Saturday, July 27, 2013

Buffalo NY, USA

I wouldn't normally write about a place less than a 2 hour drive from home but because it is in another country and the dining options are interesting, it is still a nice addition to my collection.

So we drove to buffalo New York, the US side of Niagara falls to pickup a package I ordered online. I box of aquarium accessories that cost me USD170 but would have cost me $320 if I bought it in Canada. The $150 savings was enough to compel me to book a hotel, stay overnight, and avail of the $200 exemption when bringing stuff into Canada. So for $320 I get my stuff, a hotel, and most importantly the satisfaction of knowing that I didn't get ripped off.

Since I've never seen the other side of Niagara Falls, it was a good opportunity to make a sightseeing trip out of it. Turns out, what everyone says is true, The US side of Niagara sucks compared to the northern neighbor. The Canada side has a better view, better tourist accommodations, better options overall. What the US has though is better shopping, better prices, and the fact that you are in the US and you don't have to pay the whopping 13% tax on everything. I had everything ready: my SLR, my monopod, and my subject. As I was ready to shoot I realized I left my cam battery charging back home. An oversight that ruined the day for me, or so I thought. As it turns out, this became a good opportunity to try out the photo capabilities of my newish Galaxy S4. I was not disappointed one bit.

After seeing all I had to see falls-wise, we visited the Aquarium of Niagara which wasn't very good. One visit in this lifetime is enough. Just a series of large aquariums, not anything memorable compared to the other aquarium attractions I've been to.

For lunch we opted for this place based on my research that won the best pizza in a Buffalo ultimate pizza showdown. A face off between all the popular pepperoni pizzas in buffalo. We ordered pasta and the pizza san vito with salami, artichokes and olives. Everything was delicious. I ended up trying to replicate this pizza several times at home with a decent success rate.

We booked our overnight stay at the millennium airport hotel. Rather expensive at $180 with all taxes and discounts included. The hotel was old. It was spacious, but old. It was the type of hotel that was probably once of the expensive ones during its glory days but has now lost all its shine. The pool and the free parking were the best features of the place.

I was highly anticipating dinner for we were planning to dine in at the Riverstone Grill. A restaurant that was featured in Man vs Food for its signature serving the "Bone in the Stone". For $38 (plus $5 if shared) you get an abomination of a piece of steak, fries, potato fries, and for an additional fee, generous toppings of blue cheese and onion strings. As the server was slowly bringing the plate towards our direction a sense of dread came upon us, more of a "what the hell did I get myself into" feeling in my gut. Interestingly enough, being the only Asians dining at that time, we were probably the smallest people in the bunch and were the only ones who ordered it. Everyone was smiling as it was being served.

Surprisingly, the steak was actually pretty good. I did not have high expectations thinking that it was more of a novelty menu item. Considering how thick it was, it was cooked rather nicely, medium, tender and succulent. The fries that came with it were pretty good too but I couldn't really eat much of it. The blue cheese complemented the meat by adding a welcome creamy texture to every bite.

In the end, I believe we did ourselves proud by finishing it down to the bone. Couldn't say the same for the fries and onion strings, there were piles leftover. Too stuffed to do anything else we were just looking forward to shopping, swimming, and lunch the next day.

For day 2, Cheesecake factory for lunch, shopping, and leaving.

I love the cheesecake factory. I find it relatively expensive for the type of restaurant that it is but it is where I can sample truly fantastic cheesecakes (my favorite cake). The entrees aren't so bad either so it is a very solid restaurant where you can get something for everyone for whatever meal of the day it is. Preparing for a sure high calorie dessert, I ordered off the skinnylicious menu and got a simple and average chicken salad sandwich. I also got a taste of some angel hair pasta with shrimps and a cafe mocha.

For the long anticipated dessert, the tuxedo cheesecake. Chocolate cheesecake, mousse with vanilla mascarpone. It was as expectedly delectable. Yum!

After lunch, some shopping, and realizing how expensive things were in Canada, it was time go. We got stuck at the Queenston border for a butt-numbing 2 hours which was the only wrinkle in the entire trip. To recap, going to Buffalo is really worth it just for the shopping alone.

This excursion will definitely be repeated in the future.