Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Grillswith

Blognut is back from Virginia, two Donuts and lots of ice cream heavier. But before we get into food, I would first like to apologize to my svelte and bleach-stained friend Reverend Dick, who played the heartiest of roles in my nuptials – meaning my real hitching, not my Donut ceremony – in September of 05, and who should have definitely been made privy to the existence of this blog. Sorry RD. And thanks for not choosing the title of Druid or Warlock when cyber-ordaining yourself, thus avoiding way too many unanswerable questions from grandma J. But now, the Donuts.

Last April I ran a piece on my favorite of all Donut shops, Spudnuts in Charlottesville, VA. The resulting online chatter eventually led to something called the Grillswith, a marvelous triad of grilled Donuts, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, popular in C’ville for decades. Having spent four years of my life in said town, I’m ashamed to admit I had not heard of the Grillswith at the time, and would like to thank all those who enlightened me on the matter. But those days of being young and uniformed have since passed, for I have now ingested the famous dessert and understand what all the fuss over this decadent Central-Virginia phenomenon is about.

Now the concept of mashing together Donuts, ice cream and chocolate sauce might not be specific to Charlottesville. In fact, I remember having the same combination years ago at the 3rd Street Diner in Richmond, VA. But as far as I can tell, the name Grillswith was born in C’ville, at the long-since closed University Diner. When the diner shut its doors - probably in response to one too many boozed-up frat guys dropping roofies into sorority sodas and regurgitating Donut on the walls – the considerably more boho Blue Moon Diner picked up the tradition (check their MySpace page here). As did a few other local dives, like the greasy and satisfying Mel’s Diner, and the White Spot, infamous for fattening up undergrads with their cholesterol-heavy “Gus Burger,” a hamburger topped with a fried egg.

I think it was two years ago when the Blue Moon Diner decided to close up shop and devote itself exclusively to catering. Charlottesville sighed with disappointment. But while giving up some of the grungy eclecticism that patrons so adored (ie, breast feeding women at the counter, unleashed Golden Retrievers scrounging for crumbs), the BMD recently reopened as a slightly sleeker, more disinfected diner. But don’t get Blognut wrong, the place is still brimming with character – from the window sill lined with records for spinning on the house turntable, to the portrait of a 70’s era Elvis hanging above the bar – and managed to maintain their local cred by bringing back the Grillswith.

So finally back in C’ville after so many months, Blognut shows up at the Blue Moon with a voracious appetite, primed on Christmas ham, sugar cookies and, oddly enough, corn salsa. I’m accompanied by Mrs. Blognut and my old friend Slim, neither of whom share my enthusiasm for the heavy, creamy and fried dessert we’re about to face. We order a round of pilsners and a single Grillswith.

The Blue Moon’s Grillswith consists of two plain-glazed, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts nestled beside a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzled with chocolate sauce. The Doughnuts are grilled until the sugary glaze caramelizes into a gooey and crunchy coating. Thanks to the grilling process, the interior of each Doughnut loses the light and airy physique of a typical glazed, and instead has the consistency of a dense, chewy bagel, making its eater work for his/her reward. But trust me, it tastes great. The ice cream is provided by another Charlottesville staple, Chap’s Homemade Ice Cream, and the sauce by Hershey’s. With nary a bite of help from either of my dining companions, I end up finishing the entire thing myself, vowing to start jogging again after New Year’s.

On the way out we spot a customer calling it quits for the night and creating a makeshift headlight by attaching a large metal flashlight to his bicycle handlebars. His method of attachment - packing tape. So here’s to the Blue Moon Diner for helping preserve the quirky, friendly and, at times, beautifully tacky lore of American diner culture, and for grilling up one of the finest desserts in the Piedmont.

Blue Moon Diner
512 West Main St.
Charlottesville, VA

Blognut has chosen to classify the Grillswith as a dessert rather than a Donut, and will therefore not be assigning it a Donut Score.


Anonymous said...

Apology accepted! Happy New Year!, Blognut.

Perhaps you will accept a dispatch sometime soon.

bstetka said...

yes, a dispatch.

ecm said...

hey did you know? my grandpa opened the white spot. true story!

bstetka said...

PP - I can't believe you've never told me this! Did he invent the Gus Burger?

Anonymous said...

Hey, for anyone interested in making a grillswithesque dessert at home, here's a new bon appetit recipe.


Doughnuts meet bananas Foster in this playful dessert.
click photo to enlarge
2 cinnamon crumb or glazed doughnuts
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon dark rum
2 small ripe bananas, peeled, cut on diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices
Vanilla ice cream
Toasted pecans

Preheat broiler. Place doughnuts on small baking sheet; set aside. Stir butter and brown sugar in heavy medium skillet over medium heat until butter is melted. Boil 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Mix in lemon juice and spices, then rum; stir to blend. Cool caramel sauce 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, broil doughnuts just until hot and bubbly, watching closely to avoid burning, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer doughnuts to 2 plates. Toss bananas with caramel sauce in skillet. Top doughnuts with scoop of ice cream, flattening slightly in center. Spoon bananas and caramel sauce over. Sprinkle with nuts and serve.

Makes 2 servings.
Bon Appétit
January 2007

Judith Wood said...

I at a LOT of grillswiths in the late 70's at the University Diner and I have no memory of any chocolate sauce. What I can say is the perfect accompaniment to a late-night grillswith is a side order of perfectly salted french fries!

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Unknown said...

As a man who prides himself on "Early to bed-Early to rise" I was somewhat surprised to find myself, and my adorable girlfriend, sitting at the famed WhiteSpot diner
In Charlottesville,Va. at 1:45am.
In addition to seeing a substantially inebriated co-ed-in full prep ensemble- suddenly deciding to work behind the counter- I was treated to a full view of donuts being glazed with butter and GRILLED. After muscling my way through the alcohol-dazed clouds of young undergraduates I finally reached "Gus" who advised the donut confection was known as a "Grillswith". I had to have one.
Now,at 58, I have entered the perpetual dieting stage of life. I race through the ice cream section of the supermarket. I wear blinders when standing in line at Starbucks in order to avoid the unmistakeable glow of the Iced lemon loaf. I forego television in order to avoid the famed chocolate fountain portrayed in the "Golden Corral Restraunt" ads.
And yet, there I was, a sparkling white diner plate sliding towards me on which sat-fat and happy-two grilled donuts with a Matterhorn of cream-colored Vanilla ice cream slowly glaciating in rivulets down the rounded,yet sheer faces of donuts.
It only took one bite to remind me of that famous addage on which I have,in many respects, led my life-namely "Moderation in all things but love" and, brotha, I was in LOVE.
The donuts-hot with a slight crisp to their skins- and the ice cream-semi-hard,cold and sweet- were the antithesis to my normal non-desert of greek yogurt with a tincture of jam. As I ate under the watchful eye of my girlfriend, the raucous noise of the crowd fell away and I was suddenly in a crisp shirt and suit sitting on a perfect fall day at the Crillon Hotel in Paris savouring my first business trip and first Beignet, or French donut. All the world and my future lay glistening before me and I had never before re-experienced that powerful food/memory connection. But now, sitting with the prettiest girl in all the world ,and savouring the delicious Grillswith, all became new and fresh and begining.
I heartily recommend this remarkable treat at the White Spot, 1407 University Avenue...and bring your most treasured memories.

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Unknown said...

As a student at UVA in the 70s, I ate many grillswiths at the UD. (sorry, University Diner, for those not in the know.) Never saw one with chocolate sauce, although sometimes people ordered them with chocolate ice cream.

There was a very young boy who worked there Saturday nights, with pale skin and tow-colored hair. He must have been family, because of his age and the labor laws. I hope he's done well and is happy. I am so sorry to hear the UD is closed. I just googled it because my husband brought home (of all things!) some Crispy Creme doughnuts, and I had a flashback. I haven't been to C'ville in decades, but it lives fondly in my memories.

Thanks for an interesting trip down memory lane.

GentGolfer said...

1971 UVA Grad here - just reaffirming that there was never chocolate sauce on a "Grillswith". The true Virginia gentleman would precede this sobering delicacy with a one-eyed-bacon-cheeseburger ("and don't hold the grease") served best by "Big Ethel". Both of these concoctions were likely consumed after an afternoon AND evening of "professional" gentlemanly drinking. In those days, we were never to be found in the "amateur" standings.

Just curious - when did "Grillswith" become one word and attain capitalized status?

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