How serious is Portland's enduring doughnut fixation? Even the folks who don't like doughnuts apparently want in on the trend.
Blue Star Donuts is the newest addition to the city's doughnut scene, and Seattleites who sneer at their fellow train passengers armed for the trip home with pink Voodoo boxes are likely to gravitate toward it. While in Portland last weekend, I heard about Blue Star at a Japanese restaurant and a tapas bar. Six weeks after its opening, Blue Star remains the bakery of the moment.
The clean-lined, well-lit shop belongs to Little Big Burger's Micah Camden, who's hired Stephanie Donlan as head pastry chef. As Portland food writers have dutifully reported, Blue Star has two clear claims to fame: Brioche dough and the fried chicken doughnut, a glazed ring topped with a heap of meat and a packet of Frank's Red Hot.
Sadly, there weren't any chicken doughnuts in the display case when I visited Blue Star: My choices included a chocolate coconut ganache, passionfruit cocoa nib and a strawberry-filled with peanut butter powder. Since I like sweets with a savory edge, I ordered a blueberry basil bourbon, sloshed with a drippy, tart jam.
The bakery's tag line is "donuts for grown ups" and the blueberry-basil-bourbon makes good on it. Although the topping doesn't taste boozy, the brioche-based cake has a dry, sophisticated butteriness. But what's problematic is the sauce and pastry don't cohere convincingly. What makes doughnuts great is their all-encompassing, indistinct sweetness, with each element playing a critical textural role. The Blue Star doughnut is considerably more fragmented.
But for eaters who take exception to the unrefined goofiness of doughnuts, Blue Star's products are probably perfect. I'm hoping for its next trick, the bakery introduces cupcakes for those of us who can't stand cupcakes - and long ago gave up on the trend ever running its course.