Posts Tagged dc pastry chefs

Weekly Roundup: Roll Out The Red Carpet Edition

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints

These salty chocolate thumbprints will be making an apperance at the Food Bloggers Bake Sale for Haiti this Sunday!

I felt like I was reading about Hollywood and not the DC food scene this week. Nominees for The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s RAMMY awards and the James Beard Awards were announced this week. Well, okay, that’s only two awards. But still – there was lots of internet buzz this week about the DC nominees. In fact, several of the Beard and RAMMY nominees have been interviewed on this very blog – David Guas’ cookbook, Dam Good Sweet, was nominated for a Beard Award, and Pastry Chefs Travis Olson, Anthony Chavez and Josh Short received RAMMY nods.

Before you get all distracted with thoughts of sparkly dressed and red carpets, I want to put in a final plug for the Bake Sale for Haiti that’s happening this Sunday at Zorba’s (1612 20th Street NW) from 9-11. All proceeds will go to benefit Doctor’s Without Borders Haiti relief efforts, and many local food bloggers will be showcasing their best baking talents. Speaking of which, I’ll totally be spending tomorrow making lemon cupcakes and salty chocolate thumbprint cookies for the bake sale. So don’t be shy! Come out and get the baked goods you’ve been craving.

Okay, roundup time. Recipes I want to try, from this week’s Internet offerings:

  • Bacon cornbread. Bacon. Cornbread. I don’t need to say anything more. From Biscuits and Such.
  • Trash Bars from A Measured Memory. Dear God – they’re stuffed with everything one could want in a bar cookie – rice chex, muddy buddy’s, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and marshmallows. Oh, and butter. Don’t forget the butter.

And in other news:

  • Metrocurean rounds up all the DC peeps who were nominated for James Beard Awards, where DC made a strong showing. As I mentioned above, Pastry Chef Amanda Cook of City Zen received a nod, as did DamGoodSweet, the cookbook by DC Pastry Chef David Guas. And City Paper food writer Tim Carman was nominated for his piece about restaurateur Andy Shallal’s disastrous top-chef style competition to hire the new chef at Eatonville.
  • Whoo hoo! The food blogger bake sale for Haiti made it to the Young and Hungry blog!
  • Florida Girl in DC ponders what to make at the Food Blogger Bake Sale. I’m glad that someone else thought about this as much as I did! I willingly admit to having bake sale anxiety.
  • A new wine bar opening up on 14th street sparks a blog war with U Street Girl. The blogger removed a comment from her initial post about the restaurant’s opening date after the restaurant owner threatened her with legal action because he found the comment to be libelous. Wow. Well, now I really don’t want to go there, and I love a good wine bar.
  • No, I couldn’t attend Le Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris – Paris’ annual contest for the best bread in the city. But you can get an inside look at the competition – one of the judges was an American living in Paris, and wrote about the experience on her blog. Found via Chewswise.
  • Gradually Greener takes a look at some unexpected RAMMY award categories – the best neighborhood gathering place, hottest bar scene, and restaurant power spot. I can’t quite believe these are award categories, but they’re very interesting to think about.
  • Rather liked this post from The Lancelot Sturgeons about finally getting to that point where you have enough pantry items improvise a gourmet weeknight meal. Haven’t we all experienced that moment when you realize you can actually make a nice meal from random things stuffed into your fridge and pantry? It’s a good feeling.

Happy Friday!


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Theresa Luongo Pinelli Serves Up Tasty Treats at Treet

Treet 5

Theresa Luongo Pinelli, the Chief Sweetness Officer at Treet

Started in 2009, Treet is a DC-based online bakery that serves up comfort sweets done right – think fudgy brownie bites, melt-in-your-mouth petit fours, and luscious buttery cornbread. Theresa Luongo Pinelli, the pastry chef, owner, and creative force behind Treet, takes a simple, straightforward approach to her baked goods. ” I like things that taste good – something home baked that you wouldn’t make yourself,” she says.

Pinelli didn’t always dream of being a pastry chef – she started out working in the corporate world, doing marketing in New York before she “hit a dead end” with her career. Pinelli had always loved to bake and entertain, and loved to throw massive and elaborate theme parties with her now-husband Vincent. “If we had a ‘white’ themed party everything would be white – white truffles, white wine, white cheese,” she says. In a day of “massive frustration” with her job, Pinelli realized that she had to make a change. During a brainstorming session with her husband she hit on the idea of going to pastry school, which would combine her love of baking, entertaining, and her retail background (Pinelli has an undergraduate degree in retail and consumer science from the University of Arizona).

Pinelli was an accomplished home baker, but she wanted to go to pastry school “to learn to fix things” that went wrong with recipes. Pinelli graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City in 2008. She worked seven days a week to complete her externship at 3 Tarts, a pastry shop in Chelsea, while also working a full-time marketing job. After she and her husband moved to DC for his career, Pinelli spent several months writing her business plan before launching Treet a little over six months ago.

Treet 4

Some of treets bite-sized treets.

While Pinelli prefers to make home-style baked goods – “I’m not a plated dessert pastry chef,” she says – her desserts are anything but mundane. “I believe you can play with texture and flavor in simple baked foods,” she says, an approach that shows in her playful, inventive take on classic American sweets. Take her “truffle shuffle” cookie, which pairs chocolate chunks and cloves for a flavorful twist on a classic chocolate cookie. Pinelli’s most “sentimental” menu item is her X-Ray Vision Carrot Cake with maple cream cheese buttercream, a recipe she developed before she went to pastry school. Her favorite menu item at the moment is an almond caramel bar, made with slivered almonds and a caramelized honey topping, solidified over a sable dough and sprinkled with kosher salt.

Pinelli also has a strong commitment to using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients at Treet. Pinelli only uses grass-fed milk and butter in her products, which she gets from Trickling Springs Creamery in Pennsylvania. She gets her free-range eggs from Waterview Foods, a local farm in Maryland. For Pinelli, using local dairy makes sense from both a business and culinary perspective. “The products are so much fresher and stay fresh so much longer – it enhances the quality of the product,” she says.

Treet 3

Treet's A-MAZE-ing cornbread.

While Pinelli has no plans of opening a storefront for now, there are many ways to get your hands on her “treets.” Pinelli takes orders through her web site,, and has a stand at the Bethesda Central Farmer’s Market on Sundays from 10-2. When the Clarendon Farmer’s Market starts up again this spring, she’ll be there on Wednesdays from 2-7. You can also buy her cornbread and desserts at Soupergirl, the lunchtime soup delivery service. And, at this Sunday’s Bethesda Farmer’s Market, you can get a free brownie in honor of the Olympics if you say the code word “Olympics.”

Now doesn’t that sound like a tasty treet for a Sunday morning? I certainly think so.

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For Your Super Bowl Party: Churchkey’s Caramel Corn

Stuck Kernel

I would totally go to the Super Bowl party that had this caramel corn.

Photo by Helga’s Lobster Stew, via flickr, used under the Creative Commons license.

I don’t like sports. Well, except the Olympics – and then mostly just figure skating and gymnastics, so I feel that doesn’t count. Granted, I like to go to a Nationals game now and again, but mostly for the opportunity to drink beer, eat Noah’s pretzels, and bemoan the number of my tax dollars that went into subsidizing a stadium that’s rarely half full.

So my friends and family may be a little surprised that, yes, I am actually blogging about what to eat at your Super Bowl party. I’ve only watched the Super Bowl once, and then only because I had relationship obligations. But now my life is blissfully sports-free, besides the occasional update on the Ducks football from my dad (which is quite fine).

Still, the Super Bowl is a time for parties and gatherings – and if you end up hanging out with a bunch of people in the kitchen, not watching the game and chatting, then what’s the harm?

This recipe for caramel corn comes from Tiffany MacIsaac, the fab pastry chef at Birch and Barley and Churchkey (she serves it up at Churchkey). But it’s not just any caramel corn – it’s mixed with salted cashews, toasted coconut flakes, and candied ginger, and coated in homemade caramel sauce. It’s a perfect Super Bowl treat – you can snack on this stuff all day. Many thanks to MacIsaac for sharing her recipe. It looks like a stroke of salty, sweet genius. In fact, if I went to a party that served this caramel corn, I might even agree to watch the game.

Caramel Popcorn
By Tiffany MacIsaac, Birch & Barley and ChurchKey

Note, I recently purchased a kitchen scale (such a great idea – so much easier just pouring stuff into a bowl and weighing, rather than scooping out all those damn cups), but for those of you without, there are a couple of online resources for converting metric recipes into cups. Check out this converter on Gourmet Sleuth, and also the ingredient database at Nutrition Data. If there’s great interest, I can test this out and come up with a conversion myself – just let me know in the comments.

Caramel Popcorn
By Tiffany MacIsaac, Birch & Barley and ChurchKey

3/4 cup popcorn kernels
300 grams salted cashews
200 grams toasted coconut flakes
1/4 cup candied ginger, minced
1000 grams granulated sugar
350 grams water
45 grams butter

1) Cover the bottom of a saute pan with a thin layer of oil (about 3-4 TBSP) and pour in the kernels in a single layer. Cover with foil and place over a medium heat until you hear them start to pop. At this point, shake the pot and continue to cook until all corn is popped.

2) Sift out pieces of kernels. Place popcorn in a bowl and add the cashews, ginger and coconut.

3) In a medium pot, cook the granulated sugar and water to a medium caramel. Remove from heat and stir in the butter. Pour over the popcorn mix and use a heat proof spatula or metal spoon to stir. All the popcorn should be coated. Pour onto a silpat or 2 cookie sheets that have been sprayed or buttered. While still hot, sprinkle with a heavy amount of salt. Kosher is fine but a sea salt like Maldon or Fleur de Sel is best. Once cool, store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

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1789 Pastry Chef Travis Olson Serves Up Modern Desserts in an Historic Setting

Travis Olson

Travis Olson, Pastry Chef at 1789.

The decor at 1789 is steeped in history – the restaurant is housed in a Federal period house, and inside you’ll find fine china plates, upholstered wooden chairs, detailed woodwork, and walls covered in historical prints. But the desserts coming out of the kitchen under the skilled direction of pastry chef Travis Olson, are anything but old-fashioned. Think fresh, seasonal ingredients, innovative flavors, and modern updates of classic American desserts.

A dedicated student in high school, Olson found his career path after a disillusioning half semester at the University of Virginia. After leaving school, he quickly enrolled in the professional program at L’Academie de Cuisine, and graduated in 2001. After nine-months assisting pastry chef David Guas, Olson started working at Clyde’s Restaurant Group. He did stints at different Group restaurants, including the Clyde’s in Georgetown, Gallery Place and Willow Creek, before moving to his current job as pastry chef at 1789.

Olson’s passion for pastry started early, however, at the age of twelve, when his family moved to England while his mother pursued a PhD at Oxford in ornithology (both of his parents work for the Smithsonian). “I didn’t have any friends,” Olson explained, “so I just started baking. I was ambitious – I made éclairs, Sacher-Torte, profiteroles” and other fancy, European desserts.

Today, Olson’s approach to pastry is distinctly American. “I like making those classic American desserts – pies, cakes, shortbreads,” he says. The desserts at 1789 certainly reflect this. Olson’s favorite dessert on the menu is the pineapple split, which pairs caramelized pineapple with vanilla ice cream, butter cookies, and a sauce made from candied ginger. The caramel banana bread pudding also uses classic American flavors, but updates them with the addition of eggnog ice cream and a medjool date puree. For a coconut dessert he takes an American staple – the pound cake – and makes it into something new and seasonal: buttered pieces of coconut pound cake are heated on a griddle and served with caramel sauce, warm pink grapefruit, and tangerine ice cream.

Travis Olson - Dessert

Deep fried truffles atop a white chocolate semifreddo.

Olson isn’t a big fan of all-chocolate desserts; chocolate is “my least favorite ingredient to work with” he says. He’s not into “the whole concept of death by chocolate” in desserts, preferring to pair chocolate with different flavors to lighten the dish. Case in point – the chocolate dessert on the 1789 menu is a dark chocolate cake topped with caramelized meringue, served with peppermint ice cream and pulled peppermint sugar threads. Yes, there are chocolate truffles on the dessert menu, but they’re breaded, deep-fried, and served with white chocolate semifreddo, fresh citrus, and spun sugar.

Olson also doesn’t like to deconstruct desserts, which is a trendy offering on dessert menus these days. “When you deconstruct things, it takes away,” he says. “My desserts don’t feature those little components. I like to make desserts that are fulfilling – not too prissy or architectural.” Instead, Olson tries to make desserts that work together as a whole, where the flavors and concept are “inherent to the ingredients, not imposed upon the ingredients.”

This approach may be why Olson was nominated for the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s Pastry Chef of the Year award in 2009, less than a year after starting at 1789. Olson also thinks that his mentors, most of which have been chefs, have given him a different approach to pastry. “I’m less constrained by recipes,” he says. “My approach to ingredients and how to combine them, I was taught by chefs.”

Winter is a difficult time for Olson to design a menu, since most fruit is out of season. “What inspires me the most is fresh fruit,” he says, and the restaurant has relationships with local farmers and orchards to supply their produce. But he’s not thinking about the summer menu yet. “I always want to look ahead and have a plan, and then the fruit starts coming in and it all changes,” he explains.

Well, at least this gives DC pastry fans something to look forward to this summer.

1789 - Dining Room

One of the dining rooms at 1789.

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Treacle? Spotted Dick? Mincemeat? Againn’s Pastry Chef Genevieve So Reinterprets British Desserts For American Tastes


Banoffee pie, one of the desserts at Againn, served in a mason jar.

British pubs may be dying off in the UK, but they’re alive and well in Washington, DC. Againn is the latest addition to DC’s growing ranks of gastropubs, along with Commonwealth in Columbia Heights, Churchkey on 14th street, and Granville Moore’s on H street. The term “gastropub” technically means a licensed pub in the Uk that serves good food. Not all of DC’s gastropubs serve British food – Granville Moore’s is Belgian-focused – but all offer an upscale, gourmet, beer-centric take on the traditional pub.

Againn is decidedly on the British end of the gastropub spectrum, calling itself a “contemporary British Isles Bistro.” This means that Pastry Chef Genevieve So has her work cut out for her. Americans aren’t very familiar with British desserts (when’s the last time you had a spotted dick pudding?), and the desserts we’ve heard of are known for being heavy, rich, strange affairs. Mincemeat, puddings, trifles, fruitcakes – these aren’t desserts that set American mouths watering.


Againn's pastry chef Genevieve So

So knows that Americans aren’t too keen on British sweets. “When I think of British desserts, I think of puddings and custards – it’s very heavy,” she says. But her version of a very English dessert – sticky toffee pudding – drew raves from We Love DC, and made me want to see just how this pastry chef was reinterpreting British desserts for the American palate.


The sticky toffee pudding that drew raves from We Love DC.

Originally from San Francisco, So grew up in a food-obsessed family. “We were a household of cooks,” she says, “and always I did the baking.” After graduating from San Jose State University with a degree in Business Marketing, So wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her career. “My parents had always wanted me to own my own business and suggested combining my business school degree with baking,” she explained. She studied at the highly acclaimed San Francisco Baking Institute and the Institut National de la Boulangerie Pattisserie in France before embarking on her career as a baker and pastry chef.

At Againn, So’s desserts are riffs on the British classics, but lightened and clarified. “I try to do simple, honest, straightforward food,” she says of her approach to pastry, which certainly shows in the dessert menu. For the sticky toffee pudding, a mellow stout ice cream sits atop a fragrant and spicy cake drenched in toffee syrup. The ice cream isn’t too sweet, bringing out the flavors in the cake and balancing the sweetness of the rich toffee. My favorite thing I tried was her brown bread ice cream – the sweet and creamy ice cream is studded with crunchy, sweetened bread crumbs and flecked with vanilla beans.


Brown bread ice cream - my fave.

Her “banoffee” pie was also a lighter take on an English trifle – crushed ginger cookies are topped with caramelized milk, chocolate ganache, fresh bananas, and whipped cream. Served in a mason jar (the whimsical if not entirely authentic presentation is the brainchild of co-owner Mark Weiss), the pie reminded me of an ice cream sundae without the ice cream, and it had a nice balance of sweet, spicy and rich flavors. Also on the menu are a spicy hot chocolate, an heirloom apple pie with a cheddar crust, and an “Eton mess” of huckleberries, lemon curd, and meringue.


Banoffee pie.

So also does some bread baking at Againn, like the bread for the cheese plates, but the restaurant currently purchases breads from Uptown Bakery. It’s a pity that they don’t do their entire bread program in house, because So’s real passion is for bread. “My thing is artisan bread and laminated doughs,” she says. She hopes to open a bakery someday, which would focus on “good levain, the sort with a lot of holes, and excellent croissants.” However, the kitchen isn’t equipped for a fully in-house bread operation.

Are Gastropubs here to stay in DC? So thinks so. “I think there’s a resurgence of interest in this kind of food because of the simplicity of it,” she says. “I focus on doing the basics right.” Whether or not Gastropubs have staying power, there’s always room in DC for restaurants that do good food right. If Againn can pull that off then they’ll keep diners coming back again. And again.


The bar at Againn.

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An Interview With Anthony Chavez, Executive Pastry Chef at 2941

Anthony Chavez, Executive Pastry Chef at 2941.

Anthony Chavez, Executive Pastry Chef at 2941 in Falls Church, takes classic desserts and elegantly updates them with creative, seasonal touches. The fine dining restaurant serves modern takes on American French fare, and Chavez’s offerings include a Bailey’s ganache mousse, a pumpkin crémeux served with a root beer float, and a duo of egg-based desserts that pairs a crème brûlée with lemon floating islands. I would personally like to try all of them – New Years weight-loss resolutions be damned.

Originally from California, Chavez graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 2001. He got his start at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago, working his way up to Executive Pastry Chef in three years. Before coming to 2941, he was the Executive Pastry Chef at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower.

Chavez sat down with ModernDomestic before the holidays to talk about the dessert menu at 2941 (which looks delicious), the next big trend in pastry (he’s thinking petits fours), and where he likes to get dessert in DC.

MD: Why did you get into pastry?
AC: I went to culinary school and at the end of my internship I was given the opportunity to work in the pastry department. I stuck with it. It’s very precise, and there’s a lot of things you can specialize in. You can be a specialist in chocolate and candies, wedding cakes, plated desserts, sugar – there are lots of different aspects to pastry that are completely different from each other.

MD: So what’s your specialty?
AC: Plated desserts. They’re my favorite part about pasty and that’s why I work here. I love to make wedding cakes and chocolate candies, but I love the intensity of plated desserts. I try to encompass all aspects of pastry in a plated dessert – I can use a chocolate ganache that I’d use in a candy and use it in a plated dessert. Brioche is another good example – it’s traditionally a bread you eat for breakfast, but we use it all the time for plated desserts. You can make bread pudding with it, you can make French toast with it, etc.

MD: How do you describe your approach to pasty?
AC: I have a very classical French background – it’s how I was trained. I like to incorporate French techniques. I work with Bertrand Chemel, [2941’s Executive Chef] who’s from France, and our styles work very well together. I try to put a modern twist on the French classics.

MD: Do you ever cook at home?
AC: My wife and I met in culinary school and sometimes we’ll make pat a choux, eclairs, or brioche at home. We also sometimes like to make pie. We’ve made pecan pie, but instead we made an almond sablé dough and made a layer of sponge on the bottom. We took an American classic and made it French.

Chavez's chestnut yule log, for the holiday season. I have the recipe for this and it takes a whole two days to make.

MD: What’s your favorite childhood dessert?
AC: Chocolate s’mores. When we go out to West Virginia we do marshmallows on the campfire. I also like Snickers bars and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups.

MD: So what’s on the menu now at 2941?
AC: It’s wintertime, so we’re doing fall desserts that feature apples and pears. We’re doing a caramelized apple with a black walnut filling, served with calvados sorbet. We also have a German chocolate cake – it has chocolate flourless sponge on the bottom and coconut cream. And we’re serving poached pear and buckwheat flapjacks.

MD: What’s your favorite dessert on the menu?
AC: I’m very pleased with the way the apple came out. I wanted to see what we could do with apples and this is one we’ve done before. The dessert never included the frangipane, but Chemel tried it and said that what would remind him of his childhood would be frangipane. And we work with a lot of farmers and we were able to get black walnuts. Black walnuts are a little sour and bitter, and if you pair it with the caramel apple they complement each other.

MD: Since you work with local farmers, is that how you source all your ingredients?
AC: A lot of it is from local farmers. Of course, if we’re using citrus or something that isn’t grown here we use a purveyor. We also go to the supermarket because sometimes they have better produce, and sometimes I go to the McLean farmer’s market on my way to work in the summer. We also work with a woman who has a company called Fresh Link – she travels around the Culpeper area looking for farmers with good produce.

MD: Did you follow any of the controversy surrounding Founding Farmer’s food sourcing? The Washington Post did an article recently about how the restaurant has built its brand on using produce from local farms, but actually gets most of its food from large corporations.
AC: I haven’t read it, but now I’m going to. But, you know, this was a really tough year for the food crop. Apricots never happened, local strawberries were only a two week season. Raspberries and peaches were the only things that did well. It’s hard to work with small farmers because of the consistency. The farmers we work with – we try to find people that are reliable.

MD: Any good bakeries in DC?
AC: I haven’t been to a lot. Buzz Bakery is nice, as is Artisan Confections in Arlington.

MD: What about dessert- any places you like to get dessert in DC?
AC: City Zen, Citronelle, Bourbon Steak. I really think that people are starting to figure it out, and are judging restaurants on desserts, more so than in the past. Before it was “so what can the chef do?” Now it’s “what else can the rest of the team do? Do you have a legit sommelier that knows about wine? Do you have a legit pastry chef?”

MD: Finally, I have to ask this question – do you think anything will replace cupcake trend?
AC: There’s so many cupcake shops – they’ve taken over so that people have lost the view of what a cupcake should be. I understand that some people are there to do something different, but some of us who have worked for many, many years on these techniques are getting overshadowed.

I think the trend restaurants are going to start focusing on petits fours. That’s your last chance to show off. Putting down a plate of tarts or gelees is a thing of the past. But I think people are doing some really nice stuff with petits fours and that’s where our focus is going to be.

The "Eye Scream," Chavez's Halloween-themed dessert. It's almost too horrifying to eat!

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