Let’s admit it: When much of the world thinks of Buffalo, N.Y., the first thing that comes to mind — except for, perhaps, snow and certain Super Bowls — is a certain eponymous food item. And Western New York has certainly embraced the chicken wing and its associated sauce(s) in all their forms.
But when you look past the obvious, the Niagara Region in particular has produced many unique food items, from candy and baked goods, to wines and ciders and barbecue sauces. And with Christmas time approaching, they can be a way to give a small taste of home to a Western New York expatriate or someone who simply doesn’t need more knick-knacks.
“You can never go wrong with food,” said Carrie Horhota, the owner of Creekside Gourmet in the Town of Tonawanda, which carries a range of items from the area, including many under its own label. “My motto is, flowers may be easy ... but gift baskets have taste.”
Carol Murphy of Murphy Orchards in Burt echoed her words.
“I just can’t think of anything better than food gifts,” she said, “and when you make it personal by making it something from your hometown or something from where they used to live, it’s very, very popular.”
From the tree and the vine
Sometimes great gifts aren’t made: They’re grown.
Murphy Orchards in Burt ships its apples, nestled in tissue paper and packed in gift boxes, anywhere in the continental United States, Murphy said. The boxes come in several sizes, and some can include other items, such as the business’ jams and jellies.
“Half of the apple gift boxes we send out go to Florida, to people who used to live here, older people who don’t want any more trinkets, any more slippers, but absolutely love getting Western New York apples,” she said. “That’s what we call our catalog, Gifts From Home.”
In addition, they produce jam and jelly gift baskets in various sizes, as well as individual jars of jam and jellies, vinegars, oils, honey, relishes and hot sauces.
Those who order at least 12 jars of jam can get a personalized label free of charge, which has become very popular, Murphy said.
Becker Farms in Gasport also offers an array of locally made jams and jellies (and fudge) available for ordering online — as well as its wines from Vizcarra Vineyards. (And growlers of beers from its Becker Brewing.)
Its fellow Niagara Wine Trail wineries — all 18 of them — also offer potential gifts for those who like to imbibe their holiday cheer.
Back on the teetotaler side of things is Lewiston Jellies, which has a line of jams and jellies made from berries, grapes and fruit grown in Western New York. They’re available both online and in a handful of local retail locations.
Gifts from the oven
Niagara Region residents might not know that, right in the heart of the area, they can purchase goodies that sell across the world via the Neiman Marcus’ famous mail-order book.
Based out of Niagara Falls, DiCamillo Bakery has been providing the area (and beyond) with Italian bread, cookies, biscotti, pizzelles, cakes and more since 1920. Michael DiCamillo, vice president of marketing, said business outside Western New York ranges from the expatriate crowd to companies and individuals who have become familiar with DiCamillo products in other ways.
“Ex-Niagara Falls people are famiilar with our bread. That’s a huge thing,” he said. “I just got another order for 12 loaves I have to ship to Florida. If they buy our bread, they usually have some connection to Western New York. That’s a big, big, big part of our business with expats.”
Beyond the expat market, popular DiCamillo gifts are the tins or ceramic jars of biscotti or cookies — several of which are featured in the Neiman Marcus mail order catalog, DiCamillo said.
“They ship the nicest and it’s a complete gift,” he said of the tins. “You have a nice consumable gift and a lasting gift with the tin.”
While they might not be so far-reaching, other local bakeries also have gift potential.
Muscoreil’s Fine Desserts in North Tonawanda, besides its array of baked goods, offers gift baskets and other products, while the Village Bake Shoppe of Lewiston offers gift baskets, tea breads and more. In Lockport, there’s Sweet Sixteen Café, K.M. Treats and the Molinaro’s Holy Cannoli Café. And, back in Niagara Falls, the Niagara Falls Culinary Institute offers gift boxes of cookies in its LaPatisserie.
If your idea of the perfect sweet treat is some a little more chocolately the Niagara Region also has your gift giving covered.
Candy shops include the aforementioned Muscoreil’s, Platter’s Chocolates in North Tonawanda, Watson’s in Kenmore, Niagara Falls and six other locations, Condrell’s Candies and Ice Cream in Kenmore (which also sells loose-leaf teas), Fowler’s Chocolates in Tonawanda and six other locations, Parkside Candy in the Town of Tonawanda and four other locations and the Barker Chocolate Box (which has a retail store at the Main Place Mall in Buffalo and an online site).
Honeymoon Sweets in Niagara Falls has had its taste of fame over the past few years — owner Mary Ann Hess has taken her chocolates to the presidential inauguration, the sports, daytime and primetime Emmys, and next year, to the Golden Globes and Academy Awards. But her candy is also available to the public via her website at niagarashoneymoonsweets.com.
“I do a lot of clusters, a lot of trays, a lot of gift boxes,” she said, mentioning her Niagara Falls-themed chocolates, including Falls chocolate medallions, chocolate daredevil barrels and daredevil-themed sweets for which the proceeds go to local food pantries, the Lions Club and Oakwood Cemetery. She also specializes in edible pictures and picture frames.
“I’m doing some unusual stuff,” she said. “It makes it fun. It’s different, and I do some unique items. It’s wonderful to be able to do something for our area.”
At Creekside Gourmet, Horhota said that the chocolate lace popcorn and sponge candy — a Western New York “thing” — are among the most popular items.
“I have a woman in Texas who received some chocolate lace popcorn going on 10 to 12 years ago, and every year she orders it for gifts,” she said.
It’s not all about the sweets, though.
Anchor Bar and Duff’s may have a lock on popular wing sauces for the area, but Creekside Gourmet of the Town of Tonawanda also offers its own line of hot sauce (the frighteningly named Rectum Wrecker), wing sauce, barbecue sauces (including maple, chipotle maple and honey mustard), Buffalo wing rub, oils and mustards. (As well as jams and jellies.)
The Como Restaurant in Niagara Falls sells four-packs of its original pasta sauce on its website.
And among the wing sauces and the wings themselves (from Duff’s and the Anchor Bar) on www.madeinbuffalo.com, sits Galassi’s Sub Shop sub oil — billed as the “world’s greatest submarine oil” straight from North Tonawanda.
ON THE NET • Murphy Orchards: www.murphyorchards.com • Becker Farms: www.beckerfarms.com • Niagara Wine Trail: www.niagarawinetrail.org • Lewiston Jellies: www.lewistonjellies.com • DiCamillo Bakery: www.dicamillobakery.com