Archive for April, 2011


Desserts at the Royal Wedding might suck

British food is an easy target. But I’ve always been a fan of British desserts, even if they’re called things like spotted dick.

So it was with disappointment that I learned the 2 cakes slated for the royal buffet don’t sound particularly appetizing. If royalty can’t have good cake at their wedding, what does that mean for your average British commoner?

The main cake will  be a traditional fruitcake that supposedly gets better with age because it’s made with brandy. From People:

Cairns, 56, sent samples of different fruit cakes to William and Kate, who chose their favorite, and she has now started baking to allow the cakes the necessary four weeks to mature.

“Age” and “mature”: words I associate more often with stinky cheese than anything cake-like. This fruitcake sounds impossibly rich and bowel-moving, not something you’d want to stick in the freezer to savor bit by bit.

Photo from

The other cake, by William’s request, is a chocolate-cookie cake being made by McVitie’s biscuit company. You might be thinking Mrs. Field’s, but in this case, the “cake” will be made of 1,700 of their Rich Tea biscuits (cookies that actually are actually pretty plain) and almost 40 pounds of chocolate. Interesting, but it reminds me of a recipe you’d make for an office potluck, like these inexplicably addictive saltine candies.

Photo from

Finally, Kate has apparently requested that Snog frozen yogurt be served. That I can get behind, as long as there’s an extensive toppings bar to go with it.


Tout de Sweet, a quick sugar fix

Patisseries are candy stores for adults. Step inside, and the smorgasboard of delights puts you into sensory overdrive. Your first impulse is to take one of everything. After the ringing in your ears stops, you take a visual inventory to narrow down the contenders. You invariably fork over more money than planned, skipping out of the shop with a bag of carefully packaged goodies that gets broken into well before you get home.

That’s exactly what happened after we hit Tout de Sweet last weekend (minus the skipping), which was recently opened in downtown Bethesda by a French chef. We went just before closing and there was still a decent selection of cakes and macarons, although the croissants were sold out. We tried the lemon-basil, pistachio, caramel, vanilla, chocolate peppermint, and chocolate macarons. (Second box of macarons not pictured below.) After paying, we reconsidered the cupcakes, taking home one each of the coconut-pineapple and chocolate-peppermint.

Tout de Sweet is better when it sticks to the French stuff. The peppermint-choc cupcake was tasty (with interesting touches like a flash-fried peppermint leaf); the tropical one was just ok. It’s really all about the macarons here. Our faves were the lemon basil and chocolate-peppermint. Though I still bristle at paying $1.50 for a tiny cookie, these are pretty labor-intensive to make at home. So the price doesn’t look as bad when you factor in that French labor. Believe the Yelp hype when they say that these are the yummiest macarons you’ll find in the area. This definitely merits another visit to test their cakes and other pastries.

Side note: If you need something savory to balance out your sugar high, Hinata Grocery is just around the corner. Its tiny sushi counter is cramped, but here you’ll find some of the most fresh, reasonably priced sushi in the DC area.

***Update, June 19: Multiple subsequent visits have confirmed that this place makes the most perfect almond croissant IN THE WORLD. Perfectly flaky, generously filled with a light almond paste, topped off with freshly toasted almonds, a slightly caramelized coating, and a light dusting that doesn’t make you choke in a sugar cloud. Tout de Sweet pasty chef, please insure the hands that craft these croissants.***


Before Food Network, there was Jules and Jacques

While channel surfing the other day, I caught an episode of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home. It was a glorious reminder of the days before Food Network turned the cooking show into a well-oiled machine and the celebrity chef into an industry. In this day and age of the multiple take, it was fun to see Julia and Jacques in all their minimally edited glory.

Photo from

For instance, every time Julia or Jacques used their hands to work with the food, Julia would crack, “Now we use our immaculately clean hands to…” At one point, a close-up revealed that Jacques had black crud under his nail. That would’ve definitely been edited out of today’s cooking shows, where a raw chicken on the set merits a gratuitous lesson in hand-washing.

The other thing that struck me was how many tips I picked up from a single episode (this particular one focused on crepes):

  • The fastest way to separate eggs (and to keep the yolk intact) is to crack multiple eggs into a bowl, then fish out the yolks with your hand by cupping them.
  • Never flambe anything by pouring the alcohol directly from the bottle onto the dish/pan. Pour the alcohol into a spoon first. Otherwise the flames could travel up back into the bottle and explode it. Which makes me even more wary of flambeing anything, ever.
  • Pour your crepe batter onto the edge of the pan, not the middle. Quickly tilt the pan to coat the bottom. Always keep the batter moving.
  • You can stack crepes on each other, spreading different fillings between them to create a cake-like creature (see photo below).
  • Perfection is boring–what you see in a Martha Stewart/Barefoot Contessa/Giada De Laurentiis show is not real life. Not most of ours, anyway.

From Click on photo for Julia Child's recipe.


Potato chips, meet ice cream. Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack

If Ben & Jerry’s offered to make you a custom flavor, what would you put in it? Jimmy Fallon chose salted caramel and fudge-covered potato chips. While I’m down with the salty-sweet combos, the potato chip “clusters” in this taste greasy (think Lay’s, but concentrated). Mr. x-sXe begged to differ, though, and polished off half a pint in no time.


Bayou’s beignets

Inhale with caution when eating these beignets from Bayou Bakery, or you’ll wind up choking on the 1/8″ thick coating of powdered sugar and/or end up being the butt of a bad Lindsay Lohan joke.

Even though I’m not a huge beignet fan, I felt obligated to get these last time Mr. x-sXe and I were at Bayou because (1) they’re fried to order, and (2) everyone else had a plate on their table. Yelpers, these may not be Cafe-du-Monde authentic, but it’s fried dough with powdered sugar–you’ll get your get grease and sugar fix regardless. And yes, you can get a mug of chicory coffee to go with it.