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For the love of wine: Planning a special thank you

I met Frank Mercado about 10 years ago, and for a couple of years he helped shuck oysters for our annual Oysterfest. Then he offered to coordinate the entire party, enlisting oyster shuckers and servers for me. Oysterfest has been an amazing summer tradition and without Frank and his fantastic team, I could have never been able to pull it off. Frank is an awesome chef. The Colvilles and the Mercados have become terrific friends.

Since this year marked our last Ponderoysterfest, I thought it would be nice to plan a dinner with Frank and his wife Kellie as a little thank you for 10 years of fun. Where could we go that would be a little different? And impress a terrific chef?

I reached out to my friend Tom Pease, the owner of the Blue Lantern Lounge, and talked to him about an idea that I had for this meal. My wife and friends always have something to say about my menu choices. What’s wrong with having a go-to dish at different restaurants? They always want me to try something different.

I’ve been a regular at the Blue since it opened 13 years ago. For years I ordered their meatloaf, which is really good stuff—the ultimate comfort food. The mashed potatoes and the fresh cut carrots make this dish a great choice. As much as I liked the meatloaf (now I’m getting hungry), I started ordering the sweet Thai chili chicken strips and southwestern spring rolls. Two appetizers are enough for a dinner. Of course, wine is vital.

If I go to Tempo, I know I’m ordering the calamari and their incredible bone-in rib eye steak. Chop House has my go-to New York strip steak. At Linguine’s and Bobby J’s, why would I order anything but veal parm with homemade pasta?

My choice at Lombardo’s is the Continental, I just love it. San Marco has amazing Arribbiata and veal dishes. I will say, I am always looking for the best burger and the best fries.
Inspired by this, my idea for our Blue Lantern dinner was to pick a bunch of different food items for us all to share. Tom was game. No menus to deal with. I was about to try things that I never ordered at the Blue because I was stuck in a food ordering rut.

Everything was beautiful.

The food kept coming and coming.

For the love of wine: planning a special thank you | Buffalo Magazine

Ahi tuna seared and sliced. Fantastic. Melts in your mouth.

Santa Fe spring rolls—one of my favorite dishes. It’s amazing. Chicken, black beans, corn, jack cheese, pico de gallo. And served with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce.

For the love of wine: planning a special thank you | Buffalo Magazine

Philly cheesesteak spring rolls. My wife loves these. It’s just what it says, a Philly cheesesteak inside of a spring roll. Homemade spicy ketchup for dipping. This was not on the regular menu, but it’s a special that made the new fall menu.

Thai sweet chili chicken strips with blue cheese and celery. These are so delicious. These are hand cut, not some frozen stuff.

For the love of wine: planning a special thank you | Buffalo Magazine

Chicken strips with a blue cheese sauce and slivered almonds. Another special item. A good friend told me how much she loved them so I asked Tom to include them if he could. If you see them on the special menu, try them.

Thai shrimp sauté. Garlic, veggies in a sweet Thai chili sauce. I never had this before and it is really good.

Raspberry chopped salad. Chopped greens, dried cherries, pecans, smoked gouda with raspberry vinaigrette. This is an amazing salad that I never ordered but I will be in the future. It is delicious.

For the love of wine: planning a special thank you | Buffalo Magazine

Pasta De Loco. Fire-roasted poblano peppers, caramelized onions, roasted corn served in a tequila cream sauce. We had it with chicken, but they also have it with shrimp or tofu (yuck). I have tasted this dish because my wife orders it and once you try it, you’ll be back for more.

I almost forgot to mention the veggies that Tom brought out. Yummy glazed carrots and asparagus.

After all of that, Tom brought out two steaks and they were amazing. Sliced filet with bordelaise sauce and a sliced rib eye with house maître d butter.

This is a wine column, though, right? I had brought two amazing wines to enjoy with the food.

2013 Reynvaan Family Vineyards In The Rocks Syrah
If you can find it, it should be about $70. More retail outlets are carrying Washington State wines. This wine is drinking perfectly. It is very elegant and has plenty of dark fruit and a little spice too. I love Reynvaan wines.

2014 K Vintners The Creator
About $60 if you can find it. This is a big-boy wine and it’s mostly cabernet. I have had this powerful wine before, and I think it’s one that could last for at least 20 years. Amazing, dense fruit. Mouth filling. Incredible finish. This wine compares well with California wines that cost three times as much.

Here’s the bottom line: Tom did an amazing job on the food, and Frank and Kellie loved each and every dish of this special meal. Thank you again to everyone.

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