Pittsburgh: Paris 66

Paris 66, nestled on Penn Circle, is pretty unassuming, I hadn’t even noticed it until someone pointed it out. A French resturant in Pittsburgh with a pastry chef whose rumoured to have worked at the magical Ladurée. Paris 66 serve bistro-y fare: galettes, seasonal salads, and quiche, but I went there for the macarons as I’d heard they were some of the best in Pittsburgh.

At the counter as you go in, there they are, sitting humbly together on a tray, there they were: lemon, salted caramel, strawberry, peanut butter, chocolate and vanilla.

I chose a modest six: white chocolate and basil, lavender, raspberry, chocolate and passion fruit, rose and salted caramel.

All the macarons were crisp on the outside and soft and marshmallow-y inside. I think most of the fillings were buttercream/mousseline-based, flavoured with jams/extracts…

The most delicious were the salted caramel and chocolate and passionfruit, which was filled with passion fruit-infused ganache. The least exciting for me was the rose macaron; raspberry was lovely and fresh, with fresh raspberry puree or jam swirled through the filling, giving it a tart flavour.

I was most surprised by the white chocolate and basil, which I thought I wouldn’t like at all. Whilst I’m not a complete convert, I’m warming to the idea of white chocolate being paired with the herb-y sweetness of the basil.

Pittsburgh: Vanilla Pastry Studio

Vanilla Pastry Studio is a little sweet spot, tucked away in East Liberty, near Whole Foods market. The pretty-in-pink interior is not for the pastel-phobics out there, but it’s a fun place to sample Vanilla’s cupcakes which are the stars (they also sell brownies, muffins and cookies…). I’m not the biggest fan of the itsy bitsy cake, but the cupcakes are scrumptious.

There is a rainbow of flavours on offer, from the basic fruit, chocolate and vanilla, to seasonal creations such as pumpkin.  The quantity of buttercream frosting is a bit too much for me, but it’s light and delicious. The cakes themselves are moist and fluffy, but can sometimes disintegrate on you. My favourite is the chocolate and peanut butter – and I don’t even like peanut butter that much! There’s just something about the rich chocolate cake and peanut butter topping together.

From top left: coffee and chocolate, Red Velvet, pumpkin, raspberry, chocolate and peanut butter and chocolate at the end.

A comprehensive article covering quite a few of the bakeries in Pittsburgh.