Posts Tagged ‘DC desserts


Pastry haul from Paul

Paul Bakery opened its U.S. flagship in DC a couple weeks ago (how’s that for yer “second-tier city,” Chef Spike?) to a bit of fanfare, so the lines have been long. As I queued in a seemingly endless line, my accomplice was patiently waiting for me in an illegal spot by the courthouse, flanked by a bunch of police cars. Eventually she found a parking spot, but you can imagine the additional stress this added to our situation.

A macaron sized for American appetites.

As I waited in line, we exchanged panicked phone calls. “Has the line gone anywhere?” “Should you cut bait?” “How many people are ahead of you?”  Never has a pastry run been so angst-ridden and adrenaline-filled.

Finally, about 35 minutes later, I’m face-to-face with a glass case full of pastries on the left, salads and baguette sandwiches on the right. Given my misguided mentality that time spent in line = directly proportional to volume of food that must be bought to justify time standing in line, I ended up bringing back half the dessert case. 5 pastries at about $6 each, after tax. That makes cupcakes look like a steal.

At $6, the giant macaron is the price of 4 normal macarons–but it’s not large enough that you feel like you’re getting the Costco volume discount. The size seems distinctly un-French. And honestly, I’m not sure I want my macarons the size of a junior cheeseburger. Part of the charm of these cookies is savoring each nibble. The tininess makes them all that more special. (Or perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by the French. Entirely possible.) While the cookie part was enjoyably dense with a strong pistachio flavor, it was soggy instead of crispy on the outside. That could’ve been a result of its time sitting in the humid sandwich case, or in the getaway car of gluttony. Either way, it was a bummer.

Clockwise from bottom right: strawberry Napoleon, pistachio macaron, chocolate macaron, chocolate mousse cake, regular Napoleon. Photo thanks to

The Napoleons were simply a top and bottom layer of pastry sandwiching a custard filling. That made it hard to eat, since the filling would spill out when you went in for a bite. Personally, I prefer the Napoleons of my youth: concoctions with alternating layers of cream and pastry, topped with a thick black and white icing.

The chocolate mousse cake was pretty flimsy by the time we got around to it–the layers of mousse had come to room temperature by then. So it was pretty much like spooning chocolate-mocha fluff into your mouth. My accomplice enjoyed it this way; I liked the leftovers better straight from the fridge a couple days later, giving my teeth more to sink into.

Overall, we’d wanted to be more thrilled with Paul’s offerings than we actually were. They’re kind of like all the free museums in this town–it’s nice to know you can exercise the option if and when you want to, but you wouldn’t necessarily go out of your way.


Crepe Amour, Georgetown

Behold the Madagascar from Crepe Amour. It offered an impressive amount of fresh fruit–at least half a mango and kiwi’s worth, probably more. The fruit was accompanied by a mango-like sauce and too much powdered sugar, which invariably makes me cough. Unfortunately, I remembered to take a photo only after attacking it.

I was hoping the crepes themselves could be less doughy, more thin & crispy. Also, was it my imagination, or did the crepe taste a lot like a sugar cone?

Despite the doughiness, I’d go back to try some of the nutella kinds, and probably the classic lemon (Citron) one.


Pie’s take on the cherry blossom cupcake wars: mutually assured destruction


I hadn’t had a chance to read Cake’s take on the dueling cherry blossom cupcakes before she invited me over for a blind taste test of my own. It was like taking the Pepsi Challenge, except with two types of cupcakes that both tasted awful. Here’s what I looked like trying them:
The profile shot may not clearly capture the half-grimace on my face as I tried to process the strange taste sensation I was facing.
Here’s what I learned:
*Georgetown Cupcake does not have the market on cuteness. The cupcake I had pegged as theirs based on cuteness alone turned out to be from Hello Cupcake. (Points for presentation, Hello!)
*Georgetown Cupcake can make disgusting cupcakes. The cherry bits baked within their cupcake were gummy, with poor mouth feel. I felt like bits of Saran Wrap were stuck between my teeth. And the cupcake itself was unusually dense, like a poorly constructed vegan cupcake. At least it wasn’t dry.
* Hello Cupcake needs to work better on defining “cupcakes inspired by”. In a blind taste test, I would have assumed that this was baked for the Meyer Lemon festival, not the cherry blossom festival. Plus, lemons (a sour fruit) and cherries (a sour fruit) were just too darn sour for a satisfying cupcake, even with sweet sweet icing.

So in a head-to-head competition, I choose Hello Cupcake. In real life at a cupcake counter, I choose neither. And in real real life in my kitchen, I eschew the entire concept in favor of cherry bombs, because cherry pies and tarts > cherries in cake. ALWAYS.


Pear & almond bundle of joy

This is from Julia’s Empanadas. I was there for my usual turkey-spring onion empanada, and the cashier convinced me to get the meal deal, which includes dessert.

The filling is half a canned pear in yummy almond paste. It reminds me of those fancy pear tarts you see sitting on doilies at patisseries for $5/slice. Love the string–makes it feel like a little package.


Introducing the Runcible Spoon. All hail the return of the DIY zine!

Look for Pie V. Cake in The Runcible Spoon, a fabulous DC food zine from Malaka over at The Grand International. We’ve got some recommendations for cheap sugar fixes, and a recipe for our “cherry bomb.”

Get the full-color PDF here:

And from Cupcakes are for Closers:


Afternoon Tea Chinois. Or, why am I a sucker for anything served on a multi-tiered plate?

In a perfect world, afternoon tea would be served every day. Imagine breaking at 4PM for your daily dose of crustless cucumber sandwiches followed by fresh-from-the-oven pastries. If only. In reality, afternoon tea is more of a special occasion thing–like when you want to take someone out and have hours to linger, without heading to the Melting Pot.

Here’s the spread from the “Afternoon Tea Chinois” at the Willard Intercontinental. Both the decor and the food were inspired by the terra cotta warrior exhibit currently at NatGeo. The Willard offers a good selection of Chinese teas, along with the more traditional standbys like Earl Grey. We had the green passion (fragrant, light) and the oolong tea (bitter, a nice complement to all the sweets).

I was curious to see how they’d do afternoon tea with a Chinese twist. Some places slap a few Mandarin oranges onto lettuce and call it Asian chicken salad. Would the Willard’s interpretation be as simplistic? (Excuse the poorly lit photo.)

Actually, no, but they could have taken it further, especially with the desserts. I enjoyed the finger sandwiches more than the sweet stuff–unusual coming from a sugar addict. The Asian-style chicken salad and Chinese eggplant ones were packed with flavor. A big plus: they offered us seconds on the sandwiches.

The middle tier held two scones per person. While the five-spice scones were pretty bland, the cranberry-orange ones delivered, the crunchy top giving way to a flaky center. They were served with a delicious lemon curd, Devonshire cream, and raspberry and orange marmalades.

Onto the dessert tier. It’s a little sad when the macaroon from the Trader Joe’s freezer case beats your house-made chocolate-hazelnut one. Oh well. The green tea meringues, spiced marshmallows and Chinese fruit petit-fours were also ho-hum. But I gotta give them credit for their Mandarin mousse sitting in an edible white chocolate spoon, if more for presentation than flavor. 

The tea is held in the hotel’s Peacock Alley–proof that this town is really all about spin. We were basically seated in a hallway off the lobby flanked by the corridor to the bathrooms and the doors to a ballroom. Hmm. While Mr X-sXe enjoyed the people-watching opportunities, I was distracted by the chilly draft coming in every time the hotel’s back doors opened (hey, it was 40 degrees today and I was freezing my tokhes off). Thank goodness for the extra sandwiches, which helped redeem my opinion of the Willard’s afternoon tea.


Dangerously Delicious Pies, coming to DC this month

I can’t wait to try the pies at this place, especially the rhubarb. With all the cupcake joints in this town, it’s about time DC took its pies seriously. Looks like Baked & Wired and Kramer’s better step up their game.

Dangerously Delicious Pies also does savory pies and quiches. The guy who owns this place, Rodney Henry, was on Food Network making his chicken pot pie with Paula Deen. I remember the episode well because the ingredients weren’t exactly healthy (they never are if you want a truly delicious, flaky crust and creamy filling). Dangerous for my cholesterol, indeed, but small price to pay for a good pot pie.

Dangerously Delicious Pies, 1339 H Street, NE, 202-398-7437


Home-grown DC whoopie pies from B. Hall, Baker

I know I’ve been harping on about how macaroons are the next cupcakes. But given the fact that whoopie pies are in every grocery store and bakery lately, I’ve had to reconsider. (Also, if you think about it, whoopie pies are close cousins to cupcakes. Just lop off the bottom half of a cupcake and reattach it to the top, like a cupcake sandwich. You end up with a whoopie pie-like creature.) 

The thing that bums me out about most whoopies pies is that they taste like a variation on a Devil Dog. So it’s exciting to see that B. Hall, Baker (featured in DailyCandy DC today, is bringing us ones made with gourmet ingredients. With flavors ranging from Raspberry Red Velvet to Dulce de Leche, this ain’t no Hostess creation.

These babies are available by mail order and for local pick-up on select dates.

And for you bakers out there, this white-chocolate whoopie pie recipe from The Washington Post is pretty good.


My anaconda don’t want none unless you got Potenza’s buns, hon

Ah, Potenza bakery. Reasonably priced goodies and sandwiches that are way better than any chain. They bake these buns fresh a bunch of times every day. I’m not the type that gets tempted by the smell of Cinnabon wafting through the airport, or by cinnamon buns in general. (They’re usually too rich.) These cherry sticky buns are awesome, though, which is why they made our Best of DC list ($2 each).

potenzanew 001

The first time I tried these, I shared one with a friend. Now I know better. BTW their sandwiches are awesome, too.

Potenza bakery, corner of 15th and H Street right near McPherson Metro.