It wasn’t too long ago that our Facebook newsfeeds began to be overtaken with status updates swooning over the wonders of Trader Joe’s “cookie butter.” The grocery chain’s decadent spread—a sweet paste with spicing reminiscent of gingerbread—may be modern, but the basis of the bestselling stuff is something that’s been popular, at least in Belgium, for decades: speculoos cookies. Now pastry chefs at restaurants of all levels—and even Ben & Jerry’s—are capitalizing on our appetite for the cinnamon-and-clove-scented confections. Let’s start with the humble end of the spectrum:
Ben & Jerry’s (area grocery stores) — The cookies hit the ice-cream aisle in the new Spectacular Speculoos, a vertically layered pint holding caramel and vanilla ice creams and cookie butter.
Et Voila! (5120 MacArthur Blvd., NW; 202-237-2300) — What Oreos are to kids in the States, speculoos are to children in Belgium—so it stands to reason the treats would crop up at this Flemish and French bistro, which serves ice cream made by infusing milk with the aromatic cookies.
Mintwood Place (1813 Columbia Rd., NW; 202-234-6732) — Crumbled speculoos take the place of traditional graham crackers for this rustic Adams Morgan restaurant’s Key-lime pie.
Blue Duck Tavern (1201 24th St., NW; 202-419-6755) — Pastry chef Naomi Gallego reimagines grandmotherly tea and cookies by pairing Earl Grey custard with speculoos and mandarin-orange sorbet.
Quill (1200 16th St., NW; 202-448-2300) — The Jefferson hotel’s swank cocktail lounge accents its tart lemon custard with caramel containing a dose of cookie paste.
This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.