Niagara Gazette

October 6, 2012

LETTERS TO THE ISLAND: A taste of something new

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Munchers — When Corey McGowan cooked up the idea for a Taste of Grand Island, he kept hearing, “Wow, that’s gonna’ be a lot of pizza and doughnuts.” That’s when he knew he had the right ingredients.

So next Saturday in our newly-muraled mid-town plaza, it will be as much about widening horizons as waistlines. “A lot of people,” he said, “never cross over Whitehaven Road.” That’s our beltline, the unofficial boundary between the Buffalo and Niagara Falls spheres of influence. The more Corey promoted the Taste, the more he realized how many residents consider them different worlds.

“A lot of people on both ends,” he said, “don’t realize what’s on the other end.”

So Beach House, meet Village Inn, along with about a dozen other restaurants. The format follows the successful Taste of Buffalo, with 50-cent tickets sold through one central location to patrons who’ll cash them in on delectibles.

Actually, pizza’s pretty thin. Say Cheese, one of our busiest purveyors, will dish out only appetizers. Variety abounds, including our New Orleans-style Dick and Jenny’s, which recently advertised “Oysters, live music, hurricanes, drag queens (3 out of 4 anyhow).” We’re also very fond of the various dumplings and rolls from Serene Gardens, our new Oriental outpost, just the ticket for a “Taste of…” format.

Mix in the offerings of the Village Inn’s inventive Arthur Harper, and whatever comes out of the apparent reconciliation at high-profile River Stone, and it looks like all-day dining out, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. About a dozen other businesses will make themselves known, a huge organizational feat.

Which brings us back to Corey McGowan who is, hold on now, just 23 years old, dreamed up the whole thing himself, went kitchen to kitchen promoting it and has never tried anything like it before. Actually, it’s a fundraiser helping Grand Island native and current Floridian Terry Klaaren to create a mural curing the eyesore of the plaza’s wall facing Baseline Road. The project approaches completion by the hour as his painted arches fill up with iconic local scenes. Passers-by are invited to contribute with touch up strokes.

At Town Hall Monday, Supervisor Mary Cooke recalled how Corey was “A high school youth ambassador and put together a very successful battle of the bands about five years ago. When he came in to propose this he asked, ‘Do you remember me?’ and I said I’d never forget. He can do it.”

We don’t know Corey McGowan at all, except for email exchanges, but he seems like a breath of fresh air, gale force.

Come visit. Bring your appetite. And a paint brush.

e-mail pollyndoug@hotmail.com