This past Friday Jeff was heading to Scranton for work and invited me to ride along with him because I had the day off.  I took him up on his offer and we had a nice time journeying on a beautiful fall day.

We left central PA at about 10:00 am and headed up Rt. 81N.  Along the way we got to watch the colors of fall leaves whirring past our windows.  And we marveled at the shadows of clouds on the mountains.  And we spent uninterrupted time talking and reminiscing and laughing.

The Sign Outside


When we arrived in Scranton, I dropped Jeff off at the courthouse and made a beeline for a bakery Jeff read about – Amberdonia Bakery. Not knowing that they had two locations, I set out for their Farr Street shop.  Fortunately I had my GPS and followed the turn-by-turn directions.  Although I must admit that once I turned onto Farr Street I was convinced my GPS had gone haywire!

You see, Farr Street is in the heart of an old-school, residential neighborhood. I was driving up a lllooonnnggg hill, past row homes and NO COMMERCIAL PROPERTIES.  But I persevered. And boy am I glad I did.

When I finally found the bakery, which was right where my GPS told me it would be, I felt like I had been transported back in time.  It reminded me of a South-Philly Italian neighborhood of days gone by!

I walked into the bakery and was met by some truly wonderful aromas. Brewing coffee, pastries and the slightly charred smell from the wood-fired oven. A wonderful perfume if you ask this foodie!

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As I perused the pastry offerings in the case, I kept my camera close at hand, snapping photos of the beautifully decorated treats.  The man behind the pizza counter, who I later discovered is the owner (well, co-owner along with his lovely wife), asked if I was from the newspaper.

I explained that I am a food blogger and we struck up a conversation.  After I ordered a small pastry and a cup of coffee, he invited me to come take some pictures of the pizzas he and his wife were making.  And once I got behind the counter, I was hooked.

Building a Wonderful Pizza


Shaping the Warm Mozz Marvelous Mozzerella Ball

These were no ordinary pizzas…..they were works of art.  I found out that the mozzarella on them is made in-house and I was even given the opportunity to snap some photos of the cheese-making process.  And better yet, I was offered samples of the fresh mozz – both when it was still warm and after it was cooled.  Oh, what a treat!  The warm mozz had a lovely saltiness and a silky smooth texture that won my heart.

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And then….then one of the pizzas was gently slid into the wood-fired oven to bake for 1 minute.  Yes, you read that right… see, at 1000 degrees F it doesn’t take that long for a thin crust pizza to bake. When I caught sight of the bubbling crust with gorgeous slightly-charred spots, I knew I’d be ordering a pizza to go!

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I returned to my table, my steaming cup of coffee and my minimisu.  Now, I must – in all fairness – remind you that my husband, Jeff, makes the best tiramisu I’ve ever eaten; so it was risky for me to order tiramisu.  There was every likelihood that I was going to be disappointed….but I wasn’t.  While the minimisu was a different style of tiramisu than the one Jeff makes, it was delicious.  It has a wonderful essence of espresso, a terrific creamy texture and a surprise on top.  On top was a small piece of a ladyfinger (one of the essential ingredients in tiramisu) that had not been soaked in the classically tiramisu syrupy mixture – often a combination of rum and espresso.  The ladyfinger on top was crisp and light and gave a nice contrast to the ladyfingers inside the minimisu that had been soaked and were now soft and flavorful.

While I enjoyed my coffee break, I also enjoyed the conversation with the owners – Butch and Aida (I hope I spelled that correctly). We chatted about food, their business, places to live, what I do, raising families, and so much more.  I learned that they relocated from Brooklyn (although I pretty much figured they were from Brooklyn when Butch told me they had another location across from the “MAWL” [uttered in that distinct and endearing Brooklyn accent]) to Scranton about 8 years ago and started their business about 2 years ago.

I can tell you, they’re doing something right!!!! I am often skeptical when I go into a bakery or restaurant and see beautiful desserts.  Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I’ve had my fair share of desserts over the years that have looked great but have tasted just ok or worse.  I was pleasantly surprised by my minimisu and thoroughly enjoyed the goodies that were lovingly packed for me to take home. In addition to the chocolate peanut butter cupcake I chose for Jeff, my new friends also packed some samples for Jeff and I to enjoy – a piece of Italian rainbow cake, another minimisu and what I’m guessing by process of elimination was either a LuLu or a Lafayette (whatever it was called, it was a sinful combination of chocolate and peanut butter).

I did not taste the cupcake, but Jeff – a chocolate peanut butter cake connoisseur – said the cake was exceptional, but the icing could use some more peanut butter in his opinion.

As I mentioned earlier, I ordered a pizza to go.  Butch told me it would reheat well at 500 degrees F for a minute or two and he was not wrong.  The pizza was fabulous – I can only imagine how much better it would have been had I not lugged it around Scranton for a few hours and then home in the car!

The Reheated Pizza

The crust was thin and crisp with patches of brown, wood-fired “char” that lent a smoky taste to the pizza.  The sauce was very light and “tomatoey.”  There were small leaves of basil tucked here and there that provided unexpected bursts of “licoricey” freshness.  And the cheese – oh, the cheese – was smooth and salty and cheeselicious.

I would highly recommend a trip to Amberdonia Bakery if you find yourself in Scranton, PA!  I enjoyed the old-world charm and the low-key vibe.  I cannot express thanks enough to Butch and Aida for treating me royally… family only better!

Behind the Scenes: Dinner for 14 – Day 5

We are preparing for dinner for 14 at our house tomorrow evening.  Today was Day 5 of the preparation schedule.

I have three things to say emphatically:  1) I am sooooo incredibly lucky to have the husband I have – he took the day off today to help me clean and prep.  I completely understand that not many husbands would do that and so I want to publicly thank him for being such a terrific guy!  2) I am also incredibly glad I got more done yesterday than was on my list.  In addition to the things on the list, I also prepped all the ingredients for the food I needed to make today and it was a HUGE help!  And finally, 3) I RRREEEAAALLLLLLYYY wish I had a cleaning person (or perhaps a magic wand).  As much as I love cooking; I loathe cleaning!  But I will admit, now that the house is clean I am really happy.  It smells like a combination of clean and yummy right now!

I never did get my walk in with my fuzzy gals yesterday, but I certainly got my share of exercise going up and down the steps and wrestling said fuzzy girls in the shower before getting into bed last nigh!

The following are pics of the progress from yesterday.

Tree is Decorated - All 12 Feet of It!

Tree is Decorated – All 12 Feet of It!

Tiramisu….step by step:

Potato Stacks w/ Gruyere, Caramelized Onions & Roasted Garlic:

After a hearty breakfast of savory oatmeal and copious amounts of coffee, Jeff and I got started on our list.  On the agenda for today:

  • Pick up chairs (did not happen, but will get them tomorrow)
  • Cleaning – every room is sparkling at the moment – if only it would stay that way!!!
  • Make potato stacks – no, Mark, not curly fries!
  • Stuff and partially cook pork roast (and chicken breast for those allergic to pork)
  • Hang pictures (didn’t happen yesterday, but done today)
  • Iron napkins
  • Make vinaigrette
  • Roast butternut squash
  • Laundry (in order to make sure what we plan to wear tomorrow evening is clean)
  • Make iced tea
  • Fill nail holes and touch up paint in dining room

We can check  everything off the list – and then some.  I also finally found a way to display some ornaments I’ve been wanting to display for the last few years and created and embossed a printed note for each place setting.

Tomorrow’s list includes:

  • Pick up chairs
  • Pick up dishes
  • Get a little extra sleep!!!!! Yeah!
  • Set table
  • Set appetizer buffet
  • Set dessert buffet
  • Set bar
  • Make filling and fill macaroons
  • Sweep floors just before everyone arrives
  • Spruce up powder room
  • Make rolls
  • Cook chicken
  • Put finishing touches on all food
  • Primp and pamper and perhaps take a cat nap

I am looking forward to quality time with our friends and to kicking off the holidays in a festive way.  I can’t wait to show you pictures of the evening!