Star pastry chef and DC native Christina Tosi brings her wildly popular bakery, Milk Bar, to Washington.
Crack pie—a delectable custard-based treat with an oat-cookie crust—is a Milk Bar specialty.
“I fell in love with desserts at a very early age, cracking eggs with grandma as she made her infamous oatmeal cookies,” pastry chef Christina Tosi shares of her Virginia childhood. “I was raised by women in the kitchen—women who loved to bake, and who loved to eat dessert.”
Now, Tosi, 33, helms what might be the country’s sweetest empire: Milk Bar, the dessert and bakery offshoot of David Chang’s spectacularly successful Momofuku restaurant group, which comprises 10 different restaurant concepts. But if you’re looking for a classic chocolate-chip cookie, keep walking: Milk Bar specializes in the treats you wish you could have created as a kid but lacked the culinary savoir faire to execute. To wit: one of its most popular items is cereal-milk ice cream, which is exactly—and deliciously—what it sounds like. Tosi steeps cornflakes in sweetened milk and then turns the heady liquid into creamy soft-serve. Other cheekily named desserts include the crack pie: a custard-based, butter-filled confection with an oat-cookie crust—addictive from the first nibble.
Tosi began her career in the Pastry Arts program at New York’s International Culinary Center, which has also churned out gastronomic heavyweights like Bobby Flay and Chang. After meeting Chang under less than glamorous circumstances (“He needed help writing hazard analysis plans for the health department,” Tosi says), she eventually joined the Momofuku team and created the innovative dessert menus as the restaurants opened in quick succession. Critics and crowds noticed the young chef’s playful and tasty sweets, and in 2008, the first standalone Milk Bar opened in Downtown New York, serving her signature soft-serve, cookies, and cakes. Four years later, Tosi was honored with an Oscar of the food world: the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award. “It’s been a pretty incredible ride, and I have no intention of slowing down,” she says. “I’m so excited to see how the pastry part of the food industry has risen and evolved.”
Indeed, this year alone sees Tosi penning her second cookbook, joining the judging panel of both MasterChef and MasterChef Junior, and to the delight of Washingtonian sweet tooths, opening her first Milk Bar DC location. “I grew up just outside of DC, so it’s a homecoming of sorts for me,” she says of her new bakery. “Nothing is more fun than coming in over the 14th Street Bridge, more inspiring than having jaw-dropping moments in front of the incredible monuments, or more thrilling than driving down Georgetown’s M Street drag.” As for her favorite local culinary haunts? It’s no surprise that Tosi has an “in” at the hardest table to snag in the District. “I go to Rose’s Luxury to visit our Momofuku expat Aaron Silverman,” she says.
For the first Milk Bar location in the US outside of New York, Tosi and her team chose CityCenterDC, which will also be home to a new Momofuku restaurant concept. “We wanted a space that was centrally located and big enough to be our first home [here],” she says. “And it’s such a beautiful project brought to the city.” Tosi says that fans can expect all the classic treats, plus a few surprises. “We’re still working on the menu, but I promise we’ll do DC proud,” Tosi reveals. And, in case the president and first lady happen to stop by when a sugar craving hits, the chef already has a special dish in mind. “I would serve them tri-star strawberry sorbet, celery root ganache, Ritz cracker crunch, and lovage,” she reveals. “It’s fresh, seasonal, bright, and fun!”
As for what’s next? “DC is our big focus,” she says animatedly. “But we never stop dreaming or pushing, so many exciting things are sure to follow.” 1090 I St. NW, 347-294-2845