Thursday, Sept. 27, 2007

Get just desserts in Oxon Hill

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Christopher Anderson⁄The Gazette
Desserts by Gerard owners Gerard and Kathy Huet serve pastries, cakes and cheesecakes inspired by Gerard’s native France.
Tucked into the Oxon Hill Shopping Center, Desserts by Gerard is a treasure trove of culinary delights. What began in 1990 as a family operation with one part-time employee (Gerard Huet, wife Kathy and a dishwasher), is now a full-fledged bakery and catering business that employs about 15 people. Gerard is a native of France and recognized pastry chef who worked in other restaurants before striking out on his own.

Gerard and his staff provide desserts, wedding cakes and platters. You can order sandwiches (chicken salad, turkey and cranberry, roast beef with onion), salads (romaine and feta, pasta and shrimp, curry chicken), quiches and pasta dishes.

‘‘When we first opened, we planned to do strictly catering,” Kathy says. The plans changed after they offered baked goods in the store and saw an interest. So instead of abandoning their plans to cater, the Huets added a retail bakery to their operation.

One Upper Marlboro customer, who was there to pick up an assortment of pastries to take to work, said he’s been coming there for all of the 17 years the shop has been open.

To satisfy a collective sweet tooth you can get pastries or go for something bigger like a carrot cake, red velvet cake or cheesecake (glazed, fruit, German, plain). When ordering a cake, you can select from a range of sizes (6 inch to a full sheet) and choose your own filling and icing (butter cream, mousse, ganache or custard).

If you are not having a gathering, there are plenty of choices for one or a few people. Forget those croissants you pick up at convenience stores; the big and flaky croissants at Gerard’s are the real thing (plain, peach custard or chocolate, $1.85).

There are individual peach cobblers ($2.55), cinnamon twists ($1.35), along with an assortment of tarts, mini pastries and cake slices. The display cases hold great after-dinner treats like the custard berry tart ($10), or the brioche ring ($9.95).

‘‘Whenever I’m over this way, I always come here. It’s always fresh and sometimes I find a bargain,” customer Gaynell Sandford of Largo said.

Sandford picked up a container of cake pieces that Kathy said customers like to eat plain or serve with ice cream.

Though the name is Desserts by Gerard, they serve more than sweets. For breakfast they have sandwiches (sausage, egg and cheese; chicken, spinach and egg; roast beef, egg, mushroom and cheese, $3.25-$4.25) and combination platters with sides like home fries and fruit.

For lunch there are sandwiches (chicken salad with apple, ham and cheese, vegetarian, roast beef), salads and soup. The Lunch Bag ($5.95) comes with a half sandwich, fresh fruit, potato chips, a cookie and soda, while the Lunch Box ($7.95) has a whole sandwich, salad, and two cookies or chocolate or carrot cake.

The Huets keep the business small to maintain creative control and ensure that they have family time. Gerard says he has been involved in cooking since he was 14.

‘‘I just like to play with food. For me it is fun.”

‘‘He’s so creative. He keeps coming up with all sorts of things,” Kathy says.

Gerard says they have grown slowly and adapted themselves to what customers wanted.

‘‘If I did things just as we do in France, I’d have no work.”

Gisele Hill of Forest Hills, a frequent customer, left France for the U.S. 40 years ago. She rates Gerard’s as authentically French.

‘‘It’s just like in France, not too sweet, not too salty,” she says.

Desserts by Gerard

6341 Livingston Road, Oxon Hill

Phone: 301-839-2185

Hours: 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday; 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday; 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Sunday; closed Monday