Today was all about the last of the three games we’ve been trekking to see, and also about meeting up with Heather (at long last). Considering how much bang for our buck we’ve gotten already from this trip, we had high hopes that the Sabres-Blue Jackets matchup would be seriously kick-ass. And we figured it was safe to assume Heather would be a lot of fun. Would we be disappointed? Well, it all started at Chef’s…
Gentle Reader, you have probably gleaned already from previous chapters in this travelogue that we are unadventurous travelers. We get to our hotel room and stay there, budging only for the most essential parts of our trip (i.e. hockey games), so we were delighted when Katebits suggested we meet up with Heather for dinner before the game at Chef’s, which is apparently a Buffalo institution. Considering that Houlihan’s is the fine dining establishment providing room service food at our hotel, this sounded like quite the treat to us. It’s a local institution! How can you go to Buffalo and not eat at Chef’s? Well, perhaps we should have tempered our enthusiasm a little bit when, as we were walking in, we asked Heather if she’d ever been there before. “Yeah, once,” she said uncertainly, “We’ve never been back.” Pause. Then, unconvincingly, “I’m not sure why we haven’t been back.” The restaurant looked from the outside like a hole in the wall (surrounded by vacant lots and cracked concrete and general urban blight), but inside was a sprawling, totally stereotypical American Italian restaurant, with red-and-white checkered tablecloths, napkins that are actually bib apron things (none of us noticed this until halfway through our meal, when Katebits noticed everyone around us wearing their bibs and wondered aloud, “Why didn’t we get bibs?” Then, looking closer at the large napkin in her lap, “Oh.”), and dozens of pictures of local celebrities enjoying the establishment in all their famousness. The menu was limited. We are not eaters of red meat, so it was even further limited for us; we both opted for chicken parms, in part to honor Bucci (Heather suggested sending him the picture above and asking for advice on which player after whom to name our chicken parms, but ultimately we all decided he wouldn’t get it) and in part because it seemed obvious to us that a chicken parm wouldn’t have meat sauce. Turns out we were wrong. Our waitress was gobsmacked that someone wouldn’t want meat sauce, and said, stunned, when we asked if we could perhaps have dishes with meatless sauce, “But we put meat sauce on everything.” Every time she came back to our table after that she continued to explain to us that she’d never heard of not having meat sauce, that she had never to that very moment considered not having meat sauce, and blah blah blah, all until we told her, “We’re from out of town.” We have never, anywhere, in all our travels, felt the need to apologetically explain away a misunderstanding with that phrase, but it was as if it all made sense to her when she discovered we didn’t do things the Buffalo meat sauce way. Anyway, the long and short of it is that we honestly can’t understand why Chef’s was filled to the rafters with enthusiastic patrons by the time we left – it wasn’t atrociously bad in the moment, but surely there are better restaurants in this city.
Before meeting up, we had discussed in emails the possibility of making signs to hold up during the game. We never really got our acts together to coordinate a sign-making session, but Heather took the initiative to whip up a few on her own, and warned us ahead of time that they “weren’t funny”. We teased her that she’d just written “GO SABRES” or “I LOVE HANK” or something lame like that, so when we finally escaped from Chef’s we were eager to see her handiwork. She started with a delightfully frank “CHRIS AND DANNY WHO?”, then followed that with a subtle “TALLY HO”, then revealed the piece de resistance:
Needless to say, we shrieked with laughter, doubling over and gasping for air. A group of older men walking by chortled at us, then, not unkindly, called us “puckbunnies”. This left us stunned; it took several moments of quiet contemplation before Pookie said softly, “I do not think that word means what they think it means.” Seriously. Us? Puckbunnies? On what planet?
We ended up walking many blocks from our parking space to HSBC Arena, and about halfway there we realized that while Chef’s might not have been atrociously bad in the moment, it truly was atrociously bad a little while after the moment. Heather put it best when she said, of her meatball sandwich that had arrived at the table in full-on “smothered” mode, “I now have an entire block of cheese in my stomach.” It is only with the gravest caution that we would recommend Chef’s to the Buffalo visitor. Like, if there was literally not another business selling food of any kind in the entire city, and you were literally starving. But otherwise, avoid Chef’s at all costs.
When we got to the arena, and recovered a bit from Chef’s with some soothing bottled water, we were delighted to discover that Roadtrips had again done well by us – our seats were awesome. We were just a little to the left of the goal Crunchy would be tending for two periods, nine rows back.
The guys were super-close to us, and awesomely were skating right at us much of the time during skatearound and the game. So in that regard, the game rocked. Rocked. We are serious hockey fans, Gentle Reader, but we are also women. And the Sabres? Are hott. Schnookie, for example, barely noticed a single thing about the game, for how her brain just stopped registering anything but Crunchy. And that’s a good thing, too; remember how awesome the Sabres-Leafs game on Monday was? And how awesome the Devils-Pens game on Wednesday was? Well, this game was the opposite of that. The Sabres looked disorganized, listless and disinterested from start to finish. There was never a single moment where they appeared to have a cohesive understanding of the basic point of hockey – namely, to finish the game with more goals than your opponent. But on the bright side, Staffy played a much better game than he did on Monday, obviously because he saw Pookie was there and wanted to impress her. But we had a fantastic time nonetheless, laughing endlessly at the conversations going on behind us (like the drunk guy leaning forward to urgently inform Pookie and Heather, “Right behind you! To the left! It’s Sabretooth!” And the Blue Jackets fans discussing at the start of the third period whether the Jackets had it locked up yet; the man believed they did, but the woman cautioned him with a garbled idiom, “Don’t say anything… um… until… um… the fat lady sings.”), ogling the handsome Sabres (at one point Goose toppled over, landing hard on his derriere, causing Katebits to squeal, “Poor Goose, and his tailfeathers!”), and generally just loving that we were spending a Friday night doing the most fun thing we could imagine – attending a hockey game with good friends. (It should also be mentioned that we learned an interesting thing tonight: we are all too embarrassed to hold up signs at games, be they Pommerdoodle signs or Tallinder signs that coincidentally also advertise a local strip club.)
After the Sabres finished getting beaten 2-0, Katebits suggested we drive out to the suburbs to a dessert restaurant called Butterwood. Glorious, elegant desserts sounded like just the way to get over a dispiriting loss, especially a dispiriting loss followed by literally having garbage blown into our faces while walking in swirling, blustery winds up the sidewalk from the arena (it was like something straight out of a slapstick movie). Of course, we proceeded to get stuck in what Katebits assured us was the only traffic jam she’s ever seen in over six years of living in Buffalo. It was worth the trouble getting there, though, as we ended up with a table groaning under the weight of all the desserts we ordered.
The biggest winner was the basil crème brulee in Katebits’ tropical fruits dessert plate, and we were all heartily in agreement that Butterwood was by far the best restaurant we ate at today. The restaurant apparently sells wedding and other ornately-decorated cakes, and we decided to send this one to alix (in spirit, mind you. Those things are expensive!):
After drowning our sorrows in sweets, our intrepid chauffeur Katebits dropped us off at our hotel, where we discovered a shocking sight along our hallway:
We can only assume the Matvichuk poltergeist from Pittsburgh followed us here, but picked the wrong room. Don’t worry, though, Gentle Reader – we’ll wedge a chair under the doorknob tonight to keep him out.