Archive for the 'MD desserts' Category



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.***

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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.

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.

08
Oct
10

Pie’s rib-stickin’ shoofly pie recipe in the Runcible Spoon

Need a vegan-friendly shoofly pie recipe? Wondering what the heck shoofly pie is? Find out in the beautiful new issue of The Runcible Spoon. Malaka and Claire have put together a bunch of seasonal recipes that’ll keep you warm like that cozy, pilled-up sweater you unearthed from the closet last week.

Click to read it in all its digital format glory.

23
Sep
10

Another cupcake with an identity crisis: Frosting’s Frenchie

Frosting is a bakery opened by a couple of newlyweds who gave up their 9-5 office jobs to follow their dreams (sound familiar?).  The bakery sits on the edge of the Giant, a 5-minute walk from Friendship Heights Metro. The couple who runs the place was recently interviewed on the local news, so I expected the shop to be buzzing. Not so. There was only one person ahead of me, and the early-morning weekday offerings were a bit scant (they don’t bring out the  full regalia of cupcakes until 10:30).

The dollop of frosting reminds me of Tintin's quiff.

I didn’t plan on getting the Frenchie cupcake, but the lady working the counter said it was one of her favorites. The cake base is definitely French toast-inspired. Seems the latest trend is cupcakes that are trying to be other things, like this pie-inspired cheddar-apple cupcake.

Anyway, the cake part of the Frenchie wasn’t sweet–it tasted a bit like cinnamon toast. This contrasts nicely with the maple buttercream icing (which I could’ve sworn was cream cheese, but either way, it was delicious).

Turns out cupcakes posing as French toast is actually a good thing.

11
Jul
10

Yogiberry Bethesda

Mr X-sXe and were strolling around downtown Bethesda when we spotted Yogiberry, a self-service yogurt place that’s decorated like a candy store on acid.

I’ve been skeptical about self-serve froyo ever since being underwhelmed by FroZenYo, but we decided to give it a go.

I was taken aback/impressed/baffled by the Asian-ness of the offerings. With flavors like taro root and toppings like rambutan, litchi, and longan (very similar white-fleshed Asian fruits, below), you’d think you were in Singapore or something.

Collectively, we tried the chocolate, original, pistachio, taro root, coconut, and green tea yogurt flavors. Our favorites were the original and green tea, which are worth going back for. Least favorite? The chocolate (too icy) and coconut (too sweet). Problem is the temptation to go overboard at these places. At 49 cents an ounce, our yogurts came out to $6+ apiece (!) And beware if you’re caught tasting or eating before you’ve paid: there’s a $10 on-the-spot fine, though we didn’t see any froyo police milling around.