26 JUN 2018: A recent trip to Buffalo, New York was part discovery, part learning and part erasing personal demons. My girlfriend from college had dumped me in Buffalo on what was supposed to be a romantic weekend retreat 35 years ago. Negative thoughts against Buffalo lingered even though the city had nothing to do with the break-up. As John Lennon sang, “Give Peace a Chance” it was long overdue that I “Give Buffalo a Chance” and replace my negativity with positive thoughts towards the city. I’m so glad I did as my eyes were opened up to a city that has and is still going through a renaissance.  

Buffalo gets a bad rap. It’s usually by those that just see the odd TV news story or visited the city many years ago when times were tough. I shamefully admit I was part of that crowd.

BUFFALO - IT’S ALL IN THE NAME

Throughout its history Buffalo has had many nicknames –The Queen City, the Nickel City, the City of Light (due to it being the first electrified city in the US), City of No Illusions, Bison City, Flour City and in more recent times the City of Good Neighbours. I like this last one best and could be extended to the City of Good Hosts. I was welcomed by many Buffalonians from local guides and tourism reps who really appreciate a tourist’s business to museum curators, restaurant servers and just strangers I met walking the streets.

WINGING AND WECKING

When people think of Buffalo they automatically think of Buffalo wings. The Anchor Bar is known worldwide but there are many other Buffalo restaurants that will get your taste buds in a wings frenzy. Check-out Gene McCarthy’s a popular local wing haunt especially amongst mill workers, police and firefighters. Old photos, simple furnishings and friendly conversation provide the ideal atmosphere to go with an eclectic mix of local beers and mouth-watering dishes. It’s also a stop on the Buffalo Wing Trail. After you have your fill of wings saunter over to the nearby Mutual Riverfront Park – a perfect spot to relax and enjoy the view of Elevator Alley featuring one of the world’s largest collections of grain silos.

Wings may be kings on the Buffalo pride meter but Beef on Weck is treated just as royally by locals and visitors alike. Beef on weck’s roots are German but the delicious taste is universally loved. Basically it’s a Kummelweck roll (or sometimes spelled kimmelweck) with slow-roasted, thin-sliced roast beef. The roll is topped with salt and caraway seeds. A side of horseradish is supplied for you to add to suite your taste.

One of the pioneers is Charlie Roesch, part of a multi-generation Roesch family that has a century old food footprint into Buffalo’s restaurant and food community. Their Williamsville location, Charlie the Butcher’s Kitchen, is a beef on weck mecca. It’s a small and simple restaurant designed like a road stand with picnic tables outside and old photos inside of famous patrons like Regis Philbin, New York state governors and former Buffalo Bill quarterback star Jim Kelly. It’s a place where the moniker, City of Good Neighbours, comes to life as do your taste buds.

WINGLESS WELLNESS

My Buffalo journey of wellness with wings and beef on weck satisfied it was time to turn my attention to wellness of a different kind – body and mind. Hotel and day spas have sprung up in recent years in the Buffalo area. One of the best and a innovative leader in the Buffalo’s spa industry is the Excuria Salon and Spa. It is located in Williamsville, a short 20 minute drive northeast of downtown Buffalo. Owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Paul and Peggy Grenauer. This dynamic and charming couple introduced Buffalo to higher standards of professional aesthetic and therapeutic body treatments. Located in an original 1854 house once owned by the Mayor of Williamsville, the totally renovated, expanded and remodelled, Excuria spa at almost 10,000 square feet offers a full range of treatments.

Its 13 treatment rooms, pedicure room, styling area, two manicure areas and relaxation lounge cater to both corporate groups as well as individuals looking for an escape for an hour or a day. Opened in the early 90’s, Peggy Grenauer says their philosophy is simple, “Renew, relax and restore.”

That matches up perfectly with my spa visit game plan. First up, an Enriched Peat Body Treatment by Nicole. I enter the treatment room and hop into the specially designed table and capsule. Nicole gives my body a good whipped honey sea salt scrub and exfoliation. After a relaxing rinse off from the water capsule jets Nicole applies a soothing peat mud masque to my body to remove those Toronto baked on impurities and pollutants. Skin detox never felt so good. After another warm water rinse and drying off I hop on another table as Nicole gently rubs in an oil infused lotion made of ginger and grapefruit – getting my daily dose of vitamins in a pleasurable way.

Next stop is a signature Excuria Signature Facial featuring leading Eminence Organic skin care products. Rebecca is given the task of purifying and making my face glow. Good luck! This facial caters to the specific needs – it’s not a one face suits all treatment. Rebecca asks if it’s ok to do some extractions. As long as it’s not brain cells or hormones I give her the go ahead. I just wish blackheads were as easily extracted as all the fat cells inhabiting my body. Over the next hour Rebecca skillfully goes through a relaxing ritual of cleansing, toning, exfoliating, moisturizing, masque applying, and an incredibly sleep-inducing scalp and facial massage.

I’m always amazed that I can go from a perky state to a slumber state during a facial. My face and jaw line were treated royally with a bounty of organic goodness – apple, grape, arnica, rosehip, lavender, chamomile, Vitamin C and E, avocado, cucumber, kale and more.

Last stop on my Excuria wellness journey was their European pedicure. Tea, water or wine was offered. I was in a room with seven other ladies getting an assortment of manicures and pedicures. Meghan was the unfortunate soul who had to deal with my unsavoury heels and toes. I was in my bathrobe and hoped the other ladies would focus on my freshly minted face or a peek of my hairy chest rather than my ugly feet.

An afternoon at Excuria with their skilled and personable therapists and aestheticians provided welcome stress relief and body rejuvenation.

This visit to Buffalo exorcised those negative thoughts of 35 years ago and instilled positive memories of culinary and body wellness. Perhaps Buffalo will become known as the “City of Wellness.”

For more info: https://www.visitbuffaloniagara.com/

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Chris Ryall

An industry insider with strong, outspoken opinions that readers enjoy, whether they agree, or take issue with his point of view.

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