The Washington Post

Sweet surrender


Given the choice, I’d much rather eat a bowl of salted spaghetti than an ice cream sundae with all the toppings. You can hold your cherry-on-top: I don’t have a sweet tooth in my whole mouth.

Yet a bite of an insistent friend’s maple custard with hazelnut crumble (above) from The Red Hen ($8, 1822 First St. NW; 202-525-3021, has me craving dessert with every meal.

Chef Mike Friedman modeled his autumnal confection after a creme brulee, topping it with hazelnuts tossed in walnut liquor, cinnamon, allspice and brown sugar instead of the traditional scorched sugar.

“It’s sweet, but not so sweet that it’s overpowering,” Friedman says. “I wanted to have a nice overtone of maple that leaves you really happy.”

The custard is just one of the new fall dishes Friedman has rolled out at his Bloomingdale trattoria. Other notable picks include fusilli with butternut squash, bacon, toasted almonds and Parmigiano-Reggiano ($16), squash soup with pumpkin seeds and sage cream ($9) and a pumpkin cake with chocolate-hazelnut sauce and brown sugar gelato ($8) I’m eager to give a chance.

Holley Simmons is the dining editor of Express. When she’s not reporting on local restaurants and tastemakers, you can find her sewing a dress from a 1950s pattern or planting a windowsill herb garden. Contact her at



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Marissa Payne · October 31, 2013