Chez Hareg Gourmet Bakery

District of Columbia, USA


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Amazing. You would never guess that this non-descript space has such incredible baked goods, let alone vegan ones. I'd read about Chez Hareg in the Washington Post and had to try it for myself.

I had one spritzer cookie, one butter-style cookie and one other thing with a name I can't remember. None of the vegan options are labeled, but pretty much the entire top shelf of the glass case is vegan. Each little cookie or pastry costs about $0.50, or you could get 3 for $1 with some varieties. The cookies that I had were all wonderful---crumbly and rich. They evoked memories of my childhood, eating butter biscuits with milk tea in the afternoon with my parents. I had not encountered such flavors in the vegan world and was amazed to find them at Chez Hareg.

I also had a "Napoleon" ($3.50) which was some kind of multi-layered pastry filled with lemon and powdered sugar. It was kind of like a lasagna in its design and appearance. The thing was a marvel. Each crust layer was impeccably thin and crispy, but also flaky; the lemon-custard filling was smooth, cold and just subtly sweet without being overpowering.

I have encountered vegan desserts of this sophistication and excellence on only two occasions in all my travels---once at Millennium in San Francisco, and once at Horizons in Philadelphia. However, the desserts there cost anywhere from $10-15, whereas Chez Hareg offers the same quality and taste for only $3.50 or, in some cases, for less than $1. Unbelievable.

The owner, Hareg herself, is a master baker who formerly worked at the Ritz Carlton. I applaud her for opening up her own coffee shop/bakery and exposing the world to the delicacy, balance and excellence of her products, all for absurdly low prices. It's going to be hard to justify paying $2 for a vegan pastry at the coffee shop down the road, knowing you could get a superior gourmet product for the same price, if only you lived in DC. Chez Hareg sets the bar impossibly high for pretty much anyone.

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