Speakers Table

Blossoming Bonus: Cherry Cupcakes Come to Town

April 9, 2012

The cheery spirit of cherry blossoms has inspired bakers across town to create special offerings during the National Cherry Blossom Festival

(Photo by: Andrea Adleman)

Though the blossoms peaked a few weeks ago, the annual parade is April 14th and the festival continues until April 27th.

So do most of these sweet treats at area bakeries.

Georgetown Cupcake is serving a Madagascar bourbon vanilla cupcake baked with fresh cherries and topped with vanilla cream cheese frosting. The masterful creation holds true to the cupcakery’s signature traits: premium-quality ingredients, skillful baking and the sister-owners’ heartfelt passion for their craft.

Mother Nature has a hand in the arrival of cherry cupcakes at Baked & Wired. They appear in the bakery case as soon as co-owner Teresa Velazquez sees flowers on the cherry tree in her back yard.  Velazquez’s cupcake is a vanilla cake with chopped maraschino cherries. Cherry juice tints the cake pink and so vividly colors the frosting that it’s hard to believe the electric pink is natural.

(Photo by: Andrea Adleman)

The unmistakable taste of real fruit dominates Sprinkles’ cherry blossom cupcake. Cherry flavor shines through in the pink frosting, which tops a vanilla cake accented with moist diced cherries. The cupcake is adorned with an official National Cherry Blossom Festival decoration.

(Photo by: Sprinkles)

If the cherry cupcakes in the window of Georgetown Scoops catch your eye, don’t be deterred by the fact that it’s an ice cream shop. These first-rate artisan cupcakes are made with European butter and other imported ingredients. The cherry blossom cupcake is vanilla cake with dried cherries. Its value comes not from its bottom but from its top: a graceful swirl of light, airy and luscious frosting. Containing markedly less sugar than conventional American recipes, the frosting is hands-down the best kept secret in Georgetown bakery news.

(Photo by: Paul bakery)

Georgetown Scoops has also crafted a cherry blossom ice cream with cherry chunks and notes of rose and Amaretto.

PAUL Bakery is showcasing a capsule collection of cherry pastries. The ensemble includes torsade cerises (cherry twisted bread), croissant aux cerises filled with pastry cream and cherries, cherry cramique brioche with sugar pearls and sour cherries, flan aux cerises (cherry flan tart), millefeuille aux cerises (Cherry Napoleon) and eclair aux cerises.

(Photo by: Häagen-Dazs)

The millefeuille, for one, makes a statement even before the first bite is sampled. From the way the knife hits the crust, it’s obvious the pastry is optimally crispy and fresh. The flaky crust perfectly complements the exquisite, creamy filling.

If you like your desserts frozen, you can get your fill at Häagen-Dazs and Johnny Rockets. Haagen-Dazs is featuring a cherry sorbet smoothie and Johnny Rockets will make an off-menu cherry milkshake upon request.

Even after the Cherry Blossom Festival concludes, cherry desserts can be found year around at several sweet shops.

(Photo by: Andrea Adleman)

Pies are a best-seller at Baked & Wired, which offers traditional cherry pies and single-serving cherry hand pies.

Newcomer Pie Sisters is making a cherry pie with a dash of almond extract, gaining recognition for the flaky, hand-rolled crusts that encase their sweet and savory pies and individual “cuppies.”

(Photo by: Andrea Adleman)

Whole Foods is promoting a line of retro soda-pop cupcakes, including a vanilla cherry flavor with a subtly effervescent frosting.

With so many choices, cherry fans have plenty to cheer this season and all year.

By Andrea Adleman, a communications consultant

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Raise the Bar and Vote Peter Shapiro

April 2, 2012

On Tuesday, raise the bar for D.C. Council candidates by voting for Peter Shapiro, the best qualified candidate for at-large councilmember.  No other candidate combines clear, specific policy positions with a track record of legislative leadership.  Those are simple, uncontestable facts.

After two years on the Town Council in Brentwood, Maryland, Shapiro was elected to the Prince George's County Council from 1998 to 2004 and served as council chair for two years.  Unlike in D.C., the Council Chair position in Prince George’s County is elected within the Council, attesting to Shapiro’s ability to work collegially with a diverse Council to get things done.  That’s a skill that has been sorely missing on the current DC Council.

Shapiro’s platform includes specific proposals to address unemployment, affordable housing and homelessness and economic development that have worked elsewhere, but require the legislative leadership that Shapiro has demonstrated.

Those are the reasons why Shapiro’s enthusiastic supporters are so committed to his candidacy.  The reality is that other candidates – Councilmember Vincent Orange and Sekou Biddle – lack either clear, specific policy positions or a track record of legislative leadership.

Councilmember Orange has served two full terms and a partial term on the D.C. Council, and has no significant legislative achievements to show.  He routinely introduces legislation, such as a recent Jobs Czar bill, on his own with no consultation with his colleagues.  His proposals go nowhere as a result, and he is viewed as a grand-stander by his colleagues.

Sekou Biddle would be an attractive candidate if he would tell voters specifically what he would do if elected.  The lack of specific policy positions from Biddle has frustrated me and others who have met with him with an open mind to his candidacy, and raised concerns about how he would legislate if elected.  I sincerely hope that, should Biddle lose, he writes and advocates for educational policy issues and develops specific proposals in advance of a future Council run.

Biddle’s lack of detailed legislative proposals is concerning given his erratic handling of important legislation during his brief tenure on the Council.  Then Interim Councilmember Biddle voted against a tax increase that was supported by most DC residents and ultimately passed the Council, and that Biddle had previously supported.  He explained his vote to me and others by saying that he believed equivalent cuts could be made in certain agencies, but that he didn’t have the time to research and propose those cuts in lieu of the tax increase. 

It is probably due to Peter Shapiro’s deep legislative experience that he has specific policy proposals.  For some unknown reason, many have dismissed Shapiro’s legislative leadership in Prince George’s County – often known as Ward 9 – as evidence of a lack of knowledge of DC issues.  Shapiro speaks about many issues – such that the workforce intermediary – with more knowledge than half the current Councilmembers.  And he also brings extensive experience, such as chair of the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, to the many metropolitan-wide issues that several current Councilmembers have not mastered.

When Shapiro and his supporters are asked why we should vote for him, they point to his policy proposals. 

When Orange and his supporters are asked why we should vote for him, they point to legislative proposals that went nowhere and they falsely take credit for anything that happened in Ward 5 during his two terms. 

When Biddle and his supporters are asked why we should vote for him, they say that Biddle was in the race before Shapiro, and that progressives need to take turns.  That’s simply not good enough. 

Progressives aren’t losing elections in D.C. because we aren’t good at convincing good candidates to sit down and wait their turn for office.  Progressives are losing elections in DC because we aren’t good at building campaign organizations and enthusiastic, active constituencies. 

When the latter happens, then progressives will break out of the pack of contenders and win elections.  That’s Shapiro’s plan, and he has earned my vote as a result.

By Ken Archer

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Oscars Follow-Up

February 27, 2012

Jessica Chastain (Photo by: oscar.go.com) Jessica Chastain

It was another big night for Hollywood at the 2012 Academy Awards.  For days leading up to the event, every news show and talk show was predicting who would win and telling us how to host an Oscar party.  It’s just like Christmas and the Super Bowl, by the time it’s all over, you wonder what all the fuss was about.  In this case, however, I can tell you exactly what the fuss was about:  fashion on the red carpet.  And the stars did not disappoint.  There were winners and losers before the show ever began.

Milla Jovovich (Photo by: oscar.go.com) Milla Jovovich

Here’s a quick rundown of the hits and misses of the evening.  There were scores of fabulous dresses this year—possibly more that previous years. The hands down stand out of the evening was Gwyneth Paltrow in a Tom Ford cream column gown with a cape over her shoulders.  It was simple, elegant and perfect.  Jessica Chastain was a close second in a stunning black and gold strapless Alexander McQueen.  Tied for third place were Milla Jovovich, who channeled old Hollywood in a white sequined one shouldered Elie Saab, and Rose Byrne in a black sequined, one shouldered Vivienne Westwood.  And once again Olivia Spencer knocked it out of the park for the plus-size gals in Tadashi Shoji.

Rose Byrne (Photo by: oscar.go.com) Rose Byrne

Glenn Close took an unfortunate approach topping a rufflley black strapless Zac Posen with a structured tuxedo coat.  It was wrong on so many levels.  And Nancy O'Dell of Entertainment Tonight fame wore a Chagoury Couture gown of bright yellow and black that resembled Italian drapes.  Seriously, don’t these women pay their stylists to know better?  And does anyone know why Angelina Jolie kept trying to thrust her leg out of the slit in her full skirt?  Awkward.

Ah, well, the anticipation is over for this year.  It was worth the wait, though, and I’ll look forward the 2013 awards season to see who will rise to the top on the red carpet!

by Robin Jones, a fashion stylist with Style for Hire, and co-owner of Refresh Your Dress.

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