With the rush of December holidays fast approaching, there’s nothing quite like taking a break, holding up in a cafe or bakery, a hot drink in hand and some form of laminated pastry on the table. The DMV is this beautiful, transient, melting pot of culture, and this atmosphere allows residents to taste baked goods infused with flavors from all over the world. Below, we highlight seven new and notable bakeries in the DMV, incorporating tastes from the Euro-Asian corner of the earth. Whether you need a place to get away and relax, or a new place to order some holiday specials, we’ve got some ideas for you, in no particular order.
Château de Chantilly
Presented with a real estate opportunity he couldn’t pass up, Jacob Choi saw a need for a cafe in the Chantilly area. Choi prepared himself by traveling locally and abroad to France and Korea to learn the art of specialty coffee and patisserie, and then felt ready to introduce the DMV to a Korean French style of baking.
“All the pastries in Korea are very beautiful looking — they have all these different shapes and designs and flavors and textures,” Choi says. By mixing French and Korean techniques and adding a Korean design to the pastries, Choi sets himself apart both in aesthetics and innovation. He doesn’t cut costs, either; all the pastries are made with butter, not margarine.
Choi’s favorite dessert: the Croiffle — a mix between a croissant and a waffle common in Korea. “It’s delicious because of all the layers, but it’s pressed like a waffle, so it’s all the textures,” Choi says. Usually made with a maple syrup drizzle, Choi offers custard, cream and fruit, and fried sugar options.
Holiday specials? Château de Chantilly plans to serve a red velvet latte, a pistachio latte, and a mint chocolate latte to accompany the delicious baked goods in December.
D Light Cafe & Bakery
Sisters Vira and Anastasiia Derun opened D Light in Adams Morgan after studying business and hospitality, respectively. Originally from Ukraine, the Derun’s bring Eastern European baked goods to the DMV.
“Everything is from our personal history, and unique in some way,” Vira says. The pistachio meringue is inspired by Vira’s favorite restaurant in Odessa, Ukraine, the lemon sand-based tart is inspired by a cafe in England, and the teas come from a small shop in Italy.
“People say ‘Life is too short; move to Europe!’” Vira says. “So, we wanted to make a place where people could move to Europe for a few hours.” The cafe was decorated personally by the sisters; each tiny detail provides a whimsical experience. And the pastries do not disappoint.
Vira’s favorite dessert: The almond croissant — and that’s saying something, because before trying theirs, she hated the taste of almonds. A close second is the berry and cream croissant.
Holiday specials? Anastasiia plans to add some new hot soups to the menu, as well as a rosemary and blackberry croissant, a zebra croissant, and perhaps a pistachio croissant. You’ll have to stop by to find out which recipes make the cut.
D Light Cafe & Bakery: 2475 18th St. NW, DC; @d_light_cafe
Heidelberg Pastry Shoppe
A staple in Arlington, Heidelberg was first established in 1975 by Wolfgang Büchler, where he brought German baking to the DMV. He met Carla, now his wife, when she applied for a job shortly after the bakery opened, and together they have run the shop for several decades.
The Büchlers import their flour from Germany to make hardier breads, pretzels and bagels. They offer many German classics, and inside the shop, Black Forest cakes, Berliner donuts, Bienenstich, Hamentashen, and bratwurst sit on display, among other baked goods. There is so much to try, you’ll have to return again and again to get to all of it — or do what I did and get a spread big enough to last several days after the visit.
Carla’s favorite dessert: “The Stollen. I love the way it smells; I love the way it tastes — all the butter and the sugar and the spices. When I smell that, it makes me really happy,” Carla says.
Holiday specials? Coincidentally, the Stollen: a buttery fruit cake filled with diced fruit, raisins, and almonds, rolled in melted butter and granulated sugar when it’s fresh out of the oven. Add some German specific Christmas cookies, like pfeffernusse, springerle and cinnamon stars, and you’ve got a great holiday spread.
Nestled in Al Volo in Cleveland Park, Yuri Kawabata Oberbilling took over the pastry kitchen right at the beginning of the pandemic. Oberbilling has been baking for 10 years before this, heading bakeries in Vancouver, Canada, Kobe, Japan and different places in the United States.
“I like to use Japanese flavors like yuzu and black sesame in French pastry,” Oberbilling says. Sweet options are accompanied by savory flavors; you can eat a Japanese souffle cheesecake and a truffle mushroom cream croissant in one sitting. Oberbilling also plans to add yuzu pepper into some of the savory options going forward. Oberbilling’s husband, Jason, said, “She is the heart and soul of this. And there’s more to come.”
Yuri’s favorite dessert: Japanese milk bread. “I bake it in a muffin pan,” she says, “so it comes out like a muffin-shaped milk bread.” Jason’s favorite dessert: The Cruffin — a croissant-muffin hybrid. “A similar concept, but with croissant dough, and they have a variety of seasonal special fillings,” he says.
Holiday specials? You can expect peppermint chocolate croissants, orange blossom milk bread and chestnut pie, a Japanese holiday staple.
Sharbat Bakery & Cafe
When Ilhama Safarova came to D.C. to be closer to her daughter as she studied at University of the District of Columbia, Safarova’s friends loved her recipes from the Azerbaijan area, and convinced her to start her own bakery. Safarova’s niece, Goncha, translated, “We have the chance to represent our nation along with the many nations represented in Adams Morgan.”
The bakery showcases Napoleon and Honey cakes inspired by Russian recipes, Hazapouri inspired by Georgian recipes, and Goghal from Azerbaijan, among others. The pastry has a perfect flake, and the cakes are layered with such precision, they’re almost too beautiful to eat. The bakery has a comfortable feel with community tables and a living room-esque area. Goncha translates, “As we are a family, we want all of our customers to feel like family.”
Safarova’s favorite dessert: “She can’t decide,” Goncha translates, laughing. “It’s like the mother choosing one of her children.”
Holiday specials? The classic cakes will be decorated using holiday colors and themes, and there will be some new chocolate flavors.
The newest location in the Officina group, this downtown location offers Italian-style pastries, meals, coffee, gelato and cocktails. Inspired by cafes in Milano and Roma in Italy, the space sends guests to another world. “The pastries we’ve developed at Officina remind me of my travels through Italy. We love being able to share these indulgent flavors with our guests,” Chef Nicholas Stefanelli says.
The cafe features classic Italian baked goods, like an olive tomato focaccia that has just the right amount of salt, Nutella and raspberry Bomboloni and Cornetto, a flaky pastry shaped like a half moon, among others. The experience is versatile in that it feels glamorous and homey all at once — perfect for a quick breakfast or a lingering happy hour.
Stefanelli’s favorite dessert: “My personal favorite is the Pistachio Cornetto, a version filled with pistachio pastry cream,” Stefanelli says.
Holiday specials? Throughout the Officina family, you can expect gift baskets featuring an array of Italian specialty products. You can also soon reserve your spot for a “Feast of the Seven Fishes” dining experience at Officina Wharf. As for the baked goods, Stefanelli says we can expect “Panettone — the classic Italian sweet bread.”
Rose Ave Bakery
Ten years ago, Rosie Nguyen moved to D.C., where she worked as a nurse and developed a love for baking and cooking in her spare time. She developed recipes, started a food blog, and eventually made it to the final rounds of auditions for “MasterChef.” “I told myself I need to do something with this momentum,” Nguyen says. She started a catering business while still working as a nurse, and eventually pivoted to working as the pastry chef at Maketto’s kitchen.
All these experiences led her to saying yes to an opportunity to have her own space in The Block, a new-ish food hall in Downtown D.C. “I wanted to have a bakery that represents the Asian American pallet,” Nguyen says. “I am a second-generation Asian American, and I wanted to encapsulate all of the flavors I grew up with.” The bakery showcases flavors from Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Korea and more as Nguyen and her team keep innovating new recipes. With a focus on fresh ingredients and less sugary doughs, the donuts, cookies and cafe options offer a welcome twist on traditional American baking.
Nguyen’s favorite dessert: “I’m always obsessed with the Saigon cinnamon banana cookie,” Nguyen says. While looks may be deceiving — as Nguyen says, “It’s just a brown cookie” — she also says that paired with a hot Vietnamese coffee or iced pour-over, the cookie takes you somewhere else.
Holiday specials? The collaborative team plans to offer a holiday cookie box, where each member of the staff contributes their own recipe. The flavors may represent where each staff member is from, but they’re not limited to that. Nguyen says, “It can be anything they want to bring to life.”
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