Archive for January, 2012

29
Jan
12

Afternoon tea, served 2 ways

That's a baby scone mounting a cupcake. "High Tea" cupcake from Red Velvet.

When I’m in Gallery Place, I feel compelled to cruise past Red Velvet Cupcakery to see what the special flavor is. They’re always coming up with incredibly creative concoctions, some of which deliver on flavor (like their Dark & Stormy, inspired by the drink) and some of which fall flat on execution (see their cheddar apple cupcake).

The current special flavor is called “High Tea.” It’s a cake with a ton of black tea baked in, orange cream-cheese frosting, and a tiny scone on top. Yes, that’s a tiny scone—not a piece of a scone, but a scone baked to be Smurf-size. While adorable to behold, the cake part tasted odd. Mr. X-sXe thought it was because they chose too smoky a black tea. I couldn’t put my finger on what I didn’t like about the cake part. All I knew is that it’s the sort of thing you consider interesting but aren’t dying to eat again.

While visiting my parents over the holidays, my mom and I went for afternoon tea at Washington Duke Inn in Durham, NC.  If I were a stay-at-home trophy wife, I’d make a point of going to afternoon tea every few months. It’s relaxing, fun, and something about the assortment of tiny goodies makes you feel like Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette. In reality, I go maybe once every couple of years. Point is, it’s kind of like the Melting Pot: a meal for a special occasion. You’ve gotta go with someone you can stand to stare at for a few hours, and definitely not on a first date. After all, it takes time for your body to acclimate to all that sugar. Plus, hot water refills for your teapot are free.

Washington Duke offers a fairly traditional tea service—cucumber sandwiches, tiny pastries, fancy chocolates. The best part is the freshly baked pecan scones with lemon curd, strawberry jam, and crème fraiche. So save a little room, if possible, because those come out last.

There were only a few other tables of afternoon tea diners. Most of them looked like tourists, not the genteel southern types in oversized hats that you’d expect. It didn’t make for good people-watching, but at least there’s plenty of food to keep you preoccupied.

17
Jan
12

Pie Vs. Cupcake: Pie Sisters comes to Georgetown

When Sprinkles opened in DC last year, it seemed like Georgetown had reached dessert saturation point. Or at least, cupcake saturation point.

Personally, my cupcake fatigue set in last summer. Maybe I’d partook of too many free cupcakes (thank you, Sprinkles and Georgetown Cupcake*). Maybe I’d overstocked them in my freezer—I’ve still got some Baked & Wired ones from Ms. Pie’s wedding last August. But now I just don’t get that jonesin’ for them anymore. I can actually walk past a cupcake place without getting the shakes. Not that I’m defecting to Team Pie. Yet.

But apart from Baked & Wired, there’s a lack of places in Georgetown to grab a great pie. Until last week, that is. Pie Sisters just opened at the edge of Georgetown, by the Key Bridge before you get to the Exorcist steps. Their story is similar to the owners of Georgetown Cupcake: sisters who gave up their careers to pursue their dream, family tradition of baking, that kind of stuff.

The cuppies ($4, including tax) is Pie Sisters’ answer to the cupcake. They’re individually sized and hard to resist, even though you probably get more bang for your buck ordering by the slice. The nice thing about the menu is the pies come in both sweet and savory flavors. I love that I could just have an entire meal there made up of cuppies. Even though I’m mildly embarrassed to order anything called a “cuppie,” because it sounds like something you pad your bra with.

This key lime and coconut cream cuppie were surprisingly intact after being schlepped all over Georgetown. And they tasted as good as they look. The crust is really thick, with a nice crunch. It’s not your typical flaky lard/shortening/butter crust. That’s actually a good thing because it’s not a bit soggy. If anything, it could’ve used just a touch more salt to play off of the sweet fillings.

Lots of key lime pies are maddeningly sweet. This one was pleasantly tart. I prefer puckeringly tart, but that’s challenging to achieve since excess acid can prevent your filling from setting (as I’ve learned in previous baking fiascos). The coconut cream was also good, thick with toasted coconut in the filling.

Pies may not be any healthier a fixation than cupcakes, but it’s nice to know there’s another option in Georgetown for getting your sugar fix.

*Georgetown Cupcake gives away 100 free/day per location. Sprinkles gives away 50/day. See their Twitter feeds for the secret flavor or phrase of the day.

15
Jan
12

Remember Almond Roca?

Photo poached from jessicaclairesworld.blogspot.com

It’s a chocolate-and-almond-covered toffee that takes some serious chomping to bite into–so it kinda sounds like your teeth are breaking (but you won’t care, since it’s delicious). Back when I was growing up in the 80s, it came in these unmistakable Pepto-pink tins. They actually still make the stuff in similar packaging. My mom re-used the tins everywhere in our house when I was a kid. It was always a bummer to open a tin only to find a collection of loose buttons or rubber bands instead of gold-wrapped toffee nuggets.

This dark chocolate roasted-pistachio toffee is basically the Trader Joe’s version of Almond Roca. At $4 for 7.5 oz, part of me hoped it would suck so I wouldn’t have to buy it again. It didn’t suck. On the contrary, it’s addictive. Luckily, I’m afraid that eating this toffee regularly will result in more chipped teeth.* That, and the price, will likely deter me from keeping this stocked in the pantry.

*I already have a chipped tooth that’s been unsuccessfully “fixed” twice. The first time, biting down on a baguette took the filling out. The second, a Twizzler was the culprit. I didn’t want to stop eating baguettes or Twizzlers, so the tooth remains jagged.

12
Jan
12

Pimping out a panettone is a surprisingly bad idea

Over the holidays, you could get a 26.5 oz panettone from Trader Joe’s for a mere $5 (brioche-y, buttery cake with raisins and other dried fruit). For a couple bucks more, you could get this chocolate-coated, pastry-cream-injected version in the freezer section for $6.99. Sounds good, right? Only in theory.

First of all, the chocolate coating is way too thick to get through it easily. Magic Shell would’ve been more suitable—at least you don’t need a hammer and chisel to break into it. It’s so much chocolate that you find yourself getting sick of chocolate, which usually only happens in Switzerland.

The cream-filled panettone inside was tasty, but I’m just not sure that panettone needs these bells and whistles. Why mess with perfection? Stick with the $5 version: toast a slice in the oven with a bit of butter, and you’re good to go.

 

06
Jan
12

Yonanas, a gadget worth the counter space

When we first got a huge box from my mother-in-law around the holidays, I approached it with trepidation. She likes buying us kitchenware. And we’re already so short on storage space that things pop out and attack us when we open our cabinets.

Turns out it was the Yonanas machine, a phallic-looking gadget that turns frozen bananas into something akin to soft serve. Yonanas isn’t a juicer, but it’s designed specifically for creating banana magic. (Shockingly, Yonanas did not sponsor this blog post, and Michelle Obama is not the national spokeswoman.)

On Pie V. Cake we’ve extolled the virtues of Annie’s Banannies before in this review. You may have come across something similar at Chicken Out, with their Going Bananas product.  Here’s the clincher: it’s just a frozen banana, but it tastes creamy like dairy.

The other cool part is the show. Watching the machine go to work is half the fun. At first, it spits out a few shards of frozen banana. That had us worried. But by the time the second banana’s in the machine, it’s at the soft-serve-texture stage.

The cool part of having your own machine is you can add other fruit into the mix. Here we tried frozen blueberries. We’ve also done pineapple. One thing to note is that you always need plenty of bananas for your base, because you don’t get the creamy texture from the other fruits. Another tip: give your bananas plenty of time to freeze. Put them in at least a day ahead. When you want to impress dinner guests, it kind of ruins things if they have to stick around a few hours waiting for flaccid bananas to harden.