Part art gallery, part cocoa bar, Artfully Chocolate was established in 2007 when owner Eric Nelson quit his job as an executive in order to pursue his artistic passions. Needing a little something extra to draw attention to his shop and unwilling to sound a tornado siren after every purchase, Eric called on the services of friend and chocolatier Rob Kingsbury. Kingsbury instantly infused the colorful gallery with the sweet allure Eric was seeking.
Today, the duo's handiwork takes center stage inside two different locations: Eric's masterpieces parade across the walls, and Rob's expertise reveals itself in sips and bites of decadent drinks and pastries. They also host tasting classes, including a wine-pairing class and chocolate-tasting class.
At Occasionally Cake, pastry chefs Sabrina Campbell and Marcia Crandall get pretty bold with their cupcake flavors. So it may not come as a surprise that one of their bestsellers is called Everything But The Kitchen Sink. There's a lot going on with this vanilla cupcake—it's filled with peanut butter, chocolate, and butterscotch chips, dipped in caramel, iced with peanut butter frosting, and topped off with Heath bits. Other cupcakes, meanwhile, range from the Fuzzy Navel—an orange cake with peach buttercream—to the Grasshopper, a chocolate truffle cake crowned with mint-Oreo buttercream and capable of leaping several feet if startled. Sabrina and Marcia also craft cakes for special occasions such as weddings and birthday parties.
At Hollin Hall Pastry Shop, master saccharin sculptors craft a bevy of baked delights, from European pastries to carefully composed cakes and hand-rolled truffles, which have earned them a slew of accolades. Quell sweet teeth with layered cake slices ($3.50) such as the vanilla bavarian, layered with seasonal fruit; the german chocolate, filled with coconut and pecan filling; or the raspberry chocolate marquis, infused with pixie tears and friendship. Those seeking to mix snacks with sips can pick from an expansive selection of pastries, tarts, and truffles ($2.50+) to pair with coffees, lattes, and cappuccinos ($1.40–$4). The shop also offers an array of breakfasty treats, such as fresh muffins ($1.85) and warm, flaky croissants ($1.65–$1.95) who can never remember a birthday.
Swing's caffeine artisans craft signature blends of globally sourced, locally roasted java that have garnered a bouquet of awards and accolades, including a spot on Zagat's Buzz-Worthy Coffee Options in DC list. Fill thirsty mugs with a craft-roasted blend such as the Diplomat ($14/lb.), a dark brew that deftly negotiates sweet notes of baking chocolate into bold sips that evoke sensory portraits of leather and pipe tobacco. The Nicaraguan Los Papales ($16/lb.) teems with vanilla and malt flavors, and the Espresso 90 ($14/lb.) jolts sleepy gray matter awake with a Northern Italian roast with notes of cherry, pomegranate, and “Reveille.”
All of Bittersweet's enormous cupcakes undergo a delicate upbringing from roots of real butter and other gourmet ingredients. Flavors range from classic chocolate to more inventive tastes such as PB&J, which is loaded with a strawberry filling core and given a top hat of peanut butter buttercream. If you prefer to paint your own cakesterpiece, customize a creation by pairing a cake flavor, such as lemon, coconut, or spice, with a buttercream flavor, such as orange, mint, or cream cheese frosting. Whether you phone in or drop in, be sure to peep through the bakery window on North Alfred Street and say hello to executive bakery chef Angel, who is known for melting the buttery hearts of swooning passersby by reciting romantic passages from the encyclopedia. With a dozen chances to spread your confectioned love, you won't have to play favorites with all the jury members.
Specializing in artisan bread and European-style desserts, The Swiss Bakery sends taste buds straight to Zurich, where scrumptious cookies, sugary umlauts, and tasty tarts reign supreme. The Swiss Bakery's cookies ($16.95 per pound) change seasonally, with a wide array of tantalizing flavors and season-themed shapes such as bats and reindeer. Indulge in a scoop of premium ice cream or fresh sorbet ($1.95–$4.85 per scoop), with coffee toasted-almond and white-chocolate peppermint in the ice cream arsenal, and white-peach champagne and blood-orange pomegranate playing for sorbet's summer baseball team. Feed the Ricola alpenhorn players camped out in your basement with a European or American tart ($10–$12), including continental varieties such as raspberry-marmalade Linzer tart and the marzipan-packed gingerbread Biberfladen.