This round of ‘O-Rama‘ has us on the run. For breakfast. My meals are almost always the same: bananas, yogurt or a chocolate croissant, chosen more out of convenience than care. Occasionally there will be a danish, bagel or breakfast sandwhich but that’s about where it stops. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that donuts have never really been part of my breakfast ritual and think that’s because I’m pretty ambivalent about whats available around town. Tony’s Donuts are too dense and sweet and Dunkin’ Donuts is just boring and make my teeth hurt. Though, I will cop to picking up one or two of their Pumpkin variety in the Fall.
So, for me, Portland has been seriously lacking a good donut. We had it for a brief and sparkly moment, with Westbrook’s indulgent French Press Eatery, but now they are relegated to a smattering of brunch menus in the area, like District and The Frog and Turtle. But, not too long ago, these little fried cakes started showing up around a few coffee houses in Portland. On the counter was a simple business card that said, “The Holy Donut. Leigh Kellis, Owner.” Sadly, I always seemed too late to the party to manage to snag one, so I went on wondering.
Wonder no more, I guess, as procuring one doesn’t have to be the task that it was as Leigh Kellis has opened up a donut bar on the first floor of the East Ender, located on Middle Street in Portland. There, she’s offering at least six different flavor varieties.
I was there for over an hour and she had a steady stream of customers and spent most of that time back in kitchen frying up fresh batches. By 8:30, because sales had been so swift, Leigh began to worry aloud that she might run out of dough. This was only her second day open and it seemed the word was already out. Luckily, she had friends Mitch Gerow and Megan Schroeter, both of East Ender, lending her a hand with boxing up orders, ringing out customers and keeping the coffee flowing. Her father helped with deliveries to shops and acted as quality control in the kitchen. It was truly a family affair.
The donuts, whether the Bacon and Sharp Cheddar combination–which are shaped like half moons–or her basic Maine Potato Flour, are addictive. They remind me of the apple cider variety I was obsessed with for a good stretch in my twenties from Indian Ladder Farms, back in New York. The cakes are light, moist and fried to a perfect golden brown.
The two that I had, Bacon and Sharp Cheddar and Sweet Potato and Ginger, were vastly different. The bacon had a smokey back note, with a bite of salt and mild acidic sharpness from the cheddar. Her father noted that they could use more filling but I thought they were perfect. It was so good, I had to have two. Now, if she could just figure out how to get some scrambled eggs in the pocket, she will have made the perfect breakfast item. And I would marry her.
The Sweet Potato and Ginger was a little more subdued then the bacon was. The ginger added just the slightest bit of pepper to the sweet dough but I didn’t notice a huge flavor difference from her Maine Potato Flour. It was obvious in color, and a slightly sweeter profile, that the base was made with sweet potatoes, but I felt it could have used more ginger, or maybe some cardamon, to spice it up a bit more. But, after two bacon donuts, did the Sweet Potato ever have a chance?
And did I mention the varieties?
Did I also mention that I forgot to photograph the 70% Dark Chocolate and her Maine Potato Flour? Because, apparently, I did.
So, put the yogurt back in the fridge. Save yourself the time that you would have spent toasting a bagel and get in your car and drive down to 47 Middle Street ( from 7:30-10am, Weekdays only, kids) for a half dozen or so before you head into work or class. Just be smart and don’t tell your friends or co-workers that you have them because they’ll plot against you and try to steal your precious… err, I mean breakfast. If you do make the mistake and actually share with other people and find yourself out before you were ready to be, you can hunt down more donuts at nine different locations in and around Portland–from Bard to Lois’ Natural Marketplace.