Have you ever wondered just how many macaron vendors Georgetown can support? With the opening of Laduree on M Street last month, another chic patisserie joined a string of others along this ritzy strip of top-of-the-line specialty shops, boutiques and markets.
How do they stack up?
We set out to compare and contrast this tony area’s tres sucre petit fours and pastries on a recent warm Saturday, when the sidewalks were jammed with shoppers young and old (and their dogs).
Our first stop was Paul on Wisconsin, which, like Laduree, has ties to the Holder family, renowned bakers dating back to 18th-century France. It was crowded, but the line moved quickly. Their delectable offerings, behind glass atop dark wooden cabinets, were bathed in a warm light that gave each treat a healthy glow.
Pacing ourselves, we chose a chocolate éclair. We are more used to eating out of Dunkin’ Donuts bags or waxed paper from the Safeway bakery, so we were delighted with our special box emblazoned with the bakery name, while at the same time wondering how much of our $4.95 went to this box which we almost immediately threw in the trash.
The éclair was light and airy, the filling sweet and creamy, and the frosting rich and decadent. Ooh-la-la!
Not wanting to discriminate by only patronizing French establishments, we next headed to Sprinkles cupcakes. It was not crowded, but the tiny location offers only two seating areas, so we shared ours with some local college graduates celebrating their big day.
We selected a chocolate cupcake with chocolate frosting and a marshmallow center. The cake was moist and flavorful, the frosting sweet and creamy. The marshmallow center was not as drastically different from a Hostess cupcake as I would have expected.
Next, we hit Laduree. It was a madhouse. A huge throng filled the tiny foyer, but luckily, many were vying for seats in the back, of which there are few. We waited in the takeout line, which moved quickly, and we marveled at the adorable pastel décor and pastries decorated with rose petals and gold.
We decided on their signature offering — macarons, and chose one coffee and one lavender.
Call me gauche, but the cloyingly sweet, chewy texture of a macaron calls to my mind a dental office more than gay Paris.
The strong scent of the lavender cookie gave me the strange sensation I was consuming something I should have been using to wash my hands.
I couldn’t bring myself to try the coffee cookie, but my companion enjoyed both.
Next we tried Olivia Macaron, which is off the main drag, but has been around longer.
Olivia’s wasn’t terribly busy — they actually had to wait for us to decide. We settled on a blueberry cheesecake macaron. I was leery, but I acquiesced to try a bite, and I had to agree that it was tasty.
From here we scouted through alleys to get to District Doughnut.
It wasn’t easy to find, but a number of other people had been able to do it too, but not so many that we couldn’t find a seat. They didn’t have that many offerings, which I thought was great. In this world of 10-page menus and 31 flavors, I was relieved to see someone still concentrates on what they do best.
We eyed the confections topped with shiny frostings and powdery dustings, and we thought we just might be sick. We were full. Full of sugar. But we soldiered on and tried a brown butter. I should have asked for a knife instead of rending it in two, squashing the air out of the beautiful creation. If it suffered any, however, we couldn’t tell. It was a doughnut so amazing that even the likes of us could tell it was far superior to any other doughnut we’ve had.
We planned to head to Georgetown cupcakes next, but we just couldn’t do it. We commenced our sugar detox immediately. But once we’re done, we’re heading back for another tour of Georgetown’s sweetest offerings.