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Baking in Bloomingdale

Sweets made to order at new family-owned business

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Grassroots Gourmet, dining, gay news, Washington Blade
Grassroots Gourmet, dining, gay news, Washington Blade

A sampling of the array of baked goodies available at Grassroots Gourmet (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Tis the season for sweets, baked goods and holiday treats. If you’re letting your diet slide for a few weeks, then you might as well have some of the best tasting calories you can find.

The new bakery, Grassroots Gourmet (104 Rhode Island Ave NW) is here to help you with all your sweet cravings, creating the perfect dessert for your holiday party. It’s also the perfect place to grab a quick bite to help power you through a long day of holiday shopping.

Gay baker and co-owner Sara Fatell and her cousin Jamilyah Smith-Kanze opened Grassroots Gourmet Nov. 21, but have been operating a made-to-order business since 2009. When they started to outgrow that arrangement they began looking for a kitchen in the area that they could call their own. Both Smith-Kanze and Fatell say that “baking leads to sharing, it is comforting, delicious and helps build community by fostering communication,” and that’s why they chose their Bloomingdale neighborhood to open their storefront.

Most things at the bakery are a team effort although Fatell is the “baking expert” and Smith-Kanze is the “business expert.” Fatell is hoping Smith-Kanze takes on the roll of “dish washing expert as well.” Fatell started baking when she was a child with her mother and grandmother, and started experimenting with different ingredients and flavors as a stress reliever when she was working as a political organizer in college. Both love experimenting with flavors, which is evident when you look at the bakery case and see decadent creations like the Cardamom Chai cupcakes (which I recently served to guests at a dinner party to rave reviews). Other specialties include assorted whoopee pies, chocolate mint cookies and a pumpkin muffin with cream cheese filling and streusel top. When I stopped in to interview the owners, they were working on their newest holiday creation, Cranberry Ginger Rugelach.

The cranberry ginger rugelach was an idea that came to Smith-Kanze one day when she was washing dishes in the back of the store, so she yelled it over the nine foot dividing wall to Fatell and a new recipe was born. Being able to create new flavors and items is one of their favorite things to do and with the storefront their customers can come in and “try one of our creations that may have just premiered that morning.”

Fatell loves making pies for the holidays as well as perfect red velvet cakes, which look so festive. Smith-Kanze’s favorite holiday treat on the menu is the mini chocolate bourbon pecan pie, which she calls “cozy.” Other seasonal flavors you’ll find on the menu this holiday season include mint, cranberry, ginger and cinnamon. I particularly enjoyed the snicker doodle cupcake with delightfully smooth frosting and warm cinnamon flavors. I took huge bites of this cupcake between asking the bakers questions. Both Fatell and Smith-Kanze also love Kathy’s Cookies, which were recently renamed for their Aunt Kathy who lost her battle to cancer in October.

While the storefront creates new opportunities for these business partners, they’re still focused on the made to order aspect of baking. All cakes and pies are custom made. They’ll work with each client and create the desired flavor profile. I ordered my husband’s birthday cake with chocolate ganache filling and salted caramel frosting from Grassroots Gourmet and it was superb. Sometimes these personalized creations make their way onto the menu at the store, like the Ginger cupcake with three types of ginger (fresh, ground and candied) that Smith-Kanze created for a former boss’ engagement part.

Whether you want to stop in and grab an assortment of baked goods for your office holiday party or have a cake made especially to fit your themed Christmas Eve event, Grassroots Gourmet can help out. Both Fatell and Smith-Kanze are almost always in the store. My list of recommendations is far too long to include in this column, but every sweet morsel I have put in my mouth from this bakery has been divine.

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PHOTOS: “Portraits”

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performs at the Kennedy Center

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A scene from "Portraits," as performed in a technical rehearsal at the Kennedy Center on Saturday, June 15. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed “Portraits” at the Kennedy Center on Sunday, June 16.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

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Theater

Sophie Zmorrod embracing life on the road in ‘Kite Runner’

First national tour comes to Eisenhower Theater on June 25

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Sophie Zmorrod (Photo courtesy of Zmorrod)

‘The Kite Runner’
June 25 – 30
The Kennedy Center
$39-$149
Kennedy-center.org

Newly single, Sophie Zmorrod is enjoying life on the road in the first national tour of “The Kite Runner,” Matthew Spangler’s play with music based on Khaled Hosseini’s gripping novel about damaged relationships and longed for redemption. 

“It’s a wonderful time for me,” says Zmorrod. “I’m past the breakup pain and feeling empowered to explore new cities. A lot of us in the cast are queer, so we figure out the scene wherever the show goes.” 

What’s more, the New York-based actor has fallen in love with the work. “I love how the play’s central character Amir is flawed. He is our antihero. He has faults. As a privileged boy in Kabul, he bears witness to his best friend’s assault and doesn’t intervene. He lives with that guilt for decades and gets that redemption in the end.” 

“He does what he can to right wrongs. For me who’s regretted things, and wished I could go back in time, it resonates. Watching someone forgive themselves and do the right thing is beautiful.” 

Via phone from Chicago (the tour’s stop before moving on to Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 25), Zmorrod, whose background is Lebanese, happily chats about sexuality, ethnicity, and acting. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Looking at your resume, I see you’ve been cast in roles traditionally played by men. And have you played queer characters? 

SOPHIE ZMORROD: Oh yes, both. Whether or not they’re written on the page as queer, they sometimes turn out that way. And that holds true for this show too.  

With “The Winter’s Tale” at Trinity Rep, I played Leontes — the king who banishes his wife — as a woman. So, in that production it was about two women and touched on the violence that women sometimes inflict on other women.

And there was Beadle Bamford in Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd” also at Trinity Rep; I played him as a woman who was masculine and wore a suit. It was a great opportunity to explore myself and gender expression. That was a really good experience. 

BLADE: Are you an actor who’s often be called in for queer roles? 

ZMORRAD: Not really. I’m what you might call straight passing. Sometimes I’ve had to advocate for my queerness. To be a part of something. 

Similarly with my ethnicity. I’m called in to audition for the white and Arab roles. It gets tricky because I’m not the exactly the white girl next door and I’m not exactly Jasmine from Disney’s “Aladdin” either. 

This is one of the reasons, I really want people to come see “The Kite Runner,” Audiences need to experience the reality of the wide diversity of Middle Eastern people on the stage. We’re all very different.

And not incidentally, from this 14-person cast, I’ve met some great people to add to those I know from the Middle Eastern affinity spaces and groups I’m connected to in New York.

BLADE: In “The Kite Runner” what parts do you play?

 ZMORRAD: Three characters. All women, I think. In the first act, I’m an elderly eccentric pomegranate seller in the Afghan market, waddling around, speaking in Dari [the lingua franca of Afghanistan]; and the second act, I’m young hip and sell records in a San Francisco market; and at the end, I’m a buttoned-down American immigration bureaucrat advising Amir about adoption.

BLADE:  Your training is impressive: BA cum laude in music from Columbia University, an MFA in acting from Brown University/Trinity Repertory Company, and you’re also accomplished in opera and playwrighting, to name a few things. Does “The Kite Runner” allow you to flex your many muscles? 

ZMORROD: Very much. Playing multiple roles is always fun for an actor – we like malleability. Also, there are instruments on stage. I like working with the singing bowl; it’s usually used in yoga as a soothing sound, but here we save it for the dramatic, uncomfortable moments. I also sing from offstage. 

We are creating the world of the play on a very minimal set. Oh, and we do kite flying, and I’m able to use the some of the languages I speak. So yeah, lots of challenges. It’s great. 

BLADE: It sounds like you’re in a good place both professionally and personally.

ZMORROD: It’s taken a long time to feel comfortable. My being gay was never something I led with. But I’m on the journey and excited to be where I am, and who I am. 

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Out & About

Orioles to host Pride night on June 27

Baltimore faces off against reigning World Series champion

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The Baltimore Orioles host the annual Pride night Thursday, June 27. (Washington Blade file photo by Kevin Majoros)

The Baltimore Orioles will host “LGBTQ+ Pride Night” on Thursday, June 27. There will be a live DJ at Legends Park before the 6:35 p.m. game against the reigning World Series champion Texas Rangers.

The event, co-sponsored by the Washington Blade, will feature Pride-themed activities such as Pride face painting, a 360 photo booth, Pride temporary tattoos, and more. All these events will be in the Bullpen Picnic Area. In addition, the first 10,000 attendees receive a free Pride jersey.

For more details, visit the Orioles’ website

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