A weekly sampling of places we like.
In Sweet Surrender's kitchen, co-owner and co-pastry chef Riyad Bouizar smoothes mocha butter cream on a chocolate cake before sliding it into the display case out front. There it joins a host of colorful French cakes and pastries offered by the small, five-month-old bakery and pastry shop in Arlington's Pentagon Row.
Bouizar, 36, shares the kitchen with his 42-year-old cousin, Salah Maghraoui. Both are from Morocco. Looking over the petits fours, the mousse cakes and the croissants, Bouizar shrugs and says, "You know, Morocco was colonized by the French for a while."
He walks over to the case and points out his favorite of the 20 or so cakes they make: a white cake layered with strawberries and pistachio butter cream ($32.99 for a nine-inch cake, $22.99 for a six-inch cake, $5.95 for a slice). Iced with the pale green cream, studded with crushed pistachios and decorated with sliced strawberries, the cake is light and subtly flavored. For something richer (at the same prices), try what Bouizar has dubbed the Fleur Caramel, a square cake with layers of caramel and chocolate mousse on an almond macaroon base.
Want more chocolate? Follow Maghraoui's advice and get the triple chocolate mousse ($32.99, $22.99, $6 for a slice).
"We will be slave labor for you if we can just eat from the case," customer Sue Coale exclaims to Maghraoui as she, her daughter, Elizabeth Duffy, and friend Christina Marschick try to pick just one dessert to go with their coffee. They each settle on a fresh bomb d'amour ($2.95), squat cylinders of sweet dough crust baked with almond paste and house-made raspberry jam or lemon curd. Settling down at one of the three small tables, each gushes adoration in turn.
But Marschick, visiting from near Vienna (Austria, not Virginia), has the final word: "Everything looks like home and tastes like home."
Sweet Surrender Bakery and Pastry Shop, 1101 S. Joyce St., Arlington; 703-412-1130. Open 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 8 a.m. through 6 p.m. Sunday. Special orders welcome with 24 hours' notice.
Matt McMillen last wrote for Food about a crepe carryout/cafe in Georgetown.