Life-Changing



The Doughnut Plant has haunted us Gourmetros for too long. Two weeks ago, we’d had enough of hearing rave reviews, so we trucked down from SpaHa to see for ourselves whether these were indeed gifts from some benevolent yeasty/cakey doughnut god. We tried to get down there sooner, we really did, but the Plant’s schedule and LES locale kept us from their fatty comestables. Oh, and the other motivating factor was a Food Network Throwdown: if the place has a FN special, it’s either jumped the shark, or it’s buzz-proof.

Between the two trips, we sampled the following cake and yeast-risen ‘nuts: Tres Leches, Chocolate Blackout, Triple Chocolate, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Raspberry Filled, Valrhona Glazed, Strawberry Glazed, and Coconut Cream.

Our feelings about the yeast and cake run along the lines of Ed Levine’s reaction last fall. The cake ‘nuts were remarkable on both occasions; the Tres Leches’ delightfully moist cake, thin ribbon of filling, and crisp glaze made for a truly killer baked good (pictured: right). One of these every morning for the rest of our lives would make us happy (if fat) individuals. These guys achieve a near-perfect balance in the sweetness/texture fields. If the Tres Leches or Blackouts had been treated like a [blech] Dunkin‘ style filled doughnut (disk-shaped, lake of filling) they would have been far too sweet.

The yeast doughnuts, however beautiful, lacked in every possible way (with one exception). We were shocked at how a seemingly light doughnut could be so tough, chewy, bland and overpowering. The Valrhona glazed was bland (pictured: bottom); the PB&J, chewy and bo-ring (we may as well have just eaten a sandwich…); and strawberry glazed was waay too sweet.

Thankfully, the Coconut Cream yeast-risen doughnut blew the other yeasties out of the water: it was blessed with nuanced coconut flavor, a spot-on cream-to-bread ratio, and it wasn’t too tooth-achingly sweet (though it toed the line on that one). The key to the yeast doughnuts, we think, is timing. If we ever get there early, we’ll give them another shot.

In the end, the cake doughnuts were some of the best things we’ve ever put in our mouths. Leave their yeast-risen brethren to the seething hordes of Food Network gastrotourists.

The Afterglow is a reoccurring feature where Gourmetros visit buzzworthy places a bit after the buzz. Call us lazy if you must, but we just want to find out for ourselves if the places were ever worth it.

For more delicious doughnut shots, check out our Flickr account.

(Or so Bob Boilen says)

Farrah Olivia, however, will.

We managed to sneak an 8:15 Restaurant Week dinner reservation at this brand new Alexandria restaurant. Farrah is a tiny place with simple decor – one wall is eggplant-colored with sage green trees painted on it, the other two walls are full-length windows which you can gaze at the loveliness of the fast food joint across the street.

I’ll start off with my few complaints- the dining tables were very small and close together. The menu for restaurant week was confusing, as a few of the items said “additional $8″, as opposed to a normal RW menu that clearly list the choices for the three courses. There was no dessert course listed on the main menu, but there was a cheese course. We had a moment of worry that cheese would be replacing dessert for RW, but thankfully dessert was included, they just brought out the menu later. Phew.

Our first surprise was the bread – one slice of raisin walnut and of sourdough for each of us. None of this “and one extra for the table” crap that you so often get, and then it comes to fisticuffs over that last piece of bread. With said bread came a palette of spread choices: pumpkin butter, refried tomato spread, black pepper honey butter, and bok choy spread. The pumpkin was like pumpkin pie filling, only fresher and not as sickeningly sweet, the refried tomato was delicious, but nothing different than a sun-dried tomato spread would be. The bok choy spread was a little chalky, but not too bad. My favorite was the honey butter though – in tasting it, you first tasted the rich creamy butter with a hint of sweetness, and then the KICK of pepper and honey hit you at the end.

The second surprise was an amuse bouche! We each got a smidgen of angel hair pasta with lobster, white truffle oil and a perfect schmear of beet juice. The truffle oil gave it that amazing umami thing that truffles do, and it was the perfect appetite-whetter for what was to come.

My starter was described as a Parmesan cream with cinnamon scent. Usually, cheese soup grosses me out a bit, but I was too intrigued to pass it up. It was absolutely life-changing. First – it was served in an elegant bowl shaped like the hurricane symbol (I do love me some swanky presentation). The soup was rich and flavorful, yet light, almost as if egg whites had been folded into it, and the cinnamon swirl did a perfect job of cutting the richness of the cheese.

For my entree, I had anise-rubbed salmon served with yucca “couscous.” As much as licorice isn’t my favorite flavor, the amount of anise on the salmon was perfect – just enough spice to liven things up, but not sickening. The fish itself was tender, not overdone, and CREAMY. According to Washingtonian, this creaminess is courtesy of the salmon being cooked in caul fat, a technique renowned for increasing the juiciness of meat. And the faux couscous was an excellent complement to the luscious salmon – crunchy because of the yucca and nicely paired with some minced tomatoes.

For dessert, I opted for the “Spice”: a wild fig & cassis cake with maple caviar. It looked a lot like tiramisu in presentation, which only increased my love for the dish. The cake was very thin, covered with at least an inch of mascarpone, and served with a teeny dish of mustard ice cream on the side. All of the flavors complemented each other wonderfully – even the mustard, which I normally dislike!

To be fair, I really love the North African/Mediterranean cooking style that Chef Morou Outtara favors. But this meal was….absolutely incredible. F’amazing, even. Sadly, Farrah Olivia is classified as a FIVE dollar sign restaurant…so I may not be back for awhile. But if any of you find a bajillion dollar bill on the street, you should go there IMMEDIATELY. If it doesn’t change your life, I’ll make you cupcakes.

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