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