The Unveiling of Realm (and friends)…

441 Ellicott Street, nextdoor to Fitz Books & Waffles

On Saturday, October 23, at 11am, the public will get a firsthand look at one of downtown Buffalo’s newest retail shop additions, located at 441 Ellicott Street. On this day, Keelin Burke will officially open the doors of Realm, which is her temporary location throughout the holidays. This short-term pivot will allow Keelin to get her retail concept up and running, as she awaits the completion of her future 130 Genesee Street location. 

It was back in August when we announced that Keelin was on the hunt for additional retail pop-up concepts to join her at her temporary location, which could ultimately end up being an incubator space for a number of like-minded retail and service-oriented concepts.

It turns out that Keelin’s hope of having other retailers join her on Ellicott Street panned out. 

“I had an amazing response to the Shared Space request and found a way to incorporate as many people as possible,” Keelin told me. I also have a collaboration with AVA Collective and about 30 of their vendors for a special pop-up section of the shared space where people can shop extra-local all season long. There’s also weekly yoga with Life Itself, two art shows (Corrie Allen and then Alain Pierre-Lys), and various weekend pop-up shops from ARW, Anna Dusza, Reds Clay Co., Kelly Schnurr, Simply Essence, Blue Rochelle, Molly Illustration, Otherworld, and more. There will be some workshops and other events added to the calendar throughout the season. The event calendar is here.”

Well, this is certainly exciting news for Keelin, Realm, and downtown Buffalo. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a bunch of retail spin-offs come to pass, now that there is a creative and inspired retail hub (and driving pioneer) stirring things up? Now, it’s up to all of us to support this new pop-up initiative. See you there on Saturday, October 23!

See Facebook to learn more about the big opening day, and special dates and events moving forward.


Buffalario – The Bonds that bring Buffalo and Ontario Together

One of my favorite words in the English language is “portmanteau,” defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as “a word or morpheme whose form and meaning are derived from a blending of two or more distinct forms (such as smog from smoke and fog).”   There are many portmanteaus that are common in our language; a favorite Sunday morning meal at Betty’s is brunch (breakfast and lunch); on sale in the fruit and vegetable section at the beautiful new downtown Braymiller Market are pluots (plums and apricots);  and as a kid, the place where my family would stay during our visits to Buffalo – the intersection of Niagara Falls Blvd and the 290 – the gone but not forgotten Holiday Inn motel (motor hotel). 

And how about Porchtoberfest?

To this list, I add one new portmanteau, Buffalario – that’s right, Buffalo and Ontario.

But why?  Because as a dual national, who has lived both in Buffalo and is now back in my birthplace of Toronto Ontario, I can say with pride that Buffalo feels like a beautiful slice of Ontario south of the border.

It’s not just the ubiquitous presence of Tim Hortons in WNY, or the number of Ontario license plates that you would see (pre covid) at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, or even the number of Canadian flags one sees proudly flying side by side to the US flag in various spots across WNY.  It’s far deeper than signs and symbols.

What makes Buffalonians close cousins to Ontarians is how both communities uphold humanitarian values that make them not only similar but also bind them in mutual beliefs such as acceptance, inclusion and outreach to those in need. 

To all that makes Buffalo special, the added bond with its neighbour to the north makes Buffalo even more beloved in this dual citizen’s eyes.

The common values that Ontario and Buffalo share in honoring and welcoming those seeking refuge from war torn countries is what makes me “kvell” to be both an Ontarian and a Buffalover. 

Like the Syrian refugees that Buffalo and Ontarians welcome in the mid 2010’s, both places are again showing their true humanity today by welcoming Afghans fleeing the violence of their native land.  From agencies like Catholic Charities of Buffalo, the International Institute of Buffalo, Jericho Road Community Health Center, Jewish Family Services of Western New York, and Journey’s End Refugee Services, to those north of the border like the Newcomer Women’s Services of Toronto, Canadian Centre for Refugee, and Immigrant Health Care, or the Toronto Region Afghan Resettlement Fund, the outpouring of compassion I see on both sides of the border is what endears me this geographical corner of the world.  

Buffalo is unique for so many things.  To all that makes Buffalo special, this added bond with its neighbour to the north makes Buffalo even more beloved in this dual citizen’s eyes.

And if that wasn’t enough to bring our flags together, how about our shared love for Crystal Beach loganberry, Maid of the Mist tour boats, Niagara wine trails, and the Toronto Blue Jays?  With all that binds both sides of the mighty Niagara, might we soon again see that gone but not forgotten sign, “Canadian dollars accepted at par”?  

Lead image:  Mural by illustrator Mario Zucca and Zoom Copy


Grayson Shelp, Boy Scout

Mentors present our youth with great advantages in navigating through this often turbulent, rocky and scary road of life. Mentors provide suggestions based on a wealth of experience and information and for those who actually listen and follow some of this advice, they will eventually find themselves in a better place.

Organizations like Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Compeer of Greater Buffalo; and Our Lady of Hope Home School on the St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy campus are just a few of the many offering mentorships. The Compeer mission says it all: “The Compeer volunteer can be life changing.”

My dad, Anthony S. Billoni enjoying a Bisons at the downtown ballpark

Growing up in Kenmore, my dad was also my mentor.  He taught me important life lessons through conversations we had when I would drive with him on his dry-cleaning route more than 50 years ago, My dad was called by The Lord in 1998 and I miss him terribly.  That is the effect mentors can have on someone.

For 50 years my dad was the lone home delivery driver for Colvin Cleaners, which his older brother Phil and wife, Angeline, founded 90 years ago.  My brother Paul and his wife Cyndee have worked there for more than 40 years and now their children, Christopher and Erica are carrying on the tradition with Chris and Krissy’s 4-years-old son, Luca, soon to be our family’s fourth generation team member at the Kenmore business.

We may not have realized the wonderful lessons those one liners dad and mom said to us but it’s obvious many of them hit home.

My brothers and I all learned essential lessons from our dad, known to the employees at Mr. B. with mom affectionately referred to as Mrs. B.  We may not have realized the wonderful lessons those one liners dad and mom said to us but it’s obvious many of them hit home.  They always emphasized the importance of treating others like you would like to be treated.  While it seems like such a simple statement, can you imagine if everyone in the city, state or the country would practice that for one day?  What a better world it would be.

Dad also supported and encouraged us to get involved with the Boy Scouts as we grew up and today, the lessons learned as we worked towards the various merit badges seem invaluable.  I thought of my dad recently as I pulled up to Ace Hardware on Grand Island and saw a young boy, dressed in the full Boy Scout uniform and wearing a mask to protect him against the COVID-19 virus.  What impressed me was this young man was standing outdoors on a hot, sunny August afternoon and I soon learned he was there everyday from mid-August through Labor Day selling popcorn items for his scout troop.

It brought back another memorable memory of when my brother Paul and I would fill our wagon with boxes of $1.00 chocolates and go through the neighborhood selling enough to put us at the top of the list in sales for our troop.

I nodded to the Boy Scout as I walked past and into the store to make my purchase.  As I departed the store, I heard a soft voice saying: “Hello, would you like some delicious popcorn?” How could you say no?  That was all I needed to hear as I now made my way towards his table while forgetting about the time constraints I was under.

Once at his table, Grand Island’s young and extremely successful entrepreneur, had me, hook, line, and sinker as he began explaining, in great detail, the array of products from cheese popcorn to buttered microwave popcorn to caramel popcorn to large Buffalo Bills logoed tins of kettle corn to plastic containers of cashews. He always ended the pitch with the reason he was selling his popcorn products on those hot, summer afternoons: “Your purchase will help fund our Boy Scout Troop 630’s camping trips and items we need for the year.”  

Being a Clark Kent reporter at heart, I began interviewing the young man for no other reason than to learn what motivates him.

Being a Clark Kent reporter at heart, I began interviewing the young man for no other reason than to learn what motivates him to be out here selling when he could be doing something fun with his friends.  I quickly learned Grayson Shelp is an 11-years-young sixth-grade student at the Veronica E. Connor Middle School on Grand Island, where he is now carrying a 99-grade point average.  After graduating from Cub Scout Pack 425, he is in the first year of Boy Scouts and is at the second level of Tenderfoot.  Selling is his passion and in 2019 he sold $5,000 worth of popcorn items, mostly from outside Ace Hardware.  During the pandemic year of 2020 he surpassed that with $11,000 in sales, making him the No. 1 Cub Scout in sales in the Northeastern United States.  

Sales have ended for this year and his total is over $15,000 to more than 1,500 customers, family, and neighbors near his East River Road home where he founded his first business, Healthy Eats.  He has configured his wagon to become a delivery vehicle for vegetables grown in their backyard garden and sold to family and friends in the neighborhood.  

Grayson has configured his ‘Healthy Eats’ wagon to become a delivery vehicle for vegetables grown in their backyard garden and sold to family and friends in the neighborhood.

As a salesman, though, popcorn is his passion.  “I am serious when it comes to popcorn,” he says with certainty.

Why? What motivates you to be a Boy Scout? Where did you learn these sales techniques at such a young age?

“My dad,” he answered quickly and with authority. Taking a break from sales, the only child of Edwin and Kimberly Shelp explained his goal in scouting is to follow his dad’s footsteps and become an Eagle Scout, scouting’s highest honor.  His dad recently retired after a distinguished sales career in the Buffalo hotel industry.  It’s obvious he has also become his son’s mentor.

“I joined scouting because of my dad,” Grayson said proudly.  “He knows a lot of things that he learned as a scout and that is what I would like to do.”

Scott Swagler, the long-time scoutmaster of Troop 630 at St. Stephen’s Church, has only had Grayson in his troop a short time since he graduated from Cub Scouts last year.  

“With the help from his parents, he has been honing his selling skills for a few years and he has been the top popcorn seller in the Buffalo/Niagara Region for all the years he has been selling,” he said.  “Grayson is excited to be starting down the same path as his father and he experienced his first summer camp this year.

“But he loves to sell,” Swagler added.

Mia Villani, who has worked in her family’s Ace Hardware and Gui’s Lumber businesses for nearly half of her 25 years, said there will always be a job available at Ace for Grayson.

“He can have one right now if he wants it,” she said with admiration.  “Grayson is the most well-spoken, sweetest human being ever.  He is so adorable is probably the best way to describe him.  We are so impressed with how hard he works when he is here.  He is so passionate; he never complains, and he stands outside literally all day.

“He just loves selling his popcorn for the Boy Scouts,” added Villani, the general manager of the Ace Hardware Stores in Western New York which her family owns.

David M. Mazur, a self-made successful developer on the Island, had seen Grayson outside of Ace on several of his trips to the store.  “His commitment to selling this popcorn for his Boy Scout troop will lead him to better things in life once he begins his career and starts a family,” Mazur said as he made his way to the table where he asked Grayson to explain what he was selling.  After hearing him clearly articulate about each item, including his own sales pitches like: “And this can with the Bills logo can be used for so many things after you finish the Kettle Korn,” Mazur purchased several items and left a $100 bill on the table.

“Sir, you forgot this,” Grayson yelled as Mazur was climbing into his truck.  “That’s a tip for you.”

When asked what he was going to do with the tip, Grayson thought for a minute before responding: “I will either donate it to a veterans group we help, or I will give it to our scout troop.”

Grayson sells popcorn items to Gina Pellitieri of Grand Island

Gina Pellitieri of the Island was rushing out of Ace Hardware with her 4-year-old son, Nico, when she heard Grayson’s pitch. “He is so persuasive,” she said with a laugh. “He got us to purchase the biggest can and three different flavors of popcorn.  I am impressed with this young man.”

Caitlyn Clingersmith of Grand Island, whose son was also a Boy Scout, said: “He’s quite the entrepreneur who has a lot going on in his head.” 

“Keep it going and continue to work to achieve your goals,” she told him. 

“Thank you for that advice,” was Grayson’s response.

His goal after graduating from Grand Island High School is to attend college for engineering because he enjoys building which is apparent by the many things he builds with his LEGO sets, according to his dad.

Business and Entrepreneurism would have to rank a close second especially after beginning his Healthy Eats business this year.   Let him explain how it all began:

“In January I was picking out seeds of unique pumpkins, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini, and gourds. They were planted and grew throughout winter. In late April, I placed some of the plants outside so they could grow stronger stems and get used to the rays of the sun. Then my dad picked out the plants that would go into the garden. There were 13 tomato plants left and I did not want to let them go to waste so I nurtured and grew them to a monstrous size.  Then I sold them in my cart and was thinking about how many fruits went to waste from not eating them in time last year. 

Grayson enjoys school, blueberry pie, and he is a big Buffalo Bills, Bisons, Bandits and Sabres fan.

“So, I waited two weeks until I had enough veggies to sell and because everybody loves veggies. I sold out fast,” he explained.  “I also wanted to be more prepared the next time I had veggies to sell so I used the money I earned and purchased items to improve my cart.

“It was no longer a cart.  It had now become my mobile store. The base of my cart is forest green with yellow lettering. My shelving is wood containers in the middle and black welded wire baskets on the outside. There are three stories of shelving.  My veggies don’t get dinged and damaged because of the cloth protecting them and give my customers my cell number and ask them to text message me their order.”

Grayson studies his chess board during a recent high school tournament in Lackawanna

Grayson also enjoys school, blueberry pie, and he is a big Buffalo Bills, Bisons, Bandits and Sabres fan who has not attended any games since the pandemic began.  For the past six years, he and his father have been playing chess at home and Grayson has joined the Grand Island Chess club, which is a member of the Western New York Scholastic Chess Assn.

The Grand Island club is open to middle and high school students and meets each Tuesday from September through June with monthly tournaments.  Grand Island will host a tournament October 30 in the high school cafeteria.  During a September tournament in Lackawanna, Grayson won two matches and lost three in his initial tournament.

“The goal I set for students starting out is to win just one game at a tournament and he has already won two,” said Grand Island Chess club coach Sue Szczublewski.  “He is moving in the right direction but he must protect his Queen more.”

Grayson enjoys it because the competition is giving him more strategies in playing the game.  “The problem of just playing my father is I only play against one strategy.  Now I am learning much more.  It’s hard, but I like it when it’s more of a challenge.”

Back at Ace selling his popcorn, Mia Villani was asked if she has a cabinet full of popcorn at home.  “Of course,” she says with a smile.  “Who can say no to Grayson?”

As for me, I certainly was going to support him with a purchase but I had no cash so I told him I would catch him the next time.  “I accept credits cards,” he said, looking directly at me with total confidence he was going to close this deal.  “I have the Cube I use with my cell phone to accept all credit cards.”

After receiving approval for my transaction, he handed me my items and said, “You are going to enjoy those cashews.  I have had several people return to purchase more of them.”

The ultimate salesman who learned from a great mentor—his dad.


Classic Buffalo Spotlight: Santasiero’s Restaurant

How does a local Italian restaurant survive the Great Depression, a world war, countless Buffalo blizzards and a flood?

It’s pretty simple, actually. Delicious food, good prices, generous portions and a warm atmosphere.  

Santasiero’s Restaurant on Niagara Street has been a West Side staple for 100 years and is one of the city’s oldest restaurants. Even a flood in 2015 couldn’t get in its way. When it reopened it was by design that much of the restaurant stayed the same – from the red and white checkered table cloths to traditional Italian wine tumblers and an atmosphere to make you feel like you’re part of one big family. 

The food though.  The food is what keeps people coming back.

Don’t expect a menu when you sit down.  Look up, and your food options take up the entire back wall offering mostly classic Italian comfort food.  Some of the staples include spaghetti, ravioli and stuffed shells along with Santasiero’s famous pasta e fagioli, linguini and clams and as advertised on the sign outside of the restaurant, beef on weck. Oh, and you can get anything ‘parmigian’d’ (covered with melted cheese) for just $4.00 extra. Need me to repeat that? Anything. Parm’d.

Note: Current prices and menu items may vary.

The priciest dish on the menu is a full order of chicken parmigiana coming in at a little over $10. My favorite is the eggplant parmigiana, six generous slices of lightly breaded and fried eggplant, covered in a not-too-sweet red sauce and then smothered in what can only be described as a heavenly layer of cheese, melted to perfection.

Good food brings people together. A reputation of trust and customer loyalty keeps them coming back for a century. And with no signs of slowing down, Santasiero’s Restaurant will be welcoming guests, with open arms, for decades to come.

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Santasiero’s Restaurant | 1329 Niagara Street, Buffalo | (716) 510-1247

Hours are 3pm -9pm Sunday, 11am-9pm Tuesday-Friday and 1pm-9pm Saturday.

The post Classic Buffalo Spotlight: Santasiero’s Restaurant appeared first on Visit Buffalo Niagara.


‘Hombre y Lobo’ Mexican Street Style Tacos and Tequila Shop

Tequila cocktails and Mexican street style tacos are coming to downtown Buffalo in the form of Hombre y Lobo restaurant. 

Ryan DiFranco

Hombre y Lobo – or man and wolf in Spanish – will not only be dedicated to serving up super authentic Mexican street food, it’s also going to be a downtown destination to watch Bills games. That’s because co-owner Ryan DiFranco is a huge Bills fan, according to Isaac Domingue, who is also an owner. It’s the combination of a love of Mexican fare, and a love for Buffalo and WNY, that is driving the concept. 

Ryan, who hails from Niagara Falls, is realizing his dream to return to his hometown to open Hombre y Lobo, where he will be able to redirect his cooking energies and passions that he acquired at his 9 year old flagship Denver restaurant, DiFranco’s Italian. The concept is born of Ryan’s “years of adventures in Mexico” that developed into a “a freaky obsession for street tacos.”

Isaac Domingue

With the help of Domingue, the two will open Hombre y Lobo at 149 Swan Street, in the former Black Button Distilling space. Domingue describes the taqueria as having “an electric interior, a family friendly environment, with homemade salsas, guac, and queso, for anyone looking for an escape to Mexico, who will come to call Hombre y Lobo home.”

As for the food?

“The food should ALWAYS speak for itself,” says DiFranco, who possesses a childlike excitement for tacos. “When you visit, you’ll be at the very next best thing to enjoying a taco and margarita on the beach in Mexico. Right here in the great Queen City.”

Former Black Button Distilling

Dates and details to remember:

The family Siberian Husky, Zander (who actually loves wearing a sombrero)

Grand Opening (Nov 5, 2021) – Join the Hombre y Lobo opening celebration and enjoy traditional street tacos, special tacos inspired by Buffalo, cocktails, and Latin music.

Industry Night (Mondays): Hombre y Lobo will be open Mondays “because we know what it’s like to be a hardworking member of the F&B industry.” Join Hombre y Lobo for marg, tequila, and taco specials, all night long, EVERY MONDAY.

Taco Tuesdays: (Tuesdays): Tacos deserve to be celebrated. Check out Hombre y Lobo for taco and cocktail specials on the day made for tacos.

Catering and Special Events: With a reservable private rooftop and capacity to cater offsite private parties, Hombre y Lobo has one of the best views in the city for a catered party and a planner (if desired) to make it the perfect event.

Authentic street tacos


Sunday: Closed Monday: 4-10PM Tuesday: 4-10PM Wednesday: Closed Thursday: 4-10PM Friday: 4-11PM Saturday: 4-11PM

For more information visit Hombre y Lobo in-person (grand opening is November 5 – see invite below), or visit the taqueria online.

Hombre y Lobo | 149 Swan Street | Buffalo, NY, 14203 | (716) 427-8703 | View menu | | Facebook | Instagram


Captain Matthew Webb and his Water Mission

Author: Andrew Zebrun III, with the help of one of Captain Webb’s descendants. 

People think they know history, until they go and actually look. Or as Paul Harvey would say, get “The rest of the story.”

Swimming the English Channel at the time Captain Webb accomplished the feat, was considered suicide. But then on the other hand, one climbs the mountain because the mountain is there. When challenging nature in the extreme, an inner knowing of oneself can be found. How else does someone endure nearly 22 hours in freezing cold water, covered with grease? There were boats with him… he could’ve climbed aboard one, but he pressed on to greatness.

Capturing the love and adoration of humanity must have been very rewarding after such a strenuous ordeal. People who would never consider attempting this because there are perfectly good boats, could never understand the real goal of knowing oneself in such an extreme. Having monuments erected, and books written about you means that you’ve reached out and touched humanity’s heart.

Captain Webb trained for countless hours – you must sharpen your skills to see what you’re made of. Coming to Niagara Falls to challenge her world class rapids solidified him in the annals of swimming, as one of the bravest daredevils to wear the moniker. Incredibly, he was not even getting paid to do this – his message was, that he wanted people to have knowledge of water.

Unfortunately, the Captain’s final stunt in 1883 – a swim through the Whirlpool Rapids on the Niagara River below Niagara Falls – resulted in his untimely death. But triumph did ultimately come out of this tragedy, as his notoriety lived on long past his life.

Captain Webb inspired the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the film The Pink Panther, via his image on a box of Bryant and May’s matches. And he was loosely referenced in the “Rocky And Bullwinkle” cartoons as “Captain Clift” – the character in the episode bore a resemblance to the notorious risk taker. 

I can’t believe anyone even tried it again, but three years after Captain Webb in 1886, a Boston, Mass. policeman named William Kendall barely escaped the rapids. He had a $1000.00 dollar wager on his feat, but stated it was not worth your life, swearing off daredevil acts altogether.

Life shows you your limits; going beyond them can bring the most rewards. Since Captain Webb stated his goal was to give humanity knowledge of water, I believe he achieved that goal.

I only hope he knew how many people were inspired to know water as the good captain espoused – how many people got a bathing suit on and hit the waves?

Captain Webb inspired a love for ‘swimming right’ when the organized sport of swimming was taking off. The Olympics of Ancient Greece were revived, catapulting the art of swimming into celebrity status.

So what is the measure of a tragedy, if it ends in triumph? Captain Webb may have slipped below the Whirlpool Rapids and lost his battle with the Niagara River that fateful day in 1883. But he later turned up in popular culture where he’s recognized for greatness, as a cultural hero, not a zero.

To quote another great proponent of water, Bruce Lee, “Be like water” my friends. Do not pray for an easy life, but the strength to endure a difficult one. Having knowledge of water is timeless advice that will never let you down.

Water is you, you are water – how much has flowed through you over the years? Think about it. Or, as Archie Bunker famously said about water, “You can’t buy beer, you can only rent it.”

Water is also at the heart of Einstein’s “Spooky action at a distance.” Hence, knowledge of the universe is encoded in Captain Webb’s encouragement to know water. If you study a simple thing like water long enough you start to see it as anything BUT simple. Life’s just a journey – a series of experiences resulting in memories. If you can use those to get that deeper knowledge, that’s all that really matters in life, or death. The fact that you lived to the fullest – like the good Captain did – is all that matters.

Captain Webb was interred in Oakwood CemeteryNiagara Falls, New York.[13]

Captain Matthew Webb’s death at Niagara Falls – Historical articles and illustrationsHistorical articles and illustrations | Look and Learn

Capt. Matthew Webb — Oakwood Cemetery | Niagara Falls, NY (

Paul Harvey Archives – The Rest of the Story

Two Brave Men Who Swam the Rapids in Niagara Falls | Niagara History (

140 Years Ago, Captain Matthew Webb Swam The English Channel And Made Swimming Cool – Atlas Obscura

The History of Swimming as a Sport (

Lead image: Wikimedia Commons


Your Sweet Tooth Will Love Blue Eyed Baker

As a dessert lover, I have my go-to neighborhood spots to satisfy my sweet tooth when I’m in a pinch. But I am also always willing and eager to hop in the car and go the extra distance for a good baked good. Last week, I drove out to Elm Street in East Aurora to check out Blue Eyed Baker at their new storefront, which opened in March.

Blue Eyed Baker is owned by founder and pastry chef Alex Robinson. Though she started out in the corporate world, Robinson eventually followed her passion of baking and spent time studying the craft under top pastry chefs in both Los Angeles and Paris. And Buffalo is so lucky that she did, because Blue Eyed Baker is whipping out some incredible pastries.

The new storefront is as cute as the street it’s on, with an aesthetically pleasing interior that’s perfect for instagrammable photos. You can even get Blue Eyed Baker swag, like an embroidered beanie, and other local goodies from a small merchandise section. But you don’t walk into Blue Eyed Baker without buying a pastry – or 10, if you’re like me.

The first thing you’ll notice when you look at the pastry case is probably the wide selection of French macarons. If you’ve never had a French macaron, it is a bite-sized sandwich cookie unlike anything else. Sweet, buttery cream is filled between two soft, chewy, delicate meringue-based cookies. With over 15 flavors and continually changing seasonal flavors, Blue Eyed Baker has a macaron for everyone. My favorite are their fruit-flavored macarons, with the strawberry being a classic highlight that can do no wrong.

Blue Eyed Baker’s selection goes far beyond macarons, though. There are big, delicious cookies and beautifully soft and flaky croissants, with specialty flavors often making an appearance during the weekend. The muffins and scones don’t disappoint either – Blue Eyed Baker nails everything they do – and they do a lot. Blue Eyed Baker always offers a selection of vegan and gluten-free items that rival anything else they make. The chocolate vegan, gluten-free cookie I tried was one of my favorite baked goods of the day!

If you’re looking for a cake or another dessert for a special day (or for yourself, I don’t judge), Blue Eyed Baker does custom orders, too.

Their storefront is open 7 days a week, they’re regulars at multiple farmers markets around the city, where they’ve gained a reputation for slinging some of the best breakfast sandwiches around town, and they even supply a selection of pastries to various restaurants and cafes around Buffalo. Thanks to Blue Eyed Baker and the blue-eyed baker herself, Alex Robinson, our city has no shortage of world-class baked goods.

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Blue Eyed Baker, 33 Elm Street, East Aurora | Instagram | Facebook

The post Your Sweet Tooth Will Love Blue Eyed Baker appeared first on Visit Buffalo Niagara.


Five Cent Cine: No Time To Die

Daniel Craig has been retired as James Bond—and none too soon. While Craig is only 53—maybe closer to 50 when the film was made—he’s got a 50-going-on-60 look. The body’s trim enough, but the face reveals a man too old to have smooth-skinned Madeleine (Léa Seydoux, playing the daughter of Vesper Lynd, Bond’s love interest in “Casino Royale” [1967, 2006]) as an object of (mutual) desire. And much too old for the foxy CIA agent and new Bond girl Paloma (Ana de Armas, who starred with Craig in the 2019 hit, “Knives Out”), with whom he shares a Cuba gig—but not, thankfully, a bed.

First-time Bond film Director and co-writer Cary Joji Fukunaga handles Craig’s age in a variety of ways: as an older man, he’s now (over-)confidently knowledgeable about the larger issues facing the British secret service, and convinced that his boss, M, has made a tragic error in developing “Project Heracles,” which has produced a lethal DNA-based bioweapon that is too easily stolen, with dire consequences—echoes of the West’s attempt to keep nuclear technology to itself. It also helps that M (a superb Ralph Fiennes, one of many actors returning from earlier Bond films) is older still, a pasty, ponderous presence that allows Bond to seem downright vigorous and clever—sometimes too clever, as in Bond’s remark to M: “Has your desk gotten bigger, or have you gotten smaller?”

When is a lot of shooting too much?

Most of the action scenes don’t require Craig to engage in hand-to-hand combat or other activities that might reveal his physical limitations (or stretch our credulity even further). Although early scenes feature Bond on a motorcycle, showing off his driving skills as he races up and down the stone stairways of the Southern Italian hill town of Matera, he also smugly occupies a bullet-proof coupe, biding his time until he can activate the machine guns. In later scenes (and the ones set in Cuba), he just shoots faceless people—hundreds of them, many from a considerable distance.

Bond’s quick pivot and a shot into the “eye,” a motif dating to “Dr. No” (1962), here presented as part of the story in addition to a brief element of the credits.

Bond aficionados will appreciate the film’s referential quality: a martini, “shaken not stirred”; Bond’s quick pivot and a shot into the “eye,” a motif dating to “Dr. No” (1962), here presented as part of the story in addition to a brief element of the credits; Q’s (Ben Whishaw) cabinet of tech toys, which include a ceramic tea service that’s designed to do who-knows-what, maybe just serve tea; an ironic use of “Bond, James Bond” at MI6 headquarters; not a few corny or obvious jokes, including “time to die,” wasted on a figure who’s important to the plot but is really just a nerdy scientist not worthy of the film’s title.

“What’s with the Mormon?”, a reference to Troy-Donahue-like Logan Ash (Billy Magnussen—playing a CIA political appointee, for the requisite dig at the United States), may be the film’s funniest line, but if it is, it only proves that Phoebe Waller-Bridge (the creative force of TV’s “Fleabag”), added as a 5th writer on the film, was not much in the room.

The settings are classic Bond (and classic TV’s “The Bachelor”), from Southern Italy to Norway to Cuba to a World War II-like bunker on an island between Russia and Japan. And the music lives up to the franchise, from Billie Eilish’s theme song, which won a Grammy (awarded while the film’s release was on ice because of Covid) to the ironic re-use of the sentimental Louis Armstrong rendition of “All the Time in the World” over the end credits (from “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” [1969]).

Lashana Lynch as Nomi, the new 007, part of the
diversified cast.

This almost three-hour-long Bond extravaganza, not based on any of Ian Fleming’s books, also has updated gender and ethnic values. The cast is diverse, introducing Lashana Lynch as Nomi, a second 007: “your number was not retired.” The women are strong and independent, the bad guys all, well, guys.

Spectre, a non-state criminal organization that first appeared in “Thunderball” (1961), briefly returns before being wiped out by the bioweapon, leaving alive only its leader, the pure villain Blofeld (Christoph Waltz, dependably excellent), one of two bad guys with only one eye and, in the mode of his confinement in London’s Belmarsh prison, reminiscent of the astute and ever-menacing Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs” (1991). Remarkably, “No Time to Die” dispenses with any suggestion of an organization, leaving evil to reside in one person, Lyutsifer Safin (sounds like “Lucifer Satan,” an unnecessary linguistic touch), played by Rami Malek.

We’re supposed to know Lyutsifer Safin (Rami Malek) is nasty because of his bad skin and vaguely Eastern European accent.

Malek, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in 2018’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” is disappointing. He’s made up with bad skin (as if that’s a sign of malevolence) and presents Safin with a vaguely Eastern European fake foreign accent, talking with his mouth barely moving. Safin had a hard childhood. His family was killed by Madeleine’s father—surely that must be avenged—and he’s calculated that he and Bond are two versions of the same phenomenon: they’re both killers. While that’s true in a literal sense, it rings false here, in part because the theme is presented in a wooden, didactic interchange between the two, and in part because we’ve been believers in Bond’s (and Britain’s) righteousness for at least 60 years. At best this sort of equivalence is a movie cliché.

Even less credible, Safin articulates the belief that whatever he’s doing (preparing to kill much of the human race) is justified because people want to be controlled—a non sequitur of a high order. Though the people say they want freedom and individualism (a possible reference to contemporary right-wing ideology), they really want to be told what to do. Maybe they just want to die, perhaps especially to die an anonymous, unannounced, death at the hands of the psychotic terrorist Safin and his DNA device. Sure.

This drivel is evidence that the screenplay for “No Time to Die” is deeply flawed in its efforts to explain the origins of evil: why people do bad things, why some people want to kill others. Ignore all the phooey about freedom and control, and enjoy this latest Bond adventure (the 163 minutes go by fairly quickly) for what it is: the story of a guy who enjoys driving a motorcycle down stone steps, shooting one person after another in a dark stairwell, and embracing a woman half his age. And is too old to be doing any of it.

Date: 2021

Stars: 2.5 (out of 4)

Director: Cary Joji Fukunaga

Starring: Daniel Craig, Ralph Fiennes, Rami Malek, Ana de Armas, Léa Sedoux, Lashana Lynch, Ben Whishaw, Billy Magnuson, Christoph Waltz

Other Awards: One nomination to date

Countries: United Kingdom, United States

Languages: English, French, Italian, Russian; all non-English subtitled in English

Runtime: 163 minutes

Availability: Only in theaters; see JustWatch here for future streaming availability.

Lead image: Léa Seydoux, as Madeleine, and Daniel Craig, as James Bond, nominated for Most Egregious Age Difference Between the Leading Man and the Love Interest by Alliance of Women Film Journalists.

See all Five Cent Cine reviews by 2 Film Critics


43 North Unveils New Mural With A Surprise

43 North just changed the game when it comes to murals in the city. The team’s newest temporary installation at Buffalo Riverworks offers Buffalonians a chance to WIN BIG. This design titled, “City Chatter” displays the explosive growth of Buffalo’s startup ecosystem and on a bigger scale – the city as a whole! These developments can’t be attributed to just one person or organization, but rather a cumulation of things that make Buffalo unique. This mural celebrates the success of our community- a community we each built. From pennants to Seneca One Tower, and even better? You’re one of those things! From now until December, grab your friends and strike some poses in front of this mural for a chance to win stellar prizes courtesy of the 43 North team.

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“We’re launching giveaways that are tied to the QR code in the mural. Now through Oct. 25, we’re giving away a huge Buffalo Bills experience – 4 tickets to the Monday night game Dec. 6, private transportation to and from the game, a signed Josh Allen jersey, and a Bills store gift card. In November, we’ll be giving away a private dinner with a celebrity Chef. Plus smaller giveaways like hoodies and tees” explains Justine Palkowski Content Marketing Manager at 43North.

In preparation for the 43North pitch competition happening on October 28th, the hope is that this mural will not only drive traction toward downtown, but also get people involved in all of the economic development initiatives that 43North is a part of.

Be sure to check out this mural before it’s too late and scan the QR code to find instructions on how to win. For more information on 43 North visit their website at

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Big Big Table Hosts Big Big Open House

Author: Jonathan White for the Allentown Association Newsletter

Some things are worth the wait. Even if it takes seven years.

Big Big Table, a not-for-profit community café officially opens its doors for business. Overseen by a volunteer board and driven by the effusive founder/chef Mandy Bailey, Big Big Table is Buffalo’s first pay-as-you-can restaurant.

An open house featuring free samples of Blue Table Chocolates and other treats was held last Friday evening to preview the restaurant.

The Buffalo community café is part of the One World Everybody Eats Network. Board President Stephanie Smith said that while it was a long journey to get to Hudson Street, the stars aligned with the perfect location along with the willingness of others to help support the mission.  Lucile Altieri, whose “The Difference Kitchen” was the last occupant of the space, arranged to sell all of the kitchen equipment to help ensure that the Big Big Table kitchen is properly equipped. (Altieri was formerly co-owner of Presto Restaurant on Allen at Franklin Street). Funds for the equipment was raised through a $15,000 crowdfunding campaign. The building owner, whose family once operated a restaurant in the space, has also been very supportive.

A grant from the Garman Foundation will pay salary for a community/operations manager as well as a co-chef/kitchen manager to work with Bailey and an Americorps volunteer will also work at the site.  Smith said that the staff will work to build wider relationships within the community. Corporate gifts and foundation grants received will ensure that the operation can meet expenses for at least 6 months while operations ramp up.

The café motto is “Everybody eats. Everybody gives. Everybody matters”.  And everyone is welcome. Smith says that “whether a customer pays 20 cents for a meal or 20 dollars, everyone will be treated the same with warmth and dignity.” 

Bailey exudes that warmth and her effervescent smile makes it clear that all are welcome even without saying a word. Bailey has modeled the café on a successful community restaurant in Denver, Colorado – the SAME café (So All May Eat). The mission of Big Big Table is to address hunger, reduce food waste and build community.

As part of the mission to reduce food waste, the café will accept food donations from other restaurants, farms and food manufacturers that are “imperfect” and would not sell in markets. But, as Bailey put it, “an ugly carrot isn’t ugly when it’s in a well-prepared dish.”

Big Big Table is open for business at 272 Hudson Street.

Serving lunch Monday through Friday 11:00 AM to 2:30 PM

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