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Cooking up a comeback: Taste of Buffalo returns one year after its COVID cancellation

Anya Duchon, owner and president of Chrusciki Bakery, holds up a platter of samples her business will serve at the 2021 Taste of Buffalo.
Michael Mroziak/WBFO News
Anya Duchon, owner and president of Chrusciki Bakery, holds up a platter of samples her business will serve at the 2021 Taste of Buffalo.

One year after COVID put it on hold, the Taste of Buffalo is returning to Niagara Square. Final preparations were underway Friday for the annual celebration of local restaurants, food trucks and wineries.

Planning began last year, while the pandemic still affected much of daily living. Given the uncertainty, this year’s Taste is a bit smaller. While in past years more than 60 vendors would participate, 25 are scheduled this year.

“When we started planning back in September, October, we weren't even sure if we were going to be able to have an event in person,” said Taste of Buffalo chair Amber Hartman. “We had to really be flexible. And we kept in contact with both state and local officials to understand what they were doing, what changes could be coming, and had to adapt pretty quickly to all of those changes.”

Hartman said all but one of the vendors are returning participants. One of those businesses is Chrusciki Bakery, owned by Ania Duchon. While her kiosk would not be set up for several more hours, she appeared in Niagara Square Friday morning with a platter of the samples her business would offer over the weekend. They range from pierogi to cheesecake.

Diversity of menus and cuisines are a longtime tradition at the Taste of Buffalo. But this year, for the participating businesses, it’s a chance to reconnect with a larger general public and remind them of the many local options that are still available, after enduring the hardships of the pandemic.

“There's so many wonderful places around Buffalo, you know, with all diverse type of foods we all have to offer,” Duchon said. “The local businesses were really thriving on the support of the other Buffalonians, just supporting us over and over and over again. It was amazing.”

In addition to diversity, will there be an emphasis on healthy options.

“The Taste of Buffalo is one of the first food festivals in the United States to require every restaurant to serve a healthy option,” said Brianna Bartholomew, registered dietician with the Independent Health Foundation. “That means it's been analyzed by a dietitian and meets our guidelines. So they're going to be lowering calories, fat, saturated fat and sodium.”

Information on vegan and gluten-free options will also be available at the Taste, Bartholomew added.

Event organizers are asking those who have not been vaccinated for COVID to wear a mask out of respect for their surrounding peers. Meanwhile, a vaccination clinic hosted by Tops Markets will be held on the grounds during the weekend.

Hours for the Taste of Buffalo are Saturday, from 11 a.m. until 9 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.