Last week, I somewhat veered away from the ‘food diary’ Total Tuesday posts. I don’t intend for those to never return, but I also liked the idea of highlighting my various recent food experiences, restaurant visits, etc. And because I can do whatever I would like on here, get ready for more ‘tidbits’…posted on whatever day of the week suits me best 🙂
About 3 or 4 years ago, Vanilla Pastry Studio (then located in the West End) was voted (I believe via the Post-Gazette) to have had the ‘best cupcakes’. For my roommate’s birthday, I set off to grab a half dozen. Sadly, I never could locate the shop! I am not particularly familiar with the West End and just could not seem to get myself on to the correct street. Oh well! Apparently, since I could not find Vanilla Pastry Studio, they found me! About 2 years ago, they relocated to 6014 Centre Ave (Penn Circle South), near the Whole Foods complex. I finally paid a visit last Saturday.
The interior of the space is beyond cute and there is room to sit and enjoy a cupcake or other treat (they had cookies and maybe some cakes?). I was only disappointed in the available selection. When I arrived, they only had coconut, passion fruit, and espresso cupcakes. Kind of a weird combination – I had wanted to get a few (you can get boxes of 1, 2, 4, and up) as a gift, but what if the recipient didn’t like those particular flavors? Maybe I just hit the spot at a bad time – I can’t seem to find anything on their website that suggests they only make certain flavors on certain days.
I ended up with a coconut cupcake (vanilla with coconut buttercream) and espresso cupcake (chocolate with espresso buttercream). Two cupcakes came to $4.50. A little steep but not horrible. I was still planning on giving these as a gift until I got home and found they had tipped over in the container and gotten all sorts of messed up. So I ate them myself! To be fair, these cupcakes were tender, the buttercream fluffy yet rich. Really good. Better than Coco’s, in my opinion. But still, what was up with that flavor selection?
- Yet another trip to Lidia’s
I ended up at Lidia’s (1400 Smallman) with a large (20+) group of coworkers. I yet again opted for the pasta tasting. This time, it included a broccoli rabe fettuccine, a chicken ravioli, and a rosemary rigatoni. I still think the a la carte pasta tasting, at $16, is a pretty decent deal. Overall, I think this restaurant is more affordable than one thinks – most entrées and pasta dishes stay well under $25. Everyone seemed to enjoy their meal and the wait staff did a pretty good job handling the large group. I have had some iffy, aloof service there in the past. FYI: walking from downtown to Lidia’s takes a good 10-15 minutes. I underestimated this.
On another note, this healthy living article with Joe Bastianich, son of Lidia, was run in the October 2009 issue of Food and Wine.
- Sesame Inn takeout
The Boy and I were being super lazy last Friday (both also sniffling and feeling run down). Therefore, we decided to order in! This is not something we do often but its fun every once in awhile. We originally wanted to order from Thai Me Up (1925 E Carson). However, we could not locate a menu online (we had a paper menu at one point in time, but that was MIA as well). The back up plan was Sesame Inn. Sesame Inn has locations Downtown (Station Square – the location we ordered from), in the North Hills, in McMurray, and in Mt. Lebanon.
We ordered won ton soup (eh, ok), chicken pad thai (pleasant, moderately spicy), pork dumplings (enjoyed these – well spiced), and cashew chicken (did not expect it to be fried – it was good, had some carrots, snap peas, mushrooms). Our order ran about $30 and took an hour to get to us. An hour? We should have just went and picked it up. I thought that was a little too long. The place is less than 3 miles from us. Overall, the meal was OK but I am not sure we would rush to order from here again. I would like to try Thai Me Up or will return to my go-to takeout, Kassab’s (1207 E Carson – see more info I posted here). Neither of those places deliver but pick-up isn’t that big of an issue.
- Another jaunt to Crepes Parisiennes
Yum. The Boy and I found the place bustling but not jammed last Sunday morning. The Boy had the smoked salmon crepe (smoked salmon is hot or miss for me and I liked it) and I had the berry/nutella crepe. The berries were likely frozen and were still cold. An odd contrast to the eggy, warm, chocolatey crepe. Not sure I would order the berries again. (See my previous review here).
- Taste Test: Luna ‘Cookie’
I like Luna bars – kind of crunchy, lighter. So I picked up a Luna ‘cookie’ at the ‘Iggle the other day. Hmm. It tasted alot like a Clif Z-bar to me. It was tasty but I wasn’t in love. The Luna cookie came in at 130 calories and is made from mostly organic ingredients, etc. Not too bad for an afternoon pick me up.
- The Boy makes a trip to Las Velas
Las Velas is a new Mexican joint in Market Square. Las Velas is run by the husband of blogger Pittgirl of That’s Church. Las Velas just opened last Friday. The Boy (his office is in PPG) bravely ventured there during their very first lunch service. Apparently, things were not running so smoothly. Service issues turned into a 2+ hour lunch. Eek. However, The Boy and his party were comped their meals and he reported that the food was actually pretty tasty. Tasty enough that The Boy made another Las Velas trip yesterday! He was proud to report he was in and out in 45 minutes and really enjoyed the carnitas enchiladas. I wanna try this place!
- Reader Question: What’s the best place for a ‘Pumpkin Patch’ experience?
This weekend, I may be trying to drag The Boy to a pumpkin patch. Why do girls love this stuff and guys hate it? (Note: I may be pushing my luck as The Boy and I are already seeing Cirque Du Soleil on Saturday). I have done Soergel’s, Triple B, and Trax Farms in the past. I think I actually like Trax the best, although Soergel’s is a shorter drive. Can anyone weigh in on produce, products, pumpkins, etc?