Life's too short to eat bad food - Me

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Out to Sea

Well, Thursday night was a simple Buffalo style hot dog dinner - quite nice. The weather screwed up my after birthday "Tapas" party on Friday - the power was out most of the day. But we did uncork the Galantine I made for New Year's and froze. I'm sure there were aspects that deteriorated in its stay in the freezer, but it tasted quite good.

But my real treat was a meal I had long looked forward to - a dinner alone with my wife at the recently opened Sea Bar. Don't worry - I promised not to do restaurant reviews and I am not about to start now, but nothing stops me from mentioning a venue that did something special.

Many might consider Buffalo a culinary wasteland. They would be wrong. Western New York and Southern Ontario have plenty of good food and great cooks. But, in my humble opinion the best of the best is Mike Andrzejewski. Mike has been part of the restaurant scene in Buffalo for over 30 years, starting as a busboy, and working his way to be chef at some of the area's finest eateries: including Rue Franklin, Warren's and Oliver's. He's done several events at the Beard House in NYC.

It would be presumptuous of me to claim to be Mike's friend, but the camaraderie of the culinary world at least allows me to be more than just a mere acquaintance. I first met Mike at a "Taste of the Nation" event for SOS at the Adam's Mark in 2000. Mike was happily going from station to station with jello shots - treating even a line cook with respect.

The second time was also a fund raiser. Mike was about to open his own restaurant, Tsunami, but took the time with his partner to assist at a fund raiser for the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, featuring Buffalo's own Alfred Portale. It was this event that shaped my culinary future in a couple of ways, not the least of which was Mike insisting to one of my owners that he was "Just a Cook". That has been my Mantra since.

In the fall of 2002, shortly before Fredi opened with me as chief cook and bottle washer, Trish and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary at Tsunami. Fred arranged for the champagne, Mike dazzled me with his cooking.

In August 2oo5, Mike was riding his cycle home from Tsunami when he wiped out. He spent some time in ECMC (a place I know well from my 1994 fire), and lost his leg. A lot of local cooks helped out to keep the restaurant afloat, though he ultimately let it go.
But, in the interim, with medical bills rising, some of those same cooks arranged a benefit dinner at Kleinhans Music Hall. My part was minimal, I got some local restaurants to cough up gift certificates, but I did attend as a paying customer, with Trish, Fred and Maggie. I saw many old friends, and had great eats. I didn't get a chance to talk to Mike much (his mouth was full when I got to him) but he seemed overwhelmed by the turnout - more than twice what was expected.

Last spring we found out Mike was teaching at the culinary arts program at ECC. He and his students put on a luncheon for the public which Trish and I attended with Fred. It was a lovely time, and also when I found out about the potential of working on Vine Dining - the magazine which is to come. Through work on the proto-mag, I heard that Mike was opening Sea Bar, but I didn't have a chance to get there until this past weekend.

The dining experience? Wonderful. Mike even comped us our first taste of Sparkling Sake - a delight. Sure, there can be a wait - no reservations - but it's the kind of food worth waiting for (and if you bring a cell phone, you can wait at the bar of the Trattoria Aroma next door).

My only regret: if there were ever a cook who should have an omikase offering on the menu it is Mike! I would love to just let him "do us" in the culinary sense. The place was packed, so he probably doesn't need this, but Good Luck Mike!

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Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
- Arthur C. Clarke

Life's too short to eat bad food -