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Palena Market, Cleveland Park


DonRocks
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It must be so nice to live in Cleveland Park, wake up on Saturday mornings, and leisurely stroll over to Palena Cafe when it opens at 9 AM.

This morning, I visited for the first time, and was surprised at how tiny this place is. The selections are predictable (honeys, olive oils, jams, pickles, etc.), but of fantastic quality. Of course, we all know I wasn't here to buy a jar of pickles.

Iced Coffee ($4.00) is your only caffeinated choice here, and it's surprisingly good considering they pour it from a pre-made pitcherful. There's a tiny (and I mean tiny) station in the far corner with sugar and stirrers, but the delightful cashier gave me a glass carafe of half and half and also offered to get me some simple syrup (simple syrup in iced coffee is a no-brainer). Palena sells Caffe Pronto beans, so there's a good chance that they use these in their iced coffee as well.

A Blueberry Scone ($2.00) was packed separately from everything else because it was still warm from the oven. Does anything more need be said about this?

Honey Ricotta Cake ($2.00) is sliced from a pound cake-like loaf, and sold tightly wrapped by the slice. I haven't tried mine yet, and am in no rush because it seemed moist enough to last through the day and into tomorrow morning, when I'll enjoy it with my coffee.

Donut Holes ($1.00 for 5) are just what you'd expect, powdered, not glazed, with sugar.

You have to get a Peach Crumb Bar ($2.75) a little square with a lemon base, packed with the most perfectly cooked peaches (it's the type of sweet where, even if don't think you're in the mood for peaches, you'll thank yourself for getting it).

As I waited for the order to be packed, up came a plate of about six Glazed Doughnuts ($2.00), two of which I nabbed. These are in the style of Krispy Kreme, but executed to perfection - feather-light, yeasty, and moist, with an impossibly even distribution of air pockets inside, and just a hint of lemon in the sugar glaze.

Ann Amernick: If you're reading this, please forgive me, but I'm happily counting myself as one of the dreaded Doughnut People from this point forward! :mellow:

Cheers,

Rocks

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Wow Don, your experience was exactly the opposite of mine. A couple of weeks ago I had a few croissants from Palena with my mom who lives next door to the restaurant. These were some of the driest (and dare I say possibly stale) pastries I've had in quite some time. The chocolate croissants were very low on chocolate. Basically a small (no larger than a few chocolate chip sized bits) amount of chocolate suspended in the middle of the croissant. The individual serving of monkey bread was good on flavor, but again, was very dry.

Mom actually had to call them back when she first got to her place to ask them when they were made based on her initial handling and tasting of one of the croissants prior to my arrival, but kept it under wraps until I sampled them to not bias my opinion.

Based on my sampling, I actually made the decision to buy all my pastries at Silva's in Vienna before heading over to their place when invited for dinner. Sounds like I need to try a few of the more inherently moister products.

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I live just a hop skip and a jump from here, and it is indeed very nice to have at hand. I generally stop by in the evening on the way home from work. The honey ricotta cake is divine, as are the doughnuts (I liked the lemon-flavored the best). Around 6pm you will find a variety of loaves, priced around $6 (good bread. but $6 for a loaf of bread? Hello, Marie Antoinette.) They also offer cold roasted chicken, and I've seen sliced frittata on display as well.

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Semolina loaf (round), also excellent.

I walked in and it looked like they were out of bread. The person working the market literally walked back to the kitchen and returned with a basket of clearly still warm loaves of various sizes / shapes.

I had to exercise some serious self control to not start eating it, while it was still warm in my hands, on the walk back to my condo.

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Perhaps Monday afternoon isn't the best time to visit, but I found the the selection disappointing. There was 3-4 dessert like offerings at the counter, otherwise a small selection of canned/jarred goods and some pasta. Seemed like underutilized space to me. Maybe it's more of a weekend thing.

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Palena Market - has its regular menu items, but for Pie Day or some other reason recently they had an AWESOME Smore's pie with a hint of peanut butter. This was a great example of how all parts of Palena often takes good dishes and improves upon them to make them delicious. I hope the Smore's pie makes it into the regular rotation soon. As for the "standard" items - I think the apple cake and honey ricotta cakes are very good.

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Sticky Bun was delicious. Unfortunately, we got there a bit late and almost everything else was sold out, but I WILL be going back for those elusive donuts. I also only got the 'bun because I had planned to stop by Sugar Magnolia afterwards.

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