Buffalo Celebrities’ Sweet Tooths


artwork by Leslie Zemsky, with permission

What’s your sweet tooth?

Originally published in Buffalo Spree magazine, February 2012

Nelson Starr,
music producer, composer, and vocalist

Starr favors sweets ranging from crème brûlée to sweet and savory pairings, like bleu cheese with fig jam. Dense ice cream, maple syrup, and honey also rank high on his list.

Favorite desserts:
A fan of homemade ice cream, Starr seeks out interesting flavors—green tea, ginger, pistachio, ginger, coconut, and mango, for example—at Japanese or Indian restaurants. “My favorite dessert is Ellen Gedra’s sticky toffee pudding at Bistro Europa. It’s got a great, caramelized flavor, which adds to the richness, and the cake soaking it up is amazing. I can’t name one dessert that I like better.”

Childhood favorites:
“There are three, all my grandmother’s: molasses cookies, chocolate icebox cake, and amazing pineapple upside down cake. Real old school.”

Home sweet home:
Starr lives in the house his grandparents built, and he still bakes blackberry pies using berries from a bush in the backyard. “It’s wonderful because it’s where I spent a lot of my childhood. They had the bush when I was growing up, and it keeps continuity going through the generations.”

Buffalo’s best:
“Chow Chocolat is probably the coolest place in town.” Starr loves their confections and hot chocolate.

Donna Fernandes,
president of the Buffalo Zoo

Fernandes appreciates a variety of desserts and candy so long as it’s in the form of chocolate. Whether hot chocolate, pie, or peanut M&Ms, she is passionate about the cacao bean. (She is not, however, a fan of sponge candy, which she says “tastes like sawdust.”)

Favorite desserts:
Fernandes likes chocolate with nuts, especially cashews or almonds. Chocolate cream pie and chocolate pecan pie are on her love list, too, but “molten chocolate cakes with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream are my favorites. On one of my first dates with my husband, we went out to dinner in Boston at the Armani Caffè and had the best chocolate molten cake.”

Birthday cake:
“At the zoo, we draw names and take turns bringing each other cakes on our birthdays. I always ask for chocolate ice cream cake or chocolate cake with vanilla frosting.”

Buffalo’s best:
Fernandes is a big fan of the ice cream at her neighborhood Fowler’s Chocolates. She also loves to buy chocolate gifts there, because the novelty shapes can suit any recipient.

Leslie Zemsky,
artist/board president of Albright-Knox Art Gallery

A painter of food, Zemsky has about 500 food images in her archive, which she uses to create illustrated recipes. She adores cupcakes and old-fashioned white or yellow cake with vanilla frosting.

Birthday cake:
Zemsky always relishes white cake with buttercream frosting from Quaker Bonnet.

Tools of the trade:
As a kid, she “used to obsessively make the Easy Bake Oven chocolate cake,” and even improvised the recipe to make whoopie pies. Today, she calls her stand mixer a “dream investment and life changer” because it allows her to spend more time achieving her desired frosting consistency.

Food as art:
“My favorite artist is Wayne Thiebaud, famous for his work featuring cakes and sweets. His paint looks like frosting.”

Home sweet home:
For twenty-eight years, Zemsky has made German chocolate cake for her husband’s birthday. “He loves it so much, he eats it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week. I also love baking cupcakes for my kids. What I love about cakes and cupcakes is that they just say party.”

Best sweet ever:
“The perfect slice of cake with vanilla ice cream. I love the Frou-Frou cake at Lombardo’s. It’s their signature.”

Mike LoCurto,
Delaware District Common Council Member

A cake person to the core, LoCurto feels lucky to have two cupcake specialty places—Zillycakes and Fairy Cakes—nearby. He also likes peanut sticks from Paula’s Donuts and Panaro’s cassata cake.

Favorite dessert:
“Cupcakes are finally getting their proper place in pop culture with all the cupcake shows and shops.” His preference? White cake and vanilla frosting.

Childhood favorites:
As a kid, LoCurto loved Kit Kats and Reese’s peanut butter cups. “There was a drug store at Hertel and Parkside where I would buy them out of Kit Kats over a three-day period.”

Family favorite:
“My mother makes a pineapple cake with cream cheese frosting that’s especially good. I like a lot of crumbs. A good crumb-to-cake ratio is important.”

Best sweet ever:
About ten years ago, LoCurto savored a delicious pistachio gelato at Vivoli in Florence, Italy.

Jodi Johnston,
WGRZ-TV news anchor

Johnston has at least one piece of chocolate every day, which provides a pick-me-up or a chance to connect with family. She can always tell when chocolate is homemade and has that “extra special something.”

Favorite dessert:
“Hands down, I’m happiest with a piece of chocolate. Not chocolate cake. Not a chocolate soufflé. Just a piece of chocolate. Almond bark is my favorite.”

Buffalo’s best:
Oh Pour L’amour Du Chocolat is a favorite of Johnston because everything is handmade. “Living in Synder, I stop there or we go after dinner to sit and have dessert together. It’s a special treat. Alethea’s is wonderful, too. I’m a big believer in supporting local businesses.”

Home sweet home:
Johnston prefers baking to cooking, especially this time of year. “I really love my homemade cookies and brownies, and the artistic component of decorating cakes. My little boy will tell you that his favorite thing in the whole world is my brownies.”

Best sweet ever:
One year for Johnston’s birthday, her husband surprised her with a lunch date at Godiva. “I’ll never forget that. I got such a kick out of that and I enjoyed it so much. People who know me know that the way to my heart is through a good piece of chocolate.”

Neil Garvey,
attorney/past president of Shakespeare in Delaware Park

From family memories to gastronomic delights today, Garvey appreciates the beauty in a variety of sweet finds, from farmers’ market raspberries on sherbet to baked fresh figs, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

Favorite dessert:
“My sister-in-law, Julia [pictured in the original piece], hails from Mississippi, and she makes a pecan pie I don’t think anything can top. It’s such a great creamy texture, and then a little bite from the pecan.”

Buffalo’s best:
Romeo and Juliet’s pastries top Garvey’s indulgence list. “When you want a Napoleon, that’s the place to go. And Rue Franklin does a chocolate mousse that will knock you out of your socks.”

Childhood desserts:
Garvey’s grandmother made great apple pie, which she always served with a wedge of cheddar cheese.

Home sweet home:
Garvey likes homemade desserts best, and has been known to use chocolate and red chili peppers in his chili. “You toss a couple of those in a pot and you can taste it. That’s the way I like sweets—there’s got to be some yin and yang.”

Best sweet ever:
“The Roycroft Inn’s restaurant has a crème brûlée that’s excellent. They’re very conscientious about local food use too.”

About Nina

Nina lives in Buffalo, NY. An adventurous home cook, she loves to eat, cook, bake & enjoy life. She writes/blogs about food, tweets adventures & other passions.

26. May 2012 by Nina
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