When pastry chef Tiffany MacIsaac introduced epicurean-quality doughnuts to a restaurant’s brunch menu earlier this year, she banked on the fact that customers would savor the sugary indulgences. After all, guests at Birch & Barley in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, D.C., tend to have an appetite for adventure, especially when they order from the restaurant’s list of more than 500 specialty beers.
Ales and lagers aside, orders of high-end doughnuts fit the bill for many Birch & Barley diners. At a weekend brunch, MacIsaac says, they’ve been looking to spoil themselves a little.
Turns out MacIsaac was right about the doughnuts, which are now offered as a “sharing” plate on the restaurant’s Sunday-only brunch menu. The plate includes three doughnuts per order, including a chocolate doughnut and a lemon-poppyseed version. The doughnuts are freshly fried, order by order, and delivered to tables piping hot.
But doughnuts are doughnuts, right? Wrong. The all-star doughnut that has many beltway brunch lovers buzzing is an extraordinary pastry that can’t be found in any old bakery. It’s the toffee-bacon doughnut, an invention that will cause lovers of pork belly to moan in ecstasy. Here’s why:
For each order, MacIsaac says, brioche dough is rolled into a round doughnut shape and dropped into a deep fryer. When it’s finished frying, the doughnuts are drained and coated with a special brown-sugar glaze, which MacIsaac describes as a toffee sauce she uses to ice the doughnut. She then garnishes the doughnut with pulverized bacon bits. That final touch is a brace of pork belly-fueled goodness that injects each toffee-bacon doughnut with its distinctive salty-and-sweet flavor profile.
“People absolutely love it, even though we only offer it one day a week,” MacIsaac says, noting that it takes around 10 minutes to produce each order given her mission of freshly frying and plating each doughnut as diners place orders. “Originally I prepared it for a ‘family’ meal for our staff after service. Everybody loved it, so we put it on the brunch menu, and it’s been there since then.”
MacIsaac moved to the nation’s capitol last year to help open the restaurant with her husband Kyle Bailey, who also serves as the restaurant’s executive chef. The pastry chef says the first year of serving local diners has signaled a sense of adventure among D.C.-area diners who flock to the restaurant for the specialty beers and an eclectic mix of savory foods that match them.
Surely there’s at least one beer that complements MacIsaac’s bacon-fueled donut. But what if you don’t drink beer? “There’s always good coffee,”MacIsaac says.