WYOMING -- Last Saturday, two gals in search of the Christmas spirit (and one looking to lose a work-related headache) headed out to the village of Wyoming to visit the Gaslight Holiday & Gift Shop.
More than 70 homes are on the National Historic Register in this town that has earned the nickname of the Gaslight Village from the vintage gaslights that still dot the streets.
We decided to meet early morning in East Aurora and carpool the rest of the way. Barely five minutes into our ride out Route 20A, we found ourselves turning around to check out the bright purple Ivy Cottage Cafe & Bakery in Wales. Dying for a cup of java, we were reeled in by the promise of the "Eggnog Cappuccino" calling to us from a sign.
Inside this friendly little place we were able to peruse homemade candles and baked goods while we waited for our hot sustenance. The candles came in unexpected scents such as baby powder.
We continued on to Wyoming, a wonderful ride through the countryside. We arrived a few minutes before the shops opened, so we headed into the local general store (Dourie's Shop Wise) to kill time and get out of the cold.
Inside we found an all-purpose market, and of all things, Dourie's homemade pork sausage. The variety was quite "gourmet," considering its location in a small town: sun-dried tomato, pineapple, apple-raisin, apple-cranberry, maple, blueberry and even buttermilk. Owner Jim Dourie said they developed their own flavors over the years through trial and error. The sausage could be purchased fresh or frozen.
At exactly 11 a.m. we headed to the Holiday & Gift Shop, only to learn that it has been closed for a while after it was sold, and then re-sold again. Unfortunately, we had only checked out the Web site and never bothered to call for verification.
Although the purpose of our journey seemed "Grinched," we were determined to make the best of it. What we discovered was even better -- we didn't need a Christmas shop to find the Christmas spirit. It's right there in the folks we met in the warm and friendly village of Wyoming.
If, by chance, you happen to have some time to spare this week before Christmas and are looking for something to do with a friend or two, take a ride and find what we did -- a pleasant day with the nicest people you could hope to meet and plenty of opportunities to purchase special gifts.
We started off at Silas Newell's Provisions, a charming gourmet food and gift shop. Jams, jellies, preserves, mustards, dips, spreads, flavored oils and more fill the shelves. If you have a person on your list who loves gourmet gifts or if you are looking for a hostess gift, this is a place to check out.
Homemade candies and fudge were also available, along with cheeses from the Thousand Islands, including one called "Mean N Nasty," a very sharp cheddar.
Upstairs we found more gift items, like a cute rolling pin recipe card-holder, a "Pinch of Christmas" herb/recipe set and Lilliput Lights, a clever, do-it-yourself tea light holder that could be mailed. Even the rustic pottery hens from Bennington Potters in Vermont (www.benningtonpotters.com) would make a fun gift for someone's kitchen. After slugging down some sample wassail and dips, we headed out.
Across the way, we admired the Wyoming Inn and decided to check it out. Both an inn and a restaurant, the place couldn't have been more charming. As we snooped around (inhaling the heavenly scents of the recently served breakfast), the owner Jerry welcomed us and called for his wife, Wendy, to give us the grand tour.
The inn's plain-looking exterior doesn't do justice to the seven fabulous guest rooms we were shown. Beautifully decorated with distinct themes (Victorian, southwest, hunt club, etc.), each room had its own bathroom and many included a wonderful whirlpool tub you could just envision sinking into with a good book. The Wyoming Inn would make the perfect location for a family or friend get-together.
Even if you can't stay, stop in to peruse some of the delightful little gifts available to buy or to enjoy a meal. Wendy and Jerry were so pleasant, we were reluctant to leave the cozy haven. We bid our goodbyes, however, and headed down the street to the Pine Creek Country Collections. Here we found country/folksy craft decorations for the home, potpourri, candles and more. The store is closing at the end of the month for good and is offering 20 percent off many items.
Around the corner in Excentriciti Jewelers, bubbly owner Catherine Berkemeier greeted us with a warm hello, a Christmas bonbon and provided friendly chit-chat while we looked at the custom jewelry, gifts and knick-knacks.
Heading upstairs, we found ourselves in Bea's Dolls & Collectibles, where owner Bea Tilton welcomed us with a piece of her homemade microwave fudge and bright conversation. While neither one of us is a doll person, we nonetheless had fun chatting with Bea, looking at all the dolls and even had a good chuckle at the Olympic skater Ken doll and George Burns doll! Collectors of American Girls can find custom-made clothes by Sonja Moore of Wyoming.
With stomachs grumbling, we decided to check out one more place before searching out some lunch. Hopping into the car, we visited the Hillside Inn just "up the hill" from the village.
Built in 1851 as a health spa (spring water is nearby), it was purchased as a private residence in 1858, hosting famous visitors, such as Susan B. Anthony and the Roosevelts. It's now an inn and restaurant.
Inside, we were surprised to find a cute little gift shop. The first thing to catch our eye were brightly colored purses, made from what seemed to be tightly tied pieces of T-shirt material with bamboo handles. Fun!
Along side the purses were funky flower bracelets and watches, and beautiful beaded handbags. All were lovely items that would make a perfect gift -- and a treat for yourself. Also intriguing were the decorative items, particularly delicate Christmas trees made from colored feathers and the hand-blown glass friendship globes.
Diners were enjoying lunch in a sunny dining room, one of several rooms used for the restaurant. Items on the lunch menu included crab cakes, salads, sandwiches and burgers, with prices averaging around $7 to $11. Dinners started at $14.
Although tempted by the great smelling food in the Hillside Inn, we decided to try Aunt Tootie's just outside of town (actually, it was barely a 30-second drive down the road). We had come across menus and business cards for Aunt Tootie's along our journey, and the name had been mentioned often when friendly shopkeepers asked us if we had eaten lunch yet. (Aunt Tootie's received glowing reviews.)
Hungry from our travels, Aunt Tootie's was just the ticket for our grumbling stomachs. Cute as a button, the bright walls and tables were inviting, as was the ample baked goods display -- Aunt Tootie (who is really Judi) must be busy baking, as there were plates of cookies, biscotti and sweet breads at-the-ready.
As we drank our tea and coffee, we watched the friendly staff taking care of the steady stream of customers buying and placing their holiday cookie orders. It turned out our waitress, Florence Colton, was also the artist of the very fine pencil bird sketches available for purchase.
Aunt Tootie's panini sandwiches had come highly recommended, although the grumpy half of our expedition, still suffering from that headache, laughed at the idea of a panini sandwich being special.
It took one bit of the turkey panini with cranberry apple coleslaw for her to exclaim it was the best sandwich she ever had (and she is the first to admit she has had many).
We did some final shopping at the baked goods counter (who could resist Aunt Tootie's oatmeal/cranberry/white chocolate or Italian "meatball" cookies) and headed back home. We are dying to go back to Tootie's for the Sunday breakfast buffet, served 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Regular breakfast is served other days.
We didn't find the Christmas store we originally set out to, but we found a One-Tank Trip that restored our holiday spirit and was well worth our time.
>If you go
Here is information for some of the stops along our way. Note that winter hours may vary, so call ahead.
Ivy Cottage Cafe & Bakery, Route 20A , Wales Center, 652-0700.
Dourie's Shop Wise, 8 Academy St., (585) 495-6500
Silas Newell's Provisions, 5 Gulf Road, (585) 495-6650. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Wyoming Inn, 1 South Academy St., (585) 495-6470
Excentriciti Jewelers, 11 Main St., (585) 495-6522. Hours: Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily except Sunday (noon to 4 p.m.), closed Thursdays.
Bea's Dolls & Collectibles, 11 Main St., (585) 786-5031. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Pine Creek Country Collections, Main St., (585) 495-6070. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday through the end of the year.
Hillside Inn, 890 E. Bethany Road, (585) 495-6800, www.hillsideinn.com. Restaurant open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. for lunch, 5 to 9 p.m. for dinner, Thursday through Monday.
Aunt Tootie's, 40 Academy St., Route 19, (585) 495-6860. Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
Directions (from Buffalo)
Head to East Aurora, follow 20A east into Warsaw. At the light in Warsaw, turn left on to 19 and follow into Wyoming. It's about 55 miles from Buffalo.