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Openings Thu Mar 29 2012
Scott Harris knows a trend when he sees one. The mastermind behind the Francesca's empire will be opening three outposts of Glazed and Infused, a gourmet doughnut chain, next to CTA stations in the next couple months. I got an opportunity to sample some of the wares, and commuters are in for a treat.
Glazed and Infused will launch with around 20 varieties of yeast and cake doughnuts, with a focus on higher end ingredients like single-origin chocolate and hazelnut praline. The mix offers your classics like chocolate glazed, apple fritter and old fashioned, but also includes confections such as a banana-salted caramel and crème brulée-filled bismark. Prices will be between $2.75 and $5.
At a preview tasting this week, I sampled several doughnuts -- enough that I skipped lunch, in fact. The old fashioned is just what you'd expect, a slightly tangy buttermilk cake with a not-overly sweet vanilla bean glaze. The bacon on the "bacon 'sticky bun' cruller" played more of a supporting role to the dominant brown sugar pecan topping, a more subdued take on the bacon craze. Meanwhile, the obligatory maple bacon long john puts its maple-drizzled bacon strip front and center. The red velvet had just the right amount of cream cheese frosting -- enough to be decadent without ending up a mouthful of sugar.
The standouts to me, though, were the "Luscious lemon" and crème brulee. The former is a lemon cake filled with yuzu custard and topped with a lemon glaze and candied zest. It's hard to imagine a doughnut being refreshing, but this one is so light and citrusy it felt like a palate cleanser in the middle of the tasting. The latter features a vanilla custard that is not overly sweet -- which is good, because the yeast doughnut features a lightly bruléed sugar crust on top. The restrained sweetness and texture contrast make for a surprisingly refined treat.
The doughnuts are fried in trans-fat free oil, which managing partner Megan Brown says took a few tries to get right. In the kitchen are pastry chef Christine McCabe,2005 Bon Appétit pastry chef of the year and a veteran of several high profile restaurants; and Tom Culleeney, a former executive chef at Lettuce Entertain You's West Coast Krispy Kreme franchise. Brown said the pair will be developing special doughnuts of the week every week, and will welcome suggestions from customers.
The (first) three Glazed and Infused locations will be a walk-up window on the Damen Avenue side of Francesca's Forno, 1576 N. Milwaukee Ave., and a
sit-down place at 813 W. Fulton Market (on the same block as Publican Quality Meats) that will also house the chain's commissary kitchen. Brown said those locations should be open by mid-April., while the third location, at 929 W. Armitage Ave. below the Brown Line stop, is expected to open in late June. Each location will open at 6:30am on weekdays, 8am on weekends; closing time will vary by location, and the Wicker Park location will reopen on Friday and Saturday night from 10pm to 2:30am to help you sober up. All three shops will offer curb service for phone-ahead and online orders, and delivery service is also planned. Brown mentioned that they've been working closely with the CTA, so if these first shops go well, you might find fancy doughnut stands popping in more stations around the city.