Travel

Scottish Sweeties Part 4: Tray Bakes & Banoffee Pie

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010 | Travel | 1 Comment

In order to further your understanding of British desserts, I present you with three different kinds of tray bakes and the famous banoffee pie:

Millionaire’s shortbread consists of three layers: shortbread (a very buttery, crusty cookie), a mix of toffee & dulce de leche, and chocolate.  It’s obviously quite sweet, so I love it. 

Tiffin is traditionally made up of cocoa, Golden Syrup (light molasses), stale biscuits and whatever else you need to use up around the house, like raisins & nuts (Scottish people are a frugal lot).  It often has a layer of melted chocolate on top and requires no baking.  Just mix it up and pop it in the fridge.  I have no idea what the relation this kind of tiffin has, if any, to the similarly-named Indian lunch.  Unless, of course, people would eat this dessert for lunch, which I can totally get behind.

I have a confession to make: I don’t like dates.  They look like roaches whole, they look like roaches squished, and their flavor is meh.  In the interest of cultural anthropology, I must report on the ubiquitous date square in Scotland.  It tastes like you think it will.

Banoffee (banana & toffee) pie, however, is wonderful, if you get a good one.  It consists of a layer of a pie shell filled with sliced bananas, toffee & dulce de leche, and whipped cream.  What’s not to like?

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Scottish Sweeties Part 3: Deep-Fried Mars Bar

Friday, March 19th, 2010 | Travel | No Comments

Yes, it had to be done.  I had to try a deep-fried Mars bar.  Even though I’ve been coming to Edinburgh all my life and have never seen one, all my American friends kept telling me that Scottish people love these things, so I was on a mission.  Here’s what you do: find a chippy (fish & chips joint), ask them kindly, and they’ll run out from behind the counter to grab a still-wrapped bar from their candy stash, which they’ll then open up, dip in batter, deep-fry, and present to you for your immediate consumption, all for around £2.

Well, I loved it.  I was afraid it would taste fishy or sausagey or be tainted by some other flavor from the pile of assorted deep-fried shapes you see on their warming tray, since I’m guessing they’re all dipped in the same batter and oil.  But it didn’t.  No hint of fish or meat at all.  I was also worried that the bar’s insides would become like molten lava, but my worries on this front also faded the minute I took a tentative bite.  The inside was pleasantly warm and melty.  The thin layer of batter had a nice crunch– not too greasy  and it immediately adhered itself to the roof of my mouth along with the oozy caramel.  So I don’t suggest trying to carry on a deep discussion about Existentialism or the many iterations of the health care bill while you’re eating.  Just enjoy.

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D.C. Dessert Roundup – Capital Confections Part 5: Baked and Wired

Sunday, December 13th, 2009 | bakeries, Travel | 4 Comments

We were in Georgetown; we wanted cupcakes.  Georgetown Cupcake was (GASP!) closed.  My dessert-deprivation panic began to set in, but then my trusty guide remembered something about another cupcakerie thereabouts.  With her keen sense of direction, especially when it comes to sweets, she led us through an out-of-place mall, past the C&O Canal, to Baked and Wired– the perfectly-named coffee shop/bakery in this collegiate neighborhood.  And what splendors we beheld inside:

These cupcakes were very fine indeed.  The origami-like pointy wrappers were very pretty.  (I wonder if they’re more difficult to frost than cupcakes nestled in normal wrappers?)  The cakes in our chosen specimens were moist enough to be tasty, but not so moist as to collapse under their icing roofs.  The Strawberry cupcake had real fruit chunks in the cake.  The Mocha cupcake had a slight coffee flavor, but was mostly chocolate– just the way I like it.

Since Baked and Wired is a café, you can also get some coffee and a slice of quiche, then take a load off under a big American flag they’ve got as part of their modern, minimalist, hipster-attracting decor.  Georgetown Cupcake, you shouldn’t be closed on Mondays– people’s eyes wander… their heads turn… and before you know it, they’ve got a new favorite.

Baked and Wired
1052 Thomas Jefferson St., N.W.
Washington, D.C.  20007
202-333-2500
http://www.bakedandwired.com/

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D.C. Dessert Roundup – Capital Confections Part 4: Afterwords

Sunday, December 13th, 2009 | Restaurants, Travel | 1 Comment

Where else can you eat, drink, listen to music, and buy books, all in one place?  Afterwords, part of Kramerbooks, that’s where, and not surprisingly, a D.C. institution.  While I don’t think their desserts are anything to, uh, write home about– if it’s 3 in the morning on Saturday night, and you find yourself, as I often do, simply unable to go to bed until you’ve had a piece of goober pie, then this place is a godsend.

The goods (obtained via takeout in un-eco-friendly plastic containers):

The double chocolate cake had ok cake, ok frosting, and decent chocolate fudge– the problem was a large chunk of said frosting in the middle of the slice that was too sweet and rich to deal with.  The pecan pie had a tasty enough filling with a dry, boring crust that is made to be left behind.  The key lime pie was quite good, though, with a great balance of sweet and tart.  The menu claims it’s made with real Key limes, which I’m inclined to believe, since it really was excellent– I’d eat this while half-asleep again.

Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café
1517 Connecticut Avenue
Washington, D.C.  20036
202-387-3825
http://www.kramers.com/index.cfm

Next stop: Baked and Wired

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D.C. Dessert Roundup РCapital Confections Part 3: Caf̩ Saint-Ex

Sunday, December 13th, 2009 | Restaurants, Travel | 2 Comments

No, I don’t normally go for dessert after eating brunch, but I made an exception at Café Saint-Ex, named after The Little Prince author and aviator, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, after my dessert guide claimed that she didn’t care what I did, she was having dessert.  I don’t back down on a dessert throw-down, plus I knew I was in good hands when I saw the dessert menu, which listed five unique-sounding desserts (not including the requisite ice cream and sorbet selections) and listed the pastry chef’s name at the bottom: Alison Reed.  This lead me to believe that someone in the kitchen actually cares about sweets enough to put her name out there.

In his love letter to flying, Wind, Sand and Stars, Saint-Exupéry describes one of several desert crashes that he had.  He and his navigator were dying of thirst and miraculously found an orange in their plane’s wreckage.

He wrote:

“Stretched out beside the fire I looked at the glowing fruit and said to myself that men did not know what an orange was.  ‘Here we are, condemned to death,’ I said to myself, ‘and still the certainty of dying cannot compare with the pleasure I am feeling.  The joy I take from this half of an orange which I am holding in my hand is one of the greatest joys I have ever known.”

I’m sure that he would have also enjoyed the Orange Ice Cream Sandwiches (with cinnamon chocolate sauce), which I chose in his honor:

The cookies had a wonderful buttery, oaty crunch, accompanied by the spike of orange zest.  And what heaven to dip them into chocolate.  I am quite a fan of the dipping dessert.  You get to choose just how much sauce to use on each bite, you don’t have to worry about losing it to the open expanse of the plate, and you get to take your spoon and shamelessly eat the dredges yourself.  The Raspberry Lemon Bread Pudding with white chocolate sauce and vanilla cream was surprisingly light with a sweet, lemony accent.  The Nectarine Cobbler with basil ice cream was also delicious– how boring it would have been to use vanilla instead of basil ice cream.  Being a part of the mint family, the basil was refreshing and perfectly balanced the cobbler’s richness.

My taste buds really soared with Chef Alison’s desserts.

Café Saint-Ex
1847 14th Street, NW
Washington, D.C.  20009
202-265-STEX
http://www.saint-ex.com/

Next stop: Afterwords (coming soon)

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D.C. Dessert Roundup – Capital Confections Part 2: Good Stuff Eatery

Saturday, November 21st, 2009 | ice cream, Restaurants, Travel | 3 Comments

“Herein, where good people make good stuff…”  This sentiment is expressed on a historical landmark-like plaque outside D.C.’s popular Good Stuff burger joint, where my dessert guide informed me that one can also find amazing “handspun shakes.”  Doesn’t the word “handspun” make you think of cotton candy or knitting wool or something equally charming & old-timey?  I kinda thought you usually blend shakes, but “spinning” them takes it to that next level of homey-ness.  We ordered three Mini-Moos ($3.75 each), which are made with their special “milk-ice-gelato-custard-cream” and your usual sundae fixins– behold:

If you like your shakes thick, fatty, and unslurpable, this is the place for you.  Not looking for a cheek-ache, we decided not to even mess with straws.  Instead, we popped off their lids immediately and dug in with our spoons.  The Sourhop Hop Strawberry is a cute name, but there wasn’t anything sour about this wonderful shake– it just basically tasted like the best strawberry ice cream of my life.  I also enjoyed the D-Lechable Leche, but it wasn’t really dulce de leche-flavored– more like coffee and caramel-flavored, much to my bean-hating friend’s consternation.  The best of all was the Milky Way Malt, which had fudge, caramel, and candy chunks for texture– the concentrated bottom scrapings were so good, I went into one of my dessert trances.

Good work, good people of Good Stuff!

Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C.  20003
202-543-8222
http://goodstuffeatery.com/

Next stop: Café Saint-Ex (posting soon)

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D.C. Dessert Roundup – Capital Confections Part 1: Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections (aka A.C.K.C.)

Monday, November 16th, 2009 | chocolatiers, ice cream, Travel | 4 Comments

We didn’t see Michelle or Barack, but we did have delicious desserts.  Read on…


A.C.K.C. is a total dessert cuterie (if you don’t know what a “cuterie” is, think of the chocolate shop in Chocolat).  They’ve got everything: display cases filled with fancy chocolates & baked goods, tables overflowing with chocolate bars & gifts, friendly dessert-istas, cheerful autumnal decorations, and… naughty mosaics depicting frolicking males.  A.C.K.C. is apparently the brainchild of a chocolatier, Rob Kingsbury, and an artist, Eric Nelson.  The chocolate and the art are for sale– great concept!

The “Divas” are a menu highlight; they can come in the form of blended ice cream and toppings, crowned with whipped cream, and served in gorgeous margarita glasses ($4.25 each).  We tried The Bette Davis: “milk chocolate infused with almond syrup, topped with toasted coconut flakes.”  It was light and tasty, but nothing much to write home about.  Next was the Marliyn Monroe: “a bold, white-chocolate base with a flip of crème de menthe finished with crumbled Oreo cookies.”  What a frothy, refreshing, minty delight.  And great texture from the cookie and white chocolate chunks.  Last of the Divas was the Rita Hayworth: “semi-sweet chocolate infused with clove, orange and caramel, drizzled with caramel sauce.”  This was the best of all.  The flavors all zinged together, with the orange hitting you first, then the chocolate, then the clove, of which there were whole buds, which sent spicy shivers down my spine.

Even though we were bursting with our stomachs’ discoveries of their inner Divas, we thought we must try some of their hand-made chocolate.  We picked the weirdest sounding one: “creamy brie with apricot dropped in toasted black sesame seeds.”  Well, I never thought I’d live to see the day that I’d have brie and chocolate in one bite, but there it was– that cheesy funk with that bitter chocolate.  I’m not sure how well the flavors married, and no one tasted the apricot, but it was worth it for the experience.

The last thing we tried was their smoked bacon chocolate bar: “rich milk chocolate couverture mixed with smoked Turkish paprika, dried apple, and caramelized bacon.”  I couldn’t detect a hint of bacon or paprika at all (maybe they forgot to add them?), but the chocolate itself was smooth, wonderful, and rich, and the apple chunks were a nice little surprise.

This was a perfect start to our dessert adventures!

A.C.K.C. (DC location)
1529C 14TH Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
202-387-COCO
http://thecocoagallery.com/

Next stop: Good Stuff Eatery (post coming soon)

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