The other weekend, I was dog sitting my sister’s pampered pooch, Gussy, while she was away on business. Saturday morning at pre-COD, (that’s pre-crack of dawn), he decided that it was time to rise and shine. He demonstrated this by sitting on my head. (Have no fear, he’s a toy breed.) I ordered him to the foot of the bed, despite my evolving view that dogs do not even belong on human beds. He sat there for a few minutes before returning to lick my elbow, followed by my forehead, as though to reinforce his demands.
As much as I do like the little fella, I was exasperated. I mean, the scenery will change for him—downstairs versus upstairs—but for the most part his life consists of licking, chewing, and yipping at every sound. But since I was up, I decided to make the most of it and made my way over to the somewhat-newly-opened Rise Biscuits and Donuts in Durham, NC.
When I got there at around 6:50 a.m., there were already six carloads of people waiting. (Rise opens at 7 a.m.) Inside, I could see the staff bustling to make last minute preparations. In white letters on the back of one worker’s red t-shirt were the words, “Wait for my signal.”
In a highly civilized manner—biscuit and donut people are a fairly laid back bunch—we nonchalantly formed a line of sorts. At the signal, (7 a.m. sharp), we shuffled our way toward the counter until eventually our respective numbers, (which we pulled upon entering), were called and our orders for decadent sweets or savory breakfast biscuits were taken.
Rise Donuts and Biscuits at Southpoint in Durham, NC.
I’ve been to Rise twice since it opened, (once on a Saturday and once on a Sunday), and I am a fan. As far as the menu goes, everything looks or sounds delectable; but if they only sold one item, I would hope that it was the apple fritter. I love me some apples and I’ve had my share of fritters, so I can say with some authority that Rise’s apple fritter is the best (that I’ve ever had): soft on the inside, just crispy enough on the outside without being greasy, and loaded with plump chunks of apples. The fritter is so fresh, and when it is still warm…oh my! As any good fritter ought to be, it is large—and I do not wish to be—so I can usually eat off of it for a whole day or two without noticing a compromise in flavor or freshness.
An apple fritter, maple bacon bar, cinnamon sugar cake donut, and Bavarian Creme donut from Rise in Durham, NC.
Part of the charm of Rise is the economization of their small space. Stand-up bistro tables fill the main area in front of the counter, and to the right is a coffee bar with a sign to the effect of “help yourself to some coffee while you wait, and we’ll meet you at the counter.” The largest space in the place is the actual kitchen area, then to the left of that enclosure is a row of barstools, a big chalk board on the opposing wall, a bookshelf full of culinary books, as well as a few toys to occupy the children. I’ll get back to the toys in a minute.
The clientelle is quite diverse—all ages and walks of life. My first visit there, I was in line behind a lean MD coming off the night shift in her scrubs. (Translated: Doctor recommended.) After I placed my order, I meandered to the chalkboard/bookshelf area. Motown was playing and a middle-aged black man started to “get down, get down, get down” to the music while waiting for his order. An unrepentant starer, I watched and smiled encouragingly…which is perhaps why I missed the pink retro toy kitchen in the corner of the shop. I did, however, see it on my second visit, and it reminded me of this:
a retro-modern kitchen set at Rise Durham (left); one of my most memorable Christmas gifts (right)
Perhaps only nostalgics are prone to tie the present with the past, or maybe everyone does it and most people just keep it to themselves. For me, life is as sweet as an apple fritter when present, everyday situations reach back and bring the pleasant scenes of the past to mind.