Monday, September 11, 2006

from DCFUD - Tooth Decay in Del Ray, Part One


Not to get all Andy Rooney on you, but, didja ever notice how some neighborhoods seem hell-bent on making you fatter? The Del Ray neighborhood in Alexandria is one of those enclaves where the chocolate drowns and the sweets chase your blues away. This place is so devoted to making you chubby, I have to make this a two-part series.

You can start your own personal Tour Du Pudge at The Dairy Godmother, formerly known as the Del Ray Dreamery or That Custard Place in Del Ray. Though the name has changed, the incredibly high-quality goodies have not. This charming place offers all sorts of frozen and baked snacks, such as a variety of sorbets, cookies and turnovers, though the star of the show is the handmade frozen custard, a thicker, though not-really-more-fattening form of ice cream. Owned by Wisconsin native Liz Davis, The Dairy Godmother offers both chocolate and vanilla custards, plus a flavor of the day. Her imagination with custard is boundless, and you're likely to find her cranking out a traditional Mint Chocolate Chip as you are to try a Lemon/Blueberry mix or the exotic flavors of India in her cardamom and almond Khulfi. Fortunately, she keeps the shop's website flavor-of-the-day calendar updated, though I'd like to see her expand that to include her delicious sorbets. Also, treat you dogs to frozen Puppy Pops or dog treats shaped like squirrels.

St. Elmo's is celebrating their 10th anniversary, and the lively crowd of locals, shoppers scouring Mt. Vernon Avenue, and a varying array of local musicians give this place a fun, tangible energy. While folks who are content to be buried in the throes of the Sunday Post and iPods are certainly welcome, it's a great place to learn the scoop on local restaurants, real estate, politicians, etc... In many ways, this might as well be the Del Ray community hall, the subject of a fine, albeit over-caffeinated, Norman Rockwell painting. St. Elmo's has a fine selection of coffees and teas, large muffins, sandwiches and small snacks. Their White Chocolate Mocha uses their own brew mixed with Ghiradelli's white chocolate, and should come with a warning label not to handle explosives or large machinery afterwards.

The sign said "Chocolate Covered Peaches," and pointed down the street to a new chocolate-centric sweetery. Artfully Chocolate is the new kid on the block, and makes a strong case for devastating your diet, artfully. Open for just a little over a month, the shop is located around the corner from The Dairy Godmother and St. Elmo's, and features a wide assortment of novelties, fudge, truffles and licorices. The fudge is richer than a Saudi oil baron, and the trays of chocolate-dipped cookies are enough to make Dr. Atkins roll over in his protein-rich grave.

The bold tile mosaics, acrylics on mylar, and 3-D pieces at Artfully Chocolate are the works of owner Eric Nelson. It's not just a chocolate store, but an art gallery with caramel. While I'm not qualified to be an art critic, his tile-and-mesh mosaic of Marylin Monroe in "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" mixes skill and whimsy. In an eclectic, artsy neighborhood, Artfully Chocolate stands out as being even more artsy and eclectic.

If Del Ray hasn't thrown you into a sugar coma yet, walk another block down on Mt. Vernon and visit The Sundae Times. This is a good old-fashioned ice cream stand, and the banana splits are the size of a small whaling vessel. While the flavors aren't as exotic as The Dairy Godmother's, its traditional ice creams made by Gifford's of Montgomery County are wonderful, and the wider variety of flavors are handy, especially on those occasions where TGM's FoTD is not your bag, baby.

Coming up in Part Two, a look at the Cheesetique, Caboose Bakery and Cafe, Fireflies and others...

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