Gong Cha's signature blossoming tree.

Sippin (Milk) Tea at Gong cha

There are so many bubble tea spots popping up in the DMV that I’ve created a list of places to try. Gong Cha is one I’ve had on my list for a little bit now. The only one I knew about was their Annandale, VA location, which I finally visited. Not too long after, I tried their new Maryland location: Arundel Mills.

I try not to get the same drink every time I go to bubble tea spots because naturally, I end up with a usual. This is my way of dabbling outside of my comfort zone.

What I Ordered

I love that Gong cha has so many great options! Green tea, milk tea, milk foam, slushes, lattes, coffee…I spent more time thinking about what I wanted than it took for my drink to be made. I went with the Purple Sweet Potato Latte, which is a drink I’ve wanted to try for a while. I opted for 100% sweetness. It’s great that many bubble tea places ask you what level of sugar you want since everyone doesn’t want the same amount.

Gong Cha's Purple Sweet Potato Latte

Gong Cha’s Purple Sweet Potato Latte (Annandale location).

This gradient purple drink was so good and aesthetically pleasing! I think it’s one of those drinks that are best on the sweeter side of the sugar meter. I haven’t had a purple sweet potato to be able to compare it to the exact thing, but this drink makes me want to try the actual vegetable. I chose to get pudding jelly added because I had never heard of it. It’s smoother than boba and not as sweet. I like that it didn’t take away from the drink at all. This drink would be great without boba or jelly as well.

The Arundel Mills location looks a little bit bigger than the Annandale, Virginia location. Both locations have their signature blossoming tree. Their new, bright location is woman-owned, which is a plus!

Gong Cha's signature blossoming tree.

Gong Cha’s signature blossoming tree.

I really wanted to try one of Gong cha’s blueberry series drinks but was told that they did not have it. My guess was that it hadn’t rolled out to all of the stores yet. The cashier suggested that I try the new Fresh Taro Milk Tea from their Fresh Taro series, and I was down to try it since I love taro drinks.

Gong Cha's Fresh Taro Milk Tea

Gong Cha’s Fresh Taro Milk Tea

The Fresh Taro Milk Tea is one of the best drinks I’ve ever had. I’m not shocked that it was good, but I was shocked that it was this good. Every taro drink that I have had in the past cannot touch this one. The fresh taro was truly a game changer. You’re supposed to mix the drink after they give it to you, but I actually liked it a lot more without it being fully mixed. I was so bummed when it was gone. I cannot wait to get another one!

Conclusion

I’m definitely going back to Gong Cha. The question is, “When?”

If you are someone who likes to have plenty of options and/or loves tasty bubble tea, Gong Cha is a place you should try! Especially if you’re in the Northern Virginia or Baltimore areas. The staff was super helpful and friendly, which made my experience even better. I can’t wait to go back!

What’s your favorite bubble tea drink? Leave a comment below.

Until next time.

A bowl of corn pudding being held by two hands.

All-You-Can-Eat at Hill Country BBQ

BBQ restaurants make the world go ’round. Okay, maybe it’s one of a few things that feels that way. You can (pretty much) never go wrong with BBQ’d food. Pulled pork, ribs, chicken…the list goes on.

Hill Country BBQ is a restaurant that gets BBQ right. Located near Gallery Place in Washington, D.C., it’s one of the busiest restaurants in the area. They also have a location in New York City near Madison Square Park. The D.C. location’s special nights are Monday (all-you-can-eat) and Wednesday (live band). My favorite is All-You-Can-Eat Monday because everyone from the table benefits. You get ribs, chicken, brisket, and any sides you want for $32/person. Something to keep in mind is that you might have to ask for certain things more often, depending on your table’s needs.

What I Ordered

My drink of choice was a root beer float, and it was the biggest one I’ve ever had! I’m usually someone who wants refills. There’s no need for that with this drink. I hadn’t had one in years, and this was just as good, if not better, than the ones I’ve had in the past.

Hill Country BBQ's Root Beer Float

Hill Country BBQ’s Root Beer Float

If you’re visiting Hill Country BBQ with a group of people *on a Monday*, their all-you-can-eat option is something to consider. It was a better option for my family to get this instead of separate meals.

The brisket was amazing. The key to getting brisket right is serving it tender, and every batch of brisket was nothing short of it. The chicken was seasoned very well and was a table favorite. I was a little bummed that pulled pork is not a part of this package, but the brisket and chicken definitely made up for it.

Hill Country BBQ's all-you-can-eat option includes unlimited chicken, short ribs, roast beef, and sides.

Hill Country BBQ’s All-You-Can-Eat platter: sweet potato Bourbon mash, baked beans, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, chicken, roast beef, and short ribs.

 

A bowl of corn pudding being held by two hands.

One of Hill Country BBQ’s side options, corn pudding.

Hill Country BBQ’s sides definitely deserve a lot of shine. Their mac and cheese is cheesy enough and was ordered the most at our table. The collard greens with smoked bacon are almost as good as my mom’s and grandma’s greens. The sweet potato bourbon mash was the star side in my eyes. I usually don’t jump at the chance to have mashed sweet potatoes, but these are an exception. The bourbon is a great twist on a classic dish. I loved it so much that I want to learn how to make it.

I’ve been to Hill Country BBQ once before this, and I preferred this option over ordering something just for myself. I loved getting a little bit of everything more than having to narrow down what I wanted.

Conclusion

I’d absolutely visit Hill Country BBQ again! I’ve done the pay per person thing here before, and I prefer this all-you-can-eat package. They get BBQ right, and you should definitely try it if you’re looking for some good BBQ in D.C.!

Until next time.

An overhead view of Rutabaga Juicery's smoothie bowl, which is made with pitaya, mango, banana, coconut oil, agave, and coconut water and is topped with granola, coconut, banana, kiwi, and pineapple.

Rutabaga Juicery

Rutabaga Juicery is a healthy food shop that focuses on minimally processed, convenient food. They locally source most, if not all, of their ingredients from places in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. They’re also eco-friendly: (usually) plant-sourced plastic with recyclable options as a backup; upcycled furniture; local composting; zero VOC paints; and more. Scrumptious, healthy food and an eco-friendly environment? Sign. me. up.

What I Ordered

A little bit ago, I saw Rutabaga Juicery while driving through Crofton, MD. I finally decided to make a trip since it’s the closest smoothie bowl place to me. I had been craving one for weeks.

Rutabaga Juicery's pitaya smoothie bowl on a tiled table near a plant and two wooden chairs.

Rutabaga Juicery’s pitaya smoothie bowl.

Rutabaga Juicery has so many great options! I knew I couldn’t go wrong with a pitaya bowl, which caught my eye first. A few of the other smoothie bowls that they offer are acai & macai, matcha, and PB&J. They also have savory bowls, toasts, smoothies, kombucha, and cold-pressed juice.

An overhead view of Rutabaga Juicery's smoothie bowl, which is made with pitaya, mango, banana, coconut oil, agave, and coconut water and is topped with granola, coconut, banana, kiwi, and pineapple.

An overhead view of Rutabaga Juicery’s smoothie bowl.

The smoothie part of this bowl is a blend of pitaya, mango, banana, coconut oil, agave, and coconut water. It was topped with granola, coconut, kiwi, banana, and pineapple. I love the tangy-ness of the pineapple with the smoothie. I think that it helped create a great balance of tangy and sweet. I wouldn’t mind the bowl without the coconut flakes because they kept falling while I was eating. I recently read that coconut has interesting health benefits, which is a plus. The smoothie/granola combination was my absolute favorite. I would’ve been been fine with just those two things because it was that good!

Conclusion

I would absolutely go back to Rutabaga Juicery! They have so many smoothie bowls that I want to try. If you’re ever in Crofton or Annapolis, MD, definitely check it out!

Until next time.

Close-up of Teamania Bakery's Tropical Toast Box which includes tropical fruit, ice cream, and cake.

Teamania Bakery’s Treasure Trove

Teamania Bakery is an Asian-European inspired bakery and cafe which is located in Rockville, MD. They have desserts such as the toast boxes that they’re known for and apple mousse. They also have various teas and coffees. I had heard good things about this place, so I was excited to finally try it.

What I Ordered

I’ve been seeing Teamania Bakery’s toast box on Instagram for a while, so I knew exactly what I wanted. I’m glad that I didn’t have to spend much time thinking about what to order. They have toast box combinations such as strawberry shortcake and tropical. You also have the option to customize your own.

Teamania Bakery's Tropical Toast Box which includes tropical fruit, ice cream, and cake.

Teamania Bakery’s Tropical Toast Box which includes tropical fruit, ice cream, and cake.

The Tropical Toast Box jumped out at me first, so I went with it. It was about $13, so I thought, “This better be as good as I’ve heard it is.” I waited longer than I thought I would…15 minutes max. When it was brought to my table, I saw why.

I didn’t realize how much really went into this dish. I don’t know the process, but I caught a glimpse of someone making it in the kitchen before I sat down. It seemed to be crafted carefully. Every bite made the wait worth it.

Close-up of Teamania Bakery's Tropical Toast Box which includes tropical fruit, ice cream, and cake.

Close-up of Teamania Bakery’s Tropical Toast Box.

You have to choose which ice cream flavors you want for you two scoops. I chose coconut and strawberry. The inside of the Tropical Toast Box had kiwi, dragon fruit, lychee, cake pieces, and the coconut ice cream I chose. The strawberry ice cream was on the side with cake pieces and a fruity drizzle. I had no clue that there was more fruit inside of the cake until I ate the top. It was reminiscent of hidden treasure. The toast box itself reminded me of a tougher croissant, which tasted best with the ice cream. The coconut ice cream was my absolute favorite, and the coconut pieces truly elevated it. The strawberry ice cream was the best I’ve ever had. It was so much that I didn’t finish the toast box. This was basically a super late lunch for me. If it was dessert, it’s something I would’ve shared with another person.

Conclusion

I would absolutely go back to Teamania Bakery! They have so many treats I want to try. Plus, they have three/four different box cakes that look amazing. If you’re ever in the D.C. Metro Area and want to try a good bakery, try this one. You won’t regret it!

A bowl of SnoCream, which is shaved ice cream, from SnoCream Company.

There’s No (Ice) Cream Like SnoCream!

Ice cream is often thought of as the summer treat, dessert, snack, etc. Shops can be a dime a dozen, so finding the gems can take some time. I’ve been looking for great places to share.

I finally made another trip to the Block in Annandale, VA to try SnoCream Company, which is known for their shaved ice cream and chelo chelo. Snocream is a Taiwanese-inspired treat that is a cross between shaved ice and ice cream.

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Behind the counter of Snocream Company.

What I Ordered

The line was a little slower than I anticipated, but it gave me just enough time to decide what to order. You can choose up to two snocream flavors, two toppings, and one drizzle. Their flavors include Thai Tea, Taro, Honeydew, Vanilla Latte, and Mango. They separate their toppings into categories: crunchies, boba, nuts, cereal, fruit, jellies, and classics. Crunchies includes M&Ms, Pocky sticks, and Nilla Wafers. Their boba flavors include yogurt, lychee and passion fruit. Their cereals include Fruity Pebbles and Frosted Flakes. Their classics list includes aloe jelly, grass jelly, and taro pudding. Additional toppings are $0.50 each. There are three drizzle choices: condensed milk, chocolate, and white chocolate. You can ask for them to make it light, medium, or heavy.

A bowl of SnoCream, which is shaved ice cream, from SnoCream Company.

Peach and Thai Tea Snocream topped with Fruity Pebbles, pocky, and condensed milk.

I chose Peach and Thai Tea topped with Fruity Pebbles, Pocky sticks and drizzled with condensed milk. Peach wasn’t as sweet as I expected it to be. I think it could be because everything else was sweeter. Thai tea was my absolute favorite out of the two. It tastes just like the drink I tried at Sugar Lab. I ate the Pocky sticks by themselves, so it didn’t really affect how the snocream tasted. The Fruity Pebbles and the condensed milk complemented this very well. I’d definitely try this combination with a snocream flavor other than Peach.

Conclusion

I’d absolute go to SnoCream again! The service was great even while it was busy. They have a lot of options, which means there are so many combinations that you can create. I also want to try their other products. I’m looking forward to going back. I highly recommend trying SnoCream if you’re ever in the area!

I’d like to hear from you. What’s your favorite ice cream shop?

Brunchin’ at Boqueria

I haven’t gone out for brunch in months. The many suggestions for brunch in D.C. online don’t help narrow your choices down when there are so many great options, so you have to just pick something. Boqueria was the first on the list. The wait was worth it.

My friend, Carolina, and I agreed that Boqueria, a Spanish tapas bar and restaurant, would be a great spot to try. I made the reservation since it’s suggested that you make a reservation to ensure that you get a table. They have two D.C. locations: Penn Quarter and Dupont Circle.

What I Ordered

The menu has so many options: Spanish and brunch classics, paella, brunch feast, and tapas. Their bottomless brunch option is $42/person, and everyone at the table has to participate. We chose to keep it simple and not do bottomless brunch this time.

French toast topped with apples; drizzled with caramel; and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Boqueria’s torrija dish.

After looking through all of the options, I ordered the torrija dish and sangria The sangria was decent. It wasn’t as sweet as I wanted it to be, but it was still good. Torrija is caramelized French toast topped with seasonal fruit; drizzled with caramel sauce; and sprinkled with powdered sugar. This time of year, apples are the seasonal fruit available. I’ve had a lot of French toast in my lifetime and I have to say, this was the best French toast I’ve ever had. The bread’s texture was perfect, and the toppings complemented the French toast so well. I’d definitely get this dish again.

Churros rellenos filled with Nutella.

Churros rellenos filled with Nutella.

Carolina ordered churros rellenos that we split. Churros rellenos are filled churros, and you have the choice of Nutella or caramel. We got Nutella filling, and let me just tell you…I do not regret a single calorie. These were the tastiest churros I’ve ever had. They came out fresh and hot, so the Nutella slowly melted. Churros and Nutella are a perfect match, and I highly recommend that you try the ones at Boqueria.

Conclusion

I’m definitely coming back! It was a pretty affordable brunch option. From front desk to the check, it was fantastic. If you’re looking for a place to have brunch in D.C., consider giving Boqueria a try!

Until next time.’

Update 01/15/2020: Updated links

B. Doughnut Is the Doughnut Shop You Need to Try Right Now

Doughnuts may just be the best food group out there. There are tons of options when it comes to shops and flavors to try. I had the pleasure of trying a dozen of doughnuts at B. Doughnut. Thanks again for giving me the chance to try a dozen on you and review your delicious treats!

B. Doughnut's doughnut mural with a dozen of their doughnuts on the table. | Apple of My Eye

A dozen of B. Doughnut’s doughnuts in front of the mural inside of the shop.

 

What I Ordered

My goal was to have a good variety of sweet doughnuts. There are plenty of flavors, including the seasonal Key Lime Cheesecake doughnut, from which you can choose. I selected Pandan, Ube, Key Lime Cheesecake (x3), Coffee, Berry Jam (x2), Lemon Curd (x2), Cinnamon Sugar, and Vanilla Bean.

I wasn’t disappointed with any of these doughnuts. All of them are coated in cinnamon sugar, which definitely adds something different. All of these doughnuts were filled except for Cinnamon Sugar.

B. Doughnut's tangy Lemon Curd doughnut | Apple of My Eye

B. Doughnut’s Lemon Curd doughnut

The doughnuts I ordered from absolute favorite to favorite: Key Lime Cheesecake, Berry Jam, Lemon Curd, Pandan, Ube, Coffee, Vanilla Bean, and Cinnamon Sugar. Key Lime Cheesecake was my absolute favorite because the filling didn’t have the usual super tangy taste of key lime anything. I loved that this was a bit of a mellow take on it. Key Lime Cheesecake anything is always great in my book. I loved the way the filling sprinkled with crust crumbs and the cinnamon sugar worked.

Berry Jam was a classic jelly doughnut with B. Doughnut’s cinnamon sugar twist! I’ve always loved jelly doughnuts, and this one has joined the list of my faves. I liked that this doughnut wasn’t nearly as messy as jelly doughnuts I’ve had in the past.

Lemon Curd’s filling was the perfect combination of tangy and sweet. It wasn’t so tangy that your cheeks would squeeze together.

I have no clue what the fruit, pandan, tastes like, but this doughnut was a sweet and mellow. I definitely get this flavor again.

Ube (oo-BAY) has been my favorite flavor of anything this year, and this doughnut did not disappoint! If you love ube as much as I do, you’ll definitely love this one. Interestingly, the ube and pandan doughnuts have similar aftertastes that reminded me of bubble tea. This made me love both flavors even more!

B. Doughnut's Ube Doughnut | Apple of My Eye

B. Doughnut’s Ube Doughnut

Coffee Creme was a sweet doughnut with a great coffee kick! I loved the aftertaste was packed with flavor as well. The cinnamon sugar coating paired well with the scrumptious coffee filling.

Vanilla Bean was a super mellow flavor. It was good, but I wish the vanilla was a little bit stronger.

Cinnamon Sugar was different than all of the other flavors I ordered because it did not have any filling. This was a more traditional doughnut, which did not disappoint! The doughnut itself was soft and fresh, so you didn’t miss the filling at all. If you’re not a filling person, this doughnut is perfect for you!

Conclusion

I would absolutely go to B. Doughnut again. I love that they have a great variety of doughnuts, mostly sweet and a couple of savory. I would definitely get the flavors that I got this time again! The feeling of the shop itself is light and welcoming. I really can’t find a reason to not go back and highly recommend making the trip to try it.

Disclosure: I was not financially compensated for this post. I received a dozen for review purposes. The opinions are completely my own based on my experience.

If you liked this article, please share using the social share buttons below.

Until next time.

Down for the Swirl at Smash’D Creamery

It was a warm summer night in the DMV. It only felt a little humid. People were out and about enjoying the unofficial summer weather. All I could think about was ice cream. Could you blame me? Is this frozen treat not the perfect way to bring in this time of year?

img_1647

Smash’D Creamery’s storefront.

Smash’D Creamery, an ice cream shop located in Fairfax, VA, was at the top of my list. It’s right by George Mason college, so you can imagine the number of people who might be out and about when school is in session. I got there about 30 minutes before they closed, and the employees were just as welcoming as I’m sure they were well before closing.

What I Ordered

Smash’D offers many rolled ice cream options and a few options for those who want an ice cream cone. Their rolled ice cream flavors range from Fruity Pebbles to banana with Nutella. For the ice cream cone/cup, you can get ube, lychee, matcha, or a swirl of the ube and one of the others. Their ube and matcha swirl was just reintroduced a couple of weeks ago. I opted for the ube and lychee swirl cone.

img_1645

Ube and lychee swirl ice cream from Smash’D Creamery.

The ube and lychee swirl ice cream is very creamy. Neither flavor is loud or super strong. I imagine that the ube (oo-BAY; purple sweet potato) and lychee are also very mellow fruits, since the ice cream flavors are like that. The mellowness definitely shouldn’t make you count these flavors out. I thought they were delicious! My mom ordered the Nutella banana rolled ice cream, and that was tasty. If you prefer sweeter ice cream, this is a great option. There’s just something about bananas and chocolate that always works.

Conclusion

I would definitely go back to Smash’D Creamery! It’s a super chill space with great ice cream and plenty of options that doesn’t hurt your pockets.

What’s your favorite ice cream flavor or shop?

Update 01/15/2020: Added headings

Crêpe and Tea Time at T-Swirl Crêpe

I’ve been wanting to try new tea spots recently and finally started a list of them. I planned by day based on a prior commitment and chose to stop by T-swirl Crêpe in Rockville, MD. This place was one of the first on my list, so I was excited to give it a try!

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T-Swirl Crepes – Rockville location

I went to T-swirl on a Sunday afternoon. It was super quiet, and my sister and I were the only customers there, which was fine with me because I didn’t have to make an impulse decision while in line.

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Grapefruit tea with boba pearls.

What I Ordered

I came for the tea and ended up buying that and a sweet crêpe. T-swirl has tea flavors such as Mango Green Tea, Honey Cucumber Iced Tea, and Lavender Iced Tea. I chose their seasonal flavor, Grapefruit Tea with boba pearls. If you love citrus or tangy drinks, this is the tea for you. I loved the combo of citrus and sweet (boba). This was the first time I’ve had a citrus tea, and I would absolutely order it again!

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Blueberry NY Cheesecake crêpe.

I ordered the Blueberry NY Cheesecake crêpe and was impressed! They use 100% rice flour for their crêpes, so they’re gluten-free. The one I got had whipped cream cheese and vanilla gelato wrapped in the crêpe, topped with blueberries, almonds and chocolate pocky sticks. This was the best vanilla gelato I’ve EVER had. It wasn’t overly sweet, and the toppings complimented it very well. The pocky sticks were the best I’ve ever had. The cream cheese in the crêpe was scrumptious, and I really would’ve just had that without the other things. It was that good.

Conclusion

I’m definitely going again! I had a great experience and loved my purchases. If you like tea or enjoy crêpes, you should definitely try T-swirl Crêpe!

Until next time.

Update 01/15/2020: Updated links, added headings

A close-up of Sugar Lab's ice cream wrapped in a bubble waffle. | Apple of My Eye

Sugar Lab

Update 9/25/19: As of September 2019, Sugar Lab has closed.

Ice cream shops may seem to be a dime a dozen, but Sugar Lab is different and doesn’t disappoint.

I decided to check out some spots in Georgetown that I’d been meaning to try on a Sunday of all days. If you haven’t visited there before, it’s always super busy on the weekend. The warm weather has brought more people out of hibernation. Since I was there in the evening, many things were starting to close. Sugar Lab was one of the few places I still had time to check out.

When you walk in, the space feels very open and calm. Pretty pastels, wall art, trinkets, and fan photos make this space the perfect place to chill. There’s a table and a couple of chairs by the window on the small, street-level floor. The sweet treats are downstairs, where you can also find more tables and chairs.

 

Sugar Lab's photo wall.

Sugar Lab’s photo wall, which was changed not long after this visit.

Sugar Lab’s flavors for that day were strawberry cheesecake, cookies and cream, chocolate, vanilla, matcha, and lychee. You have the option of getting your ice cream in a cup or a fresh bubble waffle. You can have up to three scoops in the waffle and three toppings for ice cream. They also have a few drinks on the menu. I ordered Thai Iced Tea with boba pearls and a bubble waffle with strawberry cheesecake and lychee ice cream with Fruity Pebbles, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and mochi on top.

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Thai Iced Tea with boba pearls.

The Thai Iced Tea was so good. I think it tastes like a sweet milk tea. This drink has been on my list to try for a bit now, and it was perfect. Between the ice cream flavors I chose, lychee was my absolute favorite. I could be biased because I love pretty much anything with lychee. Also, you can never go wrong with strawberry cheesecake. Both flavors were sweet and creamy. The toppings I chose complimented the ice cream flavors very well. Don’t even get me started on the made-to-order bubble waffle. It was one of the best waffles I’ve ever had. If I had to choose between an ice cream cone and this, I’d absolutely choose the waffle. Sugar Lab’s ice cream pairs so well with it. The only downside about this is that you can’t have the ice cream upright depending on how your toppings stick. Some of the Fruity Pebbles fell off a few at a time.

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Two scoops of ice cream in a fresh bubble waffle.

I would definitely plan on going back soon. It’s one of the most affordable specialty ice cream shops I’ve tried. You won’t feel like you spent way too much on any one item.

Until next time.