Each of the nine varieties of savory pastry at the Caribbean-influenced Crown Bakery on Georgia Avenue NW in Petworth is made in a particular shape. That's how regular customers know what's stuffed inside.
"Round always means there is beef. It's the way we do it in Trinidad and Tobago," says baker and co-owner Jennifer Selman, who works alongside her husband, Trevor, and baker Wayne Dickenson. In fact, inside the flaky puff pastry there is ground beef seasoned with a complicated blend of spices, imported from Trinidad.
The bakery's most popular pastry is log-shaped and contains salt cod. A rectangular pastry is always filled with cheddar cheese. There's salmon inside the crescent. Vegetarians choose the square that holds callaloo -- cooked green leaves of the taro plant. (Savory pastries are $1.85 each.)
For dessert, we can recommend the light currant roll or the not-too-sweet coconut roll ($1.85 each) that has an earthy, fresh, coconut flavor. For parties, cocktail-size savory and sweet pastries are available for $15 per dozen (order two days in advance).
Busy Crown bakers also make traditional breads ($2.25 to $4.68 per loaf) such as the butter flap that resembles a clutch purse. Both the slightly sweet loaf of coconut bake and buns called hopsbread are perfect for a sandwich of fried shark or salt cod.
In addition to baked goods, a fine selection of prepared food such as curried chicken, a sweet stewed chicken and jerk wings is always on the menu. Served alongside are terrific baked lentils, pigeon peas with rice and fried plantains. Down a steep stairway there is a pleasant self-service dining room. In fair weather, there is al fresco dining as well.
"I call it my tropical outdoor patio," says Selman, who tends the exotic plants. "When you come here you get a total Caribbean experience."
-- Walter Nicholls