Thursday, June 13, 2013

Muffin Mania

DC Outlook doesn't hide its preference for cupcakes; but isn't it possible to love more than one girl at a time? We've decided to focus our attention (at least for today) at the often overlooked muffin. Designed for one person, these quick breads are similar to cupcakes... only minus the icing and not as sweet.

Aroma Espresso Bar: Aroma's $2.70 blueberry muffin was burned almost beyond recognition. How can you not notice this (1) when you're putting it in the display case or (worse) presenting it to the customer? Blueberries are plentiful, but have zero taste. Tastes like a bran muffin, your first girlfriend would make you. Extra grumpy cashier cements worst muffin honors.

Grade: F

Aroma's Blueberry Muffin

Caribou Coffee: Caribou's Carrot Cake Muffin is half cupcake, half muffin, all good. It's also chewy, and not very moist. Real carrots, raisins and coconuts line the insides, with a tasty cream cheese frosting on top. $2.29 retail is more than fair.

Grade: B

Caribou Coffee's Carrot Cake Muffin

Ebenezers Coffeehouse: Moist doesn't begin to describe the texture of Ebenezers' Blueberry Muffin. Affordably priced at $2.20, I've yet to find a moister muffin anywhere else in DC. Toughen up the top, and this muffin could compete for #1.

Grade: B

Ebenezers' Blueberry Muffin

Giant Food: The Giant bakery continues to amaze with its expanding line of baked goodies. Gigantic, ultra affordable ($1.29) with a crusty top that provides the perfect amount of crunch, this low-budget contender truly "takes the cake."

Grade: A-

Giant's Butter Rum Muffin

Great Harvest Bread: You have to venture out to Rockville, Maryland for one of the area's best bakeries; but trust me, it's worth it. Located in Federal Plaza at 12268 Rockville Pike (a few doors down from Ruby Tuesday) GHB delivers great service, samples and some of the best breads in town. Today's special was a Jewish Apple Cake Muffin (available Thursdays & Fridays only) for $2.45. Its crunchy muffin top breaks off easily, and is worth the full price all by itself. Lucky for you, that still leaves a full size muffin with chunks of apple tucked away for later.

Grade: B+

Jewish Apple Cake Muffin

Le Pain Quotidien: I'm not sure what to make of an organic muffin; but Le Pain's blueberry version tastes pretty good. I found the blueberries underwhelming; but the crumble cake takes no prisoners. $3 borders the line for overpriced, but I can live with it.


Organic Blueberry Muffin

Panera Bread
: I often choose the most exotic sounding muffin, but sometimes that comes back to haunt me. Case in point: Panera's Peach Pecan Crunch, which turns out to be too exotic for yours truly. For starters, it's base cake is reduced-fat vanilla (not exactly the strongest foundation out there.) Load in wet chunks of peach (it looks worse than it sounds) and finish it off with a maple butter, pecan granola cover. All they're missing is the kitchen sink. P.S. None of the flavors match well with each other; and the cake is downright dry. At least it doesn't break the bank at $2.19 per.

Grade: D

Panera Bread's Peach Pecan Crunch Muffin

Starbucks: The King of coffee deserves credit for its companion pieces... a small, yet solid selection of baked goods. It took three visits to find a branch with muffins, and I quickly secured a Peaches & Cream over their traditional blueberry offering. Fairly priced at $2.25, my muffin was fresh (not bad for 7:00 at night) and full of peach flavor. Its top was sufficiently crunchier than its bottom, and  benefited from a sprinkle of sugar for even more crunchy goodness. Since I make my own coffee, it's nice to have an excuse to line up with my neighborhood Starbuckians.

Grade: B

Peaches & Cream muffin at Starbucks

Wegmans: How on Earth does Wegmans (hands down, Virginia's nicest grocer) manage to sell these amazing muffins for just $1.29? Baked in house, you can't go wrong with any of 'em; but I couldn't pass on their French Vanilla with Crumb Topping. It's big and and sufficiently moist inside. You do taste vanilla, but it's faint: I "made do" with the delicious flavor of cinnamon strussel. It's closer to a crumb cake than a muffin, but who's counting?

Grade: B