You’re invited to a holiday party and don’t want to show up empty-handed. You’ve decided to visit the new neighbours to welcome them to the ‘hood. You want to thank a colleague for going above and beyond to help with a deadline. How often do you find yourself in need of a gift… nothing excessively fancy, but a token of thoughtfulness, and one most people would enjoy? Faced with the same scenario, I naturally turn to something edible and usually one in the dessert arena. Here are some ideas from around town that send a sweet message.
La Cigale Traiteur – QR140/box
(La Cigale Hotel – 4428 8888 daily 7a-midnight)
Perfected in the palace kitchens of the Ottoman Empire, baklava has become a mainstay throughout the Arab world. And for good reason. The pastry of phyllo dough layered with nuts and syrup is so decadent that one piece goes a long way – and an entire box will bring joy to many! Part bakery, delicatessen, and café, La Cigale Traiteur packs a variety of baklava into handsome packs ready for pickup. You could also augment your gift with the many other desserts on offer, include barazek cookies and homemade Arabic ice creams.
La Varenne – QR25/6 pieces or QR35/12 pieces
(28th Floor Tornado Tower – 4499 0680 Sun-Thurs 7a-10:30a, 11:30a-3p, 5p-10p; Fri-Sat 8a-4p, 7p-10p)
Marcel Proust forever immortalised the madeleine in ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ when he writes about raising to his lips a spoonful of the tea in which he had soaked a morsel of the cake. A staple of French bakeries, the shell-shaped madeleine is truly delightful to enjoy with a hot beverage in hand… ideal for meetings over brunches and teatime. La Varenne makes a range of flavours, including those with honey and chocolate. I challenge you not to steal a freshly baked madeleine during your drive to your next destination.
Lobby Lounge – Q20/piece
(The Ritz-Carlton Doha – 4484 8000 daily 7a-10p)
The love child of a croissant and doughnut, this brilliant invention of chef Dominique Ansel has been making waves since its launch just two years ago. Each day, people queue up at the New York bakery on Spring Street for a chance to taste the original. Here in Doha, The Ritz-Carlton makes not just one but three spectacular versions… the basic one with sanded with cinnamon sugar, another stuffed with raspberry jam, and the most decadent one yet smothered in chocolate ganache. You’ll have to try all three for yourself!
W Café – QR18/piece
(W Doha Hotel & Residences – 4453 5135 Sat-Thurs 6a-11p; Fri 8a-11p)
Nothing says party quite like cake. And cupcakes, essentially a petite-version, have the added advantage of bringing a diversity of flavours and colours to the celebration. There’s no need to divagate between the red velvet or lemon curd – get both. In fact, pick up six or seven varieties, even. The W Café offers classics ranging from banana nutella to chocolate caramel and strawberry cheesecake… all with a soft fluffy sponge, topped with a wonderfully lustrous frosting, and packed in handsome boxes ready for a celebration.
Pierre Hermé – QR12.50/piece
(Lagoona Mall – 4493 6376 Sat-Thurs 10a-10p; Fri 2p-10p)
These nuggets of pleasure are a bite of affordable luxury. The meringue shells come tinted in a kaleidoscope of colours to hint at the flavour of their fillings. At Pierre Hermé, each one is handcrafted and flown in from France, featuring ingredients from the exotic — lychee and rose petals — to the unexpected — olive oil and rhubarb. These also change with the season, so options are constantly expanding. Depending on your budget, the macarons can be packed into presentation boxes in a range of sizes, starting from as few as seven pieces.
Atrium Lounge – QR45/portion – QR130/QR200 (Takeaway Orders)
(Sheraton Doha Resort & Convention Hotel – 4485 4404 daily 8a-2a)
The famed Sheraton Umm Ali sits in a class all on its own when it comes to Arabic desserts. It’s hard to find a more textbook version of this Egyptian classic at a restaurant in town. Layers of puff pastry are baked with cream, sugar, and spices into a magical bowl of warmth and comfort similar in taste and tenor to the Western bread pudding. Four flavours are available: traditional, dried fruit, chocolate, and dates. Order it ahead of time for a takeaway tray big enough to feed a crowd and sure to be the toast of any table.
Bread and Bagels – QR15/5 pieces
(Beach Tower, West Bay – 4411 0041 Sat-Thurs 7a-10p, Fri 9a-10p)
Wally Amos used his chocolate chip cookies as a calling card before going on to establish the international brand Famous Amos, which prides itself on giving out free smells. Cookies never fail to elicit smiles, and the ones at Bread and Bagels are no different. Of particular fame is the lemon ricotta cookie, soft and crumbly with a texture not unlike an Italian black-and-white and topped with a zesty icing. So popular are these individual packs of chewy cookies that the café has now introduced a tinkered version with chocolate and orange.