“Gourmand” is a French word that means “a person who enjoys eating.” La Gourmandine, however, doesn’t actually mean anything. Owners Fabien and Lisanne Moreau named it after their favorite restaurant from when they lived in Toulouse, France. And, if you don’t consider yourself a gourmand now, you might once you taste some of their fine pastries and baked goods.
La Gourmandine is a magnificent French bakery with four locations in the Pittsburgh area — Lawrenceville, Mt. Lebanon, Hazelwood, and downtown.
The owners and masterminds behind this bakery have an interesting story. Husband and wife team Fabien and Lisanne Moreau moved to Pittsburgh in 2006. Their parents are all from France, with the exception of Lisanne’s mother, who is from Pittsburgh. When Fabien Moreau wanted to open a restaurant in Pittsburgh, Lisanne Moreau was against it. However, Fabien Moreau had a love for baking, and was adamant about opening a place, so he went back to France for a month and studied at Lenotre Culinary Institute in Paris to learn the skills needed to open a bakery. When asked why they chose Lawrenceville for the flagship location, Lisanne Moreau said that many people she knew in Pittsburgh said it was an up-and-coming neighborhood. Pittsburgh’s love for French fare, and the quality of Lisanne Moreau’s and Fabien Moreau’s food, is evident in the opening of three subsequent locations. When I stopped by the Mt. Lebanon location recently around 2 p.m., customers were steadily coming through, a sure sign that business continues to do well.
Let’s get into the food
The items offered at La Gourmandine would be things that you would typically find in any French bakery. From my discussion with Lisanne Moreau, I learned they carry three main types of products, the first being Viennoiserie, or breakfast foods, with the name “stolen” from Vienna, Austria. This would include any breakfast pastry, like a croissant, that is not in the refrigerated case. During my visit, I couldn’t decide between a couple, so I got both the croissant amandes, which is filled with almond cream and topped with sliced, toasted almonds, and the choco amandes, which includes everything from the croissant amandes with the addition of luscious chocolate barres. The croissant amandes is their most popular item.
The second type is patisserie, or pastries, including the choux a la creme, which actually means “little cabbage” due to its resemblance to them, stuffed to the gills with vanilla whipped cream. Choux pastry can be made into many other delicacies, including eclairs. Speaking of, I also tried the eclair au chocolat, which is choux dough filled with smooth and rich chocolate cremeux and glazed with chocolate fondant. Other delights include different flavored macarons, and one of my personal favorites, the tarte au citron topped with Italian meringue. The tarte au citron is delightfully, well, tart, and has the loveliest mouthfeel.
The third type is boulangerie, or bread. Think baguette (they even make ones filled with bacon and parmesan cheese). Their bread is baked fresh every morning with simple ingredients and has a slightly crunchy outside with a soft and chewy texture on the inside.
There is a fourth category of food items that they sell, and that includes savory lunch (or really anytime) options such as various types of sandwiches made with their baguette, and quiche. Familiar sandwich combinations are offered, such as the campagnard sandwich, which has mayonnaise on a baguette with smoked turkey, sliced Swiss cheese, lettuce, and tomato, while more curious eaters can try something like the Montagnard sandwich, which boasts butter on a baguette with prosciutto and cornichons! I tried the Montagnard and enjoyed half for lunch one day and the other half for breakfast the next. It is important to keep in mind that the sandwiches are made every morning and there are no substitutions (I mean, they’re perfect the way they are). For the quiche, patrons can opt for vegetarian with spinach and goat cheese, or quiche Lorraine with bacon and caramelized onions. They sell quiche by the slice or as a whole dish, so it’s a perfect choice for any occasion.
“It’s a place where people really enjoy food.”
I asked Lisanne Moreau how they liked living and working in Pittsburgh, and she replied: “We’re very lucky. Pittsburgh has been awesome for us. I think it’s a place where people really enjoy food. Since we’ve opened, people have been completely open to something new, but I’m not surprised, because that’s how people in Pittsburgh are.”
I would have to agree. So get out there and enjoy some fine French baking at any of their four locations. Their hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, with the exception of their downtown location which is closed on weekends.