sweet and simple: heritage bakery and cafe.

burgimg_8161You know how in old TV shows like I Love Lucy or The Brady Bunch, one character would visit her friend across the street after the kids left for school, and they’d sit together at the Formica kitchen counter and drink coffee? Maybe the hostess would whip out a coffee cake or some Danish and the two friends would leisurely laugh and chat as they sipped and nibbled, with several hours of sunny, blissful banality before them.

<sigh>
I want that.

Instead, my mornings start with the God-awful honk of my alarm clock, my hips and feet cracking as I rise from bed and stumble around in the dark, followed by a good eye rub and some Visine in front of the bathroom mirror. Next I wrench my beautiful children, dreaming of lollipops and unicorns, from their warm nests to start a new day of rushing around, yelling at my son about why he hasn’t put on pants yet and insisting to my daughter that her hair looks FINE. No one offers me Danish, and I usually don’t get a sip of coffee until I’m in the car.

But there was a morning recently where I got to visit a dear lady’s kitchen and sit with a sweet friend and languidly sip and nibble, and I felt for a moment like Betty Draper. It was freaking GRAND.

Heritage Bakery and Cafe, opened two years ago by Isabelle Treciak and her mom, sits on the first floor of the Hardesty Higgins House in downtown Harrisonburg, and the nostalgia in there is overpowered only by the smell of freshly brewed Lucas Coffee and all the goodies she’s baking that day. She admits that the pastries offered each day are dependent on her mood, but based on the selection we saw, I think it’s safe to say that Isabelle is generally happy and optimistic.

burgimg_8226burgimg_8167In her polished glass case that day was chocolate chip shortbread, hummingbird bread (banana, pineapple, and coconut), lemon ginger scones, King Kong cookies, chocolate walnut chubbies, and peanut butter chocolate sandies. She always has gluten-free options available, plus a wide selection of tea, juices, and soda, in case coffee’s not your thing. Brandy, Blake, Ella, and I ordered sticky buns, raspberry coconut bread, spinach quiche, and a spinach, egg, and Havarti cheese croissant, which we salivated over — patiently, for time was on our side that morning — until Brandy was done photographing it.

burgimg_8204burgimg_8195burgimg_8208burgimg_8200The snow lining the windows of the old building somehow made the sticky buns a little sweeter, the spinach quiche a little more decadent. Maybe because we were subconsciously dreaming of simpler times, we started talking about minimalism. A discussion of the book Everything That Remains and its documentary counterpart Minimalism (available on Netflix) led to a rant about fossil fuels and how America can’t seem to give up those extravagant habits for cleaner, more sustainable, simpler options. And this led to a slightly depressing chat about how we really could simplify our lives… find more time for rest and nature and family and love… spend less time working and running ourselves ragged.

burgimg_8169As if you need more reason to go in there, much awaits you at the Hardesty Higgins House (which my kids have called the “Higgy House” ever since they were tiny and couldn’t say it correctly). You can find hundreds of maps, brochures, and publications about the goings-on in the Shenandoah Valley, from Civil War museums and re-enactments, to the Artisan Trail, the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail (yes, please), and the Shenandoah Spirits Trail. You can watch a video about the Civil War in the Shenandoah Valley and learn about various battles, battlefields, and monuments. The Rocktown Gift Shoppe offers lots of Virginia-made products like candy, food, soy candles and handmade soaps, beautiful items from Blue Ridge Pottery, assorted Valley-related apparel, and those little hiking guides Brandy swears by.

And of course, the Valley Turnpike Museum has that adorable scale model display of Harrisonburg way back in the day, before internet scams, before cars and their noxious fumes, before cell phones, before even deadlines and exorbitant debt and bad credit ratings and Wall Street screw jobs. Right now, those simpler days feel like ancient relics enshrined in a tomb… days we’ll never return to.

But for now, you can visit Isabelle and enjoy the simple pleasure of a cup of coffee and a homemade pastry served on a pretty plate. Find simplicity where you can.

burgimg_8175Heritage Bakery and Cafe is open Monday – Saturday, 8:30 – 5pm, with a monthly Sunday afternoon tea.

See you out and about!

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Copyright © 2012-17 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Words by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

if you can’t stand the cold: new leaf pastry kitchen.

…then warm up in here!

burgIMG_5129 burgIMG_5140bw burgIMG_5158 burgIMG_5176burgIMG_5151Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

all caked up: cupcake company.

It was the sweetest quickie ever.

I mean, we tore in there, ordered, scarfed it down, and satisfied our sugar craving in about four and a half minutes. By the time Brandy put down her camera to enjoy her cupcake, the rest of us were all done.

empty plates at bakeryI’m talking, of course, about the Cupcake Company, located on Rt 33 East in Penn Laird. If you’re headed east out of Harrisonburg, it’ll be on your left. I say that because in my half-blind, sugar craving stupor, I couldn’t see anything. Thankfully, Brandy waited for me in the median. Sheesh.

sign out front of bakeryBut don’t feel like you have to drive out there. They also have a Cupcake Truck (drool), which will be at Valley 4th on Court Square, AND they deliver. !!!

I first became aware of the Cupcake Company at work. A short email consisting of just one sentence came over the staff-wide system: “There are cupcakes in the teachers’ lounge.” Now, I was in the middle of class when this announcement arrived in my inbox, but I also kinda thought, “Meh. Probably those processed kind from [That Big Awful Store].” So I didn’t really hurry. Still, when I had a chance, I wandered down to the lounge, and what greeted me was the best cupcake I’ve ever consumed on public school property. The one I happened to get that day was the Raspberry Merlot Truffle, and after one bite, I seriously doubted my ability to navigate back down the hall to my room. I also toyed with the idea of not returning to my room at all… couldn’t I just sit down here for the rest of the day with my new cupcake friends? All the flavors, all living happily together in the pretty box! There was Grasshopper, Carrot, Chocolate Overload, Cherry Cheesecake, Wet Coconut… and Lord, have mercy, Pancake Maple Bacon! They have dozens of other flavors, too, for each day of the week!

assorted cupcakesAfter that day, I knew I had to get back there. So a week or so ago, on our way to take the kids swimming, Brandy and I stopped into their shop. The dining area is clean and quaint and holds several tables. The display case glistens to a polish and contains perfectly positioned, mouth-watering delicacies. The staff is super nice and patient. The ample kitchen bustles with activity. All four kids were entranced. We ordered a Peanut Butter Pie cupcake (Brandy), three Cookies and Cream cupcakes (Blake, Ella, and Bree), one Chocolate Ganache (Cal), which was so pretty it look upholstered, and a Chocolate Vanilla (moi).

employee at bakery counter four cupcakes on plates bakery kitchenFive seconds later, everyone had a messy face, and we were done. The kids wrote some thoughts on the wall-size chalkboard. In the car, the sadness set in. Couldn’t we have savored our cupcakes just a little longer?? Was it really over so soon?? What, are we animals??

girl with crumbsNo worries. We’ll be back in there soon, on another day of the week, when they have seven more flavors to choose from. And it’ll be just like the first time.

people eating cupcakesCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

burg bites no. 3: shank’s bakery

Shank’s Bakery causes cravings. I know because I’ve been going there regularly since they opened when my daughter was two and continuing through my second pregnancy—the cardamom-banana bread was something I had to have at least weekly, and then it just became a family tradition for us. The kids and I visit the bakery every Saturday, and in the summer, Tuesdays too, before we head to the Farmers’ Market.  You just can’t go wrong with this place.

On this particular evening, I only got a cup of decaf—Mexican Esmerelda, to be exact, roasted by Lexington Coffee Roasters.

The kids shared three mini cupcakes (the icing is to DIE for) and one Valentine’s Day star-shaped cookie with the word “when” on it. Maybe that’s an inside joke I don’t understand, or maybe they left off the question mark, or maybe it meant, “When you wish upon a star…” At any rate, in the few seconds it took you to read that, the cookie was devoured and but a memory.

 Okay, so here are a few reasons we love Shank’s Bakery:

1. The design. It’s slick, it’s sleek, it’s classic. The white walls and black floors… the one red accent wall with the wood-paneled and granite-topped counter… are clean and minimalistic. Simple. Uncomplicated. A reflection of the foods served there. I love the curve of the old-school display case, which is refrigerated, by the way, because none of their goods contain preservatives. And that looooong wall of floor-to-ceiling windows makes the modest space (fifteen seats) feel expansive.

2. The food. I love being able to get a wholesome dessert. I mean, calories are calories, but at least I know I’m not feeding myself or the kids processed and nutritionally empty foods. If you’re gonna indulge, make it worthwhile. For such a tiny place, they have a wonderful variety of breads, breakfast pastries, desserts, coffee drinks, teas, and smoothies.

Our favorites
* multigrain bread. We usually devour the whole loaf in one day. Cut the thickest slice you can fit in your toaster, toast it, apply a generous layer of butter, and ahhhhhgggggg. <drool>

* Danish. Specifically, blueberry.
* cupcakes. They are a delicious vehicle for the melt-in-your-mouth icing. I’m not kidding.
* snickerdoodles.
* and those adorable 4-layer, 6-inch cakes. Recently I bought one just because it was pretty. I couldn’t resist. It was pretty dang delicious, too.

The bakery is conveniently located on Water Street at the parking deck. Take a moment out of your day to visit them soon. Chances are you’ll see me there, cleaning up the nearly full cup of milk my son knocked over or scraping icing out of my daughter’s hair. And apologizing to all who had to witness it.