Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Sweet Lobby

You just got to love the Sweet Lobby, and here are 10 reasons why.

1. The name: It's quite original considering their location in the nation's capital, with the tag line "The ultimate advocate for your sweet tooth" .

2. The unpretentious appearance: The Sweet Lobby is hard to miss when walking from the Eastern Market metro station down 8th street, and yet unsuspecting passers-by would never imagine the treat they'd be in for upon entering. Only the logo hints at something "sweet", and a sticker in the window proudly proclaims it the winner of Food Network's Cupcake Wars; but there is no decoration, no cutesy pink flowers or other feminine touches as used by most cupcake bakeries in town. This sets it apart and makes it a destination for male dessert-lovers as much as for female ones.

3. The style: The store is as small as - if not smaller than - you'd expect when you see it from the street. It's a boutique in the truest sense of the word. You go in, make your selection, pay and leave, as there is no seating and I imagine it could get quite crammed around the counter at times. The owners seem to really only care about the presentation of their food, which is neat and classy. Walls, furniture, and packaging are color-coordinated in orange and a dark chocolatey brown which, again, is very gender neutral and tones down the color added by the variety of cupcakes and macarons.  

4. The goods: As stated on their website, the Sweet Lobby is a "boutique bakery destination". It doesn't really focus on one specific type of dessert, but made a name for itself selling high quality French treats including madeleines, ├ęclaires, shortbread, and of course macarons. They probably threw cupcakes into the mix because these are so popular in DC and would attract a bigger crowd, which would then be likely to try their other offers as well. The store's signature invention, the so-called Mac Top, is basically a pairing of a cupcake and a macaron (the latter decoratively sits on top of the frosting).

5. The flavor selection: I found some of the most creative cupcake and macaron flavors at the Sweet Lobby, making it difficult to select only a few items. New creations pop up on the menu on a regular basis, and you could find different treats every single day of the week if you wanted to make this your go-to dessert place. Yes, they are well-known for their participation in Cupcake Wars, but I just had to opt for a classic macaron box (six pieces) after reading names such as olive oil walnut pecorino and blackberry cabernet. Now I understand why people would make their way across the city to the Sweet Lobby when they have other bakeries right around their corner. - You just don't get this variety anywhere else!

6. The prices: The $10 we paid for six macarons is more than o.k., and cupcakes go for $2.75 each (compared to prices ranging from $3-4 in most other local bakeries). Considering everything that has been said and will still be said in this post, the value you get for your money is exceptional.

7. The fun factor: Now, in terms of quality the Sweet Lobby has a small weakness. I wish I could say that everything we tried was outstanding, but it was really hit and miss with the macarons. I'd give them 3 brownie points for the flavor creations, as those already got me excited before I even had a taste, but they didn't get the texture quite right. Macaron Bee in Georgetown did a much better job, delivering authentic French macarons that were chewy, crispy and creamy at the same time. These ranged from too crispy or dense to too soft. 

Nevertheless, my friend and I had so much fun with these treats. My favorite was the caramelized pear goat cheese, which seemed to have fruity chunks of pear in it. The flavors were not too obvious but well balanced. The olive oil walnut pecorino was also great and I could clearly taste the olive oil. The fact that these aromas were used in sweet macarons was weird but memorable. After I reveled in the strawberry basil combination (maybe a little overpowering but interesting) I realized that, in general, herbal flavors in desserts are emerging as a trend. Our least favorite one was the Black & White bubbly. It didn't really have a taste or tingle to it, just a bland sweetness.  The guava was fruity and my friend's favorite, a lot more subtle than the other creations. What I liked better compared to Macaron Bee was the hazelnut praline salted caramel. It was very, very salty, but had less of that thick butter-feel to it. 


8. The location: Up until now, I was not aware that the Eastern Market area was so "happening". We walked by so many restaurants, shops and caf├ęs, all busy with cheerful young brunch patrons and all clustered around two streets. The Sweet Lobby sits at the center of the action and can therefore practically not be missed when you make your way back home after a nice meal in one of the neighboring establishments.

9. The hospitality: I will keep this short. - The girl we talked to was friendly and helpful, gave us lots of information about their best-selling treats and neither rushed nor left us when we took our sweet time. Nice. Very nice.

Caramelized pear goat cheese

10. The potential for repeat visits: I can't wait to go back for cupcakes and madeleines and new flavors and maybe a gift box for a friend's birthday now and then. The variety of their treats is so great that one might (and should) never get bored of this place.

Brownie Points: 2 out of 3 overall, due to the inconsistent texture of the macarons

The Sweet Lobby on Urbanspoon

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