Archive for February, 2011

26
Feb
11

Sprinkles opens March 3. For real this time.

That Sprinkles awning has been taunting me for far too long. After being led on that the DC location would open fall 2010, then told it was delayed until February 2011, it’s finally opening on M Street this Thursday. The first 50 to whisper (do you really have to whisper it?) “capital cupcake” will get a free dark chocolate cupcake. There will also be a Sprinkles truck roaming DC with free cupcake giveaways.

Given that Georgetown Cupcake borrowed some its branding/marketing tactics from Sprinkles (a “signature” look to their icing, free cupcake giveaways, online pre-orders), it’s going to be interesting to see whether the student has truly become the master. And Baked & Wired probably isn’t thrilled about another bakery addition to Georgetown, but at least their goodies go beyond cupcakes.

Let the real cupcake wars begin!

March 4 update: the wait in line was about 10 minutes on opening day, not too bad. If you’d prefer not to wait, you can pre-order by calling 202-450-1610, then go directly to the counter to pick up. Starting Monday, 3/7, you can place your order online.

24
Feb
11

Free cupcakes all day at Georgetown Cupcake Friday, 2/25

To coincide with the premiere of their second season of “DC Cupcakes,”* Georgetown Cupcake is giving away free cupcakes all day tomorrow, February 25, at both the Bethesda and Georgetown locations. (The sisters mentioned the giveaway in the last 5 seconds of this video.)

If you’d prefer not to stand for hours in the rain for a free cupcake smaller than your fist, do an online pre-order. You’ll probably be bitched out by people who don’t realize you can legitimately bypass the line to pick up your order. Remember, it’s likely that they’re sugar-starved maniacs who consider Georgetown Cupcake up there with the Lincoln Monument and National Air & Space Museum. Don’t let it get to you.

*The sisters’ endearingly gap-toothed and incompetent Mommy keeps me watching, but most of my friends consider the show one of the most contrived reality crapfests they’ve ever seen. To each her own!

23
Feb
11

Orange Julius, then and now

My pre-teen years were spent in New York state, about an hour outside NYC. Like most middle Americans, my family’s default distraction was the local mall. And that meant one thing: with 99.9% certainty, we’d be stopping at Orange Julius.

Today we have Jamba Juice, Robeks, Smoothie King, etc., but back in the early 80s, Orange Julius was it. This was before “smoothie” became part of the national lexicon a decade later—or as Orange Julius called them, “fruit drinks.”

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, an Orange Julius was originally fruit juice, ice cubes, milk, sugar, and flavoring, frothed up in a blender. These days they offer premium smoothies, “boosts,” and other variations on the theme.

Orange Julius, Montgomery Mall

As a kid, the great thing about Orange Julius was that I could get my sugar on in the guise of a vaguely healthy concoction. I seriously doubt my parents had any inkling how much sugar was lurking in those drinks. Of course, this was back before sugar, salt, and carbs were officially evil.

The chain has since been purchased by Dairy Queen, so consider it the KFC-Taco Bell of frozen treats. For kicks, I tried the Strawberry Julius recently at Montgomery Mall, which tasted as I remembered it. But it’s now too much for my adult taste buds–which screamed in protest, “too sweet!” Curiously, the strawberry flavor isn’t listed on their nutritional chart. The omission makes me assume the worst: that the sugar content is even higher than that of the Strawberry Lemonade Julius, at 51 grams per 16 ounces. Pure speculation, but I shudder to think.

20
Feb
11

Trader Joe’s fudge-filled chocolate chip cookies

This is one of the rare desserts from the Trader Joe’s freezer case that I haven’t tried. But I’m glad I did. The soft chocolate chip cookies are slightly salty, which helps these from being over-the-top sweet. The “fudge” filling is actually ganache (chocolate + cream). My only beef is that they’re tiny like French macaroons, so you’re not quite sure what constitutes a serving. I’m thinking 3-4 would do the trick but according to the back of the box, 1 serving is 2 cookies. Um, not for this hungry girl.

 

16
Feb
11

Pastries from Praline Bethesda, Part 2

This here is the raspberry-almond pastry and hazelnut-chocolate bear claw. The filling in the bear claw is Nutella but better, encased in a super crunchy pastry. Mr. x-sXe thought it was as good as the pistachio-chocolate pastry we tried earlier. (I beg to differ. Nothing can touch that.)

Meanwhile, the raspberry-almond left us high and dry–maybe because the filling/pastry balance was off, it was simply a bore. I’ve had Entenmann’s pastries that were more exciting.

So, in summary: go to Praline Bakery. Go early or risk disappointment. Get the bear claw, chocolate-pistachio, and pear-caramel pastries. Wash them down with a mug of bitter coffee or tea, and enjoy the sugar/butter/chocolate high. And marvel at the fact that some French people start every day like this.

13
Feb
11

Bayou Bakery’s PorKorn

Bayou Bakery is a welcome addition to Arlington, sitting in the old spot where Camille’s used to be on North Courthouse Road. I went in for the sketchily named Muff-a-Lotta sandwich (one of my new favorite sandwiches, perhaps even trumping Taylor Gourmet’s 9th Street Italian) but as I went to pay, their dessert case beckoned.

I ended up taking home a bag of the PorKorn, since cupcakes and whoopie pies seem ubiquitous these days. There are few desserts that haven’t been touched by bacon in the past few years, including this take on caramel popcorn with pork drippings. It had a smoky, spicy kick, although the bacon bits were so hard, I was afraid I’d crack a tooth.

Every other table around me seemed to have a plate of beignets on them. Here they’re made to order, and you can get ’em full-on Cafe du Monde style with a mug of chicory coffee. Although I’m ambivalent about fried-dough desserts, they’re on my list for next time.

Tom Sietsema of The Washington Post may have been unimpressed by some of the savories here, but he pretty much dug all of the sweets he tried. Despite his lukewarm review, this place is definitely worth crossing over to NoVa (closest Metro: Court House).

09
Feb
11

Pastries from Praline Bethesda, Part 1

Praline is the kind of place you make a habit of visiting, and are glad that more people haven’t discovered yet. This neighborhood bakery sits in a sleepy shopping center off of Sangamore Road. It’s flanked by a Chico’s and Edible Arrangements, if that gives you an idea of the target demographic.

The store is split into a downstairs bakery with an awesome selection of cookies, cakes, and pastries, in addition to savories like quiches and salads-to-go. Upstairs is a seated restaurant offering decent French fare that tends to be overpriced.

So stick with the bakery, and you’ll leave a happy camper. My new weekend routine now involves a pastry run to Praline, which Mr. x-sXe both thanks and curses me for, since there are very few things there that we don’t like.

I didn’t think it was possible to improve on pain au chocolat, but somehow Praline’s pistachio-chocolate croissant has one-upped the French classic. I heated this up in the toaster oven to crisp it up and liquefy the center, but it’s still quite good cold. If you’re looking for something a bit less sweet and decadent, the caramel pear pastry is a nice option—the caramel being more custard-like than sticky-sweet.

We had our pastries with this Café du Monde chicory coffee from an Asian supermarket (apparently it’s used to make Vietnamese coffee).

Make sure to go early or you’ll be disappointed–Praline usually sells out of pastries by early afternoon.

PS: More Praline pastry reviews coming this weekend.

PPS: We reviewed their cookies here and here.

06
Feb
11

Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Close to Home

Team cake: 2 (Chef Anne Burrell & a dude whose name I can’t remember)

Team pie: 1 (Chef Duff)

Chef Anne Burrell name-checked Smith & Wollensky’s coconut cake, which makes me want to hit the downtown DC location to get a slice to go. Apparently steakhouses make decent cake, because the other one was the ridiculous 24-layer chocolate cake from Strip House. You can actually mail order the entire 5-pound behemoth to your house for $100 plus S&H here.

Photo via Girl Vs. Food

Meanwhile, in the pie corner, Chef Duff talked up the Baltimore Bomb at Dangerously Delicious. It’s a chess pie made layered with Berger cookies (vanilla cookies piled high with chocolate ganache icing), a Baltimore specialty. We’ve tried this pie before and can guarantee that it’ll make your fillings ache. If you’ve got a major sweet tooth, check it out at their H Street location, or follow @DCpietruck.

05
Feb
11

Maison Moschino’s Sweet Suite

If you’re into sweets, pizza, and fashion (and got don’t mind dropping some serious Euros on your hotel), check out the Sweet Room at Maison Moschino in Milan. The only thing missing is an edible cake-pastry-macaron spread worthy of Marie Antoinette.

Actually, I saw some pretty dodgy offerings on their sweets menu. Wasabi custard? Star anise ice cream? Sounds more like something you’d try one bite of than crave time and again. Attention, pastry chefs: exotically flavored ice creams are a copout. Is anyone else sick of the curry, 5-spice, goat’s milk, etc. ice cream accompaniments that seem to be on the menu of every nice restaurant?

03
Feb
11

Doing dessert at Pete’s aPizza

This hazelnut bar was calling me from the dessert case at Pete’s Apizza. Heavy desserts like this are made for thickening your winter coat, and best offset by a bitter mug of coffee. The richness is perfect for (never-ending) cold weather days like these, but probably too heavy in warmer weather.

This was basically hazelnut chocolate mousse topped with candied, roasted hazelnuts, all atop a wafer crust (the kind you find in German chocolate bars). While I do recommend trying this if you need your sugar/chocolate fix, afterwards I was on a sugar high I couldn’t come down from. Also, my coworker tried a bite and was thrown off by the salt on it. So be forewarned if you don’t like salty with your sweet.