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My Happy Place: La Gourmandine in Lawrenceville

My Happy Place: La Gourmandine in Lawrenceville

Saturday morning was one of those mornings when I needed to get OUT of the house, or it would be a bad scene. Baby Beez was being bad. Bad bad BAD. I wasn’t feeling well, and didn’t have the patience to deal with her shenanigans. Mr. Beez was being an active parent and trying to run interference, but Baby Beez just kept screaming that she wanted Mooooommmmmmy, but as soon as she’d sit with me she’d be all snarls and screams and elbows and knees and just awful. We skipped gymnastics on Saturday morning awful. It was bad news bears.

Mr. Beez and I agreed that it would be a good idea for me to step out of the house for a minute, so both she and I could calm down. “I’m going to the French Bakery,” I announced. “One in France?” He feared. A trans-Atlantic flight was very tempting at the moment, but I agreed to stay within city limits.

I arrived at La Gourmandine shortly after it’s 9:30 am opening, and the line was already out the door and snaking its way down the sidewalk. There’s always a line on Saturday mornings, but the bakery workers are efficient, and waiting in line gives you the time to look at all the heaping baskets of delicious bread and pastries, enjoy the aroma of the fresh baked goodies and make up your mind.

I love La Gourmandine so much. I love how the owners operate the bakery with total French attitude. This place shuts down for vacation. There’s no fill-in manager, they close down and announce “see you in 2 weeks, folks!” Only recently have they decided to open on Sundays (first open Sunday will be next weekend). They focus on quality, and are so immensely popular that they can operate the shop on their own terms. These folks are not begging for customers. A man behind me in line remarked to his companion that they should franchise La Gourmandine and make barrels and barrels of money. There’s already a buttery bakery franchise, and while I like Panera Bread just fine, the quality and care can’t hold up in the same way when the operation is a single neighborhood storefront. And anyway, franchising wouldn’t fit with the shop’s French attitude and sensibilities.

So, Saturday. I was in no mood to hold back. I got sandwiches (the baguette/butter/proscuitto/pickles sandwich is the the sandweech of my dreams), I got brioche, I got pastries, I even went for a fancy dessert and got the macaron with fruit. Everything was amazing. I could never work there, because I would literally eat delicious bread until I made myself ill.

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I returned home from my outing, arms full of bakery goodies. We shared sandwiches, chocolate croissants, all kinds of things. Sugar, butter and flour did wonders for my frustration. And after everyone took naps, the day was even better. La Gourmandine, you can do no wrong. And this week, you even prevented me from donating my kid to Goodwill.

La Gourmandine on Urbanspoon

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Waffles, Taters and a Cuppa Joe at Waffles INCaffeinated @wafflesINCaffein

Mr. Beez and I are lucky to have the opportunity to go out on dates fairly frequently, but last night’s date was especially awesomely fun.  Today, however, it’s rainy and gloomy and Baby Beez is whiny because she doesn’t feel well, and I just don’t feel like doing that whole write up.  For now I will share with you our breakfast this morning: fantastic delicious waffles from Waffles INCaffeinated in the Southside.

Waffles INCaffeinated specializes in all kinds of waffles, but they also have omelettes, sandwiches, soup and all kinds of other good things.  When it comes to breakfast foods, I lean toward savory while Mr. Beez prefers sweet.  Waffles INCaffeinated has plenty of offerings of each, as well as a build-your-own option.  WafflesINC

Mr. Beez selected the banas foster waffle with fresh sliced banana, ice cream and candied walnuts. He also ordered a side of home fries, which was a generous portion of roasted white, purple and sweet potatoes. If I knew that was what the home fries were, I would have requested an order myself. (Although I did help myself to plenty of Mr. Beez’ order).

I went for the option on special for the month of April: Dijon Chicken & Waffles.  It was a sourdough waffle with cheese and scallions baked in, with a fried chicken cutlet and a dijon sauce.  It was GOOD. And it totally hit the spot.  The only change I would suggest would be for this waffle to be made from cornmeal instead of sourdough batter. That would be perfect.

WafflesINC2The service was fine, although kind of slow.  It wasn’t so slow that I’d avoid the place, it’s just a factor to keep in mind when choosing a breakfast spot.  I was very hungry when we got there, so my hunger aggravated my impatience.  It’s the right kind of pace if you’re going somewhere for a leisurely morning meal with friends. Also, it is kid friendly for older kids (like older than 6), but the space is pretty tight, and combined with the not-completely-fast service, I probably won’t bring my 2 year old there until she’s a little older ad has better control over her behavior.

The coffee comes from a local coffee roaster, and was smooth and flavorful.  I’m so used to getting weak diner coffee with my breakfast, that the bold cup was a nice surprise.  Waffles INCaffeinated definitely places within the my top 5 of Pittsburgh breakfast places, especially because their offerings are unique and their ingredients high quality.
Waffles INCaffeinated on Urbanspoon

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2 Local Girls Sweet & Savory Treats

2 Local Girls Sweet & Savory Treats

I had a small get together with some friends and their kids today.  Such a gathering of course necessitates two things: sweet treats and champagne.  I had the latter already on hand, and lucky for me my friend Lisa just announced the opening of her business, 2 Local Girls, to supply the former.

Since there would be seven adults, three children in our house, obviously four dozen treats were in order. (That is a joking reference to my inability/refusal to actually order a quantity appropriate for the number of people I am hosting. Leftovers are a must.  Too few or just enough treats would be a sin. Over-ordering is inevitable).

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I opted for a dozen rice krispie treat lollys (dipped in milk chocolate, a dozen brownie lollys (dipped in raspberry chocolate), a dozen s’mores cupcakes, and a dozen cherry almond cupcakes.

They were ALL a hit.  The rice krispie lollies were completely gone.  Rice krispie treats are easy to make, but also easy to mess up.  I tend to over-marshmallow them, which would render them completely useless as lollys.  2 Local Girls were spot-on with the consistency– the marshmallow to krispie ratio was perfect, the treats were light and fresh, and they were a huge hit.

The brownie lollies and cupcakes were also big winners.  My personal favorite were the cherry almond cupcakes because they were light and sweet.  The kiddos adored the smores cupcakes, and in particular the frosting, topped with graham cracker and chocolate.

S'mores cupcake from 2 Local Girls

As you can see from the photos, 2 Local Girls make beautiful treats, and they are delicious too.  Lisa & Steph are very responsive and flexible.  I made all my arrangements with them over email and they even delivered the treats to my house.  I know they’ve had a very positive response to their business and are mostly booked up in the month of May, so although upon availability they may be able to take short-notice orders (I only placed my order yesterday), it is a wise idea to contact them early to secure availability.

I will disclose to you that I’ve known Lisa for a while and she is my friend, but my review is completely voluntary and honest (yup, I did pay for my treats, and as a general rule, I don’t do the free stuff-for-review exchange).


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Crowdsourcing a Recipe: Not So Terrible For You Haluski

I love haluski.

I mean love.

It is quite possibly my favorite food.

I remember with clarity my first “haluski moment.” The first week of college. Eddie’s in the Towers. There was a comfort food station– mashed potatoes, chicken, and this noodly dish. I like noodles. It looked good. So I ordered some. Oh it was good. And then I went on to order it again and again. Nearly every single day of that freshman year. I later learned it was called haluski, and I angrily wondered “HOW COULD I HAVE LIVED NEARLY EIGHTEEN YEARS WITHOUT TASTING THIS DIVINE DISH.” I obviously put on my freshman 15 thanks to those buttery cabbagey noodles. And someone else’s freshman 15 too. And probably another person’s freshman 15 on top of that. Haluski is just as much a Pittsburgh food as pierogies and Primanti’s sandwiches. Growing up in Southern California I had plenty of quesadillas and tostadas and pepper bellies, but millworker food just isn’t on the menu.

I still had two cabbages left from my farmshare (farmshare food stays good for a long time).  I could make cabbage soup, but I’m the only one in the house who would eat that.  I could grill the cabbage (which is delicious), but our grill isn’t working right now and that means I’d have to fix it.  I could make stuffed cabbage, but that would take way more effort than I was willing to give.  Haluski was the only reasonable answer.

Since I’m doing Weight Watchers, I needed to find a way to make this less-terrible-for-me, so that I wouldn’t break the points tracker.  I asked my friends on FaceBook for tips on making haluski less bad…..

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Their ideas were great!  And I was able to use almost all the tips I got!  So these are the modifications I used to make haluski less terrible:

  • I used red AND green cabbage.
  • I used way more cabbage than noodles (one bag of noodles to two full heads of cabbage)
  • I shredded the cabbage in my food processor and roasted it with a shredded onion and little olive oil (instead of cooking it in a pan with butter and noodles).  I added the cooked noodles in afterward.
  • I used 2 cups of chicken broth instead of butter (ok I tossed in like 1 tbsp butter, I couldn’t bear the thought of making haluski without any butter)
  • I used “smart” noodles instead of regular egg noodles.  I have no idea what makes the noodles “smart” but it’s at least marketed to make me think they’re healthier.

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Lots and lots of cabbage ready for roasting.  There was actually so much cabbage that I had to roast two full pans of it.  It cooks down very well, though.

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The final result– very cabbagey, but perfect for a belly filling dinner on an icy winters night.

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Baby Beez ate a few noodles, then tried to feed the rest of her dinner to her plastic lizard.  She was in one of those “all play, no eat” moods tonight.  The dish was a hit with me and Mr. Beez, though!