Hailing from Raleigh, NC, I am no stranger to the fandom that follows Rise – a biscuit and doughnut bakery that, on multiple accounts, has been lauded as “last-meal worthy." Rise has been on the tip of everyone in Wilmington’s tongue lately in anticipation of the opening day. Its quick development in the Triangle has fostered a legacy that is making it the cool new kid on the block, just in time for the new school year.
We’ve had a few teasers for this franchise – this week alone they have had at least three events for people to come taste their products for free. When a graduate student hears “free” following “biscuits and doughnuts,” a reaction ensues akin of moths to a flame. These initiatives have been taken advantage of by all in Wilmington, or so the mix of people at the VIP event seemed to suggest.
I got my golden ticket to the Rise VIP event on Thursday, and taking my self-appointed WHQR foodie role to heart, enlisted the expertise of a doughnut connoisseur. True to his developing critic legacy, he shall remain anonymous. However, at all of eight years old this kid doesn’t joke around with his fried dough. I’ve been at the brunt of his bold honesty many of times in the past – and can attest that he holds nothing back.
We showed up fashionably late to the event, and if there were any kinks in service, theyhad well worked themselves out by then. The line of eager like-minded foodies gave my colleague time to scour the doughnut case, though the Cheerwine Iced Doughnut made for a quick decision. In almost sensory overload, we didn’t know whether to look in the doughnut case - laden with Maple Bacon Bars, Salty Captain Crunch doughnuts and Apple Fritters the size of your head – or to follow our noses and eyes to the fast-paced open kitchen where there must have been about 15 orange “Rise” hats bobbing and shuffling about and at least 500 more doughnuts waiting in the wings. We watched the Creme Brulee doughnuts get bruleed, the oreo doughnuts get oreoed and the biscuit with fried eggplant, eggplanted. The open kitchen concept was friendly to pictures and olfactory requirements.
My hunger was under control until I reached a smiling face at the register where the goodness of fried dough, biscuit aroma and bacon hit me like the waves kicked up by Tropical Storm Hermine. Seriously, figure out how to put that smell in a candle because I’d buy them all.
A doughnut man by day, my expert selected his doughnut and a biscuit with mac&cheese and bacon (one of handful of biscuit sandwiches offered). I opted for a regular doughnut and the “Pigs in a Blanket” biscuit, where sausage, sweet potato and cheddar cheese shared a biscuit blanket.
Not to be disturbed in our highly serious research, we took our feast home. Five minutes later the verdict was in as what my critic called “the best doughnut and biscuit ever.” And while I can understand the allure (and evident supreme taste) of the mac&cheese and bacon biscuit, Rise has hit the nail on the head with the pig in a blanket.
ASIDE: You can’t underestimate the plain doughnut and biscuit – in the purest form, it is the building block upon which all the other toppings and fillings rest. Rise cracked the code with attention to this foundation: fluffy, flavorful and fresh.
With the attention to creating the perfect biscuit on top of the assist of sweetness and savory of the sweet potato and cheddar topped sausage, Rise has created a monster – and I’m not sure if I’m referring to the inevitable take-over as a Wilmington staple, or to myself once opening day comes and I make myself a regular.