A common source of confusion and head scratching, there are multiple ways to spell our beloved treat: donut vs. doughnut. This leads us into the eternal debate, which do you use and when??
There are a few different theories out there on how we should be focusing our spelling (see Huff Post) but I feel I must share my personal opinion on the matter:
Donut: The classic, laid back, non-assuming, humble friend. Generally speaking, cheap and no-frills. Fried and more often than not served in a nondescript white bag or pink box. Your best friend who knows all your secrets and would never tell a soul. Tried and true.
Doughnut: The fancy, rich dough cousin with the latest iPhone and over a thousand Instagram followers. Funky, innovative flavors. Maybe baked or something else insane like gluten-free (God forbid). Slightly bougie but likable. The cool kid in high school everyone wants to be friends with.
Sure, working for the VA Boston Healthcare System is great because we get the opportunity to serve the veterans that served our country. What is also great about working here is having co-workers down for some dough. It all started a few months ago when I brought in a dozen from Twin DO-Nuts in Allston, MA.
This isn’t exactly on my way to work, but since when does that matter when chasing doughnuts. Twin is everything I love about a small family owned donut shop. It’s no corporate, mundane chain **cough, Dunkin, cough** and as you can see from the storefront is has it’s own unique character. The sign is as iconic in Allston as Randy’s huge donut is in LA (see Hole in the Sky).
And obviously the donuts are freaking great. Classic flavors: glazed, chocolate glazed, chocolate frosted, lemon, jelly, powered, sugar raised, old fashioned. Can’t ever go wrong with the fluffy yeast donuts and traditional cake pairings. And for $8 for a dozen, it’s hard not to make everyday a donut day.
Since this first introduction, a weekly tradition has begun and Donut Tuesdays/Wednesdays/Thursdays have emerged thanks to generous contributions from some awesome co-workers. Thanks to this movement, we have also sampled masterpieces from the lots of Blackbird Doughnuts in the South End, Mike’s Donuts in Mission Hill, and Doughboy Donuts & Deli in Southie. And of course this is New England, so it’s impossible to get away without having a few Dunkins as well. So this proves that it’s not just me; these guys are also suckers for donuts any day of the week.
Boston’s South End is home to some of the city’s best food. One of it’s most recent additions is Blackbird Doughnuts down on Tremont Street. New England and Boston in particular is home to the infamous, mediocre Dunkin Donut so I was beyond thrilled to learn that there was a new shop making fresh doughnuts in the Town.
Blackbird makes gourmet doughnuts with some very fun, very delicious flavor. On my first visit a few weeks into their grand opening, I tried a few of these bad boys:
Starting from the top right working clockwise: Wild Berry Bismark, Buffalo Frito, Pineapple Habanero, and Dark Chocolate Pomegranate. Amazing flavors. The most unique and my favorite was the Buffalo Frito. With the sweet and savory combination topped with that drizzle of Frank’s hot sauce, my taste buds died and went to heaven. The doughnut itself is a dense yeast doughnut that is heavier than most I’ve had. These guys are jacked with dough. Similar to that guy at the gym that keeps hogging the weight bench, think solid, packing some real muscle.
The shop is open Thursdays-Sundays 7am to 3pm. It’s a small space with standing room only so be prepared to congregate in the corner or take them outside to enjoy. Another great option is walking down the street to the Starbucks or the park a few blocks down for some more seating.
I was very excited to share the experience with my good friends Jenny and Norm a few weeks ago during their visit to Boston. Among all of the seafood (in particular the 5 dozen oysters) we enjoyed, we also spent a Sunday with a few of these little guys.
What keeps me coming back are the crazy good flavors and thick glazed coating on each of these guys. The salted toffee is however by far my favorite. Salt and sweet and perfectly balanced. This salted toffee is the Blackbird poster child and it’s impossible to leave without devouring one.
They will usually have a few daily specials depending on the season so there is always something new to try. Last Sunday I stopped by with a few friends and made out with this pepperoni pizza, s’mores, and of course a salted toffee.
As always the salted toffee was phenomenal, the pepperoni pizza was a savory treat, and the s’mores with fluff and chocolate ganache did not disappoint.
If you are lucky enough to find yourself in the South End, Blackbird is a must!
Sometimes I just can’t help but make a detour when I drive by and see the red neon sign lit up on the side of the street. This is mainly because as far as I’m concerned there is nothing better than a hot doughnut.
Krispy Kreme definitely has a lot of nostalgia associated with it. When the Gardena, CA shop first opened I remember it being a really, really big deal. The company was huge in advertising through fundraisers when I was younger, so I can’t even begin to tell you how many dozens our family bought from punch cards sold by essentially every high school sports team.
What I loved most were the big windows and the way they display the process so you can follow the entire doughnut’s conception from oven to frier to glazing.
As for the doughnut itself, when it’s fresh off the conveyer belt it melts in your mouth. The glaze is thick and therefore it’s really, really sweet (mathematically 3x sweeter than any doughnut I’ve had according to my rough glaze calculations) so I usually can’t eat more than one. It is also worth mentioning that they taste pretty damn terrible when they’ve been sitting out for a while at room temperature. If you buy a dozen, put one in the microwave for 11 seconds (not 10, not 12) before you eat it. Works like a charm.
Kids get a free hot doughnut while the sign is on!
And speaking of free donuts, today Krispy Kreme offered free original glazed doughnuts for the first 1,000 customers to celebrate their 1,000th store opening. Where can you find the newest location you ask? The beautiful Kansas City, Kansas. I hope my friends out there are celebrating (I’m talking to you Anna and Don).
I am very happy to announce that Chasing Doughnuts will now be making monthly donations to a great cause: Feeding America, US Hunger Relief Charity.
For every dollar donated, the Feeding America network of food banks will distribute 10 meals to people facing hunger. The Feeding America network already leads the fight against hunger. In 2014, 4.6 million people were served 3 billion meals and 800 million pounds of produce were delivered.
I am fortunate enough to spend some of my spare time and money chasing doughnuts around the country. I feel an honor and obligation to donate and spread the joy and comfort of a good meal.
If you would like to contribute please check out the donation page on our website here. Thank you so much to everyone for all of your support!
Click here to check out Feeding America’s website. And here to learn more about the organization.
DK has been a local favorite for many years now. One of my first visits was on a beautiful summer day (which in Southern California is about 250 days out of the year) after a night out in Santa Monica. One of DK’s main appeals is its 24 hours service. There is nothing not to love about a 24 hour joint, especially when they serve hot donuts all day and night. We walked about a mile so by the time we got there we were ready to grub and get all of those calories back. It’s a small family owned shop with a very homey feel. Plastic seated benches in tacky colors are a staple to any good donut shop. My gold standard when comparing any new place is evaluating the chocolate glazed donut. DK’s did not disappoint. They not only have very solid classic options like glazed, chocolate glazed, and buttermilk but it will always have a special place in my heart because it was here that I had my first cronut experience.
To clarify, NY pastry chef Dominique Ansel has a trademark on the term “cronut” so technically DK’s version is known as the “o-nut.” Whatever they call it, my first experience with this masterpiece was nothing short of magical.
(Shout out to my friend and fellow fat a** Rubin of Psych Connection for helping orchestrate this beautiful visit and photo)
As you can see, the original was simply airy perfection. We called in and gave them our order of a few different flavors and they had them made fresh for us, so when we got there we were met with warm, soft, flaky wonderment. Everything that you would imagine it to be, it is. DK also offers a number of different o-nut flavor variations as well. The flavored versions involve cutting the o-nut in half and adding a cream filling and topping. Each is also finished with a touch of cinnamon sugar.
I personally was not a fan of the cream filling (tnwss). I thought there was a little too much going on in there and much rather preferred the simplicity of the original.
Since these first few visits, DK has gained a lot of popularity and upped its social media presences tenfold. They are now selling paraphernalia of all sorts including t-shirts and bumper stickers and have one of my favorite instagram accounts to follow (@dksdonuts). They have also introduced a number of new flavors of the o-nut and have additionally developed the “wow-nut,” a waffle-donut hybrid. A lot of these flavors are very unique (taro, guava, other tropical and chocolate sorts) but the options are overwhelming and quite honestly rather exhausting. I am much more of the less is more camp and would recommend the simple original over any of these any day.
That being said, I still frequent DK whenever I’m back home in the area and opt for their humble, more traditional options. With a lot of the hype came a lot of over-saturation and many new excessive unnecessary options, but at its core DK is still a simple donut shop that has the capacity to produce a great, intelligible donut (and o-nut).
[This is a guest post by Jessie, who recently returned from a trip to Japan where she coached a youth girls’ basketball team (USA) in a tournament as part of a friendship/goodwill tour between the Japanese-American community in Los Angeles, CA and the the city of Nagoya, Japan.]
[Jessie on the right; another coach on the trip Lindsey on the left]
Over the years I have watched Ashley’s donut obsession grow (and I may have stoked that fire a few times…Donut Man? Anyone?). I now hunt for donuts anytime I travel to a new place, which sounds awesome and fun and lighthearted – BUT BEWARE. Donut hunts can be treacherous. I mean, what happens when you stumble across a donut shop that looks promising – only to discover you want to try THREE (or 4, or 10) flavors? Is it socially acceptable to just get a dozen, knowing full well you’ll either a) take one bite of each and toss the rest or b) eat the full dozen…by yourself…? In this guest post I’ll lay down some ground rules for conducting a solid donut hunt, set against the backdrop of a country known for weird looking and tasting food – Japan.
1. Do your homework. In the weeks leading up to this Japan trip, I visited various blogs and travel sites to research what kind of interesting/unusual/delicious/rare/famous/weird foods I should make sure to try. I sent links to people I’d be traveling with (as fair warning that I’m willing to waste both my and their yen on dubious-looking or -sounding treats). There is one site that I found both hilarious and extremely informative, http://en.rocketnews24.com/. I searched their archives and found a post on KRISPY KREME in Japan. Krispy Kreme! Japan apparently scoffed at the idea of a dozen hot glazed donuts, and took to creating gourmet flavors such as bergamot and lemon, earl grey, matcha green tea…etc…with presentation to match. Oh, and in true Japanese parfait-loving style, added ice cream, jelly, red beans, mochi, etc.
2. Keep your eyes open. Once in Japan (we stayed in the city of Nagoya for a few days before going to Hiroshima and Kyoto), it was important early on to memorize the specific train station entrance and exit on our daily commute – by we, I mean myself and three other basketball coaches. Being that we don’t speak/read/understand Japanese or the intricate subway system, the best way to not get lost was to know exactly which of many (MANY) vendors line the hallway to the correct subway exit. I carefully scrutinized each oddly named (one apparel storefront read “Nice Claup”…what is a claup?) store and lo and behold – I found a Krispy Kreme!
3. Survey and if possible, group up. I’d seen the donuts online, but it IS different to view the goods in person. I didn’t impulsively buy the donuts on the first day – not that I didn’t want to, but I knew I had to try at least 3 different flavors, and a decision like that could take time. This is where strategy comes in and it helps to recruit others to form a donut-hunting-wolfpack. Travel in groups of 3 or 4, and you’ll be covered – luckily I had a default donut-hunting-wolfpack of 4. I also took a cautious approach – day 1 I pointed the store out, day 2 I pointed out the menu, day 3 I casually mentioned the store and how we need to try the weird flavors, and finally day 4 I closed the deal. This would only work if you know you’ll pass the store daily – if the location is hard to find, you best buy that hot dough upon discovery. Really the key to success was playing up the novelty of these donut creations, and utilizing peer pressure from the group to get them on board to try different flavors.
4. Divide and conquer. Three of us were down to try the donuts, and we got three donuts – so we each got to try three flavors, splitting the cost and the calories. In full disclosure, we took a picture of the donut display and sent it to Ashley, asking for her donut expertise on which flavors to try. Then we spent a day (or two) telling one of the coaches we were going to make him try the daunting Spicy Tomato flavor. So in the end we got 3 donuts, and I assessed their success based on flavor and texture – not presentation because who cares what it looks like if it doesn’t taste good (am I right?):
-Earl Grey Milk Tea Cake: I was let down by the lack of flavor in the cake and waxy texture of the icing. I am not sure that I tasted Earl Grey, though you could see flecks of the tea leaves in the cake itself. It was a cake donut, which I typically love, but didn’t have either the crispiness of the outer shell indicative of frying or the sweet moisture of a glaze. It was not overly sweet and did not have that cloying artificial flavor…but just didn’t have a lot of flavor in general. My least favorite.
-Matcha Cookie Crunch: Using the base of the original glazed (but without the glaze), a matcha-based icing coated the top, sprinkled with what tasted like oreo crumbles and more decorative icing. The texture of the donut was good, typical of a Krispy Kreme (light, chewy, slightly flaky) – but like the Earl Grey Milk Tea Cake, there was a waxy feeling and the flavor seemed muted somehow. Maybe because it wasn’t warm? But I don’t think the cookie crumbles would work with a hot donut. While better than the earl grey one, this donut also fell short – I’d prefer a warm glazed classic Krispy Kreme.
-Spicy Tomato: Oddly this was my favorite. I suppose because it was purposely NOT sweet, but this “donut” used the Krispy Kreme dough, and had some savory seasoning sprinkled on the outer shell. It was filled with a spicy tomato sauce and cheese, and basically tasted like spicy pizza. The filling-to-dough ratio was perfect, and the taste definitely came through in the sauce. I would actually probably get this again.
So my key takeaways from this experience are:
-In Japan, get ice cream – the earl grey and green tea donuts would probably have been perfect with ice cream since they weren’t very sweet. Or just stick to the ice cream you get from the 7-11s or other convenience stores, which are way more satisfying (especially in the heat of July when we were there).
-The best pastries in Japan are at the bakeries located on the basement level of department stores (seriously). They are usually European-style and range from buttery chocolate croissants to egg custard tarts and cinnamon rolls.
-Maybe Japan doesn’t understand donuts…and should stick to their strange gelatinous desserts (that I love) or sweet red bean and mochi creations.