Third Wave Coffee Shops in Pittsburgh

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My favorite little pick me up is a well-crafted cup of coffee.  I know, the caffeine is literally a stimulant, so that’s why it always makes me perky and productive, but I really appreciate the care that goes into the coffee.  I like that more and more we know where beans come from, the roast date, the flavor profile, the terroir— it is a real craft.  I’m a total sucker for a cappuccino with a little leaf in the foam.  Third wave coffee shops also tend to pay attention to all the details – the thoughtful interior design, the cups, the snacks – everything, not just the coffee, is elevated.  I’m happy to spend $5 and tip 20 percent on the experience and quality.

Since moving to Pittsburgh I have come to love all the options for craft coffee.  We are really spoiled with gorgeous, thoughtful, independent cafés all over the city.  I love venturing across town to try them all.  This is not an exhaustive list, just some of my favorites, in no particular order.

 

Commonplace Coffee House – Squirrel Hill 
This is my neighborhood coffee shop, I love to bop in for an after dinner espresso, tack it on a trip to the library, etc.  Squirrel Hill is far from their only location, Commonplace Coffee Houses are dotted all over the city, and their roast is sold throughout southwest pa.  I love that the serve a little cookie with an espresso, because that is really common in France it feels extra special to me.


Constellation – Bloomfield / Lawrenceville cusp 
I love this minimalist cafe.  The interior features huge windows that let light from Penn Avenue pour in.  The tin ceilings are my favorite detail.  It is a great place to study or read because it feels kind of homey.  The menu is not exhaustive, but everything I’ve ordered has been really excellent.


Espresso a Mano – Lawrenceville 
Great espresso and atmosphere.  I like Espresso a Mano because isn’t trying too hard to have Instagrammable vibe (even though I’ll admin I always fall for that!).  Every time I’ve been here all the tables are full, so I that they have like a counter to just stand at and shoot back an espresso.


4121 Main – Bloomfield 
This place has the most gorgeous feel to it.  Plants everywhere !  Artisan chocolate / goods!  Dreamy music ! (Deerhunter’s Desire Lines was playing when I walked in, It instantly put a smile only face to hear an almost decade-old song that I love).  I wouldn’t expect to find 4121 Main where it is, because frankly it is kind of on a dumpy street.  It mixes parts of old world glamour, shabby-chic, minimalist and wabi sabi.  That doesn’t make it sound cohesive, but it is.


 

The Bureau – East Liberty 
The Bureau is an outpost  of one of my favorite Pittsburgh restaurants, The Vandal.  It is  located within Schoolhouse, one of my favorite stores in Pittsburgh.  I always seem to order cold brew at The Bureau, probably because I got it the first time I went and it was so good I keep ordering it.


 

Arriviste – Shadyside 
Arriviste takes a very technical approach to brewing. Everything is precise, measured, made to order – and thus takes time.  Expect to wait for it.  The cafe has a midcentury-inspired interior, with a friendly / collaborative atmosphere.  I think it is nice that people share tables.

FIELD TRIP: Bread in Pittsburgh

 

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We’ve been making a point to spend our Saturdays trying out local bakeries.  I feel so lucky to live close to so many great places.  Rob says, “you can can tell the quality of a neighborhood by the quantity of its local bakeries.” Here are the favorites so far: 

  1. Five-Points Artisan Bakeshop (Point Breeze) –  What I love about Five-Points is how friendly-neighborhood it feels.  Most people walk up and and are greeted by name.  The multigrain sourdough has a wonderfully moist crumb.  The bakery’s focus on quality shows in the product.
  2. La Gourmandine (Lawrenceville & Hazelwood) – Run by a French couple, La Gourmandie is très authentique.  They sell the best baguette in the city by far, with a crust that is crunchy but not break-your-teeth crunchy. The pain au chocolat (actually all the pastries) are absolutely perfect.
  3. Allegro Hearth (Squirrel Hill) – Allegro offers inspired flavored breads (blueberry corn! Walnut raisin!) and tons of vegan options.  They also sell pies, quick breads, and desserts.  I was delighted by their selection of cheese.  We picked up the Levain and a bag of challah rolls that were perfectly soft and buttery. 

January Shopping List

After a stressful holiday season, I’m focusing on pouring a glass of wine and relaxing this month with some comforting classics.  As I look out the window onto a grey, cloudy, rainy landscape, I would love to be wrapped up in this sweater from Madewell.  I ordered a pair of moccasins to pair with it.  If I could only wear one shoe for the rest of my life, it would probably be moccasins.

My dear friend, Liz, sent me a beautiful candle from her company, Arome Candle.  Look for an unboxing video on my Instagram next weekend.  I love the scent profiles and designs of the candle.

When January arrives, my skin and hair start to dry up.  I’m rehydrating this month with Kiehl’s Ultra Moisturizer Cream and Olaplex hair repair treatment.

I recently started experimenting with pour-over coffee.  I do love my Nespresso and French Press, but I have been curious to try one of these for awhile.  I ordered one made by Bee House, a Japanese ceramic company, but I’ve seen these around everywhere.  My favorite coffee is this blend from Commonplace, a Pittsburgh coffee company.

Commonplace Coffee, Ceramic Coffee Pour Over, Madewell Sweater, Moccasins, Olaplex Hair Treatment, Kiehl’s Moisturizer, Location F Wine, Arome Candle.

Cooking with My Paris Kitchen

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Some of my favorite recipes have come from David Lebovitz’s blog, but truthfully I have never cracked open one of his many books.  I love the writing on his blog, and the food is always excellent.  His Tomato Tart is my favorite way to use the best-of-summer tomatoes.  David also has great Instagram stories.  I love seeing the messy honesty of his recipe testing, antiquing, and exploring.  

I read his cookbook cover to cover, because My Paris Kitchen is much more than lists of ingredients and instructions.  His stories about traditions, dinner parties, lessons learned, and his life in France make the book worth reading, even without the recipes.  After studying French during high school and college and doing a study abroad, France has had a special place in my heart.  Lebovitz’s anecdotes about French culture brought back a lot of my special memories.  My Paris Kitchen is worth reading, even if you don’t plan on cooking any of the recipes.  

The cooking is a little advanced with a lot of specialty ingredients, but Lebovitz encourages readers to used their judgement and focus on intuition and senses rather than precisely following exact details.  Which I did, liberally.  It took me a while to pick the recipes I wanted to cook, but ultimately I ended up going for recipes that included ingredients I already had on hand to cut down on the shopping I’d have to do.  

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The Israeil Couscous has become a fast favorite for us, but I did have to make two major substitutions.  While I always have plenty of lemons on hand, I have never preserved one.  Rather than letting a lemon brine in salt for a week, I just used zest and extra salt.  I’m sure it’s not as complex of a flavor, but it was still delicious.  Next, I substituted walnuts for pistachios.  Honestly, I just wasn’t going to shell any amount of pistachios, and I already had walnuts on hand.  I am curious to try the recipe as Lebovitz intended, but I hope he would be proud of my ingenuity.  And it turned out great.  I have already made the salad again.  I like to make it on a day off and bring it to work for lunch.  

The chocolate mousse recipe has often been hailed as one of Lebovitz’s best.  He recently demonstrated the recipe on Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street.  During my time in France, I remember buying cups of Mousse au Chocolat from the grocery store.  It was stocked near the yogurt in little plastic cups.  It’s one of my favorite desserts and only takes a few ingredients.  Honestly I don’t know why I never made it before.  The hardest part is waiting for the mousse to set (it needs to sit for eight hours).  Lebovitz’s version is way better than anything found in a plastic cup. 

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I have never made dry caramel before, and it was a little nerve wrecking.  It took two tires to get it right, but the payoff was worth it.  The caramel and salted butter made the chocolate mousse so much more interesting than it would have been as just a chocolate one.  The mousse is so light in texture but extremely rich — an intense and delicious dessert.  Eating the mousse was so indulgent, it was like eating chocolate frosting.  Because it is so rich, a little goes a long way.  We divided it into six portions but should have done eight.

 

I found that the recipes in My Paris Kitchen are better suited to special occasions and weekend projects than everyday cooking.  Many of the recipes required specialty ingredients that would take some effort to hunt down.  The food is also very indulgent -lots of fat, butter, cream, meat, cheese, etc – not foods I want to eat every day.  Lebovitz tells a story with each recipe that compels the reader to try it out, no matter how complicated or expensive or caloric it might be.  

All About My Kitchen

Our Kitchen

As a passionate cook, I was really hoping for a better kitchen in our Squirrel Hill apartment, but we moved out on really short notice and had to make some compromises.  Our apartment is wonderful with a great view and lots of space. We are very comfortable.  While it isn’t much to look at, I’ve made our kitchen work for us with just a few adjustments and some organization.  It’s a work in progress, but so far I’m pretty happy with how we are using the space.  

When I’m cooking, I like to have easy access to the most important tools and ingredients. When we first moved in, I knew I wanted to use the walls to help organize and keep the kitchen user-friendly.  My favorite addition has been the Ikea peg board above the sink.  We’ve re-arranged it a lot as we get used to the space.  I have so much fun changing up what we hang on the board.  Ikea sells so many different hooks and holders, so these peg boards are infinitely customizable. 

Kitchen Peg Board
Ikea SKÅDIS Peg Board Collection, All-Clad Pans Williams Sonoma Fish Spatual, Measuring Spoons, Whisk, Peeler, Microplane, Kitchen Aid Tongs, Williams Sonoma Dish Soap Bottle, Redecker Scrub Brush and Bottle Brush, Ikea Tumbler (to hold brush), Williams Sonoma Pop-up Sponges, PUR Water Filter

Counter StorageI like to have things I use frequently on hand: Trader Joe’s Olive Oil, Maldon Sea Salt, and tasting spoons.  I used to put my blender away every time I use it, but it is so heavy I started to leave it out all the time.  The knife rack just went up this weekend. The shelves in our cabinet gave us plenty of space for our pretty extensive collection of glassware, jars and mugs.  We picked up the shelves at The Container Store, they only cost $7 a piece and made a world of difference.  In the other set of cabinets we store spices and other ingredients that I mix into smoothies.  The second shelf houses our collection of storage containers and mixing bowls.  Admittedly, this area could use a little more organization.  

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By hanging things on the walls, we opened up our drawer space.  We use the drawer closest to the sink for flatware, spoons and spatulas.  The drawer next to the oven hold more tools, things like plastic wrap, foil, and trivets. The left most drawer has cooking tools and a tin that holds all those little things that are nice to have on hand in the kitchen: a pad of paper, pens, a measuring tape, phone charger, scissors, rubber bands etc.  We use the main lower cabinets to hold most of our All-Clad collection.  I made the small cabinet into something that is really special to me: a baking cabinet.  It is pretty packed with most of my decanted baking ingredients, specialty pans and tools, and my Kitchen-Aid mixer.  

The kitchen as it stands features a lot of beige.  I wanted to make it more modern by incorporating a lot of stainless steel with the knife rack, the hanging pans, and the tea pot on the stove.  I’m looking for some sort of art or decoration to customize the kitchen and make it feel more homey.  It would be nice to use the wall in the entryway for some organization and storage for mail and keys.

The Pantry is small but we’ve made it work.  The bottom holds our garbage and recycling, and the shelves above hold dry goods.  I installed hanging baskets from Ikea for kitchen linens – pot holders, aprons, and a huge stack of my favorite Ikea kitchen towels.

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For additional storage, I bought a small sideboard for the dining room.  The cabinets and drawers hold things that aren’t used very frequently like our 12-quart stock pot and specialty things for serving.  The sideboard mostly functions as a coffee bar for my Nespresso Machine and collection of analogue coffee makers (a French press, a moka pot, and a pressure espresso maker).  We also store wine in one cabinet and can convert the sideboard to a bar or buffet for entertaining.

One of the keys to making it work in a small kitchen is making sure everything always gets put away and the counters stay clear.  I like to minimize clutter and only have what I need.  It makes the small kitchen not feel so small.

Potted Herbs

Potted herbs for our window sill
Potted herbs in the window sill

The days growing longer and buds popping up on trees and blooming into bright leaves inspired me to add some fresh herbs to my bedroom.  So far the little guys have endured pretty well on my window sill.  I love the way they look and smell.  The pots come from a little flower shop in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood called Toadflax.  The store offers fresh flowers, luxury beauty products, and chic home goods.  It’s an endless supply of perfect hostess gifts- the shop is packed from floor to ceiling with things like gourmet chocolates, jams, and teas, candles, beautiful cashmere socks, home decorations, and specialty one-of-a-kind teams.  It’s the kind of place that sells natural bristled tooth brushes and Marvis Toothpaste, which I reviewed awhile back, you can read about more about the toothpaste here.

At Toadflax the pots were displayed empty
At Toadflax the pots were displayed empty.  They might make nice bathroom or kitchen organizers.

I walked by these charming pots sitting in the window of Toadflax a few times before I bought them.  I love how they look a little lopsided as if they were actually hand crafted.  They are made by a California company called HomArt.  Unfortunately I’m not sure how they could be procured online (but I also have not put a lot of effort into it).  I thought herbs would be a good filler and the green leaves of Rosemary and Sage would look nice in them.  As a nice bonus the herbs add a nice fresh smell to my room.  Because there is no opening on the bottom I added rocks to the bottom before transferring the herbs into the pots.  So far I have been really on top of watering them and I hope they last at least through the summer.  I’d love to use the Rosemary for cooking.  Right now I’m just really please with how they look.

 

 

 

Here is a picture of the plants potted out on the deck.  I also took some pictures of the pots on the window sill but the lighting does not do them justice.

 

 

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I am absolutely not a gardener so if anyone has advice about how to keep these alive please let me know!