Tag Archives: ice cream

Summertime, Sweet Summertime: Custard Crossing and Mercurio’s

It was a hellish July, but that gave way to a remarkably lovely August, filled with 80 degree days and 68 degree nights. Still, it’s the Dog Days, and like any good summertime citizen, I’ve been spending the warm weather months enjoying some of the various iced sweet treats available in our fair burgh.

I now live a mere five-minute walk to Oh Yeah! Ice Cream and Coffee Co., and while it’s a little pricey for my day-to-day sweet tooth, it’s an incredible little place that has lived up to every bit of praise thrown its way. The selection of ice cream base flavors is limited, but well-chosen and includes several vegan options. Then there’s the mix-ins, which number somewhere beyond fifty and include fruits, spices, chocolates, candies, meats, and intangibles, like “magic.” In addition, there are waffles, coffee, milkshakes, cookies, sodas, penny candy, and, my favorite extra sweetness, wireless internet. It’s the kind of place that one dreams of owning and operating.

When I haven’t been actively resisting the urge to run down South Highland into the gooey, lovely arms of Oh Yeah!, I’ve been gradually sampling other kinds of local iced offerings. And I have to sing their praises:


On a hazy midweek afternoon, I made a visit to the Waterfront Barnes and Noble, where I rewarded myself for errands achieved by making a stop at Custard Crossing, a frozen custard stand across the way from Panera Bread. City Paper featured a nice little blurb about the shop, notice that it deserved not just because of the deliciousness offered up there, but also due to its intriguing backstory (without spoiling the article, owner Tom Crankovic might have the most admirably one-track mind that ever opened a custard stand).

Custard Crossing also serves Italian ice, smoothies, hot dogs, etc., but the draw here is the sweet, dense custard. Egg-based and whipped with less air than conventional ice cream, the custard is smooth, silky but heavy and absolutely packed with flavor. On my visit to the counter, I bounced between tempting basics like vanilla and chocolate and conventional favorite mint chocolate chip, but settled on maple walnut. It was fantastic, deliciously rich to an absurdity. Every tiny taste boasted a ton of flavor, with the maple and walnut playing well against each other and the innate flavor of the custard. I could have done with slightly more walnut pieces in the mix, but my complaints vanish every time I think about the smooth finish of maple flavor.

I want a scoop of it on a stack of pancakes. Because you can get pints to go, that might just be what I have to do.

Custard Crossing on Urbanspoon


From the Waterfront back to Shadyside. Like Oh Yeah!, Mercurio’s is in the neighborhood, about a ten minute walk over to the main business district on Walnut Street. Their specialty is gelato and Neopolitan pizza, a kind of perfect pairing if you think about it. First the salty, savory pie, then enjoy a little extra indulgence with the gelato.

Like custard, gelato is a low-fat ice cream alternative. It’s lighter than custard, heavier than standard ice cream, and silkier than both, with a lovely, velvety finish to each taste. Mercurio’s boasts thirty standard flavors and a smaller menu of special daily flavors. The organization at the shop was not top-notch (almost none of the display cases were marked correctly and some of the flavors labeled to be available were not in stock), but there’s no denying that the variety gives a customer a lot to play around with.


My companion on this visit, Kate, went for a match-up of dark chocolate gelato and mint chocolate chip. The result was heavy on the chocolate, light on the mint, and perfectly divine. I especially liked the dark chocolate which when slightly melted, had a texture and flavor like that of an uncooked, fudgey brownie.


After some ordering confusion, I got a blend of hazelnut and vanilla caramel cashew. The hazelnut was perfect with the decadent caramel, but it was short on the expected cashew crunch. Didn’t stop me from scooping up every bit I could with the little shovel-like plastic spoons.

Mercurio's on Urbanspoon

I’m still working through my summer iced treat to-do list, but I’m curious as to your suggestions. Any summertime sweet treats that I have to try?

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Pure & Simple Bistro


Settler’s Ridge is about what you’d expect from the latest fashion of shopping areas. It’s expansive and open air. It’s filled to the brim with stores and restaurants of both high-class and mid-level appeal. It’s got a big movie theater. It’s got an even bigger Giant Eagle Market District, looming in the corner like an airport hanger filled with food. It’s  a huge maze of parking and commerce that on a busy Friday evening can drive a person to the brink of madness.

What a relief, then, that nestled in there, next to the movie theater, down the sidewalk from the monstrous and cacophony-laden Cadillac Ranch is a little oasis of calm?


Pure & Simple Bistro is about as far away from its neighboring establishments as it can get without an actual physical relocation. As quiet as the others are loud, as simple as the others are high concept, as low-key as the others are high energy, P&S is sweet Southern cooking with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients and simple, classic dishes done with careful attention paid toward proportion and quality.

Walking through the doors on a hot summer night is like taking a dip in cool waters. The decor is sleek, wooden, and stylish. If you ever wondered what kind of cafe Pottery Barn would have (if, say, they went the IKEA route), you can be it would look like this:

Pure & Simple Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Dear Denny’s Maple Bacon Sundae…

Dear Denny’s Maple Bacon Sundae,

Perhaps you weren’t expecting a letter so soon. Manners and mores would tell us that a proper 24 hours could pass before I were to follow-up on our first visit. But, as I lie awake in bed, tossing and turning, a stomach full of cream and greasy protein, I am struck by an overpowering need to get in contact with you. Call me rash, call me stupid, call me a fool… but please, please understand. You have bewitched me.

It was all a joke, at first. I saw you there, on the special bacon-theme menu, sandwiched in between bacon dishes of fairly ordinary variety: A pancake and bacon plate. An overloaded BLT. Strips of bacon over top other strips of bacon, other food items just peeking out of the corners here and there.

There you were, dead center of the trifold menu. So out of place even among your bacon brethren. A sundae. A sundae with maple syrup. A sundae with maple syrup and fried bacon. Wait… what? Seriously? But…. but how? But why? Denny’s is putting bacon on pancakes, bacon on eggs, bacon in sandwiches, bacon in burritos, bacon on fries, bacon on bacon. But this… this was over the line.

Or… was it? Was it really? Why should one limit themselves to pairing bacon with other purely savory meal items? Bacon and eggs are perfectly natural together, but why not another bacon-dairy combo? Couldn’t the salty, smokey quality of the bacon offset the smooth mildness of the ice cream, the sticky sweetness of the syrup? Could it be that this is the perfect combination of salty and sweet that people have been looking for? All that time wasted on chocolate-covered pretzels, each more elaborate than the last. Was this the true missing salty-sweet link?

Oh, bacon sundae, how I could not resist your potential charms. The waitress warned me off you. But, nay, I could not relent. I wanted, no, NEEDED to be with you. I needed to experience you through my senses, see you with my eyes, taste you with my tastebuds, smell your smokey baconness through my nostrils. I needed to know you.

The wait for you was agonizing, but then, there you were, standing before me, a goblet of off-white glory. Sprinkled on top were shiny crimson pieces of bacon. The syrup stayed incognito, all but obscured by the ostentatious show piece of this endeavor. I dipped a spoon into you. I tasted. I hesitated, then tasted again.

What glory! What tribute! What unexpected euphoria! Who knew it was possible to get a bigger rush if you simply added a ton of protein to your sugar content (and vice versa). Who knew that the bacon would compliment the cream, that the two would work so divinely swimming in the pool of syrup at the bottom of the mighty goblet? Who expected such a decadent pleasure to come from a Denny’s on Lebanon Church Road?

I consumed you, as a lion would devour a gazelle, as a sparrow a worm, as a teamster a donut. When you were gone and all that remained was drippy, gooey remains at the bottom of the cup, I mourned your absence.

Yet, you are not really absent, are you? You’re a part of me now. A part that has latched onto every internal surface it can stick its meaty claws into. I feel that I will live a day shorter because of you, perhaps several days shorter. The moment we were apart, I knew that to ever have laid eyes on you was to agree to an abbreviated life.

But, oh sweet temptress, I did not CARE! I could not care! If I am but a mortal than let me feast like a mortal! Let me not throw away my opportunities in the name of safety or healthy eating or fitness! Let me live, let me breathe, let me consume. Let me risk a few years of stale life for a few minutes of confounding heaven on a spoon.

Denny’s Maple Bacon Sundae, I beg of you, do not leave our world. Once the bacon theme has exhausted its welcome, they are bound to pack you away with the rest of the bacon specials, pack you away and never mention you again. Back with the cheesecake, the carrot cake, the vanilla milkshake. But my love…. will be gone….
Your devoted servant and customer,

Forked!