Eliza's Oven does star turn in Strip District | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Eliza's Oven does star turn in Strip District

Bowman's baked goods highlight "the wonderful complex flavors" found in local products

Cupcakes from Eliza's Oven
Cupcakes from Eliza's Oven

While stage managing in New York City, Eliza Bowman gained quite a reputation — as a baker. Bowman fed cast members baked goods during long rehearsal hours before taking on baking the theater's concessions with a friend. Suddenly, the women had a small business, Bowman recalls, adding, "I realized I liked doing that more than I liked writing down blocking."

Bowman grew up cooking with her grandma and fondly remembers holidays spent baking sticky buns in particular. "I loved that time spent in the kitchen with her."

Feeling "burned out" on NYC, Bowman moved to Pittsburgh and earned a business degree from CCAC. There, she also took courses on baking and pastry before "just [diving] in" to open Eliza's Oven, a stall in the Strip District's Public Market. She's been baking there, in what she calls "the world's tiniest commercial kitchen," since late October.

Everything on the Eliza's Oven menu is made with a locally produced beverage: soda from the Barmy Soda Company, beers from East End Brewing Company, Wigle Whiskey, Maggie's Farm Rum, Gryphon's Tea and Commonplace Coffee. Even her grandma's original sticky-bun recipe uses local milk from Family Farms Creamery.

And she finds that her "boozy" flavor combinations help her stand out. Though the alcohol burns off in baking, the taste remains, creating family-friendly baked goods that highlight what Bowman calls "the wonderful complex flavors" found in local products.

Bowman's says her best-seller is the "Drunken Oatmeal Cupcake": a whiskey-oatmeal cookie topped with vanilla cake, brown sugar frosting, and a dusting of cinnamon and sugar. Another hit is the beer cheese — sold alongside barleywine pretzels — which some people buy by the quart.

Although Bowman already feels successful, she looks toward a future that holds new lunch items and baking classes. And ultimately, she hopes to play on a larger stage: a brewpub that pairs baked goods with beer and wine, instead of "overly sweet" dessert drinks.

It's a role she may be born to play: As Bowman puts it, "I just want a beer with my dessert."

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