Wrought iron furniture
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
Not 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.
Coffee on a budget at pop-up cafe
By IVY FLEMING
Friends since year 11, Nick Underhill, Tiffany Blackmore and David Columbro are using their summer break from studies to operate the cafe from the former Yours and Owls site.
‘‘The coffee helps,’’ laughs Blackmore when asked how she gets through the hours. The cafe has transformed the former live music site into a cosy inner-city nook for students and friends.
The deliberately mismatched furniture creates a laid-back feel. There are lop-sided mirrors, timber stools, wooden crates and even a white, wrought-iron garden setting.
Along with homemade biscuits, muffins and slices at the counter, the place is filled with artwork, woodworks, relishes and jewellery, showcasing the talents of the trio’s friends from university.
‘‘You can only squat for so long’’ is written on the blackboard at the counter, alongside the ‘‘Squatters Countdown’’ written above a lop-sided mirror, marking the number of days the bar will remain open.
Three Squatters opened on February 1 and will close on February 28, when the trio prepare for their return to university.
The three friends had just three weeks to set up the cafe, which now operates from 7am till midnight on weekdays and from 9am till midnight on weekends.
They leased the venue after Yours and Owls moved out and Underhill says having a leftover coffee machine, equipment and cutlery made the set-up much easier, especially as there were approvals such as a liquor licence to be finalised. ‘‘In terms of opening a cafe there’s so much to do,’’ Underhill says.
All three have had experience in hospitality at certain stages and are now studying various degrees. Underhill is completing his honours in international communications and media studies, Blackmore is studying a combined degree in law and arts, and Columbro, who is studying accounting and international business, has taken a month’s leave from his job to help with the cafe.
After finishing her shift, Blackmore then goes home to prepare relish and craft jewellery pieces. Underhill says social media has helped get word out about the cafe and it has been busy. ‘‘We wanted it to be a really relaxed place to hang out,’’ he says, adding that the prices have been kept low to fit in with university students’ budgets.
‘‘We’re kind of spending our time there anyway so we’re enjoying it just as much as everyone else is.’’ Drawing towards its final day, Three Squatters is holding a gourmet burger night on February 26, hosted by Little Prince chef Jimmy Callaway.
Blackmore says that along with having live acoustic music on Sundays, the group have set up quirky events at the cafe, including an anti-Valentine’s Day, which included pinatas for those keen to show their distaste for the day.
This rustic-chic Galveston house has haunted beginnings
In a historic Victorian that was once reportedly inhabited by ghosts, a Houston boutique owner finds a bright, rustic-chic Galveston getaway
By Melanie Warner
The breeze blowing in from the Gulf on this day in Galveston is cool, and sun floods the gray painted wood plank flooring of the outdoor space, which is just large enough for the charming swing, an Adirondack chair and a small wicker table with a container of seashells on the bottom shelf.
The owner of the Rice Village linen and home store Olivine, Stroud, who also has a home in The Woodlands, bought this circa-1899 Victorian home in 2008 after Hurricane Ike using an inheritance from her aunt. In the ensuing months, she transformed the dark – and reportedly haunted, but more on that later – house into a bright, casual weekend retreat that combines rustic French country coziness and just a hint of coastal flair with elements paying homage to Stroud’s Louisiana roots.
“The truth is, when I first walked into this house, I thought it was so creepy,” said Stroud.
This diminutive balcony is accessed via what Stroud believes is a “trunk room,” which in homes of this era and style is where the well-heeled, well-traveled Victorian families would store their traveling trunks. It’s possible also that this small, single window room is a “bedroom” what we now call bedrooms were at the time referred to as “chambers.”
Whereas the chamber was a room for sleeping and dressing, the bedroom typically contained a daybed and would be used for naps, so that beds in the proper chambers weren’t messed up.
“It was not my taste at all,” said Stroud. “There was stenciling. The kitchen had big, huge ceramic tile [that] was a dark wine color.”
So Stroud ripped the dark tile and drab brown cabinets out of the kitchen, opting instead for painted gray wood floors and white Ikea shelves and cabinets. The countertops are butcher-block style, and the pièce de résistance is a deep, white porcelain farmhouse sink paired with a curvaceous Perrin & Rowe faucet.
Stroud made the executive decision to use the front living room as the dining room, and the dining room as the living room. She appointed each room with a combination of both rustic and soft, feminine elements, which along with the natural pine floors, creates an inviting atmosphere.
The living room, awash in white and gray, is appointed with four chairs and a sofa all slip-covered by Houston-based upholsterers and furniture purveyors Hein Lam. The coffee table has a wrought iron base and oval marble top, and a distressed wood table is nestled under the flat screen TV. A handful of decorative items – such as a shell-covered trunk and baskets – and art are placed on tabletops and the walls, but the overall look is sparse.
In the dining room, Stroud departed from the white and gray color palette, opting for blue walls. Stroud’s daughter, Catherine Stroud, created the farmhouse-style table using salvaged wood acquired locally at Antiques Warehouse, with the help of its owner and family friend, Scott Hanson.
Off the dining room is a generous foyer, with a long, blue wooden bench and grand wicker chair, which during Stroud’s popular Mardi Gras and Halloween parties doubles as a seating area for partygoers. It also is home to Stroud’s grandfather’s plantation desk.
Upstairs, the three bedrooms – or chambers, as they were – are a showcase for bedding from Stroud’s store Olivine. Layers and layers of linen drape and decorate each space.
Despite the bright, comfortable décor, Stroud said many a family member or friend has encountered a foreboding presence, especially in the middle of the night. “I have ghosts following me everywhere,” said Stroud. “They love me.”
Stroud said ghosts and Galveston go hand-in-hand. While it’s not a typical topic of conversation in Houston or The Woodlands, where she resides with her husband, surgeon Daniel Stroud, in Galveston, ghost stories are as common as seaweed on the beach.
Reports of dark figures chanting and pushing on Catherine Stroud, choking a family friend and clamoring up and down the stairs disturbing Stroud’s sister’s sleep led to a visit from an MTV psychic and TV crew to rid the home of its ghosts – by luring them into the trunk room to cross them over into the light through the window. Stroud, however, credits her long-time friend Sonya Fitzpatrick, the Animal Planet host of “The Pet Psychic” and “Pet Psychic Encounters,” with ridding the house of its harrowing hauntings after the show’s taping.
Not all of the ghosts were malevolent though, said Stroud, who often sensed the presence of two female spirits when she was picking out paint colors for the house, which has a barely gray exterior with white trim and blue and purple accents on a decorative wood border between the porch and balcony. “It’s kind of sad,” said Stroud. “I miss the women. They guided me.”
These days, sans benevolent, design-savvy Victorian ghosts, Stroud finds herself more in Galveston than in The Woodlands. Four years ago, Stroud said this idea wouldn’t even have occurred to her, were it not for having seen a post about historic Galveston houses on Joni Webb’s design blog, Cote de Texas.
Now, the shop owner looks forward to a day in the not-too-distant future when she and her husband can call Galveston and the storied Victorian their permanent home.
Country Living Appraises 1970s Peacock Chair: What’s The Worth?
We’re very excited to syndicate one of our favorite columns, ‘What Is It? What Is It Worth?’ from one of our favorite magazines, Country Living. All text and images below are provided by Country Living. Get ready to be surprised!
“I picked up this chair, along with its mate, at a garage sale 15 years ago. How old is the pair?” -M.D., New Palestine, Indiana
country living what its worth
Professional appraiser Helaine Fendelman identifies and evaluates your collectibles and antiques.
The outdoor seat, named for its resemblance to a peacock’s fanned tail feathers, was likely imported from Mexico or Europe in the 1970s. The design imitates the ornate style of Victorian lawn furnishings — the peacock motif was popular back then, too.
But that delicate aesthetic belies your piece’s sturdiness and durability: Lacy wirework adorns a wrought-iron frame. While not particularly rare, this chair feels on trend and is in nice shape. Plus, the fresh green color adds to its overall good looks.
Hospitals super-sizing equipment for obese patients
Health-care facilities are making accommodations to take care of their heaviest patients.
Hospitals are getting super-sized. Waiting room chairs are being built with wrought iron for heavy patients. Wheelchairs and beds are made to sustain extra weight. And toilets are being mounted to the floor, not the wall.
In response to America’s obesity epidemic, health-care facilities nationwide are making accommodations to make sure they can take care of their heaviest patients.
The trend started about a decade ago when bariatric surgery took off in popularity and the American public began ballooning in weight. By the mid-2000s, hospitals had started to update with these patients in mind. That can mean anything from wider doorways to bigger commodes.
“It really runs the gamut,” said Cathy Denning, a vice president at Novation LLC, an Irving, Texas-based health-care supply chain company that produces an annual report on the cost of bariatric care.
And they’re finding that those products have uses for other patients. Vein viewers can locate veins in patients whose fat obscures their vascular access; they’re also useful in patients with difficult-to-find veins. Scanners need wide enough holes and strong enough tables to accommodate larger patients; patients with claustrophobia may also appreciate them.
Some doctors are developing reputations for treating larger patients. They use longer needles to deliver injections into thicker arms or special surgical equipment that let the surgeon reach deeper inside a patient’s abdominal cavity.
to be continued