Monday, April 22, 2013

GBD & Zeke's DC Donutz

In consideration of what threatened to become a serious cupcake obsession over the past few weeks, it was about time to explore what else DC has on the menu. So I started to do research in anticipation of future brownie points adventures and came across some articles referring to the emergence of a new culinary trend.

I hate to break it to you, but doughnuts are the new cupcakes. So they say.  

Still, I think it's too early to mourn the imminent death of our favorite tiny treats: Doughnuts don't have the connotation of decadence that cupcakes have. They will not be able to make us girls act even girlier, to make us pose for pictures with them, or to make us feel special the way a box of tastefully decorated cupcakes does. I mean, doughnuts are associated with grease. They are cheap to make and cheap to purchase. They just don't look cute!

Tres Leches

I admit I might be a little biased. And I understand that doughnuts have been an important component of the American breakfast since... forever. In Europe we like them because they are a little more difficult to get; and because we are generally curious about things that come from the U.S. But so we eat them as a snack food during the day, much like you would stop somewhere to get an ice cream. You grab one, - anyone -, and eat it on the go. When I go buy a cupcake, I feel like I am rewarding myself for something. I take time to select the flavor I like, and carefully carry it home in order to not destroy the frosting. That is the difference.

To be fair, doughnuts are really getting a makeover these days. Two weeks ago, DC saw the opening of two new restaurants specializing in fried chicken and gourmet doughnuts: GBD in Dupont Circle and Astro Doughnuts near Metro Center. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a restaurant concept involving chicken and doughnuts in the same place, but yes, people seem to like it and not ask any questions. I wonder if the big mysterious reason behind it is that they can use the same oil to deep-fry both types of food. Whatever it is, people have been going crazy over these new additions to the culinary scene, mostly because they sell doughnut-versions of popular desserts like creme brulée, s'mores, carrot cake and salted caramel. It's these flavors that are probably to blame for the comparison to cupcakes, as well as their attractive shapes and decoration. These doughnuts are clearly not to be compared to the ones you get at Dunkin' Donuts or Krispy Kreme.


In order to better form an opinion about recent developments, I met up with a friend at Dupont Circle to sample goods at two very different, but equally popular, doughnut places. We first visited GBD, which stands for "Golden Brown Delicious" and looked a little dark from the outside. I almost thought they were closed, but once you get inside you can tell that the owners put a lot of thought into the interior design. Different shades of brown and details such as wooden menu boards create a cozy, inviting ambiance. There is a restaurant area with booth seating in the back, as well as a large grab-and-go area with a few stools and a coffee counter in the front. The service was extremely friendly, gladly naming and pointing out all doughnuts on offer. And I can tell you, these were some good-looking doughnuts! 

Key Lime Curd filled Brioche

I had a tres leches, while my friend opted for the key lime curd filled brioche. Mine was moist and sweet, just the way a tres leches should be, with toasted coconut shavings and the wonderful taste of condensed milk. I am a sucker for this dessert, so it would have been difficult to disappoint me. My friend's brioche was slightly more chewy and had a rather sour-tasting curd filling that didn't pair well with the sweetness of the dough. It was good. It was rich. But just a little bit weird. While we enjoyed our breakfast there we did not experience the "Wow"-effect I had been hoping for.

Up next was Zeke's DC Donutz, a small store that is easy to miss as it is located in what seems to be a basement in one of the Dupont Circle side streets. The graffiti-style logo out front reflects what's waiting for you inside: A Yelp! reviewer accurately described it as the opening scene of "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air", with a huge boom box, colorful street art on the walls, and hip hop music in the background. There are a few tables to sit and enjoy your food with a cup of coffee or their specialty, cereal milk (yes, that is milk with cereal flavor... feeling nostalgic?). But it is rather dark inside, and when you take the donuts out they package them in pizza boxes which I find kind of cool. Customers are encouraged to leave their mark by scribbling something on the wall, - black pens are provided by the store. I was intrigued by the whole concept, and it really felt like we had stumbled upon some hidden gem that would soon be discovered by the masses and turn into what Baked & Wired is for cupcakes: Hip and edgy and loved by people of all ages and backgrounds. Definitely more of a noteworthy experience than GBD.

Zeke's DC Donutz

The display of available doughnut flavors was incredibly tempting, and the guy behind the counter was very patient with us as we made up our minds about which two to try. Mexican chocolate looked too good, but since we had already eaten before I wanted something "lighter" (in case that adjective can even be used for a doughnut). The mango with curried milk crunchies was my choice, and my friend had the blueberry cheesecake, which turned out to be the winner of the day. Both doughnuts tasted as advertised and were pillowy soft. They were also larger than those at GBD and would have best been eaten with a knife and fork. - We realized this too late, as the cheesecake filling already dripped onto our plastic plates and hands and shirts. But oh well, I consider it better to have this lovely cheesecake-flavored cream on my clothes than a ketchup or coffee stain. Overall, we congratulated ourselves for the discovery of this place and know we will be back for the occasional celebratory breakfast after an exam or deadline. At $ 2.50 per piece, these are no everyday-doughnuts.

Mango and Blueberry Cheesecake

So how do I feel about the new trend? I like it. I am always in favor of exotic flavors and creative new ideas. But will doughnuts replace cupcakes? My answer to that is still "No".

06/29/13 Note: Zeke's DC Donuts has been closed due to complaints by neighbors about the frying smell. They hope to re-open at another location or offer their doughnuts through different channels. I will be sure to post an update as soon as I know more.

Brownie Points for the Tres Leches doughnut at GBD: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Key Lime Curd filled brioche at GBD: 1 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Mango doughnut at Zeke's DC Donutz: 2 out of 3
Brownie Points for the Blueberry Cheesecake doughnut at Zeke's DC Donutz: 3 out of 3

 GBD Fried Chicken and Doughnuts on UrbanspoonZeke's DC Donutz on Urbanspoon

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