Tag Archives: summertime

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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Good Morning, Summertime!


On a recent episode of the podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, the foursome discussed the start of summer, specifically: What things, whether they be booklists, food items, or the start of blockbuster movie season, get you excited for summertime?

It got me thinking about the foods that inherently mean summer to me. As one of the commentators on the podcast mentioned, being an adult can sometimes ruin the seasonal aspect of treats enjoyed as a child. I don’t have to wait till the summer reappearance of the ice cream truck to get my ice cream sandwich fix. Hell, I could have one right now, if I wanted. (Well, I’d have to go down to the corner store, but you get what I’m saying.)

Feeding yourself as a grown up means overruling a lot of your worst impulses. It’s tempting, especially when my schedule gets chaotic, to eat cereal for dinner every night. Nourishing? No. But it’s easy to make, easy to consume, doesn’t dirty a whole of pots, pans, and dishes, and what’s more, I like cereal. But no, as an adult, I have to recognize that it’s not okay just to eat cereal for dinner every night. Nor is it okay to have an ice cream sandwich for breakfast every morning. (Seriously, though, as I write this at 7:30 am, that’s starting to sound more and more appealing.)

So… we pick and choose. We compromise. We get our vegetables in but eat cookies when we want to. Or we deny ourselves until specified times to indulge. But seasonal restrictions don’t really come into play. We might not eat ice cream sandwiches every day, but it’s not because it’s not summertime. It’s because we’re trying to make the better choice.

What about other stereotypical summer foods? Well, as soon as my friends started getting settled, they started buying grills, which meant that grilling also became less a summertime occupation and more of a “as long as the weather is decent” option.

Stuff that is generally only available in abundance on seasonal terms, like fruit, is still fairly restricted to specified seasons. You won’t find me eating much strawberries in the winter, but in the summertime, it’s rare to have less than a pound in my fridge. I generally eat more fruit in the summertime because the season yields some of my favorite crops. And right toward the end of August, when apple season is just getting started, I tend to eat more fruit than anything else.

But really, if there is a single item that most reminds me of summer, most makes me feel the oncoming summer season, it’s got to be lemonade. Despite how much I drink it in the summertime, I never find myself desiring it outside the months of May-August, but during the warmest months, I am in constant craving for the stuff. Cold, crisp, tart, refreshing, lemonade is my summertime drink. That first sip, sometime mid-May, always makes me feel like the summer is just moments away. That first sip reminds me of all the lukewarm, watered-down lemonade that I drank as a kid, at daycare or summer camp or served by well-meaning friends’ moms. It reminds me of infinite stretches of open days and nothing much to do but try to fill in the long gaps of time with stuff to do. It reminds me of the transition between the novelty adoration of the warm weather and then, usually around late July, getting really worn out on the heat and just wishing it would stop.

So my meandering has brought me to a general question: What foods do you still consider “summertime” foods? What food item most brings out a childlike summertime excitement?