Medina has always had that Hallmark movie vibe but these days, it could be the actual setting of a movie, complete with swanky restaurants, bright nightlife and a boutique hotel for the production crew and actors, and the perfect cafe for the inevitable meet-cute of two Lifetime Channel stars.
As for the two jealousy-inducing photos above, the small village continued their annual tradition of a farm-to-table dinner each summer on the middle of Main Street Thursday night. Started by Zambistro, an American restaurant specializing in “upscale comfort” food, a few years ago, it’s progressed into a five-course meal including the team-up of other local restaurants Mile 303, Mariachi De Oro, Sourced Market & Eatery and Shirt Factory. Wine pairings accompanied each meal from local wineries Liten Buffel, Schulze Vineyards, Leonard Oakes, Chateau Niagara and 810 Meadworks.
Diners filled a closed-off Main Street, laughing, tasting and drinking. Elaborate, country-chic plate arrangements, fresh flowers and candles added the perfect touch to the already-quite-perfect atmosphere.
Scott and Alix, owners of Shirt Factory and bloggers (In a DC Minute,) invited bloggers Lindsay and Beau (Buffalovebirds) and I to try it out. The picturesque atmosphere, creativity, inventive food and conversation made this the most fun I’ve had on a Thursday in a while.
Medina, luckily, has long had the charm and a dedicated team of people working to put/keep Medina on the map, from quaint storefronts like The Book Shoppe (a store that always manages to smell like gourmet coffee and crisp novel pages) to the old Cobblestone mini-mansions paired with towering trees lining the route into village to the historic Erie Canal edging the village.
But within the past(ish) decade or so, it’s seen a resurgence mimicking Buffalo’s in size when put to scale. Expats are moving back and those born and bred are staying, filling a critical young, working-class demographic, opening businesses and supporting their old and new friends’ ones. Factors like the rising economy, internet, pushback of trying not to lose our precious brick-and-mortars and small towns to the internet, plus the aforementioned dedicated people are surely to blame. Medina embraces their country lifestyle, in a fusion city/country way, that makes you think “this is the country, but the part of the country that closely follows Pinterest.” Every restaurant featured here opened within the past 15 years.
Now, let’s get into the food.
First course: Corn, beets & some berries walk into a bar by Mile 303
What’s in it: Pickled corn puree, compressed braised beets, berries, greens, herb flax cracker.
The wordplay is strong with this one. Besides being an undeniably beautiful dish, this tart beet bar ended up being a rare flavor combination I’ve never tasted before. Light, easy and reminiscent of cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, it was a great start to the meal. Mile 303 opened earlier this year, bringing a menu of upscale, innovative food to Medina. The inside matches the innovativeness of the menu, with a bar was modeled to look like the Erie Canal, which runs through the village.
Second course: Chile verde empanada by Mariachi De Oro
What’s in it: Pork shoulder, green tomatillos, red tomatoes, garlic, wild verdolago plant
Mariachi De Oro, one of the only restaurants for miles that consistently has a wait, rarely disappoints with their authentic Mexican, and they didn’t this time with the crisp empanada and just a hint of spice.
Third course: Pastrami on rye by Sourced Market & Eatery
What’s in it: Beef brisket, rye berry salad, quick pickle, cherry mustard vinaigrette
“Ooo’s” were heard around the table as this striking plate was slid in front of each guest. I’m pleased to say the savory/sweets flavors met the presentation’s high expectations. Sourced is a trendy, modern indoor farmer’s market that is on my list to visit next time I’m in the area. Their food is always farm-to-table, a market that sells fresh produce and has a kitchen making changing specials based on what’s in season, brunch foods and local coffee.
Fourth course: Chicken 3 ways by Zambistro
What’s in it: Egg pasta, chicken thigh tortellini, sous vide chicken breast, anise beurre blanc, carrot dust
Carrots complimented the dough-y chicken bites, which all tasted good swirled around the creamy sauce. Though our stomachs were collectively getting quite full, everyone was making room for squeezing this in.
Dessert: Summer berry chocolate cake by Shirt Factory
What’s in it: Layered chocolate cake, mixed summer berry buttercream, chocolate ganache
Remember when I said our stomachs were getting full? My stomach has a way of always making room for chocolate cake, so yeah I finished the whole thing. The cake was vegan, which at the table we were discussing often gets a bad rep, but even with all the preconceived notions surrounding vegan foods, you would never have known it was missing butter, milk, eggs or whatever would go into it normally (okay, I’ve never actually baked a cake). The berries were handpicked by owner Alix in her backyard. It’s the little things.
For a girl who spent multiple weeknights at dance class on Main Street, and weekends visiting The Book Shoppe, I’ve loved Medina even before its resurgence. But now, don’t sleep on Medina. This small village is stamping itself on the map as a premier weekend destination. And if you want in on next year’s dinner, act fast. They sell out instantly.