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Chocolate Eclairs


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Three simple components: pastry, frosting and filling. So many possible combinations. Very technique dependent.

Have been thinking for awhile that this was a gap in the donrockwell archive and Barbara's mention* of them a couple of weeks ago:

That's the location of the now-closed Universal Gourmet, a sandwich/breakfast/lunch shop in the Universal Building. If they sell chocolate eclairs, Dame Edna's diet will be for naught. :unsure:

So, as we wait for Mark Furstenberg's "Bread Furst" to open next February by the Washington Hilton and ruin Dame Edna's diet, a starter list of some of the current best spots for eclairs in our area include:

- Cacao (locations in Cleveland Park and Bethesda): anyplace owned by a French chocolatier/pastry chef must do a great eclair. And Jacques does. Medium sized. Flaky rich pastry with light but rich mousse fillings. Extra points for offering different combinations of frosting/filling which few others do. A point or two off for inconsistent availability.

- Pastries by Randolph (Arlington on Lee Hwy): maybe one of the most tenured eclair bakers. This one is larger. Good, worthwhile but not exceptional. Generally available only with a frosting choice (coffee or chocolate) and vanilla custard filling.

- Tout de Sweet (Bethesda): maybe the smallest of the serious eclairs on offer. Not sure if there are different flavor combinations but these are delicately, expertly and deliciously made. Really nice pastry and custard. And, because they're so small, they almost qualify as better for you.

- Patisserie Poupon (Georgetown on Wisconsin just below Glover Park): I know I've had an eclair here. And I'm pretty sure I liked it. Maybe similar to Cacao? But I can't remember too well--it was awhile ago.

- Wagshals (Spring Valley on Massachusetts): one of the biggest and messiest anywhere. You can have any flavor you want as long as it's vanilla custard and chocolate frosting. Just okay. Too overwhelming for me. Not bad exactly but sort of a huge chocolate custard bomb guaranteed to ruin a fine suit.

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Since darkstar brought it up, I had an excuse to get an eclair from Praline. As you might expect, the pastry was excellent. What MrP brought home, though, had chocolate filling. Not that there's anything wrong with that (it was also excellent), but my benchmark (in addition to the pastry component) is how well they can pull off pastry cream; the presence of chocolate kinda obscures that. As I don't often eat eclairs, I can't say if Praline's is a relative bargain or whatever. But it's another source to add to the list.

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