With Federal Donuts' Pennsport location right in my 'hood, I could have easily been first in line this Monday at 7am for their opening day, but I patiently waited until their third day of business to pay a visit.
The small corner takeout store specializing in donuts, coffee, and Korean fried chicken, opened by Steven Cook and Michael Solomonov (Zahav, Percy Street), Thomas Henneman and Bob Logue (BODHi Coffee), and Felicia D’Ambrosio, may seem like a odd food pairing catering to a niche market of food lovers, but from the turnout of people at Federal Donuts clamoring to get their hands on the long anticipated vittles, it seems the niche market of 'nuts and chix ain't so small. Federal Donuts has been selling out of doughnuts within hours of opening, and chicken, which doesn't take the stage until noon, within the hour.
Things should calm down at some point — they just opened after long anticipation and much fanfare from the media, after all — so don't get discouraged if you have not had a chance to try Federal Donuts' chicken or doughnuts.
There was only one way for me to tackle Federal Donuts, and that was to order all the doughnuts! Flavors of both the Fancies and Sugared will vary, so I didn't really try all of the doughnuts; just those offered that day.
Six Fancy doughnuts ($2 each), which are filled and glazed in advance. And...
Three Sugared doughnuts ($1.25 each), which are hot, made to order.
Of course, there's also the Korean fried chicken, which I obviously won't be posting about unless they start frying seitan (do it!). Whole ($15) and half ($8) birds are available glazed (traditional Korean style, chili-garlic, honey-ginger) or crispy and sprinkled with seasoned salts (Za'atar, buttermilk ranch, harissa).
A Federal Donuts custom blend of Stumptown Roasters PT's Coffee Roasting Co. beans is served using the single-cup Chemex method.
First things first...I was curious as to how the round cake doughnuts with a hole in the middle that are plopped out by a Donut Robot into a vat of hot oil were going to be filled, since I think of filled doughnuts as yeasted and without a hole. Were they going to fill the hole and seal in the filling somehow?
Nope. Filling is piped into the center of the cake itself, with the filling going all the way around — more or less — the tube of cake. Brilliant!
All doughnuts are made with the same cake base, which is neutral in flavor, so plays well with all the different flavored toppings and filling. I'm happy to report that the cake is light and fluffy. Still crossing my fingers that Federal Donuts will roll out some yeasted doughnuts in the future, though.
Oh, my! The Key Lime Fancy doughnut piped full of lime curd, then dipped in a sweet lime glaze and topped with graham cracker crumbs is my favorite of the bunch, and the most decadent. Put this on a plate with a fork at your next dinner party, and don't even bother whipping up a homemade dessert!
At first bite, I wasn't too keen on the Nutella-Tahina-Pomegranate Fancy doughnut filled with tahini Nutella, dipped in a pomegranate glaze and sprinkled with sesame seeds (sesame reads savory to me, and the tahini diminished the perfection that is Nutella), but this doughnut grew on me and developed into a sophisticated twist on peanut butter and jelly.
For those who like plainer flavors, the Honey-Almond Fancy with a delicate honey flavor is for you. Even though the Honey-Almond doughnut is a Fancy, this did not seem to be filled. Perhaps the filling just seeped into the cake. There has to be a chocolate covered doughnut! The Chocolate-Raspberry Fancy piped with raspberry jelly, glazed with chocolate and topped with dried raspberries is just a classic flavor combination that cannot be messed with. One of my favorites in the bunch!Another favorite is the Coconut-Pineapple Fancy. Filled with pineapple jelly and dipped in a coconut glaze with sweet coconut flakes, this doughnut is tropical with a capital "T." The coconut and pineapple flavors are so fresh and clear, it's like ambrosia (the fresh fruit salad dessert) made into doughnut form. Do not miss, if you like coconut!
The Orange Blossom-Pistachio Fancy is the only doughnut I would not order again. It's me, not you, Federal Donuts. The smell of the orange blossom glaze (isolated, it's a lovely fragrance) mixed with nuts and cake reminds me of the sometimes funky mixed smells in greenhouses. Those who don't spend lots of time around plants like I do, may find this floral-scented, curd filled doughnut just heavenly. The Vanilla-Lavender Sugar doughnut is going to be your plainest option. The lavender is so light it is barely detectable, making this, basically, a plain sugared doughnut.
I had no idea what flavor the Apollonia Sugar doughnut would be. When I asked my boyfriend what he suspected, he replied, "Prince's girlfriend in Purple Rain?" Ha.
Turns out, Apollonia is a spice blend of bitter cocoa powder and dried orange blossoms from La Boite a Epice. Here, orange blossom is not so in your face, and can be enjoyed without greenhouse flashbacks.
The Indian Cinnamon Sugar doughnut has an enchanting spice mix — is that cardamom? — that brings intrigue to a cinnamon sugar doughnut.
Fabulous job all around, Federal Doughnuts! You have done with cake doughnuts what I had hoped for from The Fractured Prune, but did not get: exciting and inventive flavors. Still gonna hold out hope for yeasted doughnuts, though.
1219 S. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19147