Challah in DC / Northern Virginia
Anybody have a recommendation for a good place to get challah in DC or Northern Virginia? My wife and I moved to Arlington from St Paul, MN about 4 weeks ago and, believe it or not, we're missing the challah we used to be able to get in Minnesota (Breadsmith). I've seen some places recommended in Maryland, but most of our travels are in the Arlington and Dupont Circle areas, so it would be good to have something more convenient. So far Trader Joe's is in the lead but there is room for improvement from that.
Kosher is preferred but not required; hence the post to this board. (Also, posting to the general DC board was suggested when this topic came up on the kosher board a few months ago.)
Thanks for any suggestions!
Thanks for everyone's suggestions. We tried both the Heidelberg challah (with raisins) and the challah from Breadline this weekend. We've also previously tried Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, frozen challah from the supermarket, and challah from the DC JCC that was imported from Maryland. Here's what we thought:
Breadline: Probably the freshest of the challahs we tried. The loaf was large but kind of misshapen, and the texture of the dough reminded us of a croissant. The flavor was good and mild, with a little bit of sweetness (a plus in our book). Cost: $5
Heidelberg: This one had great potential, but it didn't taste like it was made fresh on Friday which was a real disappointment. The loaf was a beautiful shape, the crust was glazed nicely, and the inside was very velvety in texture. Unfortunately it was dry and stale, especially at the ends. The amazing number of raisins in it helped to counter the dryness somewhat. Flavor was very subtle -- little egg and little sweetness (outside the raisins). Cost: $3.75
Trader Joe's: Also very nicely shaped and very soft. Flavor was stronger than most of the others. Cost: $2.99
DC JCC: Baked fresh on Thursday, this one was pretty good (and kosher). It is large, with well-defined braids and a nice crust. The texture is good, and the flavor is good although mild. The only problem is, if you want it for Friday night, you can't win -- if you store it in plastic, the crust gets soft, and if you keep it out, it goes stale. Cost: $5
Whole Foods: It was nice to have the option of "rolls" or "knots" instead of a whole loaf. However, maybe it's just the one near us (Clarendon), but the product was awful. It tasted at least a week old. Cost: I forget
Frozen bake-your-own challah from the supermarket: The most labor-intensive, as you have to thaw it, let it rise, and then bake it yourself. The braids come out well and the entire loaf is very soft, plus it keeps moist longer than any of the store-bought options. It does end up being very dense inside. Taste is sweeter than any of the others, and very eggy. Cost: $3.29 (I think, probably depends on the supermarket)
We'll have to test Trader Joe's and the DC JCC again as they are a little fuzzier in our memory. We'll also want to give Heidelberg another chance and maybe check out a non-raisin version.
I believe that Trader Joe's challah is (or was) made by a bakery in Montreal. It's likely to be made earlier in the week for Thursday delivery here.
Another bakery to check in Arlington is Randolph's at 4500 Lee Highway, a couple of blocks east of Glebe Rd. Everything they make there is better than Heidelberg Bakery IMHO, and I know that I have seen braided challah there. Call them up and find out when they have it freshly baked-- 703-243-0070.
A couple of choices:
Breadline (Penn near 18th NW) has excellent challah, though perhaps only available on Fridays, and during the High Holy Days they run out so fast you have to place an order in advance.
Whole Foods Markets (all over) have good challah, too.
Wegmans (in Sterling, VA, near Dulles) is probably too far, but they have great challah.