Category Archives: Dessert

An Exotic Dessert at The Oval Room

On yet another business lunch, we went to The Oval Room, located (and likely named after) near the White House.  As it was a rather formal outing, I tried to keep it professional, and restrained myself from taking photos of the meal.  Each dish was excellent and had an unexpected touch.  The white asaparagus soup ($11), for example, was smooth and creamy, punctuated with sharp, herbaceous notes from sorrel leaves.  The halibut ($23) was surprisingly earthy, served over a bed of fresh sugar snap peas, shimeji mushrooms, and a deep brown broth.   

But the most surprising, and beautiful, dish was the dessert–coconut custard with lemon-lime sherbert, mango lhassi, and candied mint ($10).  I was expecting a sweet, tropical dessert, but what arrived was much more sophisticated.  While the coconut custard had a subtle coconut flavor, it was more of a vehicle for the other components.  The mango lhassi had a sharp, spicy chile flavor, reminiscent of Southeast Asia.  The lemon-lime sherbert added strong acidity and complexity.  

I also loved the dessert’s gorgeous presentation, garnished with lovely violets and green mint leaves.  I (clearly) couldn’t resist taking a photo. Hopefully my professional career doesn’t suffer because of it, but such are the occasional perils of being a food blogger.

The Oval Room
800 Connecticut Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 463-8700
Oval Room on Urbanspoon

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A Memorable Lunch at Blue Duck Tavern

As a summer associate at a law firm, I was lucky enough to go out to many fancy lunches over the past 2 months.  But at the end of it all, the one lunch that stands out most in my mind is Blue Duck Tavern, for its truly spectacular yet unpretentious American cuisine.

The interior is distinctively American, perhaps to reflect its cooking.  Old-fashioned rocking chairs and an open-style pantry greet guests at the front reception.  The expansive dining room features dark oak and wood paneling, and feels elegant without being stuffy or overly formal.

The meal began with the watermelon gazpacho, which I recently waxed poetic about in a previous post.  For my main dish, I  ordered the chilled lobster salad with frisee, avocado, grapefruit, and honey citrus vinaigrette ($15).  It was truly a delightful summer salad, featuring a substantial amount of lobster.  The honey citrus vinaigrette accented the sweetness of the lobster, and highlighted the citrus notes from the grapefruit.  Beautifully presented, and perfectly executed.

We shared a couple sides as well.  The roasted asparagus ($10), topped with bacon, a hard cheese (perhaps parmesan or grana padano), and egg was crisp and slightly charred on the outside, and perfectly seasoned.  Surprisingly, the daily harvest vegetables ($9) were also delicious.  I was expecting your typical boring sauteed vegetables (which is probably why I didn’t take a photo), but what arrived was a gorgeous plate of buttery sugar snap peas and carrots.  The simple preparation–butter, salt, pepper, and a sprinkling of fresh herbs–really highlighted the freshness of the vegetables.

Of course, we had to order the infamous hand cut BDT triple fries ($10), which are quite extravagantly fried in duck fat.  We felt a bit miffed when only a handful of fries arrived at the table, but be warned–a few fries are more than enough.  The fries are very thick-cut and rich, yet not greasy at all.  Definitely worth ordering if you have never tried duck fat fries, but not a dish for the faint of heart or calorie-counters.

I’ll admit we went a bit crazy on desserts.  But at $9 each for a sizeable, delectable portion, the desserts at Blue Duck Tavern seem to be a good deal.  Though I glanced over this at first, the milk chocolate banana s’mores ended up being my favorite of the three desserts.  It was more of a deconstructed interpretation of a s’more, with crumbled graham crackers on the bottom, a caramelized banana custard, and a homemade marshmallow on top.  The marshmallow was blowtorched just before arriving at our table, and had slightly smoky flavor, which accentuated the caramelized banana custard nicely.  Overall, it wasn’t an overly sweet dessert, which is what I normally think of when I think of s’mores.

The chocolate cake with sour cherries was quite decadent and fudgey, but nothing too memorable.  I did enjoy that it was served warm, along with the cold whipped cream on the side.

The apple pie was much larger than we expected, and easily could have been shared by 4 people.  I loved the caramelized sugar on the crust, which added a divine crispiness.  The apple filling was much tarter than usual, and in my opinion, a bit dry.  I like my apple pie filling gooey, or smothered in a bit of just-melted vanilla ice cream.

If you are looking for someplace to host a special meal, Blue Duck Tavern should certainly be your pick.

Blue Duck Tavern
1201 24th St. NW
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 419-6755
Blue Duck Tavern on Urbanspoon

Cranberry orange custard trifle

Holiday trifle

When I was a little girl, my mom would make a holiday trifle every year for Christmas. I loved the layers of rich vanilla custard, tart raspberry jam, berries, and brandy-soaked pound cake in every bite. In recent years, however, my mom has foregone the traditional holiday trifle, saying it’s too heavy for dessert.

First layer of Grand Marnier-soaked pound cake & oranges

This year, I decided to resurrect my favorite holiday dessert. My mom and I found a recipe for cranberry orange custard trifle, which sounded a bit lighter than the traditional trifle. Instead of berries  and raspberry jam, this recipe includes oranges and a sweet and slightly sour cranberry sauce, both of which add a sophisticated acidity to this otherwise saccharinely sweet dessert. The colors in the trifle were gorgeous as well, perfect for a festive holiday dinner.

Pouring custard over the cranberries

My family and friends absolutely loved the trifle and could not stop eating it. I will definitely be adding this recipe to my holiday repertoire–and you should too! The trifle would also make a spectacular New Years Eve dessert, for those of you who are still looking for something to make. Make sure to let it sit in the fridge at least 4 hours before serving–and that’s the hardest step, because you’ll be so tempted to eat it right away.

Cranberry Orange Custard Trifle

Adapted slightly from Red Book Magazine

Prep time: 30 min; Cooking time: 35 min; Chilling time: at least 4 hours

CUSTARD

1 ½ cups each heavy cream and milk

Peel from 1 orange

¾ cup sugar

3 T all-purpose flour

3 large eggs

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 T Grand Marnier

1 T vanilla extract

CRANBERRY FILLING

4 cups fresh cranberries (approx. 1 12 oz. bag)

1 cup orange juice

½ cup sugar

1 T grated orange zest

TRIFLE

1 (1 lb) pound cake, thawed, sliced 3/8 inch thick, and halved

1/3 cup Grand Marnier

6 oranges, peeled and pith removed, cut into segments**

**(I used two 15oz cans of mandarin oranges instead)

TOPPING

1 cup heavy cream

3 T confectioners sugar

2 T Grand Marnier

1 T vanilla extract

Sugared cranberries, optional

  1. Custard: In a medium saucepan, heat cream, milk, and orange peel to just boiling. In a bowl, whisk sugar and flour, then whisk in eggs until smooth. Gradually whisk in ¼ cup of cream mixture. Pour egg mixture into saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, whisking constantly until thickened, about 3 min. Remove from heat; stir in butter, Grand Marnier, and vanilla until blended. Pour into bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cold.
  2. Cranberry filling: In a saucepan, combine cranberries, orange juice, sugar, and zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally until mixture thickens, about 30 min. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Trifle: Line bottom of a 3 ½ quart trifle dish with a single layer of cake slices. Brush with Grand Marnier, top with about 1 cup orange pieces, then about ½ cup cranberry filling, then about 1 cup custard. Repeat layers 3 more times. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
  4. Topping: In a cold bowl with cold beaters, beat cream, confectioners’ sugar, Grand Marnier, and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spoon on top of trifle; top with sugared cranberries, if desired.

Makes 16 servings.

I loveato Mr. Yogato!

Mr. Yogato, in all its glory

Yes, yes, I know the tart frozen yogurt trend is so last year. With the sudden influx of mediocre Pink Berry imposters to DC, and even Haagan Dazs trying to cash in on the trend, it’s no wonder people are losing their appetite for this tasty treat.

But Mr. Yogato in Dupont Circle is not your ordinary fro-yo shop, for several reasons. First, it’s not an impersonal, lackluster chain like the others. Service is helpful, friendly, and generous with the toppings. The owner, Steve (a rocket scientist!), drops in all the time and greets regulars.

The infamous rules

Second,  Mr. Yogato is not just frozen yogurt; it’s a frozen yogurt experience. When ordering, you can’t simply tell the server you want a small with strawberries and bananas. Well, actually you can, but that takes all the fun out of it! Mr. Yogato has a list of rules, aptly named the rules of yogato, which adds a little fun and suspense to your ordering. For instance, take rule #2, which reads, “Try your luck with a trivia question. Get it right for 10% off, but get it wrong and 10% is added.” I feel exhilerated every time! Other rules include ordering a yogurt for 30 consecutive days for a flavor named after you, wearing a “Mr. Yogato stamped me!” stamp on your forehead, and creating an edible pasta yogato sculpture (all of which multiple people have done). As an added bonus, there is a Nintendo and karaoke machine where you can play a round of Super Mario or belt out your favorite Britney Spears tune.

Last, but certainly not least, is the yogurt. In a word: DELICIOUS. The perfect balance of tart and sweet. Creamy and light. Mr. Yogato features 2 main flavors (original soft and original tangy–I order original tangy everytime) and 2 rotating flavors (which I obviously have to sample everytime, for evaluative purposes, of course). There are 18 rotating flavors, which include coco-loco shandy (coconut–SO GOOD), joe maherito (mojito–surprisingly refreshing), zachberry jam (blackberry–jammin), and ashraf-skrypock (mystery flavor–still a mystery). Plus, Mr. Yogato has over 50 toppings, ranging from standards such as berries, granola, and chocolate chips to just plain crazy ones like balsamic vinegar, crushed red pepper, and agave nectar.

At $5 for a little-size yogurt with 3 toppings, Mr. Yogato is unfortunately not the cheapest yogurt out there. But remember, you can always get a nifty discount by acting out one of the rules. And if you’re not in the mood for frozen yogurt (especially on a cold, rainy winter DC day), Mr. Yogato also has a hot chocolato bar with tons of toppings (think Ghiradelli hot cocoa with a shot of carribean rum flavoring, marshmallows, and chili powder) for $3.

For tart frozen yogurt fans and haters alike, Mr. Yogato is sure to be a fun and tasty treat. Moveato your buttato to Mr. Yogato! (I promise I’ll stop rhyming…for now.)

Mr. Yogato

1515 17th St. NW (between Church and Q St.)

Washington, DC 20036

202-629-3531

Mr. Yogato on Urbanspoon