Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Food fight

Pork dumplings (left) and spicy garlic eggplant (right) from Hong Kong Palace in Falls Church. Despite its name, Hong Kong Palace serves Sichuan cuisine, which means that you should get ready for some heat. It helps to bring someone who can read Chinese, but the food is pretty much all amazing, and the dumplings are awesome - crispy yet tender and full of delicious pork, with a delicately crispy underside.

Sandwiches and fries from Earl's Sandwiches in Arlington. At left is a grilled prosciutto with provolone and a fried egg on sourdough; at right is a roast beef with cheddar and a fried egg. Earl's adheres to the Rule of Sandwiches (that is, that a fried egg on any sandwich makes it automatically better). The roast beef is juicy, bloody, and tender, and the fries are salty, crispy, floppy, potatoey goodness. It's perfect hangover food, greasy and comforting, and listening to the Smiths while noshing on something so bad for you yet so good is the perfect way to start a weekend morning, along with free refills of coffee. And yes, dear reader, I ate the whole damn thing.

Cupcakes from Crumbs (clockwise from top: carrot cake, almond joy, chocolate hazelnut, and cappuccino)

So, the DC Metro area (or DMV if you are a rapper and from around here, and I'm neither, so I won't call it that) has succumbed to the Great Plague of Cupcakes that has erupted in cities nationwide. Cupcake shops have spread like some kind of massively contagious rash, breaking out in sprinkles and frosting from Tenleytown to Alexandria to Clarendon. Crumbs is a chain with locations on both coasts, and their Clarendon outpost just opened a few months ago. Crumbs does just cupcakes, and their flavors range from traditional to cutesy, but you won't find stuff like lavender vanilla or chocolate bacon.

Their cupcakes are pretty massive, and at about the same prices as Georgetown Cupcakes, a pretty good deal. They also have extraordinarily cute packaging, and their molded plastic cupcake boxes have little wells for each cupcake, which reduces squishage and icing transfer (but also lets everyone who sees you know what a piggy you are).
I do not foresee a career in food photography in my future.

The cupcakes strike me as more muffiny than cupcakey, but that could be the large, mushroom-like shape and the frosting-to-cake-ratio. I like to keep mine steady at 2/3 cake to 1/3 frosting, but Crumbs is almost all cake and barely any frosting. The carrot cake is moist, with shreds of green that I suspect are zucchini, and a fairly traditional cream cheese frosting, although they should toast their walnuts before chucking them on there (untoasted walnuts are kind of bitter).

The almond joy cupcake is a basic chocolate cake with a vanilla frosting center, chocolate ganache frosting covered in coconut, and a bizarrely heavy hit of amaretto. I like amaretto, but the Almond Joy candy bar for which it's named has almonds almost as an afterthought, and the coconut topping seems to have been soaked in the stuff, so you get a nose-clearing alcoholic hit of almond when you bite into it.

The chocolate hazelnut is my favorite, with a deliciously, slightly bitter, perfectly roasted hazelnut cream center and icing. They got the balance of hazelnut and chocolate just right.

The cappuccino is okay, but I'm not a fan of using chocolate chips as decorations - I tend to spit most of them out instead of eating them. The coffee icing is bitter and dense, although that could be my own partiality to coffee buttercream.

It's kind of disappointing that the cupcakes are so heavy on the cake and light on the frosting, especially since the chocolate cake is rather bland and on the dry side (but that could have been because I bought them at the end of the day). But they're the perfect size to split, although I will admit to hogging the frosting, especially on the carrot cake.


  1. Tell me, have you ever been hung over? I'm conducting a survey.