Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Don't Eat This

This past weekend Blognut found himself in Princeton, New Jersey selling used CD’s to the Princeton Record Exchange and searching for New Jersey Nuts (not an NBA team). While unable to locate a single non-Dunkin Donut, I did manage to find a sorry little ring of unpleasantness at Ricky’s, Candy, Cones and Chaos.

The Wonka Candy Donutz borrows from a seldom encountered Donut-Phenomenon – the filled ring Donut. Though an innovative idea for a candy, Donutz doesn’t compare to even the foulest of actual donuts we’ve encountered, and certainly not to our favorite filled ring, the Doughnut Plant’s Elvis-inspired peanut butter glazed with banana cream filling .

Billed as a “mini milk chocolate Donut filled with a creamy chocolaty center and topped with candy sprinkles in assorted colors,” Donutz certainly sounds delicious in theory. In practice not so much. The “chocolate” exterior tastes like legos and the creamy center like buttery ammonia. I almost feel sorry for the candy sprinkles having to live atop such a vile taste. Now I must warn you that I am not the biggest candy eater in the world, calling into question the credibility of my assessment. If you feel as though Blognut has treated the Wonka Candy Donutz unfairly, then I ask you to go out buy one yourself (sold at most specialty candy stores) and offer up your own opinion. I am genuinely curious if a commercially successful candy can actually be this disgusting, or if my distaste is simply the result Blognut’s unschooled candy palate.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Hawaii #4

Blognut is sad to announce that this will be the final installment of our four part series on donuts of Hawaii. And the thing is, we're pretty sure that the item we're about to discuss is not actually a donut at all, making this a feeble conclusion to our Hawaiian coverage. But it's close enough.

A former plantation house, Gaylord's (snicker!) at Kilohana is now considered by most locals and tourists alike to be the best restaurant on Kauai . The kind of place that anywhere else would be filled with lame-ass snoots, Gaylord's manages to pull off the fine-dining experience without betraying the laid back Hawaiianism so prevalent in the island ether. And their food is the tops! The Furikake Seared Ahi may be the tastiest fish Blognut has ever consumed.

But what does this have to do with donuts you ask? The answer lies on Gaylord's dessert menu, in the form of a Deep Fried Chocolate Truffle. And why are we considering said dessert worthy of space on the pages of Blognut? Because it's fried, delicious and roughly the size and shape of a Dunkin Donut's Munchkin.

So here are the details: the truffles consist of Swiss bittersweet chocolate, fried in a coconut crust and served with vanilla bean ice cream. They resemble DD's Coconut Cake Munchkins but with a late summer tan. As Blognut's fork breaks through the crispy crust, a pool of dark, molten chocolate oozes from the truffle's center in a geo-appropriate volcanic fashion. On the tongue, the chocolate is rich, hot and perfectly bitter, and balanced in texture with the crunch of fried coconut. The vanilla ice cream douses the chocolate lava fire and all the villagers are at last safe.

Donut or not, Blognut would like to conclude our Hawaiian adventure by handing out a perfect 10 to Gaylord's incredible Deep Fried Chocolate Truffle.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hawaii #3

Having eaten our weight in Malasadas, Blognut needed a few days off, during which we subsisted mainly on papaya and Mai Tais. With our stomachs well rested we wished Kauai aloha, and boarded a tiny airplane for our quick flight to Maui.

No trip to Maui would be complete without taking in a sunset from 10,000 feet, atop the apparently-still-active Haleakala volcano. So Blognut hops in a bright red Chevy Cobalt rental and begins our long climb up to the summit. While thousands of visitors a year make it to the top of Haleakala, how many sit proud, high above the clouds munching on a Donut – not many we're guessing. But we certainly plan to do so.

We stop in the town of Wailuku looking for a place to stock up on Nuts. Before long we spot a large dog clutching a bag malasadas – perfect! We park the Cobalt and step inside Home Maid Bakery. Ever so Hawaiian, Home Maid specializes not only in Donuts, but also in sushi. While Blognut has happily devoured the contents of many-a-bento box, the pairing of raw ahi with our object of obsession seems less than appetizing – we spend all our time in the Donut section.

While the racks are well stocked, Blognut once again is met with the elusiveness of the malasada. Home Maid fries them fresh every morning from 5:00 AM to 10:00 AM, and every evening from 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM. It is now 1:00 and Mrs. Blognut for some reason feels it inappropriate to wait three hours for a Donut - something about not wanting to spend her entire #@$%$% vacation in a donut store. But our woes are quickly lessened at the site of a Nut never-before-seen by the eyes of Blognut – a Black Bean Sugar Donut (shown above). "You mean like the kind you put in burritos?" I say to the Donut-Lady. "I don't know," she replies, "I don't eat them."

So, while the origins of the Black Bean Nut remain a mystery, it's possible they're simply a variation on the Portuguese-derived Malasada, brought to Hawaii in the late 1800s by immigrant workers. They are also suspiciously similar to the Chinese-Hawaiian Manupua. Literally meaning chewed up pork, the Manupua is a slightly-sweetened yeast-raised bun usually filled with shredded pork but often stuffed with black bean paste instead. Whatever the derivation of our Beany ball of dough, one bite has us deep in the throws of a Nut-flavor complexity previously unknown to Blognut's palate.

A burst of granulated sugar hits our tongue first, providing both ample sweetness, and a wonderful grainy texture. Once through the sugar, our incisors find their way into a soft and chewy dough, not unlike that of a Mark Israel-born Nut. And then, as if striking a pool of crude oil, the doughy sweetness gives way to a glistening vein of chunky black bean puree, which, as we had hoped, instantly has us in a Mexican mindset. It's a hard Nut to process and we nearly short circuit our gustatory centers as they try and categorize it as either savory or sweet. However, by no means is it bad – just strange. In the end the sugar prevails, and the black bean flavor seems merely an accent.

We also grabbed a Buttermilk Cake Nut, which, for obvious reasons, received far less attention than the Bean Nut. To make up for this lack of appreciation, and to temper its scathing jealousy, we lugged the Buttermilk to the top of Haleakala to enjoy the breathtaking view with us, while scoffing at it's black beaned partner, now resting in the belly of Blognut. We were so taken back by the scenery that we remember next to nothing about the Nut itself. But it doesn't really matter, for we can now say that Blognut has enjoyed a Donut atop a volcano.

Buttermilk donut with Haleakala crater.

Donut Scores:
Black Bean Sugar - 7.7
Buttermilk - ????

Home Maid Bakery
1005 Lower Main Street
Wailuku, Maui, HI 96793

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hawaii #2

No self-respecting Nut-Lover can go to Hawaii without trying a Malasada (or Malassada). Originally brought to Hawaii in the late 1800’s by Portuguese immigrant workers, malasadas have since been co-opted into Hawaiian tradition. They’re essentially bigger, spongier, yeast-raised doughnut holes usually covered in cinnamon and sugar. In the States, they can be tough to find outside of Hawaii unless you have some serious Portuguese or Polynesian connections. As it turns out, Blognut even had a hard time finding them in the 50th state.

It seems most of the worthwhile Nut-Shops in Hawaii are on either Oahu or the Big Island. Unfortunately we spent our vacation on Kauai and Maui. Poor planning. I mean, shouldn’t all itineraries be based on the acquisition of quality Nuts?

Friday afternoon: A quick glance through the Kauai phonebook reveals two donut shops: Big Wheel Donuts and Daylight Donuts. I dial up Big Wheel but a robot-lady tells me the number’s been disconnected. I call Daylight and get the answering machine – they’re only open from 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM. Early the next morning we hop in our rental car and five minutes later we see the (Day) light. Hidden behind an ACE Hardware in a dilapidated old plaza in which all the buildings are paneled with blue-painted wood, Daylight feels very Hawaiian.

We walk in to what appears to be a family of locals reading the newspaper and throwing back coffee in plastic Styrofoam cups. An older gentlemen slowly rises and follows us to the counter to take our order. He seems super-friendly but we can’t understand a word he says due to his thick Hawaiian accent. With considerable difficulty we are able to communicate and are saddened to hear that Daylight doesn’t make malasadas. I wanted to ask where I could find some but the results of such an inquiry probably would have wasted another two hours. So I order a plain-glazed and a vanilla glazed, which the Hawaiian Donut-Man gently bags. Mrs. Blognut then orders a maple-glazed – Donut-Man pulls out a chocolate frosted and puts it in the bag. Whatever. We happily pay for our Nuts and wish the locals farewell (I drop an "Aloha" while flashing the hang loose symbol back at a youth on the way out). Oh yeah, we also snagged a Daylight coffee mug with a porcelain Nut on the bottom to lift the spirits once the java’s all gone.

Back at the hotel we whip out our Nuts. Clearly putting her own needs before those of devout Blognut readers, Mrs. Blognut eats her Chocolate Frosted right away, so we’re unable to photograph it. “It was good,” she says, but offers no additional commentary on the Nut. The glazed is pretty solid. It’s smaller than a Dunkin glazed, and similar in flavor, with the exception of a prolonged, slightly-sugary after taste that gives the Nut a nice finish. The consistency is so soft and delicate that it nearly melts in our mouth before we’ve had the chance to chew. The
vanilla is nearly identical - but with a barely recognizable hint vanilla flavor. We are pleased with both.

I have only shown the vanilla-glazed as the plain-glazed looked exactly the same and Blognut does not want to bore with redundant Nuts.


Though we briefly got to hang with the locals and scarf a few decent donuts, our Daylight experience just wasn’t going to cut it – we needed to find a malasada.

The next day we end up at this burger shack called Barefoot Burger. While the teenaged cashier looks more like someone who can point me in the direction of gnarly swells and Billabong vendors than donuts, I take the chance:

Blognut: “Do you know where I can get a malasada?”

Surfer Girl: “Yes – you have to go to K-Mart.”

Blognut: “K-Mart? Really?”

Surfer Girl: "Yep. There's a lady who runs a Malasada stand outside of K-Mart - she makes them fresh every morning."

Blognut: "Thanks."

So the next morning we did something we never thought we'd being doing on our trip to Hawaii - we drove to K-Mart. It was easy to find since there's only one K-Mart on Kauai in Lihue, the island's only "large" city. We arrive at K-Mart and, just like the surfer chick promised, are at last face to face with the much anticipated malasada. A small, wooden stand with a banner advertising "Fresh Kaua'i Malasadas" sits adjacent to the K-Mart entrance.

A smiley Hawaiian women stands behind the counter busily managing a large pot of boiling oil housing a bushel of bobbing malasadas. A sign behind the counter reads "Wuz Here" in mailbox letters and is surrounded by polaroids of Nut-Lovers who have visited the stand. The donuts come in either cinnamon or sugar and are nicely priced at 3 for $1.25, 6 for $2.50, and so on in multiples of three up until 18. We order 6, 3 cinnamon and 3 sugar. The Hawaiian Donut-Lady rescues our order from the pot, coats them with the appropriate topping and stuffs them into a brown paper bag.

Initially, Blognut was skeptical of the malasada for fear of yet another disappointing international Nut (I know, technically this isn't an international Nut seeing as were in the States, but it's close enough given that Hawaii is further away from our New York home then just about everywhere in Europe). But all doubts are put to rest with one bite of these delicious balls of dough. Roughly the size of a lemon, our malasadas are piping hot and perfectly soft. The Sugar variety is caked in heaps of granulated sugar, half of which ends up on the floor of our rental car, while the Cinnamon-Nut is covered in nearly as much sugar mixed with loads of cinnamon. They are almost too good to evaluate and before we know it, we've polished off all 6 and are now covered in sugar ourselves. Basically just think of them as the best donut hole you've ever had!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Hawaii #1

Back from Hawaii with many tropical donut tales to tell. Stay tuned in the coming weeks. Here's a shot of a green, plastic inflatable Nut we purchased in Maui for $4.25. Unfortunately, it wasn't edible, but it did provide for many relaxing afternoons in the Pacific.