So normally, I am about five steps behind the happenings around town. Recently, I’ve become more in the know about newly opening restaurants, the buzzed about places, the comings and goings of the food life in Pittsburgh. Yet, I’m never on top of a story.
Well, when you live down the street from a hotly anticipated, soon-to-open cafe, you keep your eyes peeled for signs of life. But how I found out that the Sugar Cafe was going to open on Friday morning wasn’t good scouting, but some terrific luck. My pal, Jackie, who lives right down the street from me on West Liberty Avenue, was walking back from my apartment on Broadway sometime after midnight on Thursday, when she spied that the slowly deteriorating paper shrouding the big windows of Sugar Cafe had finally been torn down. I received a text and that was that.
What a little blurb on the blog doesn’t tell you is that I have become borderline obsessed with this place. Okay, that’s a bit of a hyperbole. But for someone who has trouble working at home, it’s become a minor godsend. I get off the T a stop early at Potomac, stroll down to the cafe, have a cup of coffee, pastry (I’m just pretending that everything in the cafe is magic and doesn’t have calories), and sit down to write for a while. I know the whole thing of going to a cafe to write is seen as sort of pretentious, and maybe it is. You know what else it is? FRIGGIN SWEET.
For my first weekday evening in the cafe, I got to sit down with the owner, Kelly James, to discuss her fantastic opening weekend. I definitely suggest reading the article, but more importantly, I highly recommend the Sugar Cafe. Come by any weekday between 5:30 and 6:00, and you’ll likely me see there, typing and sipping away.
(Note: Article is not live on the site as of yet. I will update post when it is active.)
Posted in Dining Out, Food, Good Morning
Tagged baked goods, bakery, business district, cafe, coffee, coffee shop, dormont, dormont-brookline patch, interview, kelly james, local, news, pastries, potomac avenue, Restaurant, sweets, the local table, the sugar cafe
Featured in this picture: A large cup of Kona-blend coffee and a blueberry muffin, both from Graham’s Bakery in the Mt. Lebanon Shops. The picture was taken at my desk, thus the slightly depressing cubicle colors in the background (and the stapler and tape dispenser).
I had written last week that I had never had a truly good muffin from a bakery, but I may have been too hasty. This muffin from Graham’s, for instance, was delicious. Like Proust’s Madeleine, it transported me to another time and place in my life, to other muffins I had enjoyed. Something about a blueberry muffin always tastes the same, even when the recipes are radically different, and it’s not just the shared titular ingredient. There’s a sameness that make them comforting far beyond the normal breakfast pastry.
That being said, there’s still something about a bakery or store-bought muffin that doesn’t jive so well with me. I think it’s the size. When I make muffins at home, they’re a good hand size, substantial but not overwhelming. Bakery muffins, in particular, tend to have a more-is-better type of approach, which always leaves me with about half-too much muffin. I’m left full of muffin but not satisfied.
The Graham’s muffin had one big positive aspect and that was its relatively mild flavor. It was moist and not sickly sweet (although you can get that variation by buying a muffin with icing or sugar crumbs – I opted to take my muffin naked as the day it popped out of the oven, which judging by the taste of it had only been mere hours before), and it didn’t leave me with the vague sick feeling that most store-bought muffins inflict. It was definitely a quality muffin experience, but I’m coming to terms with the possibility that I just don’t like muffins all that much. I refuse to fully submit to that belief, but it’s something to think about.
Anyway, if you’re in the Mount Lebanon area, do yourself a favor and stop by Graham’s for a sweet snack. In addition to the muffins, I can recommend the cheese-stuffed croissant (sigh…), the pecan bun, their “French” donuts (crullers… they’re crullers, dammit), and, of course, their heavenly Paczki.
Posted in Dining Out, Food, Good Morning
Tagged bake shop, bakeries, blueberry muffin, breakfast, brunch, coffee, dining, food, graham's, graham's bakery, mt. lebanon, mt. lebanon bakery, muffins, pastries, pittsburgh, south hills
To your right, you will observe a traditional cruller, topped with chocolate icing. From the Wikipedia entry on the Cruller:
A traditional cruller (or twister) is a twisted, usually ring-shaped, fried pastry made of dough somewhat like that of a cake doughnut, often topped with plain powdered sugar; powdered sugar mixed with cinnamon; or icing.
The name can also refer to the French cruller, a fluted, ring-shaped doughnut made from choux pastry with a light airy texture.
This, my friends, is a cruller. That delectable, light-as-a-cloud donut that delivers the sweetness satisfaction of an ordinary donut, without the dense “remember how bad I am for you” doughiness of an ordinary donut. It requires only a dollop of icing on top and is a pleasantly mild way to ruin your diet before 9 am.
I am very fond of the cruller, despite its manipulations (oh, fluffy sweet pastry, how can you taste so right and be so wrong?) and fortitude-destroying deliciousness. So how surprised was I when I pointed to my beloved pastry this morning at Graham’s Bakery, asking for the vanilla-topped cruller, only to be told that I was not looking at a cruller at all?
The lovely woman helping me at the counter insisted that their crullers were the long donuts on the bottom row, most assuredly filled with some kind of fluffy icing or custard. I wanted to scoff at her, “Madam, I know crullers, and THOSE are not crullers.”
But I was momentarily thrown. I shrugged, pointed to the vanilla-topped non-“cruller” cruller, and went on my way. After all, a cruller by any other name is still as sweet… but what gives?