Day two in Washington DC began with a long run around Arlington – 7 miles in approximately 55 minutes had me quite hungry despite the previous day’s gluttony and I returned to the hotel thankful that my family had stopped by Red Velvet Cupcakery the previous night. Profoundly creamy and smooth in texture the cakes themselves were delectable while the cream cheese frosting on the Red Velvet was smooth, sweet, and without a bit of grit – classically done and all the better for it. With three quarter-cupcakes remaining I will admit my sampling may have been a bit skewed due to their being baked the day before but overall I found their signature Red Velvet to be great while the cookies and cream and peanut butter cup were rather bland and dry.
Ready to face the day my sister and I next made our way to the streets of Arlington and walked to the nearest Metro. Arriving downtown shortly after 7:30am not much was open and my sister was hungry so we opted to stop by Café du Parc for a morning bite to eat. Located at the elegant Willard hotel we made our way into the marbled dining room and after browsing the menu opted to enjoy pastries and coffee at the counter – we already had brunch plans, anyhow. Greeted by a pleasant fellow with a thick French accent we each opted for a coffee – smooth and nutty, served with a free Madeline (Chocolate for Erika, Lemon for myself,) and refilled repeatedly including a cup to go for a mere $3.
Accompanying my sister’s coffee was a pain au chocolate – buttery and crisp outside, still warm on the inside, but overall lacking the amount of chocolate I would expect. Tasty, sure – and a good deal at $2, but not remarkable in any way. Her Madeline, on the other hand, was divine – smooth and spongy yet yielding to the bite – cocoa accented but not overwhelmingly so.
Alongside my coffee I opted for a small almond croissant - a shocking $2 for a two-bite pastry, but largely worth the price given its luxurious texture with buttery and flaky shell, airy interior, and ample notes of buttery almonds – and a pain au raisin, the best dish of the meal in my opinion with notes of apple, cinnamon, and a sweet glaze that worked well the sucrose of the raisins. While my Madeline certainly wasn’t as good as the cocoa version its light lemony flavor was textbook – I only wish it had been more pillowy and fresh.
Settling the modest bill we made our way to the street quite happy with the experience – everything about the Café exuded an air of Europe and even if it was a tad contrived given its location I can’t really argue with well done French pastry – not when they are basically impossible to find at home. On future visits I’d definitely consider coming back for lunch or brunch – the continental buffet looked and smelled excellent.