Archive for the 'MD desserts' Category

17
Aug
13

Blame Max Brenner for all those sugar-buzzed kids in Bethesda

Image
Max Brenner Chocolate Bar opened up earlier this month right next to Jaleo in downtown Bethesda. The only reason I knew is that my friend The Chicken sent me some photos of the s’mores pizza and crepes she’d shared with her kids. Their verdict? Pretty good but stomach-ache inducing. I decided to check it out, with bottle of Pepto at the ready.
Image
This part of Bethesda’s generally overrun with harried parents chasing small children, strolling small children, and wrangling small children. Not surprisingly, many of those families are taking their kids here. At one point during my last visit, I got worried about the safety of their fondue grills. Open flames and kids amped up on sugar/caffeine–hmmm. Here’s to hoping that the tables aren’t wobbly.
 Image
Despite the high prices, small portions, and long lines, this place will likely succeed in this location. Here’s why:
  • It’s family-friendly, although some kids may be asking their parents what a “chocolate syringe” is. See photo #2 above.
  • Although you can eat-in, you’re not paying for a waiter. You order at the counter, then they bring your goodies to you.
  • There was a gap in the market for a dessert bar in Bethesda. Sure, there’s Georgetown Cupcake, Tout de Sweet, Fancy Cakes by Leslie, and various froyo options. But none of them offer a proper sit-down experience. No wonder Washingtonians (Bethesdans?) are lining up for $15 crepes and $8 milkshakes.
Image
Although I did manage to avoid a gastrointestinal fail on both visits, I can’t see myself returning here often. There’s a big novelty factor that wears off fast. The first time I went was to check it out. The second time was to take an out-of-town guest. Everything that I ordered was good (lava cake combo the first visit; milk chocolate fondue the second). Nothing that I ordered was to-die-for. But if you’re a kid, it’s probably heaven.
Advertisement
09
Oct
12

An Irish pub that doesn’t serve up your typical grub

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Irish Inn at Glen Echo, which I’ve been meaning to try forever. But when my shepherd’s pie came out in its own tiny copper pot, meticulously prepared and perfectly seasoned, I figured this was more than a few notches above your usual pub fare.

The Irish Inn's version of deconstructed banoffee pie

That definitely held true for the banoffee pie. The way this dessert was presented was something you’d expect from a much fancier joint, not a place that serves up bangers and mash. This particular take on the traditional English dessert (a richer version of American banana cream pie) was deconstructed: an oozing pile of bananas, cookie crumble, and toffee generously layered on top of each other.

Without a true base crust to ground it, this banoffee “pie” felt overly rich. Almost like I was shoveling caramel sauce from the jar into my mouth. I would’ve liked more crunch to balance the softer textures. All said, though, we did clean the plate.

19
Mar
12

Get a free macaron on March 20

Free cupcakes are a dime a dozen in this town. But free French macarons? Not so easy to come by.

Behold the Early Grey, salted caramel, and coconut macarons from Tout de Sweet, who makes some of the best French pastries in town.

So tomorrow, head over to Tout De Sweet in Bethesda (a few doors down from Tastee Diner). For those of you in the Capitol Hill/Eastern Market area, the Sweet Lobby is giving out free macarons all day until 5 PM. Just mention that you’re celebrating Macaron Day to get your tiny treasure.

I didn’t realize this was an actual holiday, but I’m all for it. Parisian pastry chef Pierre Hermé started the tradition 7 years ago. Not only do you get a freebie, but participating businesses donate a portion of their Macaron Day proceeds to charity.

17
Nov
11

Last day for Food & Friends buy a pie > feed a DC neighbor

Today’s the last day to order your Thanksgiving pie through Food & Friends. (PS: If you’re on Team Cake, they also have chocolate-covered cheesecake.)

Why it’s a great idea:

1)      Every pie you buy will provide a full day’s worth of meals for a kid or adult in DC, MD, or VA with a life-altering illness.

2)      You need to buy Thanksgiving desserts anyway, and Whole Paycheck/Safeway/Giant doesn’t need any more of your money.

3)      Their pies come from a family-owned bakery. They have no preservatives or any other ingredients you wouldn’t feed a pregnant woman.

You can order online, then pick up your pies at a bunch of convenient CVS locations on Tuesday, November 22. Food & Friends needs to sell another 1,500-2,000 pies by midnight tonight. Do it!

15
Aug
11

Proof that Tout de Sweet’s almond croissant is the best thing ever

Photo by JDang

JDang bites into the much-hyped-by-me almond croissant from Tout de Sweet (a bakery in the older section of downtown Bethesda, near Tastee Diner). She chews. Her chewing gradually slows as her dopamine levels surge.

“This might be the best thing ever,” she declares reverently.

Me: “It IS the best thing ever. See why I feel like I should kowtow whenever I see that pastry chef? Those hands are magic.”

JDang: “I love Bethesda!”

Me: “What? That’s like saying, ‘I love Northern Virginia.’”

As JDang left DC, I snuck another one into her lunch for the bus ride.

On the phone, a week later:

Me: “So how was that day-old almond croissant?”

JDang: “Sooo good.”

Me: “Even soggy?”

JDang: “Yeah, even soggy.”

Ms. Cake: “Aren’t you glad I forced it on you?”

JDang: “Yeah, I THOUGHT I didn’t want it, because we’d binged on sugar all weekend. But I got on the bus and realized I was wrong.”

There you have it. Quod erat demonstrandum. Tout de Sweet makes the best almond croissant ever. Try it and beg to differ.

02
Aug
11

Tout de Sweet and Sweet Lobby’s macarons go mano a mano

The basil-lemon from Tout de Sweet. Photographer & hand model extraordinaire: JDang

JDang bites into the Tout de Sweet basil-lemon macaron after our Sweet Lobby macaron bender. “OMG, Sweet Lobby doesn’t even compare.”

Ms. Cake: “Well, I wouldn’t kick Sweet Lobby’s macarons out of bed.”

JDang: “I would! I’d kick them out!”

Sweet Lobby's macarons. The passionfruit-chocolate flavor you need to try is the yellow one.

By way of explanation, JDang had arrived in DC on the HOTTEST G’DAMN DAY OF THE YEAR, yet that didn’t prevent her from schlepping down to Eastern Market to pick up some Sweet Lobby macarons (tagline: “The ultimate advocate for your sweet tooth”) for us to try. The best part is that she didn’t want them to melt, so she went straight back to the house to get them into the fridge ASAP. Now that kind of dedication, I admire.

While Sweet Lobby had some interesting flavors (Earl Grey, orange ginger, lavender), the quality was all over the map. Some were underbaked, resulting in a cookie-dough consistency; others were overbaked and crispy all the way through.* The exception being the passionfruit chocolate, which was awesomely delicious.

*Ideally the cookie part of a macaron should be crispy on the outside, chewy inside.

Tout de Sweet's macarons > Sweet Lobby's


11
Jul
11

Ode to a croissant

It’s normal for me to become obsessed with a new dessert find, only to get sick of it a few weeks later. However, I’m not expecting a more long-term fascination with the almond croissant from Tout De Sweet.

The pastry chef at this place is clearly a genius, because I’ve never tasted a croissant like this before. Yes, I recently sang the praises of the pastry selection at Praline, but I daresay that Tout De Sweet has eclipsed that level of deliciousness.

What makes this almond croissant so amazing? Let’s analyze.

  • The texture. It’s crunchy on the outside, with tender pastry and gooey filling inside.
  • Filling: The all-important almond filling isn’t heavy like marzipan, and lacks the gritty texture you sometimes encounter.
  • Fresh-roasted almonds: They taste like something recently pulled from the oven, rather than prepackaged.
  • Right amount of powdered sugar: It’s applied with a light hand. You don’t want to be choking on the sugar, or getting it up your nose.
  • Mysterious crust: There’s a mysterious caramelized layer on top that adds extra flavor and texture. (Look closely at the photo, between the sliced almonds.)

If you have the slightest hankering for pastries, it’s worth schlepping to Bethesda–even if you’re allergic to yuppies–to try this. An added plus, the chef and his wife who run the shop are exceptionally nice people.

14
Apr
11

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.***

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.

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.