Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Taste-off: Dunkin' vs. Tim

A quick break from Portland coverage to weigh in on the Tim Horton’s situation. Like I mentioned the other day, the Canadian doughnut giant has hit New York, replacing 12 mostly shoddy Dunkin’ locations. Time Out New York had something to say. And Gothamist. Even the Times.

I've covered Tim Horton’s in the past: once in Toronto, and once in Massachusetts where this plate found its way into Mrs. B’s purse. The fact that a massive corporate doughnut chain uses porcelain dinnerware is undeniably awesome, but Tim’s doughnuts have me torn. I spent my early years in Buffalo, which is really just an extension of Canada and definitely prime Tim territory. So I really want to like their doughnuts. But I've mostly been disappointed and find they lag well behind Dunkin', Winchell's and Krispy Kreme in the pop-doughnut hierarchy. And definitely behind Shipley's. Plus, doughnut-folk and Canadians were outraged a few years back when they started flash-freezing and shipping doughnuts from a 230,000 square-foot factory in Brantford, Ontario (birthplace of Wayne Gretzky).

But in the interest of being fair, this weekend I conducted a clean slate Dunkin’/Tim comparison, opting for head-to-head plain glazed. My Tim doughnut came from their 42nd Street location. I think it's also a KFC. Or possibly a Taco Bell. Or both like in the song. The competition came from my neighborhood DD, which is also a Baskin Robbins.

Dunkin' Glazed

Visually they were similar and for some reason both photos turned out all Fire In the Sky. The Dunkin' had a slightly darker complexion, but each were pale brown and coated with a thin layer of see-through glaze. The dough was soft and simple with a bit of sweetness, a hint of cinnamon and a bright and yeasty Wonder Breadiness. It was light, refreshing and if a doughnut can be considered summery, this was it - the fried counterpart to hefeweizen and watermelon.

Tim Horton's Glazed

Tim's glazed (aka, The Honey Dip) wasn’t bad, but it didn’t compare. The dough was fine - if a bit too bready - but the firm, fried exterior had an unpleasant nuttiness which I assume means Tim’s fries with peanut oil; it totally disrupted any harmony between airy dough and glaze, the critical complement in a good raised doughnut.

So Dunkin' wins, hands down. But in all fairness, Tim Horton’s cake doughnuts aren’t bad at all. I picked up a glazed old fashioned in Herald Square today which was loaded with spicy nutmeg and totally worthwhile.

Tim Horton's Glazed Old Fashioned On Smuggled Tim Horton's Plate

Next up: More Voodoo; also, my pal Marc recently suggested I conquer all 12 Tim Horton's in one day. I'm seriously considering.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Return To Voodoo Part 1

Voodoo Doughnut is technically a doughnut shop. But it’s really more of a philosophy. The walls are an intoxicating pink. The patrons tattooed. And the occasionally obscene – and always absurdist – doughnuts come decorated with cereal, Tang, bacon and – before the FDA stepped in – Pepto Bismol. And because all existential milestones are better experienced in the presence of fried dough, Voodoo doubles as a wedding chapel and offers something called a “coffin full of doughnuts,” which I assume is just what it sounds like.

Three years ago my wife surprised me with a first anniversary vow-renewal ceremony at Voodoo. Legally ordained minister and Voodoo co-founder Tres Shannon officiated beneath a massive doughnut altar and a velvet portrait of Isaac Hayes. Fruit Loops were tossed in the air (Get it? Like small doughnuts) and Shannon presented us with a life sized doughnut representation of our cat Dominic. It felt wrong eating the head but we managed. The whole thing is detailed in this five-part post, and here’s our cat in doughnut form:

And his head:

That was our first trip to Portland, and we've wanted to go back ever since. And move there really. Because between the coffee, beer, trees, music and food, it’s just about ideal. This time we decided to tour the entire Pacific Northwest, starting in Portland, moving on to Seattle, and ending up in Vancouver where the Tim Hortons flow like Chinook Salmon. We took the red eye and sat beside a women who, between a frantic cycle of make-up removal and application (“Sorry about the light, I’m putting on my face,” she said around 2:00 AM with a thick New York accent) and the violent shaking of a pill bottle, had to be at least partially insane or withdrawing from something. Hence, we got very little sleep and hit our Ace Hotel mattress hard. First thing in the morning we grabbed a Stumptown in the lobby and headed to Voodoo.

Last time we over-indulged in the cereal-topped varieties I mentioned earlier. Like the one with Cocoa Puffs:

The one with Fruit Loops:

And the one with Captain Crunch:

Insane right? What twisted mind cakes a crunchy mountain of Cocoa Puffs on top of a chocolate frosted?! I wouldn’t be surprised if the lady from our flight moonlights as Voodoo’s baker. But this time we stayed away from cereal, save one encounter with Rice Krispies which I’ll get to later. We instead kicked it off with a simple vanilla-frosted cake doughnut with sprinkles (see Mrs. B holding up top), like the one that symbolized the “ring” in our vow-renewal. The dough was perfectly light and soft with a bold cinnamon-sweet flavor and an airiness rarely seen in cake varieties; it was noticeably better than last time (improved dough recipe?) and instead of our original colored sprinkles flaunted red, white and blue for the 4th.

The rest of our haul – the Marshall Mathers, the bacon maple bar, and a doughnut with a mustache – would have to wait; we had a morally questionable rendezvous with a foie gras doughnut that night and needed to save room.

Stay tuned for Part II

Voodoo Doughnut

Monday, July 13, 2009

Blognut Back on Blogger

After a two-year stint on Wordpress, I’m bringing Blognut back to its original home on Blogger. Partly because recently disappeared and all salvage attempts have proven unsuccessful – apparently my database was wiped out – but also because I don’t really understand computers and making pictures of doughnuts appear in my sidebar seems way easier on Blogger.

Posts will resume on a regular basis (stay tuned for Portland, OR Part II!) and I’ll be slowly bringing back any old material I can dig up in my email and hard drive. But first let’s quickly catch up on the major doughnut happenings of the past few months. There was the Dunkin’ Donuts Create Your Own Donut Contest, which Mrs. B and I actually entered. Unfortunately whatever we came up with (which was so good I can’t remember it) lost out to the “Toffee For Your Coffee.” Our friend Marc swears he should have won but claims Dunkin’s “crash-prone server” prevented his inevitable victory. Then there was the news that 13 NYC Dunkin’ locations will soon re-open as Tim Horton’s (the Canadian mega-chain founded and named for the hall of fame hockey legend). And perhaps most notably, there was a truck filled with doughnut glaze that tipped over in Washington State: