A report by Sabrina Medora for D C Eater.
Doña Dona is a collaboration between Paola Velez and Latin cocktail bar Serenata.
One of D.C.’s top pastry chefs is collaborating with a restaurateur behind Latin cafes and bars around the city to host a one-day pop-up selling doughnuts that will showcase their shared Dominican heritage.
Kith/Kin executive pastry chef Paola Velez and Daniella Senior, a partner in popular Cuban cafe Colada Shop, are accepting pre-orders for a one-day run for doughnuts that will take over Serenata, the pan-Latin cocktail bar that Senior co-owns inside the La Cosecha market by Union Market.
The pop-up, called Doña Dona, will put Velez back in the kitchen temporarily. The chef, a semifinalist this year for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year award, is unemployed while Kith/Kin is closed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. Four flavors of doughnuts ($4.75 each; $16 for four) are available online for pickup Saturday, May 9, the day before Mother’s Day:
- Abuelita’s Chocolate is an homage to the flavors Nestle’s Abuelita brand of hot chocolate, with cinnamon, Valrhona dark chocolate, and cream
- Bizcochito Dominicano is a recreation of the fluffy yellow cake from the Dominican that’s filled with pineapple and guava and topped with meringue
- “Dulcey” de Leche combines Blond Dulcey white chocolate, coconut, and malt vinegar for a sweet and umami treat
- La Pasion del DMV is a roasted rhubarb and cream cheese filled doughnut with a passionfruit glaze
Velez met Senior through D.C.’s Women in Hospitality group. They became firm friends who often discuss working together to showcase the flavors of their childhood. Senior, who calls herself “a big fan” of Velez’s work, sent Velez an Instagram message admiring the doughnut pictures that Velez has been sharing from her home kitchen while she’s unemployed.
Senior says her pitch went something like this: “I miss your desserts. You miss being in the kitchen. Why don’t we put this to work?”
The pop-up came together in two days. Velez had plenty of experience making doughnuts from her time in the kitchen at Iron Gate, the Mediterranean hideaway in Dupont known for yeasty treats topped with orange blossom syrup.
“Coming from Iron Gate, I had to push out specials within less than a week’s time, so I’m very adaptable in that sense,” Velez says.
Doña Dona includes a few tributes to Dominican women. Dominican graphic designer Agustina Oliver created a logo that takes after Velez. The artwork is also based on famous Dominican dolls — Muñecas Limé — that have no faces and large hats, representing the island’s cultural history and the role of women within it.
Velez’s family nicknamed her “Doña,” a prefix to a married woman’s name, to tease her about getting married at a young age. While doughnuts aren’t traditional in the Dominican Republic, the term “donas” is used to describe them and similar foods.
In addition to supporting the Serenata staff, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Ayuda, a local organization that provides legal, social, and language services to immigrants.
“This is very crucial as undocumented workers are really the driving force of this industry,” Senior says. “They’re getting little to no help, and we want to make sure we’re doing something to give back.”
Velez, who has been filing for unemployment, is donating her entire portion of the proceeds to Ayuda.
“They have no one who is helping them or supporting them,” she says. “I want to make sure we can donate the most that we can. It’s just another way of giving back to the industry I love the most.”
If there’s enough interest, Velez and Senior are open to continuing the pop-up.
“So far, it’s been such a fun and creative outlet to bring some positivity and sugar to these dark times,” Senior says.