On the Hunt: Brenda’s French Soul Food Beignets

     Ramadan has officially commenced around the world, so it’s a good thing I ran around the SF food scene early in the game. But don’t think a month of daylight fasting will deter me from the restaurant tables; I’m already making plans to visit Candybar Dessert Lounge  *rubs hands*.

     I guess I like doughnuts; enough to find the best of the best in town according to Google. That’s probably one of a handful of things I got from my Uncle Banji – shout out for sacrificing the trans-fat-full Krispy Kremes. Brenda’s French Soul Food is a cute restaurant in the occasionally dodgy Tenderloin neighborhood, where Chef Brenda Buenviaje brought her New Orleans culture and cooking to share with San Francisco. We came for the beignets, but left with the intention of trying the shrimp and goat-cheese omelet or cornmeal-fried oyster po’boy. I’m a sucker for seafood and deep frying, so I think I could do some real damage here.

     This place gets packed. Lines out the door, and extra cozy dining rooms. This is a good sign, right? So is this one: “house rules”. They need a whole frame – I’m in. And luckily, literally. The 2pm Friday crowd was minimal, and my roommie Megan and I were seated within 5 minutes of entering.

     Check out the silverware cans and condiment buckets. True southern feel? I would think so, but I’ve yet to make it to Louisiana. What I do know is that some of these cans came from the famous Café du Monde in New Orleans. Authentic!

     Casual yet classy. Check out the mirrors on that wall. Check out the wall.

     So beignets. Megan and I were kinda in over our heads here…after some consideration, we went for a plate of traditional beignets, and a plate of Ghirardelli-stuffed beignets to split. Three beignets of each, three beignets each to consume. Totally doable, right? Maybe, but the real question is always “should it be”, isn’t it? We could barely move after enjoying the dense fried dough mounds and dark chocolate chip pockets, doused in powdered sugar.

     What exactly is a beignet, though? You could call it the French version of a doughnut, but for us, it’s closer to a “fritter”. I call it a ball or square of fried dough, that is always be covered in powdered sugar in this country. What may make it particular is the dough itself. The “choux” pastry is light and has butter, egg, and flour. Without yeast, these treats expand when steam is created from all the moisture and heat. In this traditional beignet, you can see the pocket of air. But don’t be deceived: these beignets pack a heavy punch. After one, you’re trying to calculate how you will finish the other two waiting on your plate.

     So much beignet…so little room. Here we have a lovely chocolate-stuffed beignet, where the middle is made up of Ghirardelli chocolate chips. Did I mention Ghirardelli originated in San Francisco? And this thing was chock-FULL. We instantly reevaluated our choice to order two plates among consuming our first one of these. I may have preferred shooting it than eating it – you really need to enlarge these images to get the full experience. The chocolate chips hadn’t even melted fully…there IS such a thing as too much chocolate, and I think we were in sight of a limit at Brenda’s. In any case, it was an excellent experience and I have no regrets. Only next time, I’ll be trying at least one of their different varieties: Granny Smith Apple (with honey butter!!) and Crawfish. A la prochaine, Brenda!

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