Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Shipley's believe it or not

Earlier this year Blognut ran a post summarizing a donut-centric article in Saveur by food writer John T. Edge. The piece coincided with the release of Mr. Edge’s book, Donuts: An American Passion, and reviewed seven of the scribe’s favorite US doughnut shops. I was surprised to see that Edge included Shipley Do-Nuts in Oxford, Mississippi on his list. I thought for sure all seven Doughnut shops would be independent Mom-and-Pop establishments, whereas Shipley’s is a Houston-based Pop-Nut chain with over 190 franchises sprinkled throughout Texas and the deep south.

But you can’t pull one over on Blognut. I soon remembered that Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance, an institute of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi in Oxford (well actually, all I remembered was that Edge was somehow affiliated with Ole Miss, I looked up his official association after the fact). So there was obviously some hometown allegiance at work here. Which is fine, because as any respectable food critic will tell you, so much of taste is contextual. No restaurant can match the flavor of Dad’s homemade pulled pork BBQ, or Mom’s near-addictive cinnamon rolls. That’s just the way it is.

Prior to my trip to Mississippi last month, Blognut had tried only a single Shipley’s Donut, back in 05’ on a trip to San Antonio. I remember it being delicious and having something to do with cherries. But given the vast array of memorable Donuts I’ve tried in the last year thanks to this stupid blog, and having no geographical or emotional ties to the region, expectations for my visit to the Oxford franchise were set low. How could a mass-produced Donut match the texture and complexity of, say, a Doughnut Plant offering? But now having adequately evaluated what the Texan chain has to offer, I dare say that Shipley Do-Nut’s plain glazed is one of my all-time favorite Donuts. And Shipley’s certainly has replaced Dunkin’ as Blognut’s favorite Pop-Nut chain.

Mr. Edge compares the consistency of Shipley’s dough to that of Wonder Bread. And I would have to agree. As I bite into the glazed it gently collapses between my teeth and before I know it has disappeared, leaving only a vestige of sugary flavor. It’s unbelievably satisfying in a processed American kind of way and is a near match to my favorite of all Donuts, the plain glazed from Spudnuts (which happens to be in my former hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia...there seems to be a pattern here…hmmm?).

Blognut also tries the Maple Glazed. While no match for its predecessor, it garners considerable style points for actually having a maple-infused glaze rather than a too-sweet sludgy maple frosting like most maple Donuts. For a moment I thought I was in the presence of Mark Israel, proprietor of The Doughnut Plant and master of glaze infusion. The dough is sturdy without being overly-filling, leaving me with room for dessert. I go with the Bull’s Eye.

The Bull’s Eye is a light, yeast-raised Donut filled with smooth and creamy white cream (I think I just described a noun using the adjective form of itself. This probably goes against some sort of grammatical and philosophical tenets but I think I’ll leave it). The top surface is smeared with rich, chocolate frosting accented by a large, ill-defined blob of white frosting, which I assume is the so-called “Bull’s Eye.” Now Blognut is not a huge fan of cream-filled Donuts (I guess Boston Crème are OK) but I’ve had enough to know a good one when I taste it. I would rank Shipley’s Bull’s Eye along side of Dunkin’s cream-filled variety – decent, but not life-changing.

Mrs. Blognut and I were the only ones there.

Shipley’s carries a total of 63 varieties, including a handful of kolaches, a Czechoslovakian pastry popular in Texas, and other parts of the country, thanks to the slews of Czech immigrants who came to the region in the 1900s. The chain is gradually expanding, vowing never to compromise quality ingredients and excellent service in exchange for revenue. And while I definitely had good service and even better Donuts at the Oxford Shipley, I thought it was funny when the Donut-Man revealed they were out of both coffee and napkins, essentially the only two accessories you need to properly eat a Donut. But I didn't mind; the apologetic counterperson went in the back and got me a roll of enormous brown paper towels to compensate. So whether you’re from Oxford, Mississippi or not, Shipley’s Donuts are worthy of even the most snooty Donut-Palate.

Donut Scores:

Plain Glazed-

Maple Glazed -

Bull's Eye -


Mrs. Blognut said...

Man, I REALLY wanted a cup of coffee, though.

Michael said...

Shipley's is indeed awesome! I'd take'm over a KK or DD ANYDAY! Another smaller franchise that is a sister company to Shipley's is Southern Maid Donuts. You have to try a Southern Maid Glazed! Given the choice of a Shipley's Glazed or a Southern Maid Glazed, it'll be Southern Maid everyday!

theblognut said...

Thanks Michael. Will do.

Anonymous said...

If you are ever in the Corning NY area you must try a Peanurbutter Whip from Crystal City Cafe & Bakery.It is basically a Bullseye with a peanutbutter cream.They are the BOMB-DIGITtY.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Michael. Southern Maid from Garland, TX is the best in the land.

Kelley said...

As the owner of Shipley Donuts of Oxford, I sincerely appreciate this article. I promise next time you come in, we will have you a cup of coffee.