Serious Sweets: Sweet Potato Doughnuts at Powerhouse
I've had some great moments at Cafe du Monde, the legendary beignet stand in New Orleans. That said, most of those moments are rooted in nostalgia for the Big Easy, rather than for the stand's doughnuts and coffee. Occasionally you'll score some beignets fresh out of the deep fryer, where the confectioners' sugar melts into a gooey glaze, but sometimes they're just lukewarm and flat. Likewise the much-lauded chicory coffee, which is brewed in big commercial urns, tends to run bitter.
That being said, last week while dining at Powerhouse (215 N. Clinton St.), one of Chicago's newest restaurants, I found a set of doughnuts that I wish Cafe du Monde served. Tater totsize fluffy sweet potato dough nuggets glazed in brown butter sauced with a creamy pool of cinnamon sabayon studded with arrop (candied glazed aged pumpkin bits) and toasted pepitos. While it's primarily a sweet dish, the saltiness of the toasted pumpkin seeds melds with the heady fragrance of cinnamon and the sweet sugar and satisfies every kind of taste receptor on your tongue. If you close your eyes, the pumpkin and sweet potato perfume from the dish transforms your banquette into a fall farmhouse hayride.