Tag Archives: Donuts

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Happy (Belated) Donut Day!

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Happy Day-after-National-Donut-Day, friends! And a fine National Donut Day it was here in SF: sunny, breezy, not too cool. Post coffee and pre acupuncture, I wandered through Noe Valley and snapped the above picture to document the lovely weather.

Confession: I almost didn’t partake in NDD festivities. I KNOW, I know: totally blasphemous thinking, but when I yawned and stretched and made myself coffee, I was more in the mood for a bagel than anything else. But you know about the bagel situation in this city; if you don’t know, rest assured that the bagel scene here is nonexistent. (Note: Haven’t tried bagels from Wise Sons yet, but it’s at the top of my to-do list.)

Like a champ, I rallied and headed to the Jelly Donut.

I knew before I reached the counter which donut I’d order. That’s one of my strengths, you know: Extreme Donut Decisiveness. As last time — as always — I selected the oblong buttermilk fritter cloaked deep in chocolate frosting. Here’s a visual:

Big as a lumberjack’s fist, this lit’l guy called to me from the display case, beckoning with a heavily frosted finger. The cashier threw in a few (three) donut holes for my snacking pleasure, and I was on my way.

I settled into one of my whiskey barrel chairs and ate slowly, using a fork and knife. Silverware wasn’t the best idea. The donut crumbled under the pressure of the knife, but no matter — I scooped up the frosting crumbles because, as we all know, frosting waste is to be avoided at all costs.

Another confession: I couldn’t finish my donut. (I’m expecting you all to be like, “What happened to you out there, Baumer?”) The truth is, the donut was just too much: too big, too sweet, too oily. Its frosting was half an inch thick, and as much as I love frosting, I love my tooth enamel more. To my credit, I ate about 2/3 before throwing in the towel. Alas! Next year, I’ll have my game face on and select a less formidable opponent.

I’ve gotta hop in the shower and prep for a picnic, but happy belated National Donut Day to you all!

Joy of Joys

I’ve been gone; I’m back now, if only brief & flittingly. I’ve got no real excuse for the non-posting, my only sort-of excuse being the visiting of family, the suddenly warm and breezy weather that makes me want to abandon all my formal tasks and just walk.

Though I wasn’t posting them, I gathered a lot of meals & stories these past few weeks, one of my favorites being a simple quinoa salad that I dressed up with a new vinaigrette. Besides the grain, the dish contained roasted chickpeas and sweet potatoes, bathed in olive oil, s&p; salt-and-pepper pecans; golden raisins; fresh snap peas, cut into sections; roasted grape tomatoes (not yet burst); a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, s&p, dried tarragon, and fresh mint; and, finally, goat cheese, mixed in after the salad had cooled a bit.

Yes, I just spelled out the ingredients list for that salad, that’s how satisfying it was. I’m going to replicate it; I have just the sweet potato prepared.

My favorite story, though, is my first trip to The Jelly Donut. Since I first saw it, perched at 24th and South Van Ness, I’d longed to go. I put off visiting, in part out of fear that the donuts might not meet my expectations (what if they tasted like old grease?). Really, though, I enjoyed the longing: the anticipation of the day I’d cross the bootscuffed threshold and pause before the display case.

My history with donuts is a long one, more storied than you might assume. I’ve waxed nostalgic for Hans’ Bakery, the donut shop of my youth where you could get a glazed donut as large as a plate, its interior lighter than spun air. I’ve also mentioned my fond feelings for Swedough’s, whose burnt-orange decorating scheme and aging clientele make one feel as though they’ve fallen into a wormhole and landed in 1976. In both cases, I love these donut shops not simply for their wares (though DAMN, do I love donuts), but for the experience they provide: temporary relief from the exigencies of daily life.

My first Jelly Donut experience was wholly unexpected. Having eaten dinner and had a cocktail, Alex and I faced a long wait for the bus. Rather than sitting in the [relative] cold, A. suggested we get a donut. And, despite having just eaten, the lure of fried dough was irresistible: time and time again, I’d passed by that smudged plate glass, only to walk on past, but not that night. “OK,” I said, when I really meant, “Oh HELL yes!”

I knew immediately which donut I wanted: that one, the chocolate-covered behemoth pictured above. When in doubt, I opt for the largest-available, chocolate-frosted treat. (When not in doubt, I opt for the same thing.) My standby didn’t let me down. I undid the golden dough from the coils into which it had been fried, trying not to get chocolate all over my hands and face; mostly, I succeeded. Contrary to my initial prediction, the donut did not taste like old grease — in fact, it was airy and not-too-sweet, though the frosting may have given me insta-diabetes.

What I enjoyed most about the trip — indeed, what I enjoy about most donut jaunts — was occupying the dining room. Those well-wiped tables and serviceable chairs make me feel I could be just about anywhere. Donut places have about them a certain desolation, a silence that isn’t replicated in other establishments, even those with a similar price point and customer base. There’s a loneliness, a desire for a moment of peace and quiet; it’s reflected in the charred-coffee smell and the fluorescent lights’ flicker and the pleasant detachment of the woman running the till. It’s a mild, meditative disengagement from The Routine: a respite I’ll never give up, despite the barrage of bad news about refined sugars.

I don’t have a donut shop here (“my” shop). I love Bob’s, but it’s too far away to establish itself as a haunt. The Jelly Donut, though lacking some of Bob’s charm, has a solid product and a grittiness that resonates with me. It’s miles closer, too, and open late. I foresee more J.D. trips in the future: the late-night future, replete with unpopulated muni rides, wind-whipped scarves, adventure.

I totally get this.

Yesterday, the New York Times published this article about food souvenirs and the small pilgrimages we make to purchase items not available in our immediate geographic areas. The people Sarah Maslin interviewed reached the same conclusion — namely, that just buying a long-distance food online does not even approximate the experience of buying that food in its natural habitat, and that foods gifted to us by family and friends hold more significance than those delivered by strangers.

Reading this, I recalled a mini-pilgrimage I made last winter in search of one of my childhood favorites: the chocolate long john from Hans’ Bakery in Anoka, MN.

The legendary Hans' Bakery in Anoka, MN.

Trips to Hans’ were special events, to be anticipated for several days prior and recalled for hours afterward. My parents, never big believers in the Church of Donut Christ, limited my sister’s and my consumption of the fatty sweet treats, but this curtailment only intensified my love of donuts. (I’m not sure what effect the rationing had on my sister. I think she still eats donuts, but…yeah. Not with such zeal.) My favorite donut was, and is, the chocolate long john. Bigger than your average specimen, filled with a gooey, silky, almost-egg-yolk-yellow custard filling, and slathered with house made chocolate frosting, Hans’ long john is a true delight.

My long john, along with some pale coffee and Hook's sugar twist.

When I went home for Christmas, I knew that a trip to Hans’ was in order. I knew too that I’d have to convince Hook to come with me, as mild as his feelings toward donuts are. We set out — on foot, in 20-degree weather — at about 10:30 am and reached our destination by one in the afternoon. Hans’ dining room looked just as I remembered, the same Formica tables and orange plastic chairs and tantalizing cake display case, all cast in the winter afternoon light. Fortunately for us, the bakery still had a good selection of product, despite our late arrival. (Aside: what had I been thinking? We clearly should have left at eight to arrive by ten.) I spent a few minutes studying the selection, though there was only one thing I wanted.

How did that first bite measure up to my memory? Just perfectly, thanks. I realize that many, if not most, of my food associations become favorably faded by time and my own spotty memory. If not for this purpose, then what role does nostalgia have, right? But the donut I had that gray December afternoon exceeded the high expectations I’d set for the experience.

The coffee, on the other hand, did not. Since my memories of Hans’ had formed before I took to coffee drinking, I let it slide.