Debbie Matthews: Trip to Rise leaves me feeling sunk

Apr. 23, 2013 @ 06:22 PM

I was so excited to hear about Rise, the new doughnut and biscuit place at 8200 Renaissance Parkway in Durham.
Tom Ferguson is the owner. He used to be co-owner of the Only Burger truck.
I am a huge fan of Only Burger. I’ve eaten from the truck and at the brick and mortar location at Shannon Plaza (3710 Shannon Road).
So doughnuts and biscuits created by an OB guy?
Yes, please.
The thing that makes Rise stand out among similar places is their creativity. They have original and unique toppings for both doughnuts and biscuits.
The first time, The Kid chose slow-braised pork with Brussels sprout leaves; it was absolutely delicious. I had gone in hoping for either their short ribs or pork belly. No luck. I ordered a bacon, egg and American cheese.
It was your standard BEC biscuit. It wasn’t as good as one from Bojangles’, and about twice the price.
On this trip, I ordered asparagus, egg, and hollandaise sauce. I love hollandaise. If it wouldn’t kill me, I would probably drink it.
When I unwrapped my treat, I noticed that the spears were left long and hung over each side of the biscuit. I nibbled my way toward the actual biscuit, anticipating the creamy, lemony sauce within.
No dice.
There was no visible sauce. There was also no hollandaise flavor. But, the very worst thing about the sandwich was it was a giant, slippery mess. I even got egg in my hair! I’ve been eating on my own for quite a while now, so I can normally eat without looking like a toddler feeding himself spaghetti.
Their Yukon potato cakes are pretty darn good, though. Crispy on the outside, and moist and flavorful on the inside.
I must confess right here that I am a doughnut snob. I only eat them if they’re fresh.
Rise’s doughnuts are fresh.
On my first visit, I ordered a glazed and their crème brûlée. The glazed was kind of a puzzle. It had no hole. Because of this, it was kind of dense and doughy. I later found out they had run out of the holey ones and just glazed the ones meant to be filled. They should have just taken the glazed off the menu. It was a big let-down.
On a recent trip to Krispy Kreme, I was lucky enough to eat a doughnut still damp from its honey glaze shower. That doughnut was a religious experience. I was so grateful to the man who served it to me, I would have gone home with him and mowed his lawn. That doughnut was the yardstick by which all other doughnuts will be judged.
The Rise glazed wasn’t even in the same universe.
But the crème brûlée doughnut was a delight. It was filled with custard flecked with vanilla bean, and the glaze was actually torched, so with each bite my teeth broke through a caramelized shell. It was a dreamy hand-held version of one of my favorite desserts.
On this visit, I got a maple bacon bar. It came bearing an entire strip of bacon running right down the center. I was jazzed; I love bacon with sweets.
Unfortunately, the maple flavor was so overpowering, I could detect no pork. I could feel the crunch of it, and even, during one bite, caught a salty taste. But the smokey bacon flavor was entirely absent.
The Kid was delighted to find a red velvet doughnut on the board. I think it’s icky, but it’s first on my child’s sweet treat list.
It was another bummer. According to The Kid, the cake part had very little flavor, and the cream cheese icing was filled with little unmixed beads of cheese. For a budding pastry chef, that’s a big no-no.
We took home an apple fritter for Petey. After the first couple of bites, he asked me what type of pastry we’d brought. There were no bits of fruit in it. It was a big piece of fried glazed dough.
The prices aren’t for the faint of heart. One of the doughnuts of the day was a cookies and cream. Coincidentally, Krispy Kreme’s featured doughnut is also cookies and cream. Rise’s was $1.50. KK’s sells theirs for $1.17.
As I was paying for our purchase this time, a funny moment occurred.
When you arrive at Rise, you take a number – like at a deli. When your number is called, you order and pay up. They call you as your food is bagged, you then go back to the counter, and pick it up. Full counter service.
After I handed my card to the friendly counter girl, she flipped around the computer screen for me to sign.
Then she pointed out my options.
“Here are tips: 5%, 10%, add your own amount, or you can choose not to tip us.”
Huh? For counter service?
Frankly, I felt a little coerced. I left them the 10 percent option, but it left me with a bad taste in my mouth.
I may stop by Rise again, for another crème brûlée. But living in east Durham almost exactly between the Wake Forest Krispy Kreme and Southpoint’s Rise, I’ll go east for my treats.
Some yummy news: The Shriners are holding their annual fish fry this Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. next to North Duke Crossing shopping center. Come on out for some great food for a great cause.
Thanks for your time.
Debbie Matthews lives, writes and cooks in Durham. Her email address is