AU Gourmet: Baked & Sprinkled – Baked & Wired

This article was originally written for The Incubator. Feel free to read the article there and check out my cohort’s opinion on the cupcakes we devoured!

Stoop of Baked and Wired

I have a strange obsession with cupcakes. Ever since I first discovered the idea of cupcake shops about three years ago, I’vebecome somewhat of a self-proclaimed cupcake expert. I worked at a cupcake shop for a summer back home. I wrote an essay about the cupcake phenomenon. And of course, I’ve eaten an absurd amount of cupcakes.

I’m also pretty fanatic about Baked & Wired, a coffee shop in Georgetown that also serves an array of delicious baked treats —including cupcakes, lots of cupcakes.

You would think two and two would go together, and I would have long ago engorged myself on some Baked & Wired cupcakes. But somehow, I never got around to it. I was always waiting for “the right time.”  That time finally came a few Saturdays ago, when fellow AU Gourmet blogger Abby Fennewald and I decided to start a series about cupcakes in D.C. Look out for her post to come.

Together, we ventured to the slightly tucked away shop. Although it’s a bit of a hike (and by that I mean it’s off M Street) it’s well worth the walk. As soon as you cross the threshold, you enter a friendly and relaxed shop. Head to the right to get coffee, the left for baked goods. That’s where we wanted to go.

CupcakesLooking at the row of cupcakes, each on their own little pedestal, I thought I would never be able to choose. All the workers were more than willing to help by chiming in with their favorite flavors. Finally, we each picked — Abby got strawberry and I got chocolate mocha — with a promise to share.

Finally the moment was upon me: my first bite of a Baked & Wired cupcake. I unwrapped the parchment paper, opened my mouth wide, and relished every second. The cupcake was good: a dense, deep chocolate cake with mocha-flavored frosting. The frosting on top was not a toppling mound like at most cupcake shops, which created my perfect frosting-to-cake ratio. There wasn’t as much coffee flavor as I would have liked, but I guess that’s what you buy coffee for.

Abby’s strawberry cupcake, however, was to die for. It is the only strawberry cupcake I have ever liked, which is probably due to the real pieces of berry baked into the batter. I liked it so much, that I ended up buying another at Taste of Georgetown later in the day.

Baked & Wired cupcakes were certainly delicious (especially the strawberry). Keep an eye out for future installments of Baked and Sprinkled to see how they stack up against other D.C. cupcakes. Have a store you want us to review? Comment and let us know and we’ll be sure to check it out!

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AU Gourmet: Georgetown Gets Spicy

This article was originally written for The Incubator. Feel free to read the article there and check out other great articles too!

Spices-Herbs Wall

This Saturday I was lucky enough to stumble upon Georgetown’s newest flavor-filled establishment. No, not a new restaurant–The Spice & Tea Exchange.

As soon as you walk into The Spice and Tea exchange you feel like you could be walking into a rustic family kitchen in southern Italy. Untreated wood shelves line the beautiful exposed brick walls, housing the most important thing in the store: dozens of clear glass jars, filled with all the spices, herbs, peppers, salts, sugars, and teas you could (and could never even) imagine. Your taste buds (and nose-buds) are in for a treat, as you are invited to open any of the jars you would like to smell what’s inside. You are allowed to taste the salts and sugars, which are harder to judge by smell alone.

Walking around the store, I wanted to smell everything. I started with the Spices and Herbs section, where they had

Entering the store

everything from bay leaf to nutmeg, rosemary to juniper berry. There were at least three different forms of garlic, ginger, onion, and cocoa. One of the staff members explained the three different types of ground cinnamon they stocked (not to worry, there were whole cinnamon sticks too).

Next I passed the pepper section, which included a gradient of paprikas on the top shelf, a variety of peppercorns in the middle and a whole shelf of ground hot peppers on the bottom (the only jars in the store you aren’t allowed to open – those would burn your eyes).

Beyond the pepper you’ll find their custom blends, which are all hand mixed on site. There are blends for meat rubs,

Peppers

seafood, chili, curry and even some blends for things like popcorn and pumpkin pie. One of their most popular blends, the Tuscanny blend, includes classic Italian seasonings and is supposedly delicious on bread when mixed with olive oil.

I was thrilled when I turned around to see their selection of loose leaf teas. They had greens, blacks, herbal and even a few oolongs and white varieties. My roommate and I were also excited to discover they sold lavender, a hard to find ingredient that we had been looking for.

Walking back through the store, I found the salt and sugar sections, which I had somehow overlooked before. The salt section features two dozen different salts. Some were flavored

Salts

with different types of wine. Others were rare sea salts, including one from France that is only harvested by French women at night. I tasted three different kinds of salt: Bolivian Rose salt, Black Lava Sea Salt and Cyprus Flake Salt. It was amazing how different they all tasted. I can’t say I’m enough of a connoisseur to describe the intricacies myself; you’ll just have to go and try them.

Now the flavored sugars, that’s what I know about. There were fruit flavors, classic flavors like coffee and vanilla, and even habanero flavored sugar. I tasted the strawberry, which tasted exactly like strawberries. I could imagine it being delicious cooked into shortbread to heighten the flavor in strawberry shortcake.

After exploring a bit, I discovered that it was in fact their opening day. The DC branch of The Spice and Tea Exchange is the fifteenth store in a small chain that is largely based in Florida. It may be a chain, but it sure doesn’t feel like it. The staff is all incredibly friendly, and you can tell it’s a family affair (the owner’s daughter was running around in an apron offering up samples and information about the spices). I think it’s rare that you find a store with great products and a great staff, but this is definitely one of them.

decided to buy some loose tea and hot cocoa mix to take home with me. The tea, a blend of black and green tea,

Smelling Spices

sunflower, cactus flower and rhubarb called California Fields, brewed dark and strong with just a whisper of floral flavor. The Spiced Cocoa Mix includes chili powder and pepper, so it warmed me from the inside out. Both of these would be perfect on a chilly fall morning (or when you’re stuck inside during this year’s snowstorm).

This is a great store for spice novices and experts alike. Down Wisconsin just beyond M Street, this store isn’t far off the beaten Georgetown path. Head down there to explore for yourself.

Mention the Incubator article at the register and get 10% off your entire purchase. Enjoy a little spice in your life!

Peppercorns

AU Gourmet: Tastes of Turkey (Without Leaving the District)

This article was originally written for The Incubator. Feel free to read this article there and check out other great articles too!

Although I have yet to participate in real restaurant week (something I think prevents me from being a true foodie), my roommates and I were thrilled to stumble upon the lesser-known Turkish Restaurant Week last weekend. Having made it through the first several weeks of school, we decided that the $25 four-course meal was the perfect way to treat ourselves.

Turkish Restaurant Week is a much smaller affair than the traditional one, although no less delicious. Even though we only had seven restaurants to choose from, it still took us several hours to finally decide we were going to Agora in Dupont Circle. The menu looked like a great mix of tradition and innovation. Plus the small-plates style dining seemed like a great way to try a lot of different options.

Now, in case you aren’t familiar with Turkish food, let me explain it to you like I did to my roommate: Turkey lies in between Greece and the Middle East, as does its food. For me, that means the perfect marriage between the food I was brought up eating (Lebanese) and one of my more recently discovered favorite cuisines (Greek). Plenty of pita, lamb, feta, yogurt, red peppers, phyllo dough, and chickpeas. And of course, gallons of olive oil. What could be better?

When we arrived at Agora I could immediately tell I was going to like it. The meal started off with pita puffs: basically very thin, airy pita bread. It was warm from the oven, but we managed to save some of it to sop up the leftover sauce from our later courses.

Pita Puff

Abbey Walsh

To start off, I ordered the Lebneh, a strained yogurt. It came out with apples and walnuts, surrounded by endive leaves that could be used as scoops. The yogurt was thick and creamy, very similar to greek yogurt. It was an interesting textural contrast between the smooth, heavy yogurt and the crunchy, light endive. The apples added a nice tartness.

 

Lebneh

Abbey Walsh

For the second course, I couldn’t decide between two options: the crab falafel and the chefs börek. Luckily, one of my roommates was facing the same predicament, so we decided to get one of each and split (the best way to eat out). The börek a thick phyllo roll stuffed with a goat cheese mixture and served with a side of tomato marmalade. The roll was delicious, but really how can you go wrong with that much goat cheese? But my favorite part was the marmalade. I was both sweet, tangy and had a surprising hint of cinnamon.

I had high expectations for the falafel and was a little disappointed. Although the crab was a nice touch, the falafel was dry and the sauce that came with it was overpowering. If you’re looking for falafel, I’d stick to Amsterdam Falafelshop.

Eaten Falafel

Erin Greenawald

As a mostly-vegetarian, I decided to order the Alabalık for my third course, a brook trout with roasted hazelnut and oregano. While the fish was good, my roommate’s Kibbeh was better. Kibbeh is a meat dish made with ground beef, lamb, bulgur (a grain) and pine nuts, all mixed together and baked like a Lebanese meat loaf. I grew up eating it, and so I decided to take the Big Fat Greek Wedding approach to vegetarianism (“You don’t eat meat? I’ll make you lamb.”) and have a taste. It was incredible. I decided to have another taste. And another. I don’t know if it was just nostalgia, or if it really was the best Kibbeh I’ve ever had.

Finally, for dessert I ordered the Backlava, which they make orange-flavored instead of the traditional honey and nuts. I love Backlava, but I don’t like orange desserts so it wasn’t my favorite.

All in all, I would recommend Agora if only for the delicious Kibbeh. Unfortunately, restaurant week is over now, but if you missed it don’t fret! Not only can you go to Agora anytime (their small plates run from about $8-$10), but the Turkish Festival this Sunday, October 3rd near Federal Triangle will have a food court featuring options from many D.C. restaurants. Happy eating!

Me!

Abbey Walsh