Last month, restaurateur Michael Hargis and executive chef Brock Macdonald, the team behind popular midtown spots LowBrau and Block Butcher Bar, announced plans to open a third restaurant called Beast + Bounty in the upcoming Ice Blocks development on R Street.
It turns out Hargis has yet another venture going into the building, one that should make the Ice Blocks a little cooler – and sweeter.
Adjacent to Beast + Bounty, Hargis said he plans to open a dessert concept called Milk Money. It will be an ice cream shop that also serves doughnuts. And it will feature the whimsical treats of Edward Martinez, a former top pastry chef in Sacramento currently plying his trade in the Bay Area, who is also creating the Beast + Bounty dessert menu.
“It’s a very unique concept in that we’re doing one doughnut every day,” Hargis said, “and it’s the best (freaking) doughnut you’ve ever had.”
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The plan is for Milk Money to offer several flavors of ice cream and a different type of doughnut each day, which will be available from opening at 8 a.m. until it sells out. Hargis said the venture’s name is partly meant to reflect the affordability of its offerings. Yet from the sound of it, these will not be the doughnuts of your childhood.
That’s largely due to the involvement of Martinez, the pastry chef at two-Michelin-starred Lazy Bear in San Francisco. Formerly of Hawks in Granite Bay and now-closed Enotria, Martinez left Sacramento in 2013 for the Bay Area, where he continued to establish a reputation for his inventive desserts. Last year, while at Cadence in San Francisco, he was named a Rising Star Pastry Chef by the publication StarChefs.
Milk Money, Martinez said, gives him a chance to “play around and have fun.” The doughnuts will be made with brioche dough, using high-quality ingredients. The ice cream menu will reflect local seasonality. But the ever-changing menu will allow Martinez to indulge his creativity while also showing his range.
The shop might offer a sugared doughnut studded with freeze-dried raspberries and filled with a curd of sake kasu, the leftover dregs from sake production. It might offer an ice cream of milk infused with Lucky Charms marshmallows, with crumbles mixed in, harkening to Martinez’s affection for cereal.
“That’s me as a pastry chef,” Martinez said by phone. “I like using different things and just being weird. The cool thing about Sacramento is they like that about me.”
Recently, Martinez produced a few potential menu items for Hargis and Macdonald to try. The ice creams included an horchata flavor, a buttermilk and Bing cherry, and a Strauss cream and peach. There was a blueberry pie doughnut, a cinnamon sugar, and one featuring a Valrhona chocolate glaze topped with a cocoa praline and smoked salt.
“I called my mom, like, ‘Have you ever eaten something so good you wanted to cry?’ ” Hargis said. “It was stupid good.”
Contrary to desserts that are overpoweringly sweet after one bite, Macdonald said that Martinez’s confections “are so balanced that you can just continue to eat them and it’s like, ‘This is really good. This is really good.’ ” Martinez cited the chocolate doughnut as an example of “all the things I like – it’s rich and bitter and salty and slightly sweet.”
That same balance will inform the desserts for Beast + Bounty. Martinez said his ideas for that menu include a salt-roasted pear served with a plain Strauss ice cream that will play off the flavor of the fruit.
While both venues are tentatively set to open in September, they are separated entities – both physically, by an alleyway, and in concept. A full restaurant with a bar, Beast + Bounty will aim to be a comfortable space providing an elevated menu that gives its meats and vegetables equal billing, answering what Hargis sees as a need in the midtown market.
“It was, ‘We have a group of people that are vegetarians and a group of people that are meat eaters, but where’s the common place for them to come together and both enjoy?’ ” Hargis said. “We’re going to be celebrating the meats and vegetables on the same level.”
Central to the restaurant’s character will be a 7-foot, wood-burning hearth housing two 36-inch grills. Inspired by such restaurants as Ox in Portland, Hargis said he wanted to create a concept built around food cooked over open flame. Even the cocktail menu at Beast + Bounty will incorporate char and smoke as flavor profiles.
“The hearth is really going to be what generates the menu,” Macdonald said. “It’s an oven, it’s a grill, you can sauté things on the coals. It just really brings out the flavor for everything.”
Macdonald said the menu, particularly the vegetable components, will change with the season. Potential offerings include rotisserie meats, wood-fired pizzas, pastas, and meat and veggie burgers. A vegetarian entrée, Macdonald said, might center on pulled, roasted acorn squash.
The roughly 2,500-square-foot space will be anchored on either side by an open kitchen and the bar, which will feature an extensive wine list and craft ciders. Hargis said it will be “a very vibrant space,” with white oak woods, natural leathers and hanging greenery. The interior will seat about 90 people, with space for about 40 more on the outdoor patio. There will also be an outdoor bocce court.
Macdonald said Beast and Bounty will likely open by doing dinners for its first couple weeks before expanding to breakfast, lunch and dinner service during the week. It will serve brunch and dinner on the weekends and be closed Mondays. If you stay late, take note: Milk Money’s daily doughnut will be posted on Instagram at 6 a.m.