December 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm EDT | by Jonathan Howard
Baking in Bloomingdale
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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