Monday, April 29, 2013

Recipe: Cookie for One

I have a new treat for all you passionate but lazy bakers out there! This comes from a blog called "no. 2 pencil" and, again, it was meant to satisfy late-night-cravings that don't usually coincide with the energy to spend an hour in the kitchen. Anyways, if you are only preparing food for one person it can be pretty self-damaging to make a whole batch of cookies to then have them sit on the counter, constantly tempting you to grab a bite and heap on those calories. So make this single portion for yourself and for this very moment; make it to shut out the noise of the world around you; make it spontaneously rain or shine.

In one of my earlier posts I might have mentioned the chocolate chip cookies they used to serve in German Pizza Hut restaurants a few years ago. - This comes very close to it! Oh, the pleasure of digging into a dessert that is somewhere between cookie and dough, half-baked, soft, warm, with melted chocolate pieces inside... While it is probably not the healthiest of food alternatives, especially at a late hour, what it does to your mental state more than makes up for it.

Here comes the recipe (along with a few mouthwatering pictures that make mine look like I did something wrong): Chocolate Chip Cookie in a Cup.

Do you remember the unexpected summer-like temperatures in DC a few weeks back? I had a really cute dog made out of chocolate sitting next to my window at the time, a present my family had sent for christmas. And all these weeks I had not been ready to open and eat it just yet. Guess what the sun did to my little dog? One day I woke up and saw that it had melted and collapsed. It has been waiting in my fridge for a chance to play an important part in one of my baking exercises ever since. Here it was: I broke off little pieces and used them for my cookie instead of morsels. Which explains why the end result does not have chunks in it; the milk chocolate simply melted in the microwave, blending in perfectly with the soft cookie dough. I'd definitely recommend doing the same, it's different but delightful. 

Other than that, follow the easy recipe and you'll be fine. My microwave is very weak which makes everything I bake in it turn out a little different from what it was originally supposed to look like. 

But one shouldn't judge a cookie by its cover, right?

Friday, April 26, 2013

Co Co. Sala

I did feel a little uncomfortable at the thought of going out for dinner with the intention of ordering nothing but dessert. Even I as a devoted fan of all things sweet cannot remember ever having completely skipped the savory part of a meal. What a relief it was to find out that Co Co. Sala does not even pretend to be anything but chocolate heaven! After we were done examining the extensive menu our waitress asked us straight out if we were ready for dessert. No mention of a starter or main course. Maybe she knew what we were up to when we order two flights of hot chocolate for "drinks". 

At this point I decided that my friend deserves her own nickname on this blog. After all, I hope she will accompany me on many future foodie experiences. So let's call her Ms. Tiramisu, indicative of what she usually goes for when we pick desserts. When it comes to chocolate, she is a dark chocolate person. That being said, even she was a little overwhelmed with what we had on our plates today.

Since Co Co. Sala specializes in artisanal chocolate and has its own chocolate boutique attached, that is what people come for. In part due to its lounge atmosphere, with red and dark brown earthy tones, it is very popular with couples and the girls'-night-out crowd. It was still bright outside when we arrived, but upon entering the dimmed lights transported us into what almost seemed like a chic upscale bar / night club. They serve happy hour snacks and cocktails from 5-7 pm, so it was busy with professionals in formal attire who stopped by for a drink after work. The hosts and waiters were all smiles, and we were served promptly in spite of the many occupied seats and tables.

The menu does include some salads and savory "bites", but I didn't see anyone order them. Even the cocktails sound like - and cost as much as the - dessert items. Just read the following description: "Fresh Strawberries, Chocolate-Infused Vodka, Strawberry Foam, Chocolate Dipped Berry". It was hard to hold back, but prices are not really student-budget-friendly at Co Co. Sala. So, instead, we opted for 6 different hot chocolates to taste, plus two main desserts.

The hot chocolates were: Milk, Dark, White, Salted Caramel, Peanut Butter, and Chipotle. While we enjoyed the way they were presented (they most definitely caught the attention of couples at the neighboring tables), we had an even better time sampling each one with our tiny spoons. I usually prefer a silky, thick texture, which these did not have, but some of the flavors nevertheless surprised me. The peanut butter and salted caramel variations were the best, not only because both were served with a soft marshmallow, but because they tasted so unique. We felt adventurous trying the chipotle, but left most of it because it was truly - and a bit too - spicy. The milk, dark and white hot chocolates were pretty much what you'd expect. Nice. Nothing special. Now, had they been thicker I might have liked them so much more.

As a main dessert I ordered "Some More Co Co." which is a chocolate crème brulée with tiny toasted marshmallows and graham crumble, as well as a chocolate brownie and some sort of a malted chocolate shot (alcoholic). Ms. Tiramisu had the "Onyx", which I can only describe as a small cake consisting of dark chocolate mousse, vanilla crème brulée and salted caramel, with crispy chocolate pearls, brownie, a scoop of dark chocolate sorbet, and a cinnamon toffee bon bon. How much cocoa can someone possibly consume in one evening?

Both were very good and perfectly portioned. Because each plate had several components it really felt like we were tasting our way through the talented pastry chef's many creations. Especially the Onxy "cake" (I just don't have a better way of describing it, as it had a sponge-y center topped with caramel and surrounded by chocolate mousse) was outstanding, followed by the chocolate crème brulée, which had a wonderfully smooth texture. The dark chocolate sorbet was a little overpowering in terms of flavor, and it was so dense that it still kept its shape after we had left it untouched for 20 minutes. The cinnamon toffee bon bon had an interesting taste, and I loved how crisp the chocolate shell was. Both brownies were rich and... whatever else a good brownie should be. The malted chocolate shot? Not my favorite. It tasted a bit like Bailey's, but I didn't quite understand how it was supposed to fit into the composition. 

"Some More Co Co."

Overall, we each spent $ 24 for dessert, which means that Co Co. Sala is a venue for special occasions only. There is no doubt that it was worth the price, but then again we had serious cravings for salty food when we left and ended up going to District of Pi across the street for pizza.

Looking back we were glad to have been there, done that. Co Co. Sala has made such a name for itself and offers an experience that is out of the ordinary. But do we really need to go back? Probably not.

Brownie Points for the hot chocolate flights: 1 out of 3
Brownie Points for "Some More Co Co.": 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for the "Onyx": 3 out of 3
Brownie Points for the overall experience: 2 out of 3

Co Co. Sala on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 22, 2013

GBD & Zeke's DC Donutz

In consideration of what threatened to become a serious cupcake obsession over the past few weeks, it was about time to explore what else DC has on the menu. So I started to do research in anticipation of future brownie points adventures and came across some articles referring to the emergence of a new culinary trend.

I hate to break it to you, but doughnuts are the new cupcakes. So they say.  

Still, I think it's too early to mourn the imminent death of our favorite tiny treats: Doughnuts don't have the connotation of decadence that cupcakes have. They will not be able to make us girls act even girlier, to make us pose for pictures with them, or to make us feel special the way a box of tastefully decorated cupcakes does. I mean, doughnuts are associated with grease. They are cheap to make and cheap to purchase. They just don't look cute!

Tres Leches

I admit I might be a little biased. And I understand that doughnuts have been an important component of the American breakfast since... forever. In Europe we like them because they are a little more difficult to get; and because we are generally curious about things that come from the U.S. But so we eat them as a snack food during the day, much like you would stop somewhere to get an ice cream. You grab one, - anyone -, and eat it on the go. When I go buy a cupcake, I feel like I am rewarding myself for something. I take time to select the flavor I like, and carefully carry it home in order to not destroy the frosting. That is the difference.

To be fair, doughnuts are really getting a makeover these days. Two weeks ago, DC saw the opening of two new restaurants specializing in fried chicken and gourmet doughnuts: GBD in Dupont Circle and Astro Doughnuts near Metro Center. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a restaurant concept involving chicken and doughnuts in the same place, but yes, people seem to like it and not ask any questions. I wonder if the big mysterious reason behind it is that they can use the same oil to deep-fry both types of food. Whatever it is, people have been going crazy over these new additions to the culinary scene, mostly because they sell doughnut-versions of popular desserts like creme brulée, s'mores, carrot cake and salted caramel. It's these flavors that are probably to blame for the comparison to cupcakes, as well as their attractive shapes and decoration. These doughnuts are clearly not to be compared to the ones you get at Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme.


In order to better form an opinion about recent developments, I met up with a friend at Dupont Circle to sample goods at two very different, but equally popular, doughnut places. We first visited GBD, which stands for "Golden Brown Delicious" and looked a little dark from the outside. I almost thought they were closed, but once you get inside you can tell that the owners put a lot of thought into the interior design. Different shades of brown and details such as wooden menu boards create a cozy, inviting ambiance. There is a restaurant area with booth seating in the back, as well as a large grab-and-go area with a few stools and a coffee counter in the front. The service was extremely friendly, gladly naming and pointing out all doughnuts on offer. And I can tell you, these were some good-looking doughnuts! 

Key Lime Curd filled Brioche

I had a tres leches, while my friend opted for the key lime curd filled brioche. Mine was moist and sweet, just the way a tres leches should be, with toasted coconut shavings and the wonderful taste of condensed milk. I am a sucker for this dessert, so it would have been difficult to disappoint me. My friend's brioche was slightly more chewy and had a rather sour-tasting curd filling that didn't pair well with the sweetness of the dough. It was good. It was rich. But just a little bit weird. While we enjoyed our breakfast there we did not experience the "Wow"-effect I had been hoping for.

Up next was Zeke's DC Donutz, a small store that is easy to miss as it is located in what seems to be a basement in one of the Dupont Circle side streets. The graffiti-style logo out front reflects what's waiting for you inside: A Yelp! reviewer accurately described it as the opening scene of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", with a huge boom box, colorful street art on the walls, and hip hop music in the background. There are a few tables to sit and enjoy your food with a cup of coffee or their specialty, cereal milk (yes, that is milk with cereal flavor... feeling nostalgic?). But it is rather dark inside, and when you take the donuts out they package them in pizza boxes which I find kind of cool. Customers are encouraged to leave their mark by scribbling something on the wall, - black pens are provided by the store. I was intrigued by the whole concept, and it really felt like we had stumbled upon some hidden gem that would soon be discovered by the masses and turn into what Baked & Wired is for cupcakes: Hip and edgy and loved by people of all ages and backgrounds. Definitely more of a noteworthy experience than GBD.

Zeke's DC Donutz

The display of available doughnut flavors was incredibly tempting, and the guy behind the counter was very patient with us as we made up our minds about which two to try. Mexican chocolate looked too good, but since we had already eaten before I wanted something "lighter" (in case that adjective can even be used for a doughnut). The mango with curried milk crunchies was my choice, and my friend had the blueberry cheesecake, which turned out to be the winner of the day. Both doughnuts tasted as advertised and were pillowy soft. They were also larger than those at GBD and would have best been eaten with a knife and fork. - We realized this too late, as the cheesecake filling already dripped onto our plastic plates and hands and shirts. But oh well, I consider it better to have this lovely cheesecake-flavored cream on my clothes than a ketchup or coffee stain. Overall, we congratulated ourselves for the discovery of this place and know we will be back for the occasional celebratory breakfast after an exam or deadline. At $ 2.50 per piece, these are no everyday-doughnuts.

Mango and Blueberry Cheesecake

So how do I feel about the new trend? I like it. I am always in favor of exotic flavors and creative new ideas. But will doughnuts replace cupcakes? My answer to that is still "No".

06/29/13 Note: Zeke's DC Donuts has been closed due to complaints by neighbors about the frying smell. They hope to re-open at another location or offer their doughnuts through different channels. I will be sure to post an update as soon as I know more.

Brownie Points for the Tres Leches doughnut at GBD: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Key Lime Curd filled brioche at GBD: 1 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Mango doughnut at Zeke's DC Donutz: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Blueberry Cheesecake doughnut at Zeke's DC Donutz: 3 out of 3

 GBD Fried Chicken and Doughnuts on UrbanspoonZeke's DC Donutz on Urbanspoon

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Recipe: Hot Chocolate Mug Cake

I am by no means experienced in the kitchen. And I might not be qualified to give baking advice. But in some way I believe that my lack of skill will make the following interesting for those who are kitchen amateurs just like me. 

Since the family dinner preparation has always been my mum and sister's domain, I didn't interfere with what I considered "their business" and was consequently labeled as the clumsy one in the family. The one who should never be given a knife because she might not know what to use it for. The one who moves too slow and gets in the way and ends up burning something or hurting the people around her with a hot pan. You get the idea. This is one of the reasons why I generally only try recipes that have few ingredients and do not require specific equipment or a long preparation time. Which limits my options substantially. But few things could be more satisfying than ultimately eating a tasty, maybe even visually appealing dish that you as a rookie made yourself. So I want to share this satisfaction with you and pass on a perfect recipe for late nights on the couch. 

I found this on a blog called Kirbie's Cravings: Hot Chocolate Mug Cake.

All you need is a big mug and a fork to mix the ingredients; then pop it into the microwave for a few minutes and voilá: You have the cake version of a hot chocolate. Note that I used only 3 tablespoons of sugar instead of 4, and reduced the amount of oil, and it still ended up meeting my expectations in terms of consistency and taste. My microwave is old and slow, so the cake took about 3 minutes to bake. By that time it looked a bit like a chocolate soufflé because it rose so much, but if you let it cool off it will sink back into its cup. Don't be surprised if the center is still soft and sticky, I think it is supposed to be that way. And even if it is not, - the combination of fluffy cocoa cake and what tastes like gooey chocolate sauce is just wonderful.

I would recommend dividing the batter between two smaller cups and keeping one for another day, because my willpower was not strong enough to finish the whole thing in one go.

So light some candles, start an episode of that show you really like, sink back into your couch, and enjoy.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Curbside Cupcakes

What could possibly be better than having fresh cupcakes delivered to your doorstep? Ok, not literally to your doorstep but right around the corner from where you live? Unless you reside in close proximity to a bakery, you will understand my child-like enthusiasm when Curbside Cupcakes announced that one of their trucks would make a half-hour stop in Rosslyn at lunch time. Perfect.

For some reason I eat all these cupcakes when there are so many other sweet treats waiting to be sampled. But it seems like they just find me, I keep stumbling upon new places almost on a daily basis. Yesterday I was determined to hold back and not leave my apartment except for my afternoon class (my boyfriend is right when he says that I lack a sense of moderation and need to be reminded of taking a break now and then), but then Food Truck Fiesta, Washingtonian magazine's food truck tracker, interfered.What can I do?!

So here I was, standing in line to try yet another cupcake. To be honest, the exterior of the truck was rather un-appealing to me, so I kept my expectations low. It was basically pink with some white lettering and a picture of a cupcake on it. I guess if you have three food trucks and aim for consistency, it is easiest to keep it simple.... Captain Cookie & The Milkman probably just spoiled me a little in terms of design and originality. Then again, I pretty much arrived when the truck rolled in, and there were already a number of people waiting for their sweet fix. I should have known right then what I was in for.

Let me skip straight to my favorite part: The cupcake I tried, carrot cake, had the best frosting of all time! I thought that Georgetown Cupcake could not be beat in terms of quantity and fluffy-ness of their frosting, but this cupcake not only had a similar amount of frosting, it tasted even more divine and velvety. As if my mum had just finished whisking it in the kitchen when I stuck my finger into the bowl to steal some. The cake itself was also remarkably moist. The moisture made it a little unstable, especially after I cut it in half for the picture, but I am not complaining!

Curbside Cupcakes are quite a big operation, with two indoor kiosks inside the Pentagon City Mall and Union Station complementing their fleet of three food trucks, as well as delivery and catering services. It is run by two long-time DC residents who decided that "cupcakes should come to the people instead of people going to the cupcakes!" I couldn't agree more! The trucks operate on weekdays and some weekends during spring and summer, and usually carry 6-8 flavors at $ 3 each.

Brownie Points: 3 out of 3 (I need to stop discovering such amazing food so I can give lower ratings once in a while... people will think I have a tendency to give full points)

07/29/13 Note: Curbside Cupcakes will no longer be available at Pentagon City Mall as of next week, due to a temporary lease.

Curbside Cupcakes on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dangerously Delicious Pies

With 3 locations across the city, and a food truck that sells sweet crusty happiness on weekdays at a corner near you, Dangerously Delicious Pies have made quite a name for themselves. The logo, a huge white pie and two crossed bones resembling the "Jolly Roger" pirate symbol in front of a black background, might strike you as odd at first... until you find out that the owner is a heavily tattooed rock guitarist from Baltimore, and it all makes sense.

Their creations are highly original to say the least, with a list of 25+ sweet pies, as well as several savory ones and quiches. The bestseller is the so-called Baltimore Bomb, loaded with specialty cookies from - you guessed it - Baltimore that "melt down and swirl into a sweet vanilla chess filling". I extracted this quote from the takeout menu, which further increased my appetite with detailed descriptions of flavors such as french toast, roasted apple cinnamon chess, or strawberry rhubarb. All pies are made from scratch, literally, and with fresh seasonal ingredients. - Mixers and machines are banned from their kitchens. 

I was extremely eager to try a specific pie that I had been daydreaming about ever since I heard of its existence: Pancake batter. In fact, I was so eager that, when I realized that the food truck was closer to home but did not have the pie of my dreams on the menu today, I decided to travel from one side of DC to the other to get it. That is what you call commitment, dessert lovers! So I ended up at Union Station, where Dangerously Delicious Pies can be found on the lower level, just to pick up a slice and take it back home with me... I had considered eating it right there, but it was lunch time and I have never seen a station as busy and crowded as this. 

Union Station is obviously stunning and buzzing with energy; you see banker-type well-groomed gentlemen rushing from one place to another, long lines of exhausted and cranky looking people waiting for their trains, noisy families in the food court, tourists examining t-shirts and souvenirs, and individuals just like me, who stand and pause in the middle of it all and feel a bit lost. But it's so much fun! I will make sure to return for some of the other places serving cookies and crepes and ice cream... who would have thought that so many shops and gastronomic options would fit into a train station!

One lady who was waiting in line with me was obviously very excited to be there as well. She told the girl behind the counter - and anyone who would listen - that she usually didn't get many chances to visit the "dangerously delicious" shops so she now had to try a variety of savory and sweet pies. I wish I had the capacity to eat more of these enormous slices, but one makes the perfect lunch portion. Since they didn't offer the plain pancake batter pie I happily agreed to blueberry pancake batter. Doesn't your mouth water at the mere sound of that? Now, the pies supposedly taste wonderful with fresh whipped cream, but to me that just seems like a big portion of calories that can easily be avoided.

From what I know after having reveled in every single bite of this pie, it did not need whipped cream. Maybe the fruit pies that are covered with crust go well with it, but this one... Did it taste like pancake batter? Oh yes it did! That means it was amazingly moist and sweet, and a reminder of my childhood when I preferred to eat desserts before they were baked. Actually, that statement is wrong. - I still love desserts before they are baked. Don't get me started on the warm cookie dough they used to serve at Pizza Hut in Germany...  

I tried the pie both cold and after a minute in the oven, and the taste was great either way, but I think I'd recommend eating it warm because the consistency is so different. In its cold state, the pie looked and felt a bit like cheesecake. Once I heated it up it got a nice mushy texture and tasted more intense. I cannot highlight enough that it really, really had a syrupy pancake batter flavor, which seems too awesome to be true but makes this an unusual breakfast alternative. The blueberries were a good fit, added some color, and started a movie in my head in which I was being served a big plate of hot pancakes with fresh blueberries and sugar on a Sunday morning in bed. Yummm..

The crust was nice in terms of consistency, chewy (in a good way) around the edges and thin at the bottom, but I am not sure if it was meant to be sweet?! I sort of expected it to be, however in the end I think it was the same crust they use for savory pies as well. Not bad, but... this sweet pie might have tasted even better with a sweet crust.

Brownie Points: 3 out of 3

Dangerously Delicious Pies on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 12, 2013

Captain Cookie & The Milkman

The weather in DC has been so unexpectedly great these days with summer temperatures, smiling faces everywhere, and people flocking to the parks and outdoor cafés to finally enjoy this beautiful city again. After so many gray and cold winter months I just couldn't sit in front of my laptop all day long and not take advantage of the sun... who knows how long it will stay around? So I painted my nails, put on my shorts and sunglasses, and took a nice long break from working on the university project I mentioned earlier... a 3-hour break that included a walk to the state department in Foggy Bottom to check out this food truck I had been dying to get to: Captain Cookie & The Milkman. These guys deserve 3 brownie points for the name alone!

On its website, the truck is described as a "mobile bakery and dairy bar". The cookies are actually baked fresh inside the truck which means you might be lucky to get one that's still warm. Most ingredients are made from scratch, and the milk products they serve are from a local creamery. Customers get to choose if they want to simply buy a cookie, have cookies with milk, or try a custom-made ice cream sandwich. The menu mostly remains the same with weekly specials.  Of course I had to go for the ice cream sandwich considering the weather and all... It was just too tempting, getting to pick two cookies and the ice cream flavor of you choice. So my creation had a Nutella cookie as the base, black cherry ice cream in the center, and a chocolate chip cookie (classic!) on top. Even the guy in the truck seemed to love this combination because I got an acknowledging grin. 

The sandwiches are served in plastic food boxes for you to take away in case your office or home is really close. My ice cream started to melt quite quickly so I sat on a park bench, relaxed, and savored every spoonful of it. The cookies are not the soft kind but rather on the crunchy side, which makes them a little difficult to eat with a spoon. I however also found it impossible to pick up this huge cookie-ice-cream-creation with my hands and just bite into it, so I resorted to eating the ice cream with the spoon and then nibbling on the cookies separately. The chocolate chip cookie was outstanding, thick and chunky and beautiful. I wasn't able to really taste the Nutella in the other one though, to me it simply tasted like any other chocolate cookie. Good but... meh. My friend tried the oatmeal raisin which I would choose next time: It was delicious, with a hint of cinnamon, and didn't taste "healthy" at all - that is a good thing in my world!

What also made me very happy was the black cherry ice cream. Maybe it's because I usually don't stray from my favorite ice cream flavors, but the cherry tasted quite unusual and distinct to me, and it was a good match for both cookies... almost like a black forest mix.

The truck operates during the week from 11:30 am to approximately 2:15 pm, with the occasional afternoon stop. Its location can be tracked on

07/09/2013 Note: Captain Cookie & The Milkman now means double trouble, as they added a second food truck to serve customers in different locations across D.C. Follow them on Twitter for updates.
Brownie Points for the overall ice-cream-sandwich-experience: 3 out of 3

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Georgetown Cupcake

So I have this huge project coming up in one of my classes and will have to take a little break from the incessant dessert-tasting and blog-writing (maybe a week or two)... But which store would be better to leave off with than the infamous Georgetown Cupcake?!

I say infamous because it has many friends and many many enemies, judging by the reviews I read online. Critics are mostly appalled by the fact that they have to wait in line and don't understand why people would go so crazy about a tiny cupcake shop, especially with all the other, "so much better" cupcakes in DC. Now, let me give you my two cents on this drama:

Let's not be in denial here. - You are definitely expected to pay for the name and for being able to say that you got cupcakes from the place you saw on TV. Or, at least Americans do. I had never heard of it before I moved here. And still there is such a hype surrounding this store that you just cannot escape the allure of it... the idea of treating yourself to something really special and chic once in a while. Following my recent visits to other bakeries I appreciate the fact that their cupcakes are reasonably (taking what has been said so far into consideration) priced at USD 2.75. Yes, they are tiny, but I have to be careful not to let myself go too much these days anyways, so I almost consider this a plus. That's why I wouldn't say you pay outrageously much in terms of money, but yes you have to stand in line to get in most days, and yes the people working there are not uber-friendly. They are not rude either, they are just doing their job which I would imagine is stressful when you know your customers are likely to be cranky after a 30-minute wait in front of the store.

Similar to Baked & Wired, I think they are also quite organized on weekends though, letting only a limited number of people into the store at any given time to make sure they have space to roam around and take a good look at the cupcake display. Once inside, you pass by the counter with ample time to make your choice, then order and pay, and finally get a number that is called out when your cupcakes are ready packed for you to take out.

There are two or three tables inside, as well as some outside for sunny days, but its busy and loud and uncomfortable... not the kind of atmosphere you'd want for your decadent-cupcake-tasting-experience. The store itself is indeed very small and has a boutique-feel to it: Classy, bright, definitely designed to speak to the ladies (lots of pink everywhere). Cupcakes are presented on large silver cake stands behind glass and look truly exquisite.What I specifically like about their menu is that certain flavors rotate during the week, so you can try new ones every time you go to the store. They also have seasonal specials, like the cherry blossom cupcakes right now, or holiday-themed ones depending on the time of the year. Their website is well designed with pictures and a detailed description for each. What also just made me extremely happy is an online article I found, informing me that the average Georgetown cupcake only has 250 calories! You can lose those in no time!

Ok so, back to what's really important here: The taste! I have been there several times now, and would recommend going there during the week in the later afternoon to evening. Yesterday I went around 7 pm and was able to walk right into the store without any wait whatsoever. I, too, hate waiting in line, so try to avoid Georgetown Cupcake during busy times. I ordered a honey banana one, which was a Monday special, and carried it home as a little present to myself after a long, exhausting day. Here it is:

The cake-to-frosting ratio is perfect at Georgetown Cupcake, with lots and lots of dreamy creamy frosting to mix with the moist cake in your mouth. Or not. You might want to lick some of it off first, because the cake will still be good without it. You can even see that its smooth on the pictures, almost a bit like whipped cream, but then so much tastier. This one in particular was sweet... like honey... and paired nicely with the banana flavor in the cake. I actually think I might be developing a preference for banana cupcakes, because both this one and the Elvis Impersonator at Baked & Wired were to die for! Maybe I'll make it my go-to flavor, like some people test red velvet whenever they discover a new bakery.

Speaking of red velvet, the one they make here is delicious! It has a stronger chocolate flavor than most others I have tasted so far, and is incredibly moist and rich. So that's my recommendation for those who easily get overwhelmed when faced with a large number of flavors to choose from. I tasted it together with the lemon berry, cookies and creme cheesecake, toffee crunch and chocolate ganache a few months back when my sister was in town (now that I think about it, I only got into this whole "cupcake business" because of her!). From what I remember, the lemon berry was very refreshing, different, and definitely one that I would choose again. The toffee crunch was way to sweet, we really had to force ourselves to finish it - we are not ones to waste precious and expensive food. The cookies and creme cheesecake was wonderful, as you would expect, but also very filling in spite of its small size. It exhausted us a little, so don't eat it if you have to be overly productive right after. Finally, the chocolate ganache is a Georgetown classic. I read somewhere that it is their best selling flavor. - I would probably not say that it is a favorite of mine, but then again I usually find chocolate cakes so intense that I feel how they add calories onto my thighs as I chew. Seriously. It was a little bit like that when I tried the chocolate ganache... but very, very good.

I would not say that Georgetown Cupcake is overrated. I appreciate it for what it offers: A great place for special occasions or Monday-evening-pampering; a big and interesting selection of cupcakes with a simply wonderful amount of frosting; and a location that is very convenient for me.

Brownie Points for the Honey Banana: 3 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Red Velvet: 3 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Lemon Berry: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points fo the Cookies and Creme Cheesecake: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Toffee Crunch: 0 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Chocolate Ganache: 2 out of 3

Georgetown Cupcake on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Very Strawberry Lunch in Chinatown

During a quick visit to Chinatown yesterday I had a strawberry-themed lunch in two neighboring restaurants: The main course at Vapiano, the dessert at Panera (both on H street, by the corner of 7th).

Theoretically, a salad is not a dessert and therefore has no right to be featured on this blog... but when it contains juicy sweet strawberries, creamy soft goat cheese, pine nuts, and raspberry maple dressing, it is just as enjoyable as one! A wonderful way to make you feel good about yourself for eating healthy, while at the same time satisfying your craving for something sweet. They toss it fresh in front of you eyes and serve it in a beautiful big white ceramic bowl. In Germany we always say that "the eyes also eat", meaning that presentation is just as important as the ingredients, aromas and flavors. No wonder that Vapiano, as a German restaurant concept, has it down to an art. Every time I go, I also have fun with the whole idea of ordering your food at designated pasta, pizza, antipasti/salad and drinks/dessert stations with a chip card. You watch the chefs prepare your dish a la minute with fresh ingredients, and interact straight with them for special requests (there are no waiters). The interior design is modern European, casual, with lots of open space, communal tables and potted herbs to season your meals. 
Dessert-wise you can do a lot better than Vapiano! They always offer the same items: Tiramisu, Pannacotta, Crema di Fragola (strawberry cream), chocolate mousse, death by chocolate cake and NY style cheesecake. The latter is supposedly really good, my friends tried it today, but the way they serve it is just too simple: The piece of cake on a white plate without any garnish. It doesn't do anything for me. And that for a price of USD 4.95. No no no...

That's why I went to Panera next door for dessert. I was torn between a blueberry and a strawberries and cream scone, but the lady behind the counter sounded very convincing when she immediately identified the strawberries and cream one as her favorite. She mentioned that it had white chocolate pieces inside... unfortunately I kept on searching for them and neither tasted nor saw any. The strawberry pieces and small raisins were lovely though, as was the sugar-glazed crust. It perfectly complemented the salad, both in terms of flavor and size (it didn't weigh me down). 

I associate strawberries with summer, so what better way to celebrate the return of sunshine in DC with a strawberry lunch on a Sunday afternoon?

Brownie Points for Vapiano's strawberry spinach salad: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for Panera's  strawberries and cream scone: 2 out of 3

Vapiano on Urbanspoon

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Baked & Wired

I am trying to calm myself down as I write this, because my visit to this place yesterday was just so mindblowingly exciting and wonderful that I fear I might lose objectivity writing about it. Oh well, I guess it's too late: I am a Baked & Wired addict already... After just one taste of their imaginative cupcake creations, their friendly service, and their cosy interior, I want to return rather sooner than later!

Let me start by saying that my friend and I had read about Baked & Wired on facebook and yelp!, where people are talking about it as if it were the Mecca for lovers of all things sweet. OUR Mecca! 

Its location in Georgetown comes with big competition, considering that Georgetown Cupcake and Sprinkles, as well as a number of other bakeries, are in walking distance. But what sets it apart, and we can testify to this now, is its ambiance and clientele. While the other major cupcake shops present themselves in bright white and pink colors (very feminine) and a little bit upscale and fancy pants-y, Baked & Wired comes across as very down-to-earth. It has a creative vibe going on, with one entire wall covered in napkins that customers scribbled quotes and cartoons on, all bakery items presented in bell jars with colorful labels drawn by hand, and a separate area dedicated to their coffees and teas alone. The baristas are professionals at latte art and serve Intelligentsia coffee, which tells you a lot about their emphasis on high-quality products. 

There was a huge line in front of the store, which is usually rather off-putting for me, but employees walked out with samples of delicious zucchini/pineapple/walnut bread (surprising combination, but it works!) to feed their hungry waiting customers, and cupcake menus were also distributed in advance. While this made the whole process more efficient for them, it also decreased the waiting time for us customers and created a bit of excitement. Once we set foot into the store we knew exactly what we wanted, received our cupcake boxes within a few seconds after placing the order, and had enough time to marvel at the incredible treats presented on the counter before reaching the cash register. Now, I don't know if the place is this busy during the week (we went on a Saturday afternoon), but I was impressed by how well organized everything and everyone was.

Alright, so I was extremely lucky to have my friend with me who is just as crazy about desserts as I am. We ordered two cupcakes each and here is our selection, from left to right on the picture: The Elvis Impersonator (banana cake topped with peanut butter frosting), Cherry Blossom (maraschino cherry cake and frosting), German Chocolate (light chocolate cake with a coconut pecan frosting) and Dirty Chai (vanilla cake blended with chai spices and espresso buttercream frosting).

We made a bit of a celebration of opening the boxes and carefully tasting each one of these, sharing our impressions. The definite winner was the Elvis Impersonator, which was also the only one we finished right on the spot. The combination of banana and peanut butter flavors was delicious, and the frosting had just the right intensity. Compared to the peanut butter and jelly cupcake at Crumbs, I preferred this one because the peanut butter flavor was stronger yet not overpowering. It tasted light and creamy.

The second favorite was the German Chocolate cupcake, which struck the perfect balance between the rich chocolate flavor, big chunks of pecan nuts, and a fluffy pecan frosting with coconut shavings. It might have been a bit heavy, but that's what you'd expect from German chocolate. It definitely made a German girl proud!

Between the Cherry Blossom and Dirty Chai cupcakes, we couldn't quite decide which one we liked more or less. We would not re-order any of the two,  because in both cases the frosting and cake tasted exactly the same, making them a bit ... boring. Don't get me wrong, they tasted good! They would go very well together with a coffee or tea, especially the Dirty Chai, but the other two don't need anything to compliment or enhance them... If that makes any sense. They can - and should - be eaten on their own. 

The Cherry Blossom is a seasonal flavor, which is why we ordered it, but we doubt it would be very successful all year round due to its slightly artificial color and very sweet taste. If you like Chai tea, you will like and immediately recognize its taste in the Dirty Chai cupcake; but that is all there is to it... better order it in liquid form and try one of their other bakery items!

I crown Baked & Wired my favorite bake shop - EVER! Not only in DC but internationally. This means a lot coming from me, and I cannot stress enough how much the ambiance contributes to this verdict. Moreover, they make a point of baking in small amounts, focusing on quality rather than production. A definite winner... so far...?!

Brownie Points for the Elvis Impersonator: 3 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Cherry Blossom: 1 out of 3
Brownie Points for the German Chocolate: 3 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Dirty Chai: 1 out of 3

Baked & Wired on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 5, 2013

J's Cookies

In case you were wondering, J's Cookies is actually the name of the shop. - But it also sells all kinds of coffees and teas, bagels, ice creams and shakes. Since it is located inside the small shopping arcade connected to the Rosslyn metro station I would assume that it primarily caters to commuters. I am usually a bit skeptical about tiny shops that offer a large variety of food and drinks, because I doubt that they can manage and be really good at so many things at once with just one or two guys working there. In terms of presentation I would also not have stopped there if it weren't for the name. But boy do those cookies look yummy! They practically stand out, shiny and bright as if they had their own spotlight directed at the counter.

When I arrived there in the early afternoon some of their flavors had already sold out -  which can only be a good sign - and it did not take me long to pick the white chocolate macadamia cookie, which just seemed to smile at me and say "I was made for you! Only you!"

Judging by the cookie's asymmetrical shape it was home-made, with big chocolate chunks and lots of macadamia nut pieces. It also passed the taste test: Sweet, sugary and filling, but perfect to nibble on now and then, which is what I recommend instead of eating the whole thing at once. It had a great consistency, comparable to Subway cookies (which I am a big fan of by the way!)... soft and chewy. Thinking of it now, I should have tried it with a glass of milk.

It might not have been the king of all cookies, but it was definitely better than the one I had at Dean & DeLuca a few days ago. You could taste more... love in it. Would I travel from far to try it? No. But if you are in Rosslyn anyways and you desperately need a treat, this is where you'll find it.

Brownie Points: 1.5 out of 3 (because I said it was better than the one at Dean & DeLuca, but then again 2 brownie points seem like a lot!)

Eamonn's Fried Chocolate Bars

When I last visited Alexandria my friend was obsessed with a dinner recommendation featured in her travel guide book, so I let her lead me to this small Irish restaurant on King Street. I have read many positive reviews about Eamonn's since and definitely agree: It is unique and cosy (with high ceilings, exposed brick, and wooden benches and stools that seat only 20 diners) and offers surprisingly affordable fresh food with home-made sauces. All dishes are served in paper bags.

The menu is primarily made up of different kinds of fish and hand-cut chips. Some particularly appreciate the Guinness they have on tap. - I on the other hand was fascinated by their deep-fried chocolate bars.

Oooohhhh yes, imagine mouthwatering thick melted chocolate, caramel, and nougat inside a crispy batter shell covered in sugar and cinnamon! As you cut it in half the rich chocolate slowly oozes out, leaving a big mess on your paper bag before you scoop it all up and fill your mouth with what can only be described as intense, warm, ... and sticky. The best part: It only costs you USD 3.50! 

We actually tried both the Snickers and Mars bars, because our extremely friendly waiter recommended the Mars but I insisted on the Snickers... simply because I love it so much when its not fried; I thought I couldn't go wrong. But yes I could! The Snickers taste was unrecognizable in its melted state, whereas the Mars was all the better, with an extremely rich chocolate after-taste . So I learned to trust the waiter next time...

This dessert was apparently invented in a Scottish fish and chips shop but never became very popular due to the fact that it is so extremely unhealthy. I am quite certain that one won't kill you though, and as a chocolate lover I was over the moon when I left Eamonn's that night, vowing to come back.

Brownie Points: 3 out of 3

Eamonn's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Crumbs Bakeshop Clarendon

As it always happens with me when I start a new project, I immediately got excited after I wrote my first blog entries and wanted to write many many more. That means: Many many more places to visit and many many sweet things to try. So many calories, so little time! 

Since I know that this enthusiasm will die down within a few days (or so I hope! my wallet and bathroom scale will hate me if it doesn't...) I figured why not take advantage of it now and hop onto the next metro to just casually pass by one of the most amazing cupcake places ever: Crumbs Bakeshop in Clarendon.

For some reason it was empty, and the three friendly ladies working behind the counter seemed happy to see me. They told me that their best-selling flavors are Red Velvet, Cookie Dough and Cookies & Cream, but considering that these cupcakes are quite expensive (USD 3.95) and I wouldn't be able to return frequently, I decided to choose something unusual. 

- I picked their flavor of the month, Peanut Butter and Jelly.

I also got to try the Margarita cupcake, which is spring break-themed and basically a vanilla cupcake with a lime cream cheese frosting. Nice, but not overly exciting. Its neon green color stood out, but then again it's not a color I necessarily need to put into my mouth if you know what I mean.

Ok, so back to the peanut butter and jelly cupcake. The size of Crumbs cupcakes is quite impressive... I think it is safe to say that they are double as big as those at Georgetown Cupcake. Then again, you pay more, and you can easily save half for another meal. Even though I only ordered one cupcake they gave me a huge plastic container that perfectly held it in place, so it arrived home intact, the same way it had looked in the shop. Big bonus points for that!

The peanut butter flavor was pleasantly light and not as overwhelming as expected; especially the cream cheese frosting tasted more like cream cheese than anything else. It was smooth and not too thick, decorated with what seemed like hundreds of cute little toasted peanut pieces. The cake itself was fluffy and just right in terms of sweetness.

The center was filled with strawberry preserves, which in my eyes was not enough to warrant the name "peanut butter and jelly". The jelly was gone in one bite. Yummy though...  and mixed with the light, warm peanut butter flavor it instantly made me want to grab a blanket, put on a nice movie, and just feel cosy and lazy and loved. 

So, verdict: I am a fan!!! Not only because this particular cupcake was good, but because they had such a huge variety of flavors to choose from which made me feel like Alice in Wonderland (or better: Willy Wonka's cupcake factory). And they were decorated so creatively, in so much detail. I wish I could try every single one....

Brownie Points: 2 out of 3

Crumbs on Urbanspoon

Johnny Rockets' Big Apple Shake

Yes, Johnny Rockets is a restaurant chain and yes, the ingredients are probably not of the highest quality, BUT I had this shake 3 months ago and can still taste its creamy apple and vanilla ice cream flavors on my tongue.

You know all there is to know about the ambiance in this place: Its loud, seats are uncomfortable, people move in and out very quickly (its fast food after all), and you have a menu covered in plastic that it takes you half an hour to study if you want to make a deliberate choice. When my sister visited me in January she loved it though, and I think for non-Americans you also need to factor in a certain excitement about the whole "American Diner" concept. The main reason it also won me over, however, is the extensive selection of ice cream shakes on offer. We went for the one that sounded most like a real dessert, since the menu stated that it contained a whole slice of apple pie. You just don't get anything like this outside of the U.S.!

Alright, so to keep it short, it was the ultimate guilty pleasure! We ordered one shake to share, which was already more than enough (I have no idea how one person can drink one all by themselves), which was served with whipped cream and big straws to suck in the apple pie pieces. I recommend ordering it without the whipped cream because it was fatty and tasteless, but the shake itself is SO worth the calorie intake: The apple pie pieces are so thick that you need a spoon to eat them, and they mix perfectly with the vanilla ice cream. It fills you up so quickly that you don't even need dinner - having only dessert might be unhealthy, but its not something you do everyday so don't be uptight about it. Or you can do it for lunch, then you even have time to burn off some calories afterwards! Either way, I have never tried a shake like this before and didn't know what I was missing. YOU don't know what you are missing!

Brownie Points: 3 out of 3

Johnny Rockets on Urbanspoon