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The Dish: cardamom crème brûlée
The Location: Cafe Saint-Ex, 1847 14th St. NW, (202) 265-7839.
The Price: $7
The Skinny: It’s 4 p.m., and I’m on a goddamn, priority-one mission for something sweet, something to satisfy that all-engulfing desire for sugar that sometimes hits you in the middle of the afternoon. The options around here are dreadful. Alero. Starbucks. Busboys and Poets. Some of the better possibilities, such as Creme and Al Crostino, haven’t yet opened for service. Then I duck into Cafe Saint-Ex to see what’s available. That’s when I spot it: cardamom crème brûlée. Pastry chef Lizzy Evelyn has “always loved cardamom,” so she began experimenting with the expensive spice in her crème brûlée. She infuses organic cream with cardamom and vanilla pods, then strains the liquid before following the standard brûlée process. Evelyn’s handling of the pungent spice is expert. Her silky custard radiates an aromatic warmth while never losing touch with its essential sweetness; the treat is topped a granulated-sugar glaze, which ranges in color from light honey to a deep-dark caramel. The bonus here is a small shortbread cookie, for a little taste of butter between bites of this exquisite dessert—or, in my case, afternoon snack.