Editors' pick

Le Caprice DC Cafe and Bakery

$$$$ ($14 and under)
Le Caprice DC Cafe and Bakery photo

Editorial Review

By Rina Rapuano

Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2012

Washingtonians have a long history of complaining about the scarcity of excellent bakery bread. And while there's no way of pleasing all of the people all of the time, Le Caprice DC has already satisfied plenty of baguette seekers since its Jan. 3 opening.

"Once we had a batch of 20 baguettes that sold out in five minutes," says Farhang Erfani, 35, who owns and runs the Columbia Heights bakery with his parents, Manijeh and Ahmad Erfani, both 60.

That might be because the younger Erfani tweets when their quintessential French loaves ($2.79 each) exit the oven. He even takes requests when Twitter followers ask him to set some aside.

It also might be attributed to the fact that their breads smell, feel and taste authentic enough to bring accolades from French ex-pats, according to Farhang Erfani.

"The baguette and the croissant are very important in terms of texture," says Erfani. "But the baguette, to get it right, with that fluff in the middle and crust around it, that takes years of training in France."

Erfani, who is also a philosophy professor at American University and lives a block from the bakery, says his parents left Iran for France after the 1979 revolution. They gave up law careers; his father managed a retail shop they owned, and his mother worked at a boulangerie after training as a baker. They moved to Washington in 2009 to be closer to their children and grandchildren, with dreams of opening a bakery.

They are so dedicated that they moved into the apartment building directly above the shop, with Manijeh getting into the bakery at 5 a.m. to start making everything fresh (except the bagels, which are baked but not made on the premises).

We found some Le Caprice sweets to be outstanding: a tender blueberry scone ($1.75), a still-warm, flaky chocolate croissant ($2.25); an almond-honey bar ($9.95 per pound) with a shortbread-like base. For dessert's natural complement, coffee, Le Caprice uses beans from local roaster M.E. Swing.

For lunch, we weren't able to try the popular quiche Lorraine and croque monsieur, which were there on one visit but gone the next. What was available - the hearty vegetable quiche ($4.95); the puff-pastry-encased spinach turnover ($3.50) bound with cheddar and egg; and that Parisian staple of ham, cheese and butter on a baguette ($4.99) - were all worthwhile appeasements.

Soups and salads are imminent, and Farhang says they will have a regular roster of savory options. But he stresses that the kitchen will have flexibility each day.

"We are not going to be a sandwich shop," he managed to say in a friendly manner. Customers "have to be ready to work with what we've prepared in the kitchen."

It's a philosophy that's every bit as French as his baguettes.