Archive for the 'DC desserts' Category

20
May
13

Which donuts are worth the hardened arteries? Brunch at Golden Brown Delicious.

Golden Brown Delicious is one of the latest restaurants in DC to offer the crowd-pleasing fried-chicken-donut combo. One of the chefs  behind GBD is pastry maestro Tiffany MacIsaac of Birch & Barley.  So I was looking forward to tasting her handiwork.

Every bite of this donut includes the perfect key lime curd.

Every bite of this donut includes the perfect key lime curd.

The star of our meal was the key lime curd brioche donut, thanks to its mouth-puckering filling. I have a hard time finding lemon/lime desserts that meet my stringent tartness requirements. This one did.

Mr X-sXe was particularly interested in the tres leches donut. He’d gotten addicted to the same flavor at Doughnut Plant in NYC, where the tres leches had literally left him speechless the first time he bit into one. Although it wasn’t bad, GBD’s version didn’t live up to that gold standard: it needed more filling to balance out the dryness of this cake donut.

While too treacly for my taste, the glaze on the bourbon butterscotch brioche donut was a nice foil to the saltiness of the bacon. This one’s for die-hard fans of salty-sweet concoctions.

Assortment of donuts from Golden Brown Delicious in Washington, DC.

Clockwise from left to right: the tres leches, bourbon butterscotch with bacon, and key lime curd.

My one regret is that we didn’t try the passionfruit flavor while we were there. The lady at the register mentioned it was one of her favorites.

PS: If a restaurant’s fried chicken leaves you pining for Popeye’s, it probably shouldn’t be one of the headliners. Unfortunately, there was nothing remarkable about the bird here. Fortunately, the creamed kale and biscuit sides rescued the savory part of the meal from bland-ville.

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09
May
13

Michel Richard knows his way around a dessert

Napoleon a la Michel

Now that’s a napoleon (mille-feuille)!

A while back, I had the good fortune of stuffing my face at a work lunch at Central in downtown DC, a Michel Richard joint. The chef’s known for his playful turn with foods (as well as looking a lot like Santa Claus).

A profile of Richard that ran in The Washington Post many years ago revealed one of his culinary inspirations: KFC’s fried chicken. Yup, his haute cuisine is inspired by the Colonel. That gives you some insight into why his creations, sweet or savory, are big on contrasting textures and often have a crispy element.

Michel's crunch bar from Central

Those of us who didn’t order Michel’s crunch bar were jealous of those who did.

Without further ado, here’s a rundown of the 3 Central desserts we tried.

The restaurant’s best-known treat is Michel’s chocolate bar, the chef’s Kit Kat-inspired happy ending. This was chocolate-y without being cloying, and had a nice crispy texture. If you’re unsure which dessert to try, go with this one. It was the all-around favorite.

The gimungous size and presentation of my napoleon made for some envious looks around the table. But the layered pastry and cream, while delicious, needed a little kick. A drizzle of chocolate or fruit puree, or even the traditional napoleon icing, would’ve made for less monotonous eating. It’s unusual that I don’t finish a dessert, but I left some of this on the plate.

The disappointing lemon bar from Central.

The lemon tart didn’t find many fans at our table.

My comrades in gustatory indulgence who ordered this lemon tart weren’t super happy with it. It’s a layer of shortbread topped with bland lemon mousse topped with meringue. Next to the more showstopping dessert options, this one’s a dud.

A peek at Central DC's kitchen.

Central’s kitchen, where the pastry magic happens.

10
Feb
13

Donutz hit the District

Zeke’s Donutz had its soft opening recently in the old Dupont Circle Tangysweet space (spoils from my weekend visit pictured below). Meanwhile, Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken is due to open any day now in Metro Center, after a few pop-up events at Chinatown Coffee where their goods sold out quickly. Apparently I’m not the only sucker willing to pony up $2.50+ for a donut.

The haul from Zeke's Donutz

Clockwise, from top left: Mexican chocolate, creme brulee, passionfruit, salted caramel, and lemon curd.

It seems that DC’s finally gotten on the gourmet donut bandwagon, and not a minute too soon for us sugar addicts looking for (cup)cake and pie alternatives. I’ve been dying for a good donut place ever since visiting the fried-dough mecca that is Doughnut Plant in NY. So it’s reassuring to know that more places are popping up where one can get a gourmet donut to take out (besides Palena Market).

We try 5 flavors from Zeke's Donutz.

We taste-tested the donuts by splitting them into fourths. The winner was the lemon curd (the one with the powdered sugar).

When I stopped by Zeke’s, they mentioned their official opening might be delayed because there was still work to be done on converting the space (I figured, since the Tangysweet sign is still in the window). So check their Facebook page for daily opening times. The guys at Zeke’s were super helpful in helping me choose from the 10+ flavors. In the end, I got 3 filled (creme brulee, Mexican chocolate, lemon curd) and 2 glazed (salted caramel, passionfruit).

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken

Another gourmet donut place, Astro Doughnuts, is coming to DC in February 2013 (hopefully).

If you can only try one donut at Zeke’s–your willpower is admirable–I’d go with a filled option. The lemon curd was the favorite among my friends, the curd nicely balancing tartness with a custard-y texture. The creme brulee was a close second. The glazed flavors needed more glaze or filling to help balance out the doughiness. It was like eating a cupcake with too little icing on top. Don’t get me wrong–the glazes were very good, down to the flakes of salt on the caramel, and the authentic tang of the passionfruit. I just needed more of it given the overall size of the donut.

Update, February 18: Another donut-and-chicken place is open in Dupont, with donuts brought to you by Birch & Barley pastry chef, Tiffany MacIsaac. Check out GBD here.

28
Nov
12

Sweet streets of NY, Day 1 Spoils

Some regard San Francisco as the gastronomy capital of America. But a recent trip to NYC affirmed for me that it takes the culinary crown—at least, when it comes to sweets (and yeah, that’s despite its lack of a Tartine). The thing is, whatever your obsession, NYC probably has a store dedicated to it. Take this place that sells only rice pudding. Or giant French macarons. That’s not even factoring in the dessert trucks.

Given the plethora of food oases, it’s easy to overdo it. Luckily we walked a lot during our visit, which helped alleviate the post-binge bloat. We managed to consume a plantation’s worth of sugar during our mere 4 days there. Here’s a rundown of our Day 1 intake.

Fat Witch brownies, Chelsea Market

These brownies didn’t strike me as anything special in the store—more like a gift-giving idea than anything. But I had a change of heart after we tried them back at our hotel. They’re rich yet not dense, so you don’t feel like you’re eating a chocolate brick. They’re probably my second-favorite brownies after the ones at Pret a Manger, which seem to have a tad more chocolate. The caramel was better than the red (dried cherry) flavor. BTW, I noticed on Fat Witch’s website that they’re one of Oprah’s Favorite Things, official seal of things the hoi polloi should aspire to blow their monetary and caloric budgets on.

Ronnybrook Farm apple pie milkshake, Chelsea Market

We stopped by for an apple pie shake, which even between my and Mr. x-sXe’s hearty appetites, we couldn’t finish. This thick apple-caramel concoction needed something to offset the treacly sweetness (and a wider, bubble-tea-sized straw to suck it up with). A side of salty pie crust to scoop it up would’ve been welcome. It felt like a sin to toss about a third of it away, but we wanted to reserve some pancreatic juices for post-dinner goodies.

Stand Burger toasted marshmallow milkshake, East 12th Street

Undeterred by our Ronnybrook fail, we headed to Stand Burger a few hours later. Mr. X-sXe has a thing for toasted marshmallow shakes, after being spoiled by the one at Good Stuff in DC. We got the small and polished off the whole thing quickly. Unlike Ronnybrook, Stand gets that you need a supersized straw for a thick shake. (Minor gripe: the actual marshmallow on top was stale.)

Related posts:

NYC, Day 2: a cornucopia of goodies at Doughnut Plant and Momofuku Milk Bar

NYC, Day 3: donut gluttony and a Hostess-inspired treat

11
Jul
12

Funky-flavored shakes: coffee and donuts, Vietnamese coffee

The donuts-and-coffee custard from Shake Shack. Nice concept, poor execution.

One of the rare Krispy Kreme pieces in this coffee-and-donuts custard.

This coffee-and-donuts custard from Shake Shack–ok, not technically a shake–is a total tease. Excited at the prospect of Krispy Kreme pieces in this custard (brought down fresh from the Dupont Circle Krispy Kreme), we bought the largest size and dug into it. But as you can see, it took a lot of squinting to locate the sparse pieces of donut. The coffee flavor was extremely muted. Not sure I would’ve identified it as coffee if you hadn’t told me.

Also, I’m not sure that cold donuts are all that. They get hard and greasy. What works for fried chicken, doesn’t for donuts.

The Vietnamese-coffee shake from Good Stuff Eatery.

This Vietnamese coffee shake is a vanilla-based shake with ground coffee and condensed milk. The grittiness of the coffee detracts from the experience. Stick with the tried-and-true toasted marshmallow shake!

The thing to get at Good Stuff (even more essential than the burgers or rosemary fries) is the toasted marshmallow shake. This time we branched out and tried the Vietnamese coffee. Good flavor, gross texture. Unless you like sand with your shakes. You may need a good flossing afterwards.

19
Jun
12

A pie that’s too good to throw in anyone’s face

The coconut-banana cream pie from Black Salt, Washington, DC.

Brûléed bananas and pineapple slices accompany this king among pies from Black Salt.

A good pie is hard to find. I’m not talking about a just-satisfactory pie. I’m talking about a pie that makes you swoon—the perfect proportion of filling to crust, sweet to salty, soft to crunchy.

This coconut-banana cream pie’s from Black Salt, and everything about it is pretty über. The chef exercises restraint with the sugar. The crust is super thick. And the accompaniments all bring something to the party–if you share, you might be fighting over the brûléed bananas with the crunchy tops.

While I bristle at any dessert that costs $11, this was a damn good pie, as Agent Cooper would say (if only he could get his hands on it). Almost as good as the Ritz Seafood coconut cream pie. But a lot closer to home.

Black Salt fish market

While the fishmongers get points for creativity, this tableau doesn’t exactly put me in the mood for brunch.

Aside: To get to the restaurant section of Black Salt, you have to walk through their fish market. We’re not talking Asian-grocery-store-seafood-department emanations,* but it’s pretty darn pungent. Good thing the main dining area is far away enough that you can enjoy your meal without those olfactory distractions.

*I’m Asian, so I’m allowed to say this.

27
May
12

Macaron Bee opens. Georgetown becomes even more dangerous for the pancreatically challenged.

Not only are there a bunch of ice cream, pie, and cupcake places in Georgetown, but also more than a handful of European cafes (Paul, Patisserie Poupon, Dolcezza, Kafe Leopold) pushing buttery pastries. Last weekend, Macaron Bee entered the fray on Wisconsin Avenue. It’s a tiny boutique that sells only French macarons, like Macaron Cafe in NY.

Macaron Bee offers classics like coconut, chocolate, and pistachio--plus more exotic flavors like blood orange, lavender chocolate, and gianduja.

My haul from Macaron Bee. They carry about a dozen flavors every day, ranging from the expected (chocolate, pistachio) to the exotic (blood orange, chocolate lavender).

The owners are an Asian couple who seem to know their stuff when it comes to this fetishized French cookie. For $1.75, you get a macaron with just the right crunch, giving way to chewy centers and not-too-sweet fillings. The cookies’ consistency and flavors held up in sweaty 90-degree weather–even after a day in the fridge.

Macaron Bee is a few doors down from Patiesserie Poupon in Georgetown.

The store is a bit of a schlep up Wisconsin Avenue, a few doors north of Patisserie Poupon.

I do have a small beef with the fillings, though. For instance, I want a salted caramel filling in its namesake macaron. These had more of a buttercream, which threw me off. Macaron Bee fares better with the fruit (jelly) fillings and chocolate fillings, where the consistency doesn’t remind me of biting down on a pat of Land O’Lakes.

The inside of Macaron Bee is a macaron fan's wet dream.

Rows upon rows of macarons greet you as you enter the tiny store.

I was impressed with the attention to detail that went into making these cookies. The gianduja had chopped hazelnuts adorning the outer cookie; the salted caramel, salt granules; etc. Minor detail, but this helped me figure out which flavor was what when I left the store.

The owners’ meticulousness is also obvious in their packaging. The adorable boxes are made for gifting–check out those bees leaving a trail of macarons in their wake (above).

Macaron Bee offers your standard flavors, and some more exotic ones.

Flavors, clockwise starting at 9 o’clock: salted caramel, blood orange, chocolate lavender, coconut, raspberry, pistachio, blood orange, and milk chocolate passionfruit.