At a holiday party, one of the guests regaled us with stories about her neighbor, a famed pastry chef at the French Embassy in Washington. Arnaud Herodet had chucked his glamorous career after tiring of being on call at all hours for M and Mme Ambassador and opened a catering business out of his home.

Here was the clincher: Arno also sells his classic French pastries every weekend at a roadside stand at Gilbert’s Corner, a notch in the road (U.S. 50) half way between Washington and Middleburg. This called for a road trip.

So today Chris and I drove out to Arno’s stand, a couple of tables stacked with pastry cases beneath an awning – open to the bracing 45-degree weather and downwind from the BBQ smokers that also sell on the corner. (Arno says the lobster stand there will re-open in March, followed by a produce stand in April)

Arno stood alone behind his glorious offerings, and told us about each pastry as we oohed and aahed. It was almost too painful to choose, but between the two of us, we pretty much got one of each. French pastries always sound sexier in French, so I’ll crib liberally from Arno’s brochure.

  • Tarte Citron Meringue (lemon tart with a brulee’d meringue)
  • Tarte aux Fruits Frais (tart topped with custard and fresh fruits)
  • Tarte Linzer ala Confiture de Framboise (tart with custard topped with raspberries)
  • Choux au Caramel (Pastry filled with rum cream topped with caramel)
  • Tarte Boudaloue aux Peches (tart filled with cream topped with peaches)
  • Tarte aux Noix de Pecan et Rhum (tart topped with pecans and rum-soaked raisins)

There were another dozen varieties – all painstakingly constructed pastry masterpieces. My mouth was watering as I picked out five. As Arno placed them carefully in a box and I pondered the remaining empty space in the box, Arno gently pointed out that I had neglected the chocolate offerings. Ah! So a piece of the Tarte Chocolat Pistache (chocolate crust filled with pistachio chocolate cream topped with chocolate curls and whipped cream) joined the crowded box.

amazing pastries aux Arno

amazing pastries aux Arno

Then Chris picked out her boxful of exquisite pastries along with two bags of macarons (too many flavors for me to even recall).

The gallant Arno showed us his Facebook page, chatted about his business, and sent us away with brochures describing his catering service. You can find him every Saturday and Sunday at Gilbert’s Corner, selling pastries to the Middleburg elite and just plain hungry folks like us. Oh, they were delicious!

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening