The Sweet Lobby owner Winnette McIntosh Ambrose loves to add a bit of spice to her sweets with creations like caramelized pear goat cheese macarons with a hint of cardamom. Now, she’s opened an entire spice shop called Souk just down the street on Barracks Row that sells everything from pink peppercorns and bee pollen to crystalized rose petals and truffle salt. The spices also make their way into baked goods like aged cheddar and scallion biscuits with Hawaiian black salt and sour cherry scones with vanilla bean.
“One of my favorite things to do is travel,” Ambrose says. “I’m inspired very much by a number of the global markets that I’ve been to in Southeast Asia, North Africa, the Middle East.”
All the spices are ground to order, and test tubes filled with the products are available for customers to browse by smell. Among the prized offerings is high-end Iranian saffron sourced via Dubai. Ambrose says the shop will keep small batches of everything, so it’s always fresh. A wall-length mural depicts a map of the “spice islands” in Southeast Asia drawn in the late 1500s by Petrus Plancius, a Flemish cartographer who was part of the Dutch East India Company.
While you will find a small selection of macarons, Ambrose was more interested in highlighting biscuits because “they’re a wonderful vehicle for savory flavors.” One unusual biscuit contains caramelized onions, currants, and mustard seeds. There are also scones, canelés made in copper molds, and spice buns, which are like cinnamon rolls but with different sweet and savory fillings. Vigilante Coffee will also be available (beginning Friday at the latest), along with the Sweet Lobby’s line of loose leaf teas called Steep.
The shop also sells retail items from all over the world, including handmade silverware and platters that come France, Tunisia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Other packaged products range from local Langdon Wood barrel-aged maple syrup to flights of Bee Raw Honey to Owl’s Brew tea mixers for cocktails.
Souk is open with limited hours for now: 10 or 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. Beginning late next week, it will expand operations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesdays through Saturdays.
See more photos of Souk below.
Souk, 705 8th St. SE; (202) 547-7685; dcsouk.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman