Guest Author - Candyce H. Stapen
Enhance your Capitol Hill visit with a treat from The Sweet Lobby, a new boutique bakery that opened in June 2011. The shop justifiably gains fame for winning its own hard-won race: a February 2012 contest on the Food Network’s Cupcake Wars.
The task sister and brother team Winnette McIntosh Ambrose and Timothy McIntosh took on—both Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduates in chemical engineering-- was to create cupcakes in celebration of the Chinese New Year.
To pay homage to the Year of the Dragon, the McIntoshes added green tea, ginger, bean mousse and lychee to their special recipes. The result was their winning quartet of delectable delights: Fresh Ginger Five Spice, Fire-Breathing Chocolate Dragon, Sesame Chestnut Mountain and Green Tea Jade Lantern.
At a recent gathering, friends called the chocolate dragon “a significant cupcake…a must for chocolate lovers.” Others especially enjoyed the Hazelnut Praline Salted Caramel, the Vanilla Butterscotch Crunch and the Strawberry Champagne.
If the mix of unusual ingredients inspires you, then take advantage of the bakery’s Cupcake Lab. Call ahead to describe your ideal cupcake and the McIntoshes will aim to concoct it.
If your children—or you—crave the classics, The Sweet Lobby concocts its own tasty versions of chocolate, vanilla, carrot and lemon cream cupcakes. In addition, the bakery’s vegan chocolate cupcake tasted so authentically chocolate that we phoned the shop to be sure that what we ate was truly the vegan version. It was, making that cupcake among our top vegan choices in Washington, D.C.
Parisian macarons are another Sweet Lobby passion. Each rounded confection features a fruit preserve, ganache or buttercream spread between two almond meringue cookies. We liked the delicacy of the coconut macaron. Additional best sellers are the dark chocolate, mango, vanilla and green tea chestnut. Most fillings, even the lemon, have a touch of sweetness. That put off a friend who prefers tart desserts. Nevertheless, he devoured the bakery’s lemon cupcake, a balance of sweet cake and tangy frosting.
The Sweet Lobby also sells a rich, thick European-style, hot chocolate made from dark chocolate. For kids accustomed to the sweeter, more watery Swiss Miss variety, the Lobby’s brew may taste bitter. The remedy: add sugar and a gooey, melting marshmallow on top. For tea lovers, the shop sells canisters of Steep, The Sweet Lobby’s custom blended, loose leaf tea.
The popular Sweet Lobby is located in a tiny store in the Barrack’s Row area of Capitol Hill. On good weather weekends, expect a line. Waits can be 15 minutes or so. A tip to know for both locals and visitors: The Sweet Shop delivers. If you are staying at a Capitol Hill hotel, your goodies, packed in a signature orange box with chocolate brown lettering, arrives for a nominal fee. If you lodge or live further out, deliveries cost more.
The Sweet Lobby is among the newest entries in D.C.’s cupcake wars. When visiting Georgetown, sample the goodies at Georgetown Cupcake, whose owners, two sisters, starred in a reality cupcake show. In downtown and also on Capitol Hill, look for the pink Curbside Cupcakes food truck. Their specialties include German chocolate and peanut butter.
After a day of sightseeing, cupcakes, macarons, hot chocolate and flavorful tea can be just the treats for you and your family to savor while relaxing in your hotel room.