Food Glorious Food, Pittsburgh, PA

Food Glorious Food, Pittsburgh, PA

Writing and eating in: Pittsburgh, PA

Most Saturdays this summer I’ve been gardening at Chatham’s Eden Hall campus and loving it. If I could go there more often I would. And when the rain starting pouring down and the thunder started rumbling on Saturday morning, I resigned myself to a rainy day of cleaning the house and watching television. But then, something wonderful happened: the sky cleared up to reveal a perfectly sunny day! I grumbled about the house for a bit, pleased by the sun but annoyed that I couldn’t be out in the garden. I gave up on chores. I went for a run. I found out that I’m now easy walking distance from a public pool. And then I remembered a place I’ve been wanting to go for weeks: a mysterious little bakery.

I’ve been going to Highland Park’s Tazza D’Oro coffee shop for two years. I’ve even found the hole in the wall Smiling Banana Leaf restaurant around the corner from Tazza. But until last Saturday I had yet to try the almost secret bakery on Bryant Street. I’d seen it and thought about it before, but the desire to try it has been gnawing at me for a few weeks now. I used to take the bus straight up Highland Ave to go to Highland Park, but now I get off on Bryant Street and pass this place every time I go to the park or Tazza, which is usually on a weekday, maybe a Sunday, but not on a Saturday. Which is a shame because the sign clearly states it’s a Saturday bakery.

Well, this past Saturday I finally got there. And boy am I glad I did.

White Lily Cake

I had no intention of getting cake. My plan for the bakery was a few cookies and a loaf of bread, perhaps a few other items that are easily portable and wouldn’t melt as I completed the rest of my planned errands for the day. That was it. But the fates had other plans.

I was overwhelmed by the array of choices before me in the shop: a display case full of delicately frosted cakes, a stand next to the register filled up with quiches, a case of gluten free cookies and other delights, cookies tucked in jars by the cash register and atop the cake case, and shelves filled with mysterious tin foil pans. I happened to walk in during a lull (which I later learned is a feat) and one of the young women behind the counter was ready to help me immediately.

“I’m not sure how you can help me yet,” I said, “I’ve never been here before. Do you have any recommendations?”

She shifted immediately to the cake case. “This one,” she said as she pointed to a white cake studded with raspberries, “is our White Lily Cake. It was named Best Cake in Pittsburgh… And this one has won awards as well, it’s our key lime cake. It’s got a layer of key lime pie on the bottom and then cake and frosting on top. The White Lily is one of my personal favorites.”

“I’ll take a slice of the Whte Lily Cake for here.”

Do I know how to take a recommendation or what? It was tough to choose between two award winning cakes, especially because I enjoy all things key lime. But the raspberries…oh, I couldn’t turn down the raspberries.

The cake you see before you is the most delicate tasting cake I have ever experienced. It was sturdy and stood up to pressure from my fork without tumbling into a mass of crumbs and it was oh so tender. The layers between the white cake are vanilla mousse studded with raspberries. The frosting is vanilla cream. The White Lily would have been a delightful vanilla cake if it were all white, but the addition of the raspberries brought it to a whole new level. The raspberries are not the focus on this dessert. The cake is the dish and the raspberries an accent. They were perfect, slightly tart and were in enough bites to satisfy the palate but not enough to overwhelm the vanilla layers. Truly the best layer cake I’ve ever tasted. (And I don’t give compliments like that lightly. This is one of the few baking categories in which my Mom’s recipes do not win. (Sorry, Mom. Don’t worry, cheesecake is a whole different category.  You still win there, and for dump cakes too, can’t forget the Screwball. Next time you visit, I’ll get some of this cake for us. I think you’ll agree with me.)

Orange Scented Croissant Bread Pudding

Well, when I go to a bakery as impressive as this one, I have to share. So, when I returned my plate I placed an order. First, I selected something for my boyfriend, Kevin, to enjoy that night (I’m such a good girlfriend aren’t I? Bringing home the baked goods? Now if only they’d had something with bacon in it. *insert pity laughtrack here*)

I chose croissant bread pudding because everyone loves croissants and bread pudding! They had a few flavors, but the orange scented seemed most Kevin. He loved it! And I even snuck a bite before he devoured it. The pastry was flaky and tender and the custard had just a hint of orange.

On a side note, I’ve been noticing this trend in Pittsburgh lately (and maybe it’s elsewhere, too?) to take a croissant and thoroughly sugar it up into something rich and more American than French. At Pamela’s a few weeks ago, I tried the Croissant French Toast, which was topped with nuts and sinfully sweet. Perhaps it’s time for me to create a croissant-based recipe for the blog.

Jewish Pizza

The Jewish Pizza was an impulse buy at the register (okay, fine, the whole experience was an impulse buy). It was based on two things: I’d never heard of it and the same young woman who recommended the cake suggested I try it.

I went home mulling over the name. I wasn’t sure what made it Jewish or a pizza. The Jewish Pizza is a actually a biscotti-like cookie filled with candied fruits and nuts. It’s not a biscotti because it is only baked once (biscotti means cooked twice), but it is shaped like one. With a little Googling, I found out that the recipe comes from the Jewish Ghetto in Rome. The cookie is actually quite popular.

My take on the Jewish Pizza was: It’s okay. But I’m not going to buy it again. The cookie itself was moist and crumbly, all the things a good bar cookie should be and I would’ve love a piece of it just plain! I’m really not bg on the candied fruits. So, my dislike is solely a matter of personal taste. I liked the nuts! Kevin doesn’t really like nuts, but he did enjoy the candied fruits. To each their own. If you like candied fruits and nuts, I say go for it!

Red Velvet Macarons

These macarons are my dream cookie. I knew it from the moment I spotted them on top of the cake case. Two bright red macarons with a kiss of cream cheese filling in the middle. I get chills.

Now, we need to take a moment to make a distinction. The cookie above is a macaron. That’s one o. It’s French. It is not a macaroon. Those, while equally delicious, are far less delicate and far less French.

The macaron above is the perfect embodiment of the basic macaron taken to a new flavor level. The cookies themselves are an elaborate sensation. A good macaron (which this was) should have a crisp-soft lid that breaks easily when bitten, a layer of air, and then a layer of moist cookie that almost looks slightly undercooked. Two of these perfect cookies should embrace a layer of filling. To get a better idea of what I mean, this is the inside of a macaron:

I’d never tried a true French Macaron before this one and I’m definitely hooked. The cookies alone were so perfect and the cream cheese filling added a moist layer of flavor that I enjoyed. That said, and I hate to say it, but it could’ve used a touch of coconut. Not because I’m used to macaroons, but because when I think of red velvet cake I think of the coconut in the frosting. It’s essential. Still, if I stop quibbling and don’t refer to it as red velvet, it’s a perfect cookie.

Would I eat there again?

No question. YES!! See above promise to my mother regarding cake. I owe that at least. And it will be delicious. 🙂

 

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