After graduating from the University of Virgina with a Law degree, Aggie Chin decided to put her law career on hold to work in the food industry, a decision she credits to being inspired by food blogs like Smitten Kitchen, Chocolate & Zucchini, and (yep) Serious Eats.
Aggie started on the savory side of the kitchen, and after studying pastry in culinary school, made the transition to sweets. For the past three years, she has been the pastry chef at Palena, where she says the opportunity to work with Chef Frank Ruta has been "the chance of a lifetime". Aggie's domain at the restaurant includes creating refined, subtle desserts for the formal dining room, playful sweets for the café, classic baked goods and breads for the market, and European-style pastries for the coffee bar (opening soon).
While many pastry chefs love the summer season because of all of the fresh berries and fruit that comes their way, Aggie says fall is her favorite time of year, hands-down.
"I love the warm flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and curry, the smell of fireplaces, the crisp air... everything. I'm always super excited for Concord grapes and quince—they always seem so special to me, but I also love Honeycrisp apples, Bosc pears, Kabocha squash, cranberries, I can go on forever!"
Scroll down to see all of Aggie's favorite sweets in Washington, D.C.
Pumpkin Ginger Loaf Cake at Baked & Wired: While many people go here for their cupcakes, I prefer a slice of the pumpkin ginger loaf cake. It's always perfectly moist, studded with pieces of candied ginger, and gilded with cream cheese frosting. It's the taste of fall.
Crispy Peanut Butter Bar at Artisan Confections: Artisan Confections is a great little chocolate shop in Arlington. The store is beautiful with a modern look and if you're lucky, you can peek into the kitchen and see some of the sweet treats being made. One of my favorites is the crispy peanut butter bar. They are filled with a soft peanut butter filling and feuilletine for a delicate crunch, all covered in a thin coating of chocolate. It's an elegant, elevated version of a peanut butter cup.
Hot Chocolate & Churros at Dolcezza: Dolcezza has great gelatos and sorbets, but I like going there in the winter for their churros and hot chocolate. The cocoa is rich and creamy and has a deep chocolate flavor that many hot cocoas are lacking. I also love that they finish theirs with cinnamon for added flavor and so that it goes perfectly with their churros.
Sfogliatelle at 2 Amys: 2 Amys is mostly known for their Neopolitan pizzas, but one of my favorite things there is the sfogliatelle. It's a flaky, horn-shaped pastry filled with lightly sweetened ricotta and served with fiore di latte ice cream. Because it's only available one day a week, just being able to order one makes you feel like you've hit the jackpot. Once you take a bite, you'll know why it's so special—flaky, crunchy, soft, and smooth at the same time. Perfect textural juxtaposition!
Green Tea Bingsoo at Shilla: While my neighbors grew up with Baskin Robins, my sisters and I had bingsoo. Traditionally, it is shaved ice with sweet azuki beans, mung bean powder, sweetened condensed milk, fruit and mochi pieces. Shilla, a Korean bakery which has locations all over Northern Virginia and Maryland, offers many different versions of bingsoo. My favorite is the green tea bingsoo, which has green tea ice cream and matcha powder with the shaved ice. It's a cold, surprising pick me up during the summer which is easily shared among 3 or 4 people.
Cranberry Walnut Bread at Le Diplomate: The bread basket at Le Diplomate is one of the best I've encountered dining out in DC. The cranberry walnut bread in particular is delicious. It's a little sweet and tart from the dried cranberries and has a nice bite from the walnuts. It's wonderfully toothsome and hearty with a great crust.
Cookies n Cream Ice Cream at Trickling Springs in Union Market: I love Trickling Springs milk in my coffee, so when I heard about their space at Union Market, I immediately went to get some ice cream! You can get a scoop or two there or pick up a pint for home. Cookies n Cream was my go to flavor as a kid, and their version takes me back to summers at the beach with my family.
About the author: Erin Jackson is a food writer and photographer who is obsessed with discovering the best eats in San Diego. You can find all of her discoveries on her San Diego food blog EJeats.com. On Twitter, she's @ErinJax