Grassroots Gourmet in Bloomingdale
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, December 12, 2012
Even itinerant bakers need to settle down. Grassroots Gourmet began in November 2009 as a baked-goods delivery service that specialized in cupcakes and cookies. Co-owners and second cousins Sara Fatell, 27, and Jamilyah Smith-Kanze, 30, gave up their mobile lifestyle in late November when they opened a bricks-and-mortar location in the burgeoning Bloomingdale neighborhood. The first-time business owners, who both live close by, did much of the work themselves: laying the concrete floors, painting the avocado-hued walls and crafting the warm wood counters.
It’s a simple setup. There’s a small counter in the front and an open kitchen that stretches into the back. Floor-to-ceiling windows look out onto Rhode Island Avenue, letting in plenty of sunlight and helping intrigue passersby.
Everything is made from scratch here, mostly by Fatell, a self- and family-taught baker who used to “stress bake” for friends and relatives before she took up the profession full-time. Her daily selections are displayed in a two-tier glass case and on several covered cake stands.
You have to arrive in the first half of the day to ensure that everything is available. (You also can call ahead to place a special order or schedule a pickup.)
It’s easy to understand why these treats are going fast; they’re quite lovely. They’re all on the small side, so you’ll want to get a bakery box filled with a cross-section of selections.
Sticky, sweet chocolate bourbon pecan mini pies ($3.50) are hard to resist, as are the vanilla whoopie pies stuffed with creamy Nutella icing ($2.25). Cupcake flavors change regularly but might include mint chocolate, Snickerdoodle or vanilla-topped chocolate ($2.50 to $2.75).
There are a number of half-dollar-size cookies, including a fine chocolate peanut butter chip (90 cents) that will make you wish that you had bought a dozen instead of just two. (I won’t make that mistake again.) It’s based on a recipe from Smith-Kanze’s grandmother, who used to send her care packages full of them.
Family is clearly important here. Pictures of relatives are tacked up on one wall to honor all the help they gave getting the startup off the ground. An aunt who recently succumbed to cancer is paid sweet homage with Kathy’s cookie (90 cents), a triple treat packed with white, milk and dark chocolate chips. A percentage of the proceeds goes to Court Appointed Special Advocates, where she worked.
All these goodies go well with a cup of coffee ($2 to $2.75) from M.E. Swing in Alexandria. Though there’s nowhere to sit, you can always stroll over to Shae Kims Memorial Park on the corner of Florida Avenue and First Street NW.