Wrought iron fence for the lush gardens

Lush gardens open to benefit Black Mountain
by Eileen Adams

wrought_iron_fence_gardensWandering around Tom Carey’s nearly five acres on Isthmus Road is like touring a botanical garden. There are waterfalls, fruit trees, flowers, vegetables, a mini-Stonehenge and a pond. The gardens will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 20, to benefit Black Mountain of Maine.

A donation of $10 entitles a visitor to get a narrated tour of the hills, which also include huts and fairyland-like enclosures. Visitors may also roam on their own. The tours begin every hour, starting at 10 a.m. at 228 Isthmus Road.

Carey, a local attorney, has been passionate about growing virtually everything since he was a schoolboy. He doesn’t just grow plants; he also creates specialty gardens, such as a serpentine-shaped path snaking down a hill, a woodland garden filled with a large variety of hostas and other shade-loving plants, a pond with water lilies, a birch garden with myrtle groundcover and a house enclosed with colorful bittersweet. It has become his grandchildren’s storytelling place.

The groundcover of pachysandra, a low semi-evergreen plant, covers the stonewall bordering his property near the road.

The mini-Stonehenge overlooks the pond. Tons of granite were trucked in from eastern Maine, then fashioned into the famous Druid ruin, complete with lintels connecting 12-foot-high granite slabs. In the middle is a fire pit.

The waterfalls flowing from the pond are named for his eldest grandchild, 2-year-old Georgia. A wrought iron fence, perfect for resting and reflecting, provides seating.

“You feel so good doing this. I love creating and having certain designs in my head, then transforming them into what you want,” he said.

As a youngster, he helped his father tend flowers and vegetables at the family’s camp on Roxbury Pond. When he grew older, he helped an uncle who owned a landscaping business on Long Island, N.Y.

A small, castle-like building adjacent to the pool is called the “Garden Folly,” an English name for a garden house. Carey built it almost entirely from stones on his property.

The small orchard is filled with apple, pear, peach and plum trees. The vegetable garden produces corn, lots of herbs, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, tomatoes and many other edible plants. The harvest is either canned or frozen.

Blackberries are extremely prolific this year, along with strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, raspberries and grapes. Flowers of every description and color — such as roses, bleeding hearts and dahlias — pop up everywhere around the outside of the house and throughout the gardens. Carey is ready to show all that nature — and hard work — can do.

And helping Black Mountain raise enough money to keep operating is important to him. He and his children often ski there, and many area schools use the slope for practices and meets.

He’s hoping people will take the opportunity to enjoy his gardens while supporting the ski area, which did not receive $51,000 from the town this year.


Hotel Les Sources de Caudalie : wine, chocolate and wrought iron balconies

Drinking in all the delights of Bordeaux from a vintage spot
The Hotel Les Sources de Caudalie ‘exudes a wine-country lifestyle, with the emphasis on comfort, warm service and all things natural’. The two fine restaurants at the Bordeaux hotel serve amazing food, too

wrought_iron_hotel_les_sources_de_caudalie1Dark, bitter chocolate sandwiched between crusty chunks of baguette, rich, tomato-y sauc-isson stew, foie gras, hairy-skinned peaches, cherry clafoutis; these are all flavours which immediately recall my first trip to Bordeaux as a teenager back in the day. Cork didn’t have such exotic produce at the time and I took to these new tastes, proffered by my host family, with enthusiasm.

Cork did always have black pudding, but it was on a trip to Bordeaux recently that I saw it used in a completely different way – it was something as simple-sounding as black pudding bread, yet it was sublime. It was just one of the many in the bread basket at dinner at La Grand’Vigne, the excellent restaurant at Les Sources de Caudalie, where I was staying, yet it tickled my taste buds in the way all those new flavours did way back when.

That first trip during my teenage years was the start of my love affair with travel, so it was a delight to get a chance to catch up with Bordeaux – France’s ninth biggest city – and its environs.

Even though unlike, say, Paris, it has few extraordinary buildings, Bordeaux has much to offer. The city is 2,700 years old with reminders everywhere of its chequered past, which includes Roman invasions, slave-trade wars, the Revolution and La Resistance, and so is heaven for French history lovers.

And what its buildings lack in wow factor, they more than make up for in their charm –the centre is made of elegant streets of superb Rococo architecture dating from the 1800s. It’s quite a phallic city, my daughter remarked, as we pootled around and, indeed, there are a lot of columns, spires and towers, but these are probably made all the more noticeable because everything else in the centre is just four storeys high. The Rococo buildings are so well preserved – with their sloping slate roofs, wrought iron balconies and the different stone faces called mascarons carved onto the facades – that they’ve been declared a Unesco heritage site.

And, of course, there’s shopping. Rue St Catherine is the longest pedestrianised street in Europe and is thus a shopping mecca, but Bordeaux is full of little side streets and we enjoyed a browse around Rue de Notre Dame in the Chartrons district. Once the wine merchants’ district, the area is now the place for cool cafes, edgy design galleries, antique shops and brocantes full of a mix of junk and gems. We came away with really gorgeous yet reasonably priced vintage wine glasses.

Wine is, of course, the thing people most associate with Bordeaux – it’s been made there since the 8th century. However they’ve been growing vines in nearby St Emilion since the 2nd century and it’s a real must-see.


Wrought iron and history : the family home in the Czech Republic

‘Thrown Out’ of the Family Home

By Annette Gendler

wrought_iron_home_czech_republicThere is a house I long for and yet never have set foot in. It is in Reichenberg, now called Liberec, in the Czech Republic, one hour north of Prague. It was taken from my grandparents in 1945, when the expulsion of Germans began.

Before my first trip there in 2002, I searched my grandfather’s papers and found a recounting of what had happened: “On July 9, 1945, a couple with the beautiful name Najemnik appeared with uniformed men and claimed my house; within an hour and a half I was rid of my house.” Perhaps the way you lose a house determines its emotional value going forward.

My grandparents never saw it again. When the Iron Curtain crumbled and my grandmother could easily have visited, she insisted, “I am not going back to where I was thrown out.” After being carted away on a freight train, my grandparents shared an attic with rats in the U.S.-occupied zone of Germany. I only knew them living in the one-bedroom social housing apartment they were allotted later. My grandmother never talked with wistfulness or bitterness about the lost house. She did talk about laying new copper pipes for central heating, or the kitchen garden where my young uncle used to trample absentmindedly through the lettuce. But she never lamented, like other refugees of our acquaintance, the “grand old times.”

Perhaps it was because those times hadn’t been that grand. My grandparents bought the house in 1937, a year before Hitler annexed their region as the “Sudetenland,” and Reichenberg became its capital. As the Nazi fervor mounted, my grandfather, a former city councilman for the Social Democrats, lost his position as principal of the girls’ middle school. Since his brother-in-law was Jewish, interrogations and a house search followed due to allegations that “Jewish money” had been involved in financing the house.

Not until I saw the house did I realize it was a small villa in the mansion part of town, up an incline from the Museum of Natural History, where Hitler stopped on his visit on Dec. 2, 1938. Their neighbors were Nazis, and my grandparents dutifully went to see Hitler arrive, lest they attract attention by not going. I have walked up that incline three times, and each time I worry that the house might not be there anymore. Thankfully its gabled roof has always appeared. Its façade is a monument in our family. We have our grandfather’s photographs from the 1930s, a cousin’s from the 1950s, my brother’s from 1988, and now mine.

The house has essentially stayed the same. The wrought-iron flower-pot holder atop the garden archway is still there. We have a photo of our dad, 7 years old, in a cable-knit sweater, posing under it. The stucco above the windows that was almost dropping off in 1988 has been repaired. I always wonder what it would have been like to be a grandchild in this house, to snuggle into a window seat in the sun porch and read all day. With the amber glass in the entryway, it’s the kind of house I would have loved to have, and perhaps my 1920s style apartment in Chicago echoes that. But since my grandparents received compensation from the West German government, there is no claim to be made. And what would I want with a house in the Czech Republic?

On that first visit, my brother and I rang the bell, despite our fear to be met with a tirade against Germans who sniff around. A woman with a tired face came to the gate. We didn’t speak a common language, but when we showed her the pot holder picture she understood that our father had lived there as a boy. She let us in, motioning us towards the back. The yard, where Dad used to stretch out on the grass to watch the bombers fly by, was vast.

Our host summoned a neighbor who spoke some English and clarified that she didn’t want to let us into the house because it was a mess. But we were grateful just to walk the yard. How could this simply be someone else’s house? Couldn’t this woman see my uncle’s ghost trampling the lettuce in the kitchen garden? When we left, a sense of abandoning overcame me, as if I were forsaking the house.

Each time I have visited, I pace the sidewalk and snap pictures. There is nothing else to do. How do you greet a house? And how do you say farewell? Each time I leave, I look back several times as if I were waving good-bye to an old friend. And I know that sometime soon I will travel thousands of miles again to spend five minutes staring at a house.


Wrought iron tables and “gelato”

A lone gelato freak searches for the scoop on Buffalo’s best
Hooked on the tasty confection after a trip to Italy, gelato freak finds local offerings delizioso

By Aidan Ryan

wrought_iron_ice_cream_gelateria_LucaNot long ago I stood in a small gelateria on the banks of the turgid Arno River, packed in with Florentines and international epicureans alike, all seeking shelter from the storm outside, watching the fluorescent lights of Florence reflected in the puddle-catching cobblestones.

In my hand was a petite cup of gelato, which my friend Lavinia, a native of Florence, said would be the perfect soul-salving end to an exhausting day under the Tuscan sun. Gelato – that’s just Italian for “ice cream,” right? I was wrong. She was so, so right.

Electric limon. Rich raspberry of near-erotic tang. And chocolate – cioccolato – so dark, so earthy, it made most American cocoa-treats taste like I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter spray. With less than half the fat, twice the sugar and almost no air compared to American hard- and soft-serve ice cream, gelato is healthier and denser, at once more refreshing and more filling. I had gained a new obsession. When I returned to the States, it wasn’t long before my sweet tooth started to ache. I needed the best Buffalo had to offer, and I needed it fast, Florentine style. What I found was at turns stimulating and illuminating – all told, I wasn’t disappointed, and no gelatophile has reason to be.

Shortly after hitting the Buffalo-Niagara tarmac I set out for Gelateria Luca, at the southwestern corner of Elmwood and Potomac avenues. I heard that the tiny shop, offering “A taste of Italy on Elmwood,” offered blood-orange, and I knew I had to see for myself.

Small but filling portions encourage combination. Pomegranate-lemon is a personal favorite of mine, along with mango-raspberry and chocolate with, well, just about anything. The quality of the gelato here – always reliable, always fresh – has encouraged my friends and me to return again and again.

On a recent visit I tried four varieties for $5.40: chocolate and coconut gelato with lemon and blueberry sorbetto. (The latter is like gelato, but made from fresh fruits).

Each variety is distinctive not only in flavor but in texture. The blueberry was cool and complex, and not at all too sweet. The coconut was pleasantly grainy (a reminder that this gelato is not flavored, but made from the “real stuff”) and tasted particularly good with the chocolate, which was rich, dark and dense.

I couldn’t discern my favorite part. At first I thought it was the lemon, which, though it didn’t quite match gelato made from the toddler-sized “bread lemons” of the Amalfi coast, was an extraordinarily refreshing choice for the 80 degree day, and the most powerful flavor of the bunch. Then I tried the chocolate, made in the Italian style, which I recognized at once. This was the real stuff; the platonic ideal; the very essence of cioccolato.

Though you’ll find no strolling gypsy accordionists in the Boulevard Mall, the Incorvia family established the first Sweet Melody’s on Transit Road hoping to give the Italian practice of mixing light food and light entertainment an outlet in Western New York. The original location near the intersection of Transit Road and Millersport Highway, was rather unfriendly to the average urban flaneur and has closed. The Incorvias still use the kitchen there to whip up fresh gelato for their Boulevard kiosk and for catering events.

I visited the boulevard location and ordered a perversion of the Neapolitan: hazelnut chocolate, lello (white chocolate coconut) and amarena (cherry).

The hazelnut chocolate was a creamy treat, though I remain partial to a darker Italian cioccolato. Combined, though, the three were strikingly delicious.

Of all the gelaterias I visited, Sweet Melody’s wins the prize for culinary daring. The shop’s Facebook page references caramel sea salt, olive oil gelato and lemon-basil sorbet, to name a few. Alexis Incorvia mentioned a new Greek yogurt gelato fad, before shocking me with peanut butter bacon banana. This last was created at a customer’s request – something which, according to Incorvia, Melody’s makers are more than willing to indulge.

Of course, the boulevard location – near the food court – is a bit too noisy for the sort of singing-while-we-scoop service seen on Transit. With two new locations opening soon in Snyder and Lockport, though, Incorvia said the shop probably will return to its melodic roots.

By the time I reached Country Peddlers, the day had gone from hot to muggy, and the marbled skies threatened the sort of rain that would bring little relief. I looked up to the shop’s menu – featuring 28 flavors – and breathed a sigh of relief. I ordered a cup of pineapple and chocolate (my measuring stick for good gelato) and sat down at one of the many wrought-iron tables outside.

The chocolate was unique, more like fudge than the others, satisfying but not dark enough for my tastes. The pineapple, though, was far and away the most refreshing sorbetto I tasted during my journeys, the perfect mix of sweet and acidic snap – it transported me to a sunnier afternoon in Florence, when I had stood outside yet another gelateria, slowly indulging in a cup of kiwi-raspberry-mango, watching a bride and groom march in wedding-wear up a winding road, as a beaming, leonine father-in-law filmed on his iPad.

Chris Sullivan, manager at Country Peddlers, gave me a tour of his gelato kitchen, and explained both the science and the art of his craft. Sullivan graciously offered me samples of pomegranate (pleasantly crunchy) and cannoli (surprisingly light, a good alternative if you crave the taste but don’t want to fill up on the real thing).

Sullivan also likes experimenting. “If you think of it, you can come up with it,” he said.

Celebrating its fifth anniversary this year, Vincenzo’s sits in a quaint shop on a quaint street at the center of Orchard Park. Though the shop is earning attention in the city and surrounding suburbs, it’s best known as a favorite with locals – I came at the recommendation of my friend and OP epicure Kevin. “We get the same families, it’s funny,” said serving veteran Maggie Guzzino. She said the shop, open only in the summer, is filled with kids during the day and young families in the evening, many of them coming from kids’ baseball games at the diamonds up the street.

What stood out first was the size of the scoop. Guzzino gave me the most generous meduim-sized cup I’ve yet seen (for $4.25), enough to delay my dinner. I ordered chocolate (of course) and dolce de leche, a caramelesque treatment of sweetened milk.

Dolce de leche lived up to its name. Aggressively sweet, this flavor leaves its taste on the back of your palate – something I appreciated when I moved on to the chocolate. I found the caramel flavor paired well with Vincenzo’s dark, fudgy chocolate – similar to the variety offered at Country Peddlers, but richer. Vincenzo’s takes the prize in that cocoa category.

But the dolce de leche was better. I scooped and swirled with enthusiasm – you simply won’t find caramel-chocolate ice cream this sweet or satisfying.


Wrought iron design for the Prison Hotels

Prison hotels: welcome to a night in the nick
Plans for new ‘superprisons’ mean some of the UK’s most famous old slammers could get a new, very different, lease of life … as boutique hotels. It’s a model that has proved popular elsewhere

wrought_iron_prison_hotelsBritish boutique hotels could be about to get a boost from an unexpected quarter. Yesterday, new plans were put forward for a series of “super prisons” holding as many as 3,000 inmates. Which will mean that some of the nation’s most famous old slammers could get a new, and very different, lease of life.

A thinktank has suggested that notorious nicks such as Dartmoor, Wormwood Scrubs and Pentonville could be reinvented as boutique hotels. Where once meals were shoved through hatches in the door, Bolly and blinis will be delivered on room service. In-room massage treatments will replace doing time on a hard bed.

The idea is not entirely new, of course. Back in 2005, the Malmaison boutique hotel company re-opened Oxford prison as a 95-room addition to its cool chain, promoting “Nights in the nick” from £95. In the notorious A-wing (familiar to fans of Inspector Morse), smart rooms were fashioned by knocking together the original 19th-century cells. They had the advantage of nice, thick, sound-proofed walls, if a somewhat claustrophobic feel, courtesy of high windows and iron bars.

The model has proved popular internationally, too. In Boston, Charles Street jail was given a makeover so chic you could be forgiven for never guessing its original role, except for the tongue-in-cheek name – the Liberty hotel. The Karosta hotel in Latvia has taken things in a different direction. This ex-military prison offers a freakish themed experience complete with strict guards and cold, unconverted cells.

Most conversions, though, go for the style ticket. At the Het Arresthuis hotel in Roermond, Netherlands, oversized chandeliers and violet mood-lighting soften the effect of what were once gloomy corridors lined with wrought iron. This Dutch creation is a model of how to spin spartan into modern minimalism.

If every town in England has a prison hotel, won’t the novelty be lost though? And while it’s a bit of a giggle to sip a cocktail where inmates once ferried meal trays, who wants to try to patch up their marriage in a lifer’s old cell?

Certain former prisons lend themselves better to the hotel idea than others, too. It will be one thing to wake up with views across Devon moorland, but not all the prisons on the list have the aesthetic attributes of Oxford, or a location such as Dartmoor. There is a chilling hint of Colditz, for example, about Shepton Mallet in Somerset. At 400 years old, it was the UK’s oldest working prison until its closure in March, and once housed the Krays. It is a forbidding building in a location that has little to recommend it besides being walking distance from the Mulberry factory shop. Then again, it is splendidly handy for bands booked to play at Glastonbury. Who would have guessed that HMP Shepton Mallet could have a future in jailhouse rock?


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