Tag Archives: sweets

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?

Good Morning, Salted Caramel Bread Pudding!


Behold last week’s treat from Sugar Cafe. Some people like to get their sweet fix early in the day, some like to get it following dinner. Me, I’ll take my sweet fix any how and any time I can get it, which is how someone like me ends us eating a donut and bread pudding in the same day (and probably some Girl Scout cookies too). It is also how someone like me will never, ever be a super slender person.

Whatever. If you and I were playing a game of “Would You Rather…” and your question was, “Would you rather be super fit and perfect looking but you could never eat any unnecessary calories, meaning no desserts, no snacks, no extras OR would your rather eat anything you like, but have to work out at least four hours a week and maintain a fairly active lifestyle to maintain even the slightest hold over your fitness?”

I’d go for the latter. In a heartbeat. What is the worth of living if I can’t eat something like salted caramel bread pudding? Isn’t this why we make and share and eat these things? Because they, in some way, contain the love that we feel for ourselves, feel for others? If cooking is an act of love that you perform for others, couldn’t eating something purely for taste and desire be considered an act of love for yourself?

This Week on the Dormont-Brookline Patch: Sugar, Sugar!

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.)

Sugar Cafe on Urbanspoon

Sugar Cafe Opens Today!

The much buzzed about, highly anticipated bakery-coffee shop, Sugar Cafe, opens today. I will definitely be making a stop in to sample the goods, take a look around, and enjoy the taste of something brand spanking new in our humble little borough of Dormont.

For more info on Sugar and its owner, Kelly James, check out the following links. And of course, check out the cafe itself, located right by the Potomac T Station on Potomac Avenue.

– “New Cafe Coming to Dormont” on the Dormont-Brookline Patch
– “Sugar Café will make Dormont’s Potomac Avenue even sweeter” on PopCity
– “On the Table: Unique Pittsburgh bakeries flourish with special dessert treats” on the Pittsburgh Post Gazette
Kellypastry: Kelly James Twitter

Also, apologies for my relative quietness this week. First it was too busy, then it was too nice outside to concentrate on typing. Rest assured, I have a ton of new posts coming up, including trips to Chaya and Sababa in Squirrel Hill. I’ve also been working on a few new features to debut, hopefully by the middle of next week, to run in addition to the general chatter that goes on around here. I’m going to cross my fingers and hope that I can get down to some serious writing business this weekend.

But seriously, how freaking gorgeous was it out there today? After work, I walked home, so that I could soak up the unseasonably warm weather and take a few shots of my beloved neighborhood. It seemed like the entire borough was out to enjoy the few precious days of respite from the cold. My favorite shot:


Enjoy it while it lasts, kids. The temperature is going to drop drop drop come Sunday.

This Week on the Dormont-Brookline Patch: Neighborhood Options for Local Sweethearts on Valentine’s Day

I really need to get out of the habit of writing event or holiday – specific posts, but this week’s article on the Dormont-Brookline Patch focuses on neighborhood establishments that are offering a little something special for Valentine’s Day. If you live in the South Hills area and need a place to take your loved one on February 14th, definitely check out my article. It could be the difference between life AND death. Or, you know, it could just steer you to my favorite gyro restaurant in town, It’s Greek to Me on Brookline Boulevard. Either way…

As for my V-Day plans, I’ll be hanging with my partner and all will be swell. I don’t really go in for Valentine’s Day. It’s not a single-person bitterness thing, cause I’ve had plenty of relationships during the “holiday,” it’s just a sense of pointlessness that is too overpowering for me to enjoy the manufactured nature of the celebrations. Say what you will about the “commercialism” of Christmas, that time of year still seems to mean something more than what is given and received. That time of year has so much meaning to so many different people of the world, it seems ridiculous to dismiss it based off of American capitalist tendencies.

Whereas Valentine’s Day, although it is sweet that we have a day dedicated to the celebration of courtly love, is not even a traditional Christian holiday anymore. Why? Cause in 1969, the Roman Catholic Church presented the question: Who was St. Valentine, and why do we have a big ass holiday to honor him? And when they couldn’t come up with a good enough response (“…. he was… a martyr…?”), they decided that while it was all well and good that people were going to continue to celebrate the holiday, they would no longer honor it as an official church-sanctioned occasion. Good riddance, I say.

Still, I find the holiday a little unsettling in how it encourages people to save open expressions of love for a specific day of the year. Not that all who celebrate V-Day do that. As a matter of fact, most of the couples I know who do something special on February 14th are the kind of couples who are openly and expressively in love with one another. They don’t need the day to tell them to appreciate and celebrate their love, but they take it anyway, cause why the hell not?

But a holiday that at best is unnecessary and at worst a commercial waste of time, money, and intellect is not a holiday for me. Maybe I’m completely missing the full picture.

Anyone out there doing something special for Valentine’s Day?

Good Morning, Monday Morning Muffins!

I will make a confession: I have never had a really good muffin from a bakery or grocery store. I’ve had good ones. I’ve had decent ones. And I’ve had ones that were downright awful (and really, is there anything worse than trying to get through a chalky, crumbly, mess of a failed muffin?). But I’ve never one that was to die for, and that’s a shame. I’ve been to a lot of good bakeries, had muffins in many cosmopolitan cities, dined in fine establishments worldwide… but I’ve yet to have a decent muffin that wasn’t directly out of someone’s personal kitchen.

Not sure why this is, really. Maybe it’s a muffin preference. I like mine to be a tad crumbly, not overwhelmingly large, moist, and not super sweet. I don’t want icing on the top or even sugared crumbs (good in theory, not so great when they’re dotting the front of your jacket and pants). Also, the window of time for muffin perfection from the time they come out of the oven to the time they go into your mouth is perilously tight. Maybe I like my homemade muffins better because they come out of the oven and as soon as they are cool enough to swallow, they get eaten. (I really have a patience problem when it comes to sweets…)

Get your Monday morning and burgeoning muffin top started off right with these banana nut muffins. They’re extra nutty, cause I’m just feeling that way these days.

Monday Morning Banana Nut Muffins

Ingredients
– 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 1 tsp baking soda
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 4 ripe bananas, mashed
– 3/4 cup sugar
– 1/4 cup applesauce
– 3 tbsp vegetable oil
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1/4 cup walnuts
– 1/4 cup pecans
– 1/4 cup shaved almonds

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12 count muffin pan.

Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With a mixer blend together bananas, sugar, oil, extract, and applesauce. Once completely blended, gradually fold the dry into the wet ingredients. Add nuts and stir until just mixed.

Fill each muffin cup to about halfway. Bake in the oven for 18 – 20 minutes.

(Recipe adapted from “Crazy Good Banana Muffins” on VegWeb.com)

Good Morning, Dunkin!

There are a ton of terrific locally-owned bakeries in the area, but half-frozen on a walk home on Friday, there was only one refuge promising caffeine and an insane dose of sugar.


Say what you will about Dunkin Donuts. They serve up a damn fine cup of coffee. And their crullers aren’t bad either.