NORTH TONAWANDA —
Eddie Murphy’s mother may have been on to something.
The matriarch of the 1980s stand-up comedy king was the inspiration for one of his trademark routines, about how homemade hamburgers didn’t quite stack up in a child’s mind to its fast-food equivalent.
In an adolescent voice, Murphy recalled watching his mother make him a burger: “Green peppers? There ain’t no green peppers in burgers ... what you need eggs for? I want hamburgers. You’re making Egg McMuffins.”
But indeed, while “better burgers” have sprouted up across the nation as the focal point of “gourmet” fast-food eateries, burgers with a softer touch still appeal to many diners.
Take Vizzi’s in Kenmore. The Kenmore Avenue eatery was recently christened the home of Western New York’s best burgers by Buffalo Spree magazine, an honor that co-owner Joe Vizzi didn’t see coming.
“We don’t particularly promote our burger as our leader, but it’s overtaken our roast been in the last three years,” said Vizzi, who noted that Vizzi’s burgers have appeared on other regional best-of lists in that timeframe. “We just happened to have this hit with this burger.”
A key to Vizzi’s latest hit is premium ground beef, Vizzi said — “we pay more than the average person pays,” he said — that is treated using a combination of herbs and spices that he wasn’t keen on revealing. But cooking method also matters, according to the Buffalo Spree judges, as Vizzi’s was lauded for offering the tasty contrast of a crunchy, well-done exterior with a softer, medium-rare inside.
If Vizzi’s adheres to the spirit of Murphy’s mother in terms of making burgers, then Malone’s in Kenmore complies more with the literal method. Kristen Kimmerle, manager of the Delaware Avenue eatery, called Malone’s one-pound burger “a really big, homemade Italian meatball, only much bigger.”
The one-pounder is made fresh on site, she said (smaller burgers are pre-purchased patties that are doctored by Malone’s chefs). Pure ground beef is utilized, she said, with the one-pounder then absorbing a combination of spices (which Kimmerle also declined to divulge, except to say that some of the seasonings were Italian in origin).
Both restaurateurs agreed that, regardless of the shape, burgers have caught on in a big way of late.
“There’s a big burger craze here in Western New York,” Vizzi said. “With the economy the way it is, it’s an inexpensive meal, and you can take your family out for a meal and feed everyone.”
The appeal of having something different should also be considered, Kimmerle said — even if, as Murphy opined, it’s annoying to have to take the excess pieces of square bread off around the edges of the meat to make the homemade burger look more like the “real thing.”
“Usually, people don’t like meat,” Kimmerle said. “But sometimes, you come out for a good, juicy burger and some nice, crisp French fries — something you don’t usually make at home.”
NORTH TONAWANDA —
Eddie Murphy’s mother may have been on to something.
Stop and smell the flowers
More than 90 private gardens throughout Western New York, and a number of public ones, are open to the public for select hours Thursdays and/or Fridays during July as part of the National Garden Festival’s Open Gardens program, now in its fifth year. The program is separate and distinct from local garden walks, and the gardens range from Gasport to Holland. They’re organized into districts of about five to eight gardens each, including Northtowns West (which includes gardens in Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda) and Niagara Trail (which includes gardens in Lockport, Gasport and Lewiston).
For the love of nature
Sara Johnson lives surrounded by green and growing things. Showing a visitor around her apartment in North Buffalo, she pointed out the plants in every room, the balcony and even in two small greenhouses — houseplants, flowers, vegetables, even carnivorous plants.
"I try to keep as much growing in the house as I can," she said.
Another goal of hers is to show others how to do the same — and to that end, Johnson is offering a series of workshops this summer in connection with her business, Sylvatica Terrariums, and Project 308 Gallery in North Tonawanda, teaching people how to bring a piece of the outdoors into their homes in the form of a terrarium or other greenery.
Getting some fresh air
As an effort to get children out of the big city and give them a chance to spend part of their summer playing outside, the Fresh Air Fund brings New York City kids to stay with host families for a 10-day trip to a place which is vastly different from their usually surroundings.
“They will be running outside and playing in the grass and going swimming,” said Cheryl Flick, a fund representative of the Northern Erie and Niagara Counties chapter of the Fresh Air Fund at a picnic for the host families and kids. “They won’t be cooped up inside, they’ll be outside, getting fresh air and being active.”
Still waiting for that letter from Hogwarts
I think it’s true of many parents, that amidst the many challenges and hard work of parenting, we anticipate the day our children grow up just enough ... to like the same things we like, whether it’s as an ongoing phenomenon or a fond childhood memory.
Calling all the basic locavores!
Did you know that the suffix “vore” comes from the Latin word “voro,” which means to devour? I probably knew that once, but I should have paid better attention in my Latin class. “Vore” is used to form nouns indicating what kind of a diet an animal has, such as omnivore, carnivore and herbivore.
A closer look at NT
When Explore Buffalo Tours got started about eight months ago, the business concentrated on specialized tours designed to showcase specific aspects of the City of Buffalo’s history, architecture and culture.
Now the organization is looking to the future and trying out ways to highlight the other unique aspects of the Western New York region. The tours change out each month, but the more popular ones will circulate back in, according to Explore Buffalo Executive Director Brad Hahn. This month it’s test-driving its “North Tonawanda: Lumber City” tour, one of only a few to take place outside the City of Buffalo. (Although a Lockport tour is in the works.)
Fitness in the sun
Following a trend of public, outdoor exercise programs, a number of local venues are offering their own free events aiming to get residents outside and active during the summer.
Beyond the bakery
For years, Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts & Gourmet Cakes has been a go-to location for desserts and wedding and occasion cakes in Western New York.
This summer, even as the bakery deals with the rush of wedding season, changes at its associated bistro aim to create a revitalized focus on that side of the business, as well.
Figuring out the birthday-party rules
The options when you escort your child to a birthday party are endless, really. Everywhere you turn, there’s another thrill to uncover.
The tail of two books
As promised, here are some more new summer reads that are all about our critter companions. Both books were released mid-June, and although they are quite different from one another, both would be valuable assets for your in-house library.
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