A Chocolate Tour of Georgetown in Washington DC
“Chocolate tasting is a lot like wine tasting: smell the chocolate, let it sit in your mouth, notice the complex flavors, savor it!”
Sounds like heaven to me. Rob, our knowledgeable tour guide, explains that we’ll be visiting seven different locations in the charming neighborhood of Georgetown to sample a variety of chocolate treats—good thing I decided to skip lunch! I purchased the “Chocolate Tour of DC” by Great Food Tours for $20 from Living Social and wasn’t sure what to expect.. Surprisingly, everyone in our friendly group of 20 is local to the DC-area, including Rob. He tells us he is a native Washingtonian and retired trial attorney who now spends his free time giving tours for fun. Over the next two hours, we stroll around the streets of Georgetown not only satisfying our sweet tooth, but also learning about the area’s fascinating history. The tour offers a little bit of everything to chocoholics: upscale artisanal bonbons to beach-style, traditional fudge.
Sprinkles Cupcakes: Perfectly Delicious
You can blame Sprinkles for starting the cupcake trend that’s taken the world by storm. In 1995, founder and pastry chef, Candace Nelson, opened her first all-cupcake bakery in Beverly Hills using only the finest ingredients to make simple and satisfying desserts. Its popularity grew and now there are 12 locations across the U.S. and Candace’s expertise has landed her the regular gig as a judge on Food Network’s hit show “Cupcake Wars.” During our visit to the small but cheery space, we are fed dark chocolate mini cupcakes made from Belgian chocolate and topped with sprinkles from France. They are baked in-house from scratch without any preservatives. These fresh, delightful bite-sized treats are the perfect introduction to our tour. I resist snatching a leftover cupcake knowing that I must pace myself for more gluttony. 3015 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20007; www.sprinkles.com
Godiva: A Purist’s Dream
Our second stop is a few blocks up M Street at Godiva. Though Godiva is an international brand, several of the treats like the macarons, choco pops, and bark are made in-store while the rest of the confections are produced at Godiva’s satellite facility in Reading, PA. The manager, Tamara, greets us and offers us dark and milk chocolate squares. I am a dark chocolate fanatic and indulge in its deep, fruity undertones. I can tell this is quality stuff: the texture is smooth and silky and the chocolate starts to melt as it hits my mouth. Tamara gives us a run down of Godiva’s history: how the Belgian company was founded in Brussels by the innovative chocolatier, Joseph Draps, in 1926 and that the name and logo were inspired by the legend of Lady Godiva who embodies selflessness, generosity, and boldness. 3242 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007; www.godiva.com
High quality chocolate should appear glossy, smooth and firm. When broken in half, it should produce a crisp snap. Its melting point is around 97 degrees—the same as body temperature. This is why good chocolate will melt in your mouth!
Thomas Sweet: Homemade Fudge
Thomas Sweet is an ice cream and fudge parlor on Wisconsin Avenue. The shop has a distinct, hometown feel with an extensive menu of ice cream, yogurt and topping flavors handwritten on the overhead chalk boards. The business has been a fixture in the heart of Georgetown for over 30 years. It is owned and operated by Mohammed Ali (nope, not the legendary boxer) who focuses on producing small batches of his goodies with fresh ingredients. We are presented with bits of dark, white, and walnut fudge. The samples are rich, dense, and sugary—reminiscent of childhood summers eating fudge on the boardwalk. 3214 P Street NW, Washington, DC, 20007; www.thomassweet.com
Marvelous Market: Sliced Babka
We cross the street for our next adventure at Marvelous Market. This café is part of a DC chain that makes rustic meals and baked goods from scratch. We settle into some cozy leather couches and munch on babka and milk chocolate bars. Babkas are desserts that originated in Eastern Europe and the Jewish version is like a sweet loaf of brioche coffee cake that is swirled with either chocolate or cinnamon. I am spoiled by Zabar’s babka from NYC that is packed to the max with dense chocolate. Marvelous Market’s loaf is not quite as heavy on the filling, but the bread is doughy and buttery. Lightly heated, it would make a comforting accompaniment to coffee on a cold winter’s day. 3217 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20007; marvelousmarket.com
Fleurir: Artisan Hand Grown Chocolates
This next stop is my favorite on the whole tour. We walk back up Wisconsin Avenue and enter Fleurir’s shabby-chic boutique set back on P Street. Fleurir hand makes and sells exquisite chocolate bonbons and treats. Chocolatier, Robert Ludlow, creates innovative flavors out of high-quality, natural ingredients that include lavender shiraz, peanut butter banana, and lemon honey. On our visit, we are presented with its signature salted caramels— named by the New York Times as the best creamy and classic caramel bonbon in February 2013. These confections live up to the accolades. The chewy, soft bonbon strikes a dreamy balance of milk chocolate, rich caramel and sea salt. It is so delicious that I finally relinquish my self-restraint and snatch a leftover for seconds. Fleurir has a its main kitchen and second location across the Potomac in colonial Old Town, Alexandria. Update: the Georgetown location has closed, but chocoholics can still sample these delights at the nearby Old Town, Alexandria storefront at 724 Jefferson St, Alexandria, VA 22314; fleurirchocolates.com
Dean & Deluca: Christopher Elbow’s Creations
We zig zag among side streets, learning about Georgetown University’s was converted into a hospital in the Civil War. We end up back on M Street in the open, airy 19th century Georgetown Market now occupied by Dean and Deluca. The brand has the reputation of being a gourmet food retail icon known for exposing culinary trends and traditions. We are greeted at the dessert counter with beautifully decorated chocolates by Christopher Elbow. We try the Rosemary Caramel with a flavor reminiscent of Christmas and the Whiskey Aged Maple that has strong, smokey, and earthy tones. 3276 M St NW, Washington, DC 20007; www.deandeluca.com
Pie Sisters: Chocolate Bourbon Pecan
All good things must come to and end as we finish our two-hour tour at Pie Sisters. The bakery serves a scrumptious assortment of both sweet and savory pies. The business is operated by three sisters who left their day jobs to dedicate themselves to making fresh, homemade pies. At this point, I’m pretty full and am relieved that we are given miniature Chocolate Bourbon Pecan pies instead of full slices. The pie is the epitome of decadent – a crispy crust and crunchy roasted pecans topping offset a gooey, buttery filling mixed fudge chocolate. 3423 M St. NW, Washington, DC 20007; piesisters.com
Use the Google Map below to locate and chart all the destinations discussed in this article.
All in all, I enjoy the tour and would recommend going on one with a friend if you can find a discounted deal on Living Social or Groupon for $25 or less. We are offered a wide variety of chocolate-based foods and visit several businesses that I normally would not check out on my own. It is obvious that Rob loves being a guide and is a huge American history buff. Although I’m a native to the DC-area, I learn a great deal about DC’s role in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. I am fortunate that I picked a crisp, pleasant autumn day for the walk. I would recommend taking these tours in fall or spring when the weather isn’t uncomfortably hot or cold, to wear comfortable shoes, and to bring a bottle of water to stay hydrated. Great Food Tours is based in New York City and holds culinary expeditions in several cities: New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans, London, Edinburgh and Paris. Although everyone in my group was from the area, this type of excursion would be a fun way to explore a new city. For a listing of available tours, visit www.greatfoodtours.com
Lara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of seeing the world. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as the Art Director for the branding firm, Belmont Inc., in Alexandria, VA. In her spare time, she instructs high-energy Zumba dance classes, contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.
Where do you find your favorite chocolate treats? Share your answers in the comment section below.