Editors' pick

Sugar Magnolia

American
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Editorial Review

By Rina Rapuano
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

“Sugar Magnolia” might bring a famous Grateful Dead song to mind, but Roger Marmet figured it would be a fitting name for the small takeout he has opened next door to Ripple, his restaurant in Cleveland Park.

The former television executive says both establishments follow the same philosophy, using “the finest ingredients sourced locally and from sustainable farms,” such as eggs from Path Valley Farm and dairy from Trickling Springs Creamery, both in Pennsylvania.

He counts on pastry chef Alison Reed and chef Logan Cox, both nominated for Rammys this year, to fill Sugar Magnolia’s cases with baked goods and sandwiches of both the savory and ice-cream varieties.

The shop has an old-timey feel with a modern edge, thanks to the work done by Marmet’s wife, Betsy, an interior designer. There are no seats and no waiting: Just walk in, grab a sandwich from the refrigerator, order a frozen treat or an almond-coconut blondie ($2.50) to go with it, and off you go.

For savories, Marmet shares our favorite, the smoked-fish sandwich ($9) on ciabatta. Right now it’s made with farm-raised arctic char from North Carolina, but the kind of fish may change depending on availability. It is complemented by a lemony caper mayonnaise, lemon zest, fresh kale and thin slices of pickled fingerling potatoes.

We also enjoyed the veggie sandwich ($7) slathered with black-eyed pea hummus, slabs of aged gouda, a seasonal green (pea shoots or lemony sorrel, for example) and a slaw of raw asparagus, yogurt and onion.

That sandwich’s polar opposite, the rich, meaty porchetta ($9), features Cox’s spin on Italian roast pork. Its texture resembles that of a Vietnamese cold cut, with some gelatinous and chewy bits, all studded with pistachios and black peppercorns. He slices it thick, smears the ciabatta with chicken-liver mousse and tops it with fennel fronds, pickled turnip slices and braised bitter greens.

It would be criminal to leave without an ice cream sandwich ($3.50). The maple-bacon ice cream layered between waffles is a must for bacon fanatics. But while we loved the smoky-sweet middle, we found the waffles to be a bit like cardboard. More successful is the salted-caramel ice cream bookended by chocolate cookies, which tastes much lighter than it sounds. We’ll be back to try vanilla ice cream between chocolate chip cookies, as well as the seasonal lavender sponge cake with strawberry ice cream.