because he is a weirdo, he also grabbed a big bag of wild salmon jerky as well but he loves it and said to buy it again when i return. I took the condiment aisle and snagged a 1L bottle of imported Greek Olive oil for $7 and a soup can sized can of wild salmon for $3.25. My only regret is that we did NOT get the $4.99 burrata cheese because despite the fact that it was easily half the price of the same product here, Shack was sure it would be even cheaper at Wegmans. It is not cheaper at Wegmans. That is where we always go there for cheap cheese, cherry coke, Poland Springs water,  Hagen Daz and rotel and that was to be our next stop. I was pretty thrilled to realize that Trader Joe's is right around the corner from our favourite Wegmans. It doesn't take much to thrill me.

everything we have tried so far has been pretty fabulous but that delicious crunchy spekulas butter..WHAT??????

lemon curd lemon cupcakes were waiting for me  from The Neighbours

 Because I am fifty, Shack forgave me when I chose this restaurant based on the fact that I thought it was right by the Trader Joe. Trader Joe's is at 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd and Suzy-Q's BBQ Shack is at 2829 Niagara St in Buffalo. It wasn't until we got to the restaurant that I realized that Niagara Falls Blvd and Niagara St are not even remotely close to one another, never mind the same road.

In any case, the food was not the best BBQ but pretty good on the whole. It was on the ugliest road ever, unhelped by the grey, dead late winter scenery I am sure but the whole waterfront area of Buffalo is pretty depressing and horrible. If we were not looking a specific address, I would not have stopped the car and although It was very sketchy looking on the outside, once in the restaurant, our cheerful waitress made us feel welcome and relaxed. I had read that the smoked Polish sausage they serve is out of this world and I am glad that I did because I would have skipped it otherwise. The pulled pork was fine, the bbq sauces were fine, the ribs were tasty but could stand a longer cooking time so that they would fall off the bone a bit and be easier to chew but the smoked sausage was the bomb. I would absolutely go back just for that alone. The sausage continued to taste fine to me for the next twelve hours, if you get my drift, but the burping was a small price to pay for such soft, tender, smoky sausage. We usually eat at Kentucky Greg's but it isn't really near the Trader Joe's so this place is a good alternative for us even though they are not, as I had thought, on the same street.

On Sunday, we laid low and had a great dinner next door with The Neighbours who made me baked beans and ribs. Her baked beans are the only from scratch baked beans that I die for and I am going to post her recipe as soon as I can pry it from her little fingers. I do know that there is probably about a pound of bacon in there so it's most likely not a diet dish but they are addictive.

My lovely friend, Dianne took me to dinner at Tabule  on Queen St East on Monday evening and the food was as delicious as it was when I had lunch there back in December. We shared the meze trio with babaganuj, labni and tabule with a side of their wonderous falafel. They are my favourite falafel in the city right now and I could probably live off them for an entire week. We also ordered the garlic shrimp and the kefta and, as you can see, the portions are quite generous and just made for sharing.  I could have done with more heat in the spicy shrimp but the kefta, perfectly spiced skewers of a lamb/beef mixture were my favourite. Monday is also bring your own wine night so it makes it an even more attractive choice for a Monday night where most of my favourite spots are closed. The restaurant offers their corkage free 2 bottle/table limit special on Tuesdays as well. Ascari and Table 17 are two other Leslieville spots that offer a similar bring your own wine nights and it really makes a big difference in the bill. I certainly go out of my way to choose a place where I can bring my own wine from home and spend more of my money on food when I can. This was my first visit at dinner time to Tabule and I can't wait to go back with the boys.

Monday was yet another birthday dinner with my two Dianne's at Tabule

a trip to T&T for provisions, lunch and these weird chocolate green tea frozen dessert treats YUM

Wednesday was Chili Verde Pastitsio, a successful experiment in fusing Greek and Mexican cuisine

photo by Shack

Thursday I was invited to the grand opening of Wildfire Steakhouse and Winebar at the Cosmopolitan Hotel. Although a lovely looking space, It was way too packed for me to even really check it out properly so I am going to have return at another time. We left after having a drink and found ourselves lucky and loose and in need of dinner. Since we were already downtown, I took Shack to Lamesa to experience the crispy pata for himself. I, not very subtly, reminded the owner,Les, that chef Rudy had promised me a plate of deep fried chicken skin and lo and behold, a container of deep fried chicken skin was whisked under my nose in the blink of an eye, accompanied by a bottle of chili garlic vinegar. I didn't think it was possible for deep fried chicken skin, or CHICKARRON™ as I have just decided to trademark, could be any tastier until I dipped it into the garlic chili vinegar. I thought Shack was going to die right there on the spot. So absolutely great - crispy, salty, crunchy chicken skin and the vinegar just kind of cuts the fat and give it a little push. My new favourite thing. We also had the Bicol Express Fries and this time they were nice and hot and so much better than the last time I had them. They were room temp by the time I got mine at the menu launch, which is just what happens in those enviroments, and they didn't rock my world that time but fresh out of the kitchen, they are really great. I kept dipping my finger in the coconut bagoong sauce, trying to figure out what it was reminding me off and I still haven't got it but I like it. By the time the ginormous pig trotter made it to the table, we were starting to get a bit full so we only ate a portion of it, hacking it up with the knife provided but we took it home and I used it to make dinner Friday night. The bartender told us that his favourite way to eat the pata is shredded up over a big bowl of garlic rice and a fried egg so that is what I did.

We caught the streetcar home and decided to hop off at Broadview so we could check out Boots and Bourbon and I am very happy that we did. Normally, at that hour, we would be home in our pjs, trying not to nod off before The Daily Show starts but last night we were bar crawling like teenagers. On Thursday's they have line dancing lessons from 7-9PM so the dance floor was packed with a group of pretty impressive line dancers while a really great, old school country duo performed.

Frightened by the prospect of the General Lee and it's beef jerky infused bourbon, chipotle smoked hickory bitters, a pepperette and a pickle, I wisely chose the Desert Pete, a much safer tequila based drink. Shack liked his Smokey and The Bandit much more than I did but he was the one who had to drink it, so we were all good. Unfortunately , we order the Fried Beer Cheese app and it showed up kind of half cold and really not very tasty at all. Shack sent it back to the kitchen and I am thrilled to report that we had a manager at our table within minutes, apologizing profusely, promising to talk to the kitchen and insisting we accept cocktails on the house. We had just got a couple of beers and refused but appreciated the gesture, a couple of other people stopped by to check in and apologize again and then when we asked for our bill, they had comped us our beer. Despite the fact that we didn't like that app at all, the customer service was so attentive and sincere that it completely overrode the yucky cheese balls and we will most definitely be back for line dancing lessons asap. It's loud, it's fun, the drinks are good, the service is great so even if I can't find anything I want to eat there, I don't care.
finished up our bar crawl at Boots and Bourbon on Queen St E

the morning after the night before

still managed to squeeze in an old school pineapple upside down cake for a friend's birthday

I don't know about you, but I am exhausted and stuffed and need to do a juice cleanse next week.

Facebook share of the week:  Puts the awe in awesome

Instgram of the week: very pretty

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