If the plate of “French toast” at Blue Duck Tavern looks more like a pair of cinnamon rolls conjoined at the hip, there’s a reason. Chef Brian McBride developed this weekend special (no doubt in a subterranean laboratory with a hunchback assistant and lots of beakers overflowing with dry-ice clouds) by fusing a mall-court favorite with a brunch-menu staple.
McBride calls his creation “Baked Cinnamon Bun French Toast,” and the monster sells for $15 a plate during the weekend brunch at Blue Duck. On first blush, the dish looks like something out of White Trash Cooking. (Step 1: Stop at Cinnabon and purchase sticky buns. Step 2: Smush them together. Step 3: Squeeze more sticky sweet icing over the top and/or maple syrup. Step 4: Watch game shows for rest of the day.)
But on closer inspection (and repeated tastings), Blue Duck’s cinnamon bun French toast reveals its more subtle shades. For one thing, it is not loaded down with enough cinnamon and sugar to qualify for a federal subsidy. Its sweetness is tempered by the chopped candied pecans and the cream cheese icing, but even more telling is the dish’s quiet nod to French toast. The kitchen produces the coiled buns first and then gives them a standard soak before baking them to a golden hue. The flavor of French toast bubbles just beneath the cinnamon surface, the unmistakable softness and richness of milk and eggs.
Still, regardless of the dish’s finer points, eating a pair of cinnamon buns for brunch leaves you with this vague feeling that you have crossed an unholy line. You start to worry that you’ll crave Rice Krispies Treats for dinner.
I’m exaggerating, but get this: When I spoke with our waiter about the French toast, he mentioned that the kitchen is close to rolling out a new version of the cinnamon bun-based dish. He said the new Blue Duck French toast will be based on house-made Krispy Kremes.