Impromptu Visit to Serendipity 3


: the gift of finding valuable or agreeable things not looked for

I’m a planner. Ask anyone who knows me. I’m not quite the “fly by the seat of my pants” type, but I’m surrounded by people who are. And thank goodness for that! Planning and strategy are good things – but so is spontaneity.

My middle sister, Carolyn, visited us here in DC last weekend. Now, Carolyn is one of the most adventurous people I know. At the ripe old age of twenty-three, she’s already started her own business and works at a new tech startup in Boston. And ever since we were little, Carolyn has been trying new things – and pushing me to do the same. Some of her ideas were better than others. Trying on Mom’s ruby red lipstick? You go ahead, Carolyn. I’ll watch.

But popping into a new restaurant for an impromptu sundae? That’s something I’ll agree to!

By the time Carolyn’s plane touched down at Reagan National Airport, I had an entire weekend’s worth of fun activities planned. Dinner reservations? Done. A new (to us) tour to take? Found it. Heck, I even had a Homeland premiere party in the works. But, as always, the best parts of Carolyn’s visit were totally unplanned. Only Carolyn can morph my “quick trip” to Target for toiletries into a quest for Halloween decorations, which leads to an afternoon of decorating and eating candy corn. And it was her idea to hit up a comedy club late on Saturday night. Turns out, the DC Improv Comedy Club is right around the corner from my apartment – and I’d never even heard of it! But, my favorite impromptu activity involved ice cream… and lots of it!

On Friday night, Carolyn, the boyfriend, and I headed into Georgetown for dinner. We enjoyed fantastic burgers and fries at Thunder Burger & Bar and were tempted by the dessert menu. But Carolyn suggested trying a different dessert place – and that’s when I remembered that the famous NYC dessert institution, Serendipity 3, had just opened their first DC location right down the block! You may know Serendipity 3 as the place where the ‘Sex & the City’ gals gossiped over frozen hot chocolates. But I know it as the creator of The Grand Opulence – the world’s most expensive sundae! Needless to say, Carolyn and I practically skipped over to the restaurant.

From the outside, Serendipity 3 doesn’t look like much. It’s housed in a simple white-painted brick building with black awning over the windows. But step through the front door, and you are transported into a girly-girl’s fantasy. The decor is whimsical, with pink walls, slightly-gaudy chandeliers, heart-backed chairs, and Tiffany-style lamps. To pay homage to their host city, the Georgetown location features one of our Founding Fathers.

I knew Lincoln was my favorite for a reason!
I was worried that Serendipity 3 would be packed at 10pm on a Saturday night – but we easily secured seats at the bar, where the bartender welcomed us with glasses of ice water. After ordering a glass of wine, we began perusing Serendipity’s over-sized menu. Since we were still full from the burgers, the three of us decided to split one sundae. Sure enough, The Grand Opulence was there, priced at $1,000. But until my student loans are paid off, Serendipity’s Drug Store Sundaes will have to do. All of the sundae descriptions sounded delicious… from the carrot cake sundae to the deep-fried Oreo one. Carolyn suggested the Black N’ White Sundae. The description read: “chocolate and vanilla ice cream, marshmallow cream, white chocolate fudge, chocolate fudge, whipped cream & tuxedo strawberry.” How could we go wrong with that?
A mere five minutes after we placed our order, the bartender delivered this

The verdict? The Black N’ White Sundae is the very definition of extravagant – both in ingredients and size. The massive scoops of premium vanilla and chocolate ice cream were smooth and creamy. I usually prefer a vanilla base for my sundae, but Serendipity 3’s chocolate ice cream is flavorful, yet not so rich that it overpowers the toppings. The marshmallow cream was easily my favorite component of this dish; it was thick, sticky and reminiscent of my favorite childhood condiment: Fluff.  Serendipity’s hot chocolate fudge sauce is nothing to complain about, either. Now on the other hand, I was disappointed by the white chocolate fudge – which was thin and watery. All of these sauces were served warm – not hot – which I appreciated. As I’ve mentioned before, a major pet peeve of mine is when pipping-hot toppings melt my ice cream into a soupy mess (#firstworldproblem). Serendipity’s whipped cream is deliciously sweet and airy, nicely contrasting the thick ice cream and heavy toppings. Nestled on top of the sundae was the featured ‘tuxedo strawberry,’ which my companions graciously allowed me to claim. Serendipity drenched a big, fresh strawberry in a thick coating of milk and white chocolate. Swoon. Split three ways, this sundae was still too big to finish! A surprising end to an unexpected night out. Thanks, sis.

We made a gallant effort.

The Stats:
Serendipity 3
3150 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 333-5193

Frozen Yogurt’s Best Friend = Fran’s Caramel Sauce

Salted caramels. Candy-lovers across the country are praising the new salty/sweet trend.

Who started this salt + caramel craze? Many people point to Seattle’s premier chocolatier, Fran Bigelow, who has been pairing salt and caramel for years. Fran’s Chocolates gained notoriety in the other Washington (DC) thanks to President Obama, who is a big fan of Fran’s smoked salted caramels in milk chocolate. This signature Seattle confection is now being replicated by candy companies across the country. Even Trader Joe’s is getting in on the action.

I blame my constant cravings for Fran’s salted caramels on my boyfriend’s mother – who may just be a bigger chocolate fan than me (is that even possible?). The salt + caramel combo just didn’t call my name – until she bought me a fancy box of Fran’s smoked salt caramels in dark chocolate for Christmas. It was all over then. You simply can’t find fault with Fran’s salted caramels. The caramel is rich, buttery, and chewy. The dark chocolate is decadent – in that distinct “I know this isn’t Hershey’s” way. The sprinkle of premium smoked salt brings out the sweet in both. Hook, line, and sinker.

Last weekend, my boyfriend’s mother did it again:

Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce

I knew this spelled trouble. My boyfriend’s mom is a whiz at frozen yogurt making in her Cuisinart, so she whipped some up using Greek Gods Honey Yogurt and a couple giant spoonfuls of Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce.

But she wasn’t done yet. After 20 minutes of churning, she spooned frozen yogurt into bowls and topped them with generous globs of Fran’s Caramel and a sprinkle of sea salt. Fran would be proud.

Worthy of a President

The verdict? Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce is thick, slightly grainy, and a bit chewy. It comes out easily from the jar but isn’t too runny (i.e. can be eaten by the spoonful straight from the jar!). The sweetly decadent caramel fills me with nostalgia – memories of making caramel apples in my parents’ kitchen. I’m already imagining different ways I can put Fran’s sauce to use. Any ideas would be appreciated in the Comments section 🙂

The Stats:
Fran’s Chocolates
Retail stores in Downtown Seattle, University Village and Bellevue 
You can purchase Fran’s Classic Caramel Sauce online here.

An Ice Cream Social in the Sky

Good morning, Seattle! I’m in town to accompany the boyfriend to his 10-year high school reunion tomorrow. Last night, I flew on a nonstop United Airlines flight from Washington, DC to Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Because I travel a lot for work, I’ve accrued a bit of status with United. This means that I occasionally receive complimentary upgrades to First Class! Normally, my favorite First Class perk is the free wine (let’s be honest, a bit of alcohol eases any turbulence anxiety). But since United merged with Continental last year, I’ve heard rumors of United serving ice cream in First Class on domestic cross-country flights. Last night, I happily confirmed those rumors.

After a mediocre dinner (chicken and rice), I noticed the stewards maneuvering a small cart into the First Class cabin. My heart leaped. Was it true? Sure enough, I took my headphones off in time to hear the steward ask a man in front of me “Would you care for an ice cream sundae this evening?”

What? I said to myself. I heard about ice cream – but nothing about sundaes! Sure enough, the man was given his choice of three toppings (fudge, caramel or strawberry sauce), whipped cream and chopped walnuts. Usually I’d go for chocolate sauce, but I could see that the bowls of ice cream were already starting to melt – so the last thing I wanted to do was speed up the process with a warm topping. Therefore, I opted for strawberry sauce and whipped cream. Simple but classic.

The ice cream was nothing special – ordinary vanilla bean – and the strawberry sauce clearly came from a frozen container. The whipped cream was definitely a step above Reddi-wip, but nothing to write home about. Yet, somehow, everything tasted better in the sky.

Thanks for the ice cream social, United!