Ranked fifth, up four spots from last year, in Wallet Hub’s in-depth analysis of the Healthiest Cities in America for 2018, Washingtonians are known for their fit lifestyle. With a wealth of fast casual health food options available from Sweet Green to Mezeh Mediterranean Grill, it seems like a conflict of dietary interest to even weigh in on a decadent dessert soirée or call for a fresh baked cookie delivery after a late night on the town. But satisfying the city’s sweet spot is the new hot trend in D.C. dining.
From the boozy dessert bar at Red Light from restaurateur Aaron Gordon to the exquisite dessert buffet featuring a chocolate carved tree dangling fresh strawberries at the Benjamin Bar & Lounge located in the Trump Hotel showcasing French pastry chef, Fabrice Benezit’s tantalizing creations from macarons made in-house to Pierre Marcolini chocolates shipped specially from Belgium for the hotel, there is no denying that there is a sweet tooth needing to be satisfied.
Talking with Food and Beverage Director Daniel Mahdavian, whose vision it was to create a theme night of confectionary delight at the Trump Hotel, he said he was motivated by the demand he saw in engaging families with children. While many hotel guests go home on Friday, Mahdavian reveals that the Dessert Night became a fun way for families to enjoy an additional night in the capital and increase occupancy in the hotel. One of the highlights that attract the young and curious in attendance at the Benjamin Bar & Lounge is the rotating live-action station serving up hot desserts like pineapple rum cake flambé, beignets, Bananas Foster, and crepes Suzette. The house-made s’mores have also been a huge hit, inviting parents to indulge in the childish sin again and again.
The Ritz-Carlton Washington, D.C.’s Lobby Bar and Lounge serves up liqueur-infused snow cones during the sultry summer months to cool down guests and offer a unique play on the classic cocktail. The unexpected creative concoctions that take guests down memory lane to Fourth of July celebrations and backyard barbecues come in several vodka flavors, including “Lemonade Thyme,” “Strawberry Basil,” and “Blueberry Mojito.”
Calories don’t matter; it’s the experience that is drawing a crowd.
While D.C. boasts its healthy image, we ponder what’s going on backstage; what exactly is the allure of the sweet scene in the city? According to Destination D.C., Washington’s tourism branch, 20 million visitors from across the United States explored the city in 2016, an increase of 700,000 over the previous record for domestic visitors, which was set in 2015. A total of around $7.3 billion was spent by guests staying in the capital, according to data analyzed by the travel research firm D.K. Shifflet & Associates. These figures have been on a steady uphill climb since the economic collapse incurred by the recession from 2007-2009. The increased influx of guests to our nation’s capital may be attributed to the rise in popularity of dessert, not just as a finality to a succulent meal, but as an object of seduction and a means of entertainment.
D.C. residents are not guilt-free. The influx of holiday makers may have a significant impact on offerings and trends in the hospitality industry, but it is the local crowd that truly defines the food scene. Washingtonians are like bees to nectar; they keep coming back for more. From cupcakes to pie, food bloggers, stylists, and chefs have recognized the increased demand for sweets. And it doesn’t stop there. Social media has influenced food choices as well, luring susceptible diners to DC’s dessert hot spots with intricate plates showcasing reimagined treats and traditional favorites that are not only a feast for the eye but delectable and playful. Pastry chefs have upped their game and changed the rules, crafting sweet-centric tasting menus that are just as ornate if not more than their savory counterparts.
Why wait until the end when you can start with dessert?
Eat the dark chocolate truffle or order the lemon soufflé, everyone’s doing it. D.C. may just have to clock more time on the treadmill to counter the calories consumed obtaining that quintessential sugar high, but so what? It’s worth it!
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Header image courtesy of Emily Szajda.