Searched For donut

Gordough’s Big Fat Donuts in Austin, TX

Gordough’s is a public house, a food truck, an experience.  …An experience I had three times in two weeks, because DAMN. The first time, I went solo to the public house and ordered a Popeye’s Roids: spinach salad with grilled chicken, honey balsamic vinaigrette, blue cheese crumbles, red grapes, roasted red peppers,  walnuts, and the star of the dish, the savory garlic donut that acted as the crouton. This glorious torus, this crispy-on-the-bottom still hot perfectly seasoned wonder of a vampire-repelling donut is the only thing about that salad that mattered.  The rest of the salad was mediocre and that’s being kind–the roasted red peppers were cold, slick, and obviously from a jar and they screwed up the entire flavor profile by fighting with every other ingredient. But that garlic donut, man. The bottom was crisp in a way that suggested it had been fried in garlic butter, and it tasted like the best garlic bread in the world. It is divine. I want THAT garlic donut with everything, especially if I can use it to mop up some kind of pasta sauce. That garlic donut is the best donut I’ve ever eaten. And I’ve blogged about donuts a lot (and I’m sure there’d be more results in that link if I was consistent with my spelling of doughnut), and will continue to blog about donuts in the future, because hard-hitting donut journalism is one of my niches, and also I just really fucking like donuts. And THIS donut is the best of the best. I’m so far behind on writing about the stuff I’ve done this year that there are donuts that I’m going to blog about in the near future, and you should know that none of them are as good as this garlic donut. 

That donut is why I went back to the public house after Jason joined me on the trip. He ordered a Dirty South: chicken fried steak, potato pancake, white gravy and a spicy cranberry jam served open face atop a piping hot donut, and for dessert, a Funky Monkey donut with cream cheese icing, grilled bananas, and brown sugar, and he really enjoyed both, despite traditionally not being a fan of the cranberry. I elected to try a donut sandwich this time, going for the Dirty Bird (I guess in addition to donuts, the theme of this visit was ‘dirty’): lemon pepper chicken with spinach, pesto, mozz, and roasted red peppers. For dessert, the Squealing Pig, with cream cheese icing, bacon, strawberry jalapeño jelly and candied jalapeños. My Dirty Bird was decent, but it didn’t really have the magic of that first garlic donut, and having had this one, I don’t think I’m down with the donut-as-a-bun experience in general. In fact, nothing I had at Gordough’s since came anywhere close to rivaling that first, perfect donut. 

It’s probably because with the exception of that salad, everything at Gordough’s is a LOT, seemingly under the guiding principle of “if some is good, more is better”. Like one donut? Have two as the bun for your sandwich! Enjoy the flavor of brown sugar? Have an entire handful on top of a thickly frosted donut! This is especially evident with the dessert donuts, even moreso with the donut hole dish I ordered at the food truck, the cherry bomb. These were served swimming in so much goo that they crossed the line from decadent to disgusting. Nothing else was disgusting–I do want to emphasize that the food at Gordough’s in general is very good, it’s just extremely decadent, even if it was being split among several people. It’s just a shame, because they have a great donut, a REALLY great donut, and in most instances you can’t even tell how great the donut is because of all the crap on top of it. And I’m getting to a point in my life where I don’t want to leave a restaurant feeling bad or throw away 90% of what I ordered because I know that eating any more of it will make me sick. The waste sickens me.

That doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop going to restaurants like Gordough’s entirely–as previously mentioned, I just really fucking like donuts, and I’m coming to find that I also enjoy writing about food in more than a perfunctory “nom or vom” way.  I don’t know how all of this is going to affect where I go and how I eat and how I’ll write about it–who knows, maybe this change has been coming on so gradually all along that I’m the only one to whom it comes as a shock. 

District: Donuts Sliders Brew

 district donuts sliders

 

“I’d like four donuts, a cinnamon roll, two biscuits, and three coffees…for here.”

more

As the words left my mouth, there was no doubt in my mind I was the fattest person alive. However, I feel that if you only have time to visit District once, you’d do the same. It helped that I had two willing partners in donut-eating to try the bounty that you see before you.

 

district donutsClockwise from the upper left (ignoring the coffees): banana pudding donut, pad thai donut, plain glazed donut, buttermilk drop, maple praline donut, buttermilk biscuit, brûléed cinnamon roll.

It is a goddamn good thing this place is outside of easy driving distance for me or I would be dead inside of a month. Did you even know that a cinnamon roll could be brûléed?! Because I didn’t, and that shit is a revelation. Cinnamon rolls are basically already the perfect pastry,  and adding the crisp crackle of torched sugar on top takes it up into the stratosphere.  What kind of mad science is this?! Is it possible to make something too delicious for your tastebuds to even perceive it? I feel like if any donut shop has a chance of making that discovery, it’s District.

In terms of the donuts themselves, the pad thai donut was my clear favorite. Sweet but not as sweet as the others, it definitely had the distinctive flavors that made you think of pad thai without crossing over into “Oh weird, this is too much” territory. Next was the banana pudding donut, which was aaamazing but so dense and rich that a bite was enough. The maple praline and the plain glazed were both good donuts, but I felt like neither really compared to the other two in terms of flavor impact. Following up all that sweet donut and cinnamon roll with a savory biscuit is necessary to pull yourself out of the too-much-sugar zone–I preferred the standard buttermilk biscuit to the buttermilk drop in both texture and flavor. I need to go back to District and try their sliders. All of them. Maybe with a donut bun.

donut

 

The Portland Donut Throwdown: Voodoo Doughnut vs Blue Star Donuts

portland doughnut throwdown

Voodoo Doughnuts and Blue Star Donuts: Both monsters in the Portland breakfast pastry scene, with diametrically opposed positions on just about everything, including how to spell the product they sell. My initial idea for this doughnut challenge was to buy an asston of doughnuts from both, bring them back to a secure location (also known as the hotel room) and compare them head to head, bite for bite. This plan failed for a number of different reasons. First and foremost, while I don’t doubt that a person exists who can eat bites of twenty different doughnuts and not feel horrifically, violently ill for the rest of the day, that person is not me. Second, while I may not always want to wear pants, I would like for them to continue to be an option.

Here’s the breakdown:

Voodoo Doughnut specializes in raised yeast doughnuts with quirky toppings (think cereal), unusual shapes (think cock and balls), and punn-y names. They’re expensive, there’s almost always a line, and they’re cash only. They’ve got a huge variety of doughnuts on their menu, including a maple bacon doughnut in a bar style with entire strips of bacon on top.  You’re going to see a lot of people carrying their distinctive pink box throughout the streets of Portland.

Blue Star Donuts specializes in brioche donuts featuring local, sustainable toppings and flavors, traditional shapes, and basic, descriptive names. They’re expensive (even a little moreso than Voodoo), there’s almost always a line, and they take cards. They’ve got a much smaller variety of doughnuts on their menu, including a maple bacon donut in a circle style with crumbled bacon on top. You’re going to see a lot of people carrying their distinctive white box throughout the streets of Portland.

 

I went to Blue Star Donuts first because I’d never been there before, and I’ve been to Voodoo several times (I’ve even tried their voodoo wedding!). The shop was packed to the gills, but the line moved relatively quickly, and we bought and tried six different varieties: classic buttermilk, vanilla and cinnamon sugar, maple bacon, blueberry bourbon basil, key lime lemon curd, and a still-warm hard apple cider fritter.

Holy shit. Holy shit holy shit holy shit. I want to say that it took more than one bite to determine that I didn’t need to go back to Voodoo to declare a victor, but that isn’t true. One bite of the blueberry bourbon basil was all it took, and the bites I took of each of the others only confirmed it. Blue Star Donuts sells the superior donut by a landslide. While both shops sell perfectly fluffy pastries, the natural flavors and gourmet pairings Blue Star uses makes all the difference. Granted, I still felt ill after eating bites of everything, but I regret nothing. Sorry, Voodoo. You and Kenny Rogers will always have a place in my heart, but Blue Star has claimed my waistline.

This didn’t deserve its own post: Texas

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Texas.

There’s a donut shop in Round Rock that’ll sell you a donut the size of Texas for just under eight bucks. This behemoth, weighing in at around two pounds, is the equivalent of twelve regular donuts, and it absolutely dwarfs the largest donut I’d had prior, at Universal Studios. I may, in fact, never eat a larger donut in my life…but one can hope. Round Rock Donuts sells ’em glazed, chocolate frosted, and for the indecisive like myself, a split donut. Both sides had their charms, but ultimately I preferred the glazed half as the chocolate frosting can overwhelm the flavor of the donut itself, and it’s a donut worth tasting, tinted yellow from all the golden yolks of the farm-fresh eggs they use in their yeasted raised dough recipe. But y’know, maybe share it with a friend. I was particularly delighted to know that the donut could support its own weight when being picked up to do a size comparison selfie with, say, one’s own head.

I was so excited to go to Chicken Shit Bingo at the Little Longhorn Saloon, which they do every Sunday between 4 and 8pm, in four rounds. There’s a live band, and an array of picnic tables around a central tent, providing shade and protection for a large chicken wire cage, lined with a board with 54 numbered spaces and littered with feed to encourage movement(s). The band announced a table number, and it was from that table that the first round of tickets were sold. Excuse me, “exchanged for a donation”. Tickets are sold exchanged first to kids under 13, then adults over 92 (with ID), and then they’re exchanged with whoever hustled over to the line fast enough, one per person. I saw a man straight vault over a table and determined that the only way for me to win was not to participate. When the chicken finally came out, people crowded around the cage six deep, shouting at the chicken and cheering. Between them and the whole camera crew in there, I could not see anything and I didn’t feel like elbowing a bunch of people to try and see a chicken take a shit, so I left.

I wandered by this place while waiting to get into my movie at the nearby Alamo Drafthouse. Or so I thought. You see, the nearby Alamo Drafthouse, on S Lamar, was busy with SXSW screenings, and the ticket I had purchased was actually for a movie showing at an Alamo Drafthouse in Fort Worth, which is also on S Lamar, just a mere three and a half hour drive away. 

In general, I really really liked Alamo Drafthouse and I’m pretty devastated that there aren’t any locations nearby. The food is delicious, the service is unobtrusive, and they’re serious about ensuring your good experience which includes none of the ubiquitous modern commercial advertising before the start of the movie, choosing instead to take you on a nostalgic tour through tv clips, movie clips, and old timey cartoons and ads for toys and candy, curated from what must be an extensive collection by someone who has love for media. And I cannot confirm this, but I think they may have invented the endless popcorn bowl, because I happily munched on herbed parmesan popcorn all throughout Annihilation and when the movie ended, I still had 70% of it left. Some of the volume left may have had to do with my drive to eat as quietly as possible so as not to disturb the other moviegoers with my excessive crunching. 

The Jackalope was…a bar. With a Jackalope. That I tragically had no one to take my photo riding.

Looking for dinner one night, neither Jason nor I could resist the allure of “Jason’s Deli” for obvious reasons. It was, sad to say, kind of mediocre. My baked potato was almost unfathomably big–it was like they crossed a potato with a loaf of bread and planted it in radioactive soil. But it was bland and the chili was unpleasantly sweet and I was glad I’d paid the extra whatever to have access to the salad bar.

We took a ferry from Galveston to Crystal Beach and regretted it almost immediately. Jason got some freezer burned ice cream, I used the bathroom, we laughed at the “BUY SHRIMP I NEED MONEY” sign, I witnessed a wholly brown wave crash onto the “crystal” trash-littered beach and turned around and headed back to the ferry. 

I wrote one word in my travel notebook for the Houston Space Center: “Yeesh.”  It’s almost like a chaotic evil engineer designed it so that the high pitched shrieks of children reverberate endlessly. 

I like that this building looks like a cockatoo.

Umlach Sculpture Garden

I saw lots of couples taking engagement and wedding photos in Mayfield park. It’s also a lovely place for a stroll or to sit and read a book, punctuated with the haunting, mournful screams of the two dozen peacocks and hens who have the run of the place.

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Colorado River

And that’s it for Texas! Anything I didn’t talk about really didn’t deserve its own post.

The murals and art around (a small sampling of) Texas

This fucking 3d mural, you guys. I drove to San Antonio to see it, among other things, including a shop where you could buy tacos AND donuts from the drive-through, because of course that’s a place I would go. The 3d mural, Vision del Futuro, has its own permanent 3d glasses to view it, so naturally a helpful soul broke out both lenses. I suspected that might be the case beforehand, so I packed an old pair of 3D glasses from Halloween Horror Nights…and those only sort of worked. It was at this point that I realized I didn’t have my phone after frantically checking all of my pockets and every compartment of my purse. I then spotted it on the ground behind my rental car and dashed over: the screen was shattered and it seemed like it might have been run over by a car. Sigh. I suppose if it was going to happen, it’s better that it happened while Jason was there with his phone because otherwise I would have been alone and lost in an unfamiliar city. As it was, that was the end of the day I had planned and instead it became a tour of the endless strip mall that is San Antonio, first visiting my cell carrier’s store and not finding the phone I had intended to buy, and then visiting an electronics store only to find that they only sell the phone I wanted for other carriers because while you may be familiar with Murphy’s Law, Melissa’s Addendum states that not only will everything go wrong, but it needs to be the biggest, most expensive pain in the ass possible. I really did not want to buy a $600+ new phone that’s a runner up to the one I actually wanted, so I needed to find some other option. Eventually I found myself at San Antonio’s UBreakIFix, and while they didn’t have the screen for my (admittedly a couple generations old) phone, they called every other UBreakIFix in the greater San Antonio/Austin area and found ONE shop in the Austin area that had one. I begged them to hold it and told them I’d be there when the doors opened the next morning. It only took the better portion of the day and that’s why there’s practically no San Antonio to show for my efforts. 

This piece was made to draw attention to the critically endangered Houston toad, of which there is estimated only 3,000-4,000 remain in the total population worldwide.

This was near the churro food truck that I tried to visit three times that was always closed. I think it would take less effort to start my OWN churro food truck than actually catch this place open.

I don’t know what kind of armadillo centipede you’re trying to create here, sky prince, but I’m not here for it and I don’t think the people of Texas will stand for it.

No.

Art for the People is a cool gallery with a surprising amount of art packed inside at all price points.

Riding in the Sky: The Sandia Peak Tramway

The Sandia Peak Tramway was once the longest tramway in the world. Bumped to third place, it remains the longest in the United States. Construction started in 1964 and was completed two years later, with the second support tower requiring the aid of helicopters to construct. And not a little helicopter aid, either–it took some 5,000 helicopter trips to complete tower two and install the cables, which is probably more helicopters than you’ve ever seen in your life from all sources combined, even if you’re a dedicated fan of Steven Seagal’s oeuvre.  The span of the cables is 7,720 feet, which is long enough that that the cables and even the car itself seems to disappear as it moves away. It’s so long that a trip up or down takes a solid fifteen minutes, so it’s reassuring to know that over the course of their operation, every part of  the tram save for the towers themselves has been replaced at least twice. Less reassuring was our car operator’s description of our current elevation above the ground as a “seven and a half second freefall”, but even that gave me a small assurance: that I’d have enough time to shout “I waaaaaant aaaaa reeeeefuuuuuund” as I hurtled toward the ground. Petty until the very end, that’s me.

Healthier, more ambitious people than myself can choose to hike up or down, and thus tickets are sold at both the top and the bottom station in one way and round trip forms, so I was careful to not lose them in the depths of the abomination I call a travel purse: some forty pounds of anything I might need and no way to recover any of it without five to ten minutes of swirling my arm around in it up to my shoulder. I mean, yes, if I had lost the tickets it wouldn’t have been the end of the world to buy new ones or even hike down (let’s be honest, if you’re going to have to hike one of the directions, down is preferable), BUT then I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to pepper the tram operator with questions–they have a prepared spiel they give on the ride up, but not on the ride down. The kind of hard-hitting questions I’m known for, like ” Has the tram ever gotten stuck? For how long? If there always has to be an operator on the tram, who rides the first one down in the morning? What does that red handle do?” Answers: Yes. Usually no more than 15 minutes but it has been stopped for longer waiting for a car to stop swinging back and forth so it doesn’t risk collision with a tower. Someone actually has to spend the night up in the peak to ride down in the morning, which our (female) operator has never had to do, and for which she’s grateful (“I’m a women’s libber, but you get a bunch of weirdos showing up in the middle of the night.”). It’s an emergency brake that stops the tram completely, requiring the operator to have to strap into a harness and climb outside the tram to manually reset things–which, of course, spurred an inevitable follow up question of “Have you ever had to do that?”. Thankfully, the answer to that one was no, not outside of training. Just picturing being harnessed to the top of a swinging tram a seven and a half second freefall above the ground made my insides roil around a bit in a way that had nothing to do with the rebel donuts crammed in there. Can’t a helicopter do it instead?

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“Stay out of my territory”: Breaking Bad in Albuquerque

 

For as long as the show remains in pop culture memory*,  the city of Albuquerque will be tied to Breaking Bad. I’m not such a die-hard fan that I wanted to turn my trip into a Breaking Badcation, but if you’re familiar with the show at all, you’ll spot little nods and filming locations all over town. Like, for instance, the Crossroads Motel (or “crystal palace”), which was smack on the corner where we turned to go to our hotel (“Is that…? No, wow, it looked so much worse on the show.”). There was also a little nod to Heisenberg at Rebel Donut, with their “Blue Sky” donut, sprinkled with blue sugar crystals. There’s The Dog House, the hot dog joint where Jesse slings meth and buys a gun, and Garduños, where a waiter awkwardly presses tableside guacamole on the family, not reading the mood of the room. Jason and I got lunch/dinner at Garduños (their portions are, to put it mildly, gargantuan), including the aforementioned tableside guacamole, which Walt is frankly a fool for passing on**. We also found Walter White’s tombstone, which was initially placed in the Sunset Memorial Park cemetery, but was later removed to a strip mall*** after some families complained. I didn’t even consider swinging by the home portrayed as Walter White’s on the show because the real homeowner has had so many issues with people lurking outside her home and throwing pizzas on her roof and frankly, I don’t want to contribute to her stress  or be associated with a bunch of salty asshole fans when I’d seen plenty of Breaking Bad stuff around town anyway. I guess, for her, the sooner the memory of the show fades, the better.

*Not terribly long, if Forks is any indication.

**Like, in a show that’s essentially about a series of bad decisions, this might’ve been his worst one. They make it right at the table, man.

***There was some construction up at the strip mall and I didn’t know if we’d be able to pull into the parking lot, so I parked at nearby Dan’s Boots & Saddles. We wandered into the store afterward and ended up outfitting Jason with a bunch of new work shirts and a pretty bitchin’ cowboy hat. I want to say we were helped by the owner, and he was helpful and knowledgeable and friendly in a way that one doesn’t often see anymore which is why I’m plugging his store in this completely unrelated blog post. So if you’re in the area and in the market for some boots or a hat, definitely stop in!

This didn’t deserve its own post: Iceland Edition

When I take a trip somewhere, if I don’t do a day-by-day recounting, there’s usually a bunch of tidbits left over that I either couldn’t write more than a few sentences about or don’t have any photos for or would drag out the series far beyond what any human could be expected to tolerate.  All combined, however, they make for something a little more substantial, so here’s yet another one, this time about Iceland.

For my stay in Reykjavik, I was booked at the Best Western. I don’t have any particular distaste for the Best Western chain in general–they’re serviceable if not particularly fancy, the sort of place that you maybe wouldn’t be too surprised to see duct tape patching a hole in the carpet. Frankly, I don’t need for my hotel room to be fancy, it’s the place that I crash out for a few hours in between doing more exciting things, unless I get sick and end up spending much more time there than anticipated. Free WiFi is nice, free breakfast is another good perk (even if I rarely avail myself of the option). This Best Western changed my opinion about Best Westerns. I wish they were ALL like this one. For one, the room was super nice. For two, the tub was super nice. For three, free breakfast is a wonderful thing when food is as expensive as it is in Iceland. For four, their toilet flushed with the force of a spectacular waterfall. For five, they have a kind of duvet I’ve never seen before, one that has the power to save marriages all over the world: split down the middle so no one needs to stab a covers hog in the middle of the night.

best wester reykjavik

tub

amazing comforter

The one area in which I was a little disappointed was Icelandic TV. I don’t know if my hotel had awful reception or what, but I am very much not into the club scene (as I am old, uncool, and disinclined to pay for bottle service) so if I wanted to veg a bit after everything closes at night (earlier than I would have expected), my options were limited. The news channel was frozen on that same frame for my entire visit.

One morning, I got a bug up my butt about going to see the sun voyager sculpture at dawn. I either severely overestimated the distance or underestimated my walking speed and how much I would hustle in the cold, because I got there a good thirty to forty minutes before sunrise. It was so cold, with strong winds whipping icy water up out of the harbor to sting our faces. I spent a good portion of that time huddling in a bus shelter, skittering out whenever I saw something that might be a bus coming so I wouldn’t inconvenience a driver by making him stop when he didn’t have to. A few other people with cameras showed up just before dawn. We were all red-cheeked and hopeful for a spectacular sunrise.  What we got was not the most spectacular one in the history of time (too much cloud cover that seemed like it was moving out of the way but didn’t), but it was pretty damn good, and worth the effort.

sun voyager

Afterward, we made our way to the Harpa Concert hall to check it out and escape the cold a bit while waiting for businesses to start opening.

harpa

harpa interior

jason harpa

mellzah harpa

harpa interior ceiling

I don’t know if this is the case everywhere in Iceland, but all of the public restrooms I used were stellar. Super private stalls, impeccably clean, all with those magnificent waterfall toilets, very unlike, say, the terrifying and filthy half-door stalls at Pike Place Market where you can make shame-filled eye contact with someone outside the stall while wiping, which I would only use if my death by exploding bladder was imminent and even then I would think twice.

public restroom

I like that construction at the harbor is so permanent that they’ve put it on their maps.

permanently under construction

I have mentioned before that food is really, really expensive in Iceland. One night, sans reservations, we wedged our way in at the bar at Public House. Our meal started off with a shot and a beer, and then we each got a selection of small plates, four each. I got something called the “taste of iceland”, and the two courses I remember were a tiny licorice puffin salad and some lamb stuffed inside a doughnut, the former which was a little weird even for a licorice lover like myself and the later being quite delicious. We both walked out still hungry, and our bill was over $230 USD. Oh, but that wasn’t all. While we were at the bar, a local came in, complaining of the cold, and grabbed each of our hands to show how cold she was. I, thinking this was an opportunity to connect, offered her my already-warmed hot hands packet in addition to a fresh unopened packet to use later, which she was very, very excited about, showing them off to everyone who worked at the restaurant. So far so good, right? Then she started in on a seriously intense speech about how people in Iceland are going to the harbor and killing themselves, repeating to us over and over again “Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.” It was deeply unsettling and I can still hear her voice in my head when I think about it. I’m trying not to think about it.

public house

public house puffin salad

public house reindeer donut

Baejarins beztu pylsur, on the other hand, is refreshingly cheap, and apparently the must-try Iceland place. It’s a hot dog stand that’s been open since the 1930s, and pretty much everyone stops there to eat eina með öllu (one with everything: ketchup, mustard, remoulade, raw onions, and crunchy fried onions). The lamb-based hot dog is delicious, and all that onion makes your breath truly remarkable for the better part of the afternoon. Frankly I don’t care what the hot dogs are actually made of to make them so inexpensive, whether it’s ground up rats with wooly lamb coats or what, I was just thrilled not to spend $60+ on a meal (another reason I loaded up at free breakfast every morning).

beztu

I’m not sure what Texas-style pizza is but I do wish I had stopped in to find out. Then again, maybe not as their food is decribed as “intestinal terrorism”.

texas pizza

Because I am a mature adult, I spent some time singing “a few times I’ve been around that track/ so it’s not just gonna happen like that/ because I ain’t no hlölla bátar / I ain’t no hlölla bátar

aint no hlolla batar

If they don’t give you a gun with which to shoot your selection on the menu, I don’t even know what to say.

american style

At the hotel, I saw an advertisement for a fish spa, the establishment where a bunch of hungry fish eat all of the gross dead skin off of your feet. This was something I’ve been keen to try for a while, and it’s been banned in the US (as there’s no way to sterilize the fish) so this was my first opportunity and I’d be damned if I was going to pass it up. While it’s true you can’t sterilize the fish, they do have you clean your feet well before you plop them in a tank, washing them and then squeezing on some kind of antiseptic. It wasn’t the super ticklish sensation I expected, more of a pins-and-needles type feeling, except when they squeezed between my toes to get at some particularly tasty foot crud–that was ticklish. My feet were baby soft afterward though that probably has a lot more to do with soaking them in water for an hour and then layering on some thick lotion than the fish themselves. I wouldn’t say that where the fish could hear, though, as I wouldn’t want to crush their tiny spirits.

iceland fish spa

fish spa

I liked how bright many of the houses were, it made the city feel quite cheerful.

  colorful houses

drekkin

street

single gloves speed dating  

This one little pond was absolutely stuffed to the gills with birds one evening. My favorite was obviously this little short-necked dude strutting around like he owned the place.

sunset bird pond   neckless bird

I never did get to try Icelandic meat soup, but not for lack of trying. Everywhere I went, every time I tried to order it, they were out. I’m not certain Icelandic meat soup actually exists.

eat meee  

And that wraps up Iceland! The stuff I didn’t talk about really doesn’t deserve its own post.            

The Poulsbo Aquarium

poulsbo marine science center entrance

octopus over harbor

whale skeleton poulsbo aquarium

california sea cucumber

clown fish

eel

moon jellyfish

mudfish   purple crab

purple starfish

starfish anemone

starfish

The Poulsbo Marine Science Center is a small but delightful aquarium, a cool free place to visit to take a break in your marathon donut eating sessions. It was nearly empty on the day I visited, which meant I got lots of personal attention from the volunteer docent. They don’t believe in “do not touch” and in fact encourage you (after rinsing your hands) to plunge your arms into their tanks up to the elbow and interact with the creatures inside. I learned that if you carefully place your finger between the spines, you’ll get a tiny sea urchin hug. I also learned that when you gently brush a sea anemone, if it feels sticky, that’s because it’s trying to eat you. NOT TODAY, ANEMONE.

My personal favorite was the display of moon jellyfish. It seems hard to believe that something so fragile and beautiful is just bopping around out there in the puget sound, doing its thing. It’s especially cool to have all of these local species available to look at and learn about up on dry land since between my terrible eyesight and my deep mistrust of underwater breathing aparatuses, it’s unlikely that I’ll be going to see them in their natural environment anytime soon. SO NOT TOMORROW, EITHER, ANEMONE.

Viking Fest in Poulsbo, WA

velkommen til poulsbo

As someone who enjoys traipsing about from festival to festival, I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about what makes for a good festival versus one that’s mediocre or just plain sad. My general rule of thumb is that for a festival to be really good, it needs to be intrinsic to the identity of the area it’s being held. You need to be able to say, “YES, it totally makes sense that they’re holding this event here.” Like the lavender festival in Sequim. It needs to be an experience that you can only have there. It needs vendors with unique offerings that are enthusiastic about the theme. Otherwise, you end up like the sad strawberry festival in Bellevue, where you go through a parking lot clusterfuck only find a couple of sad strawberry offerings and booths filled with the same insurance and home repair people who are stuffing your mailboxes full of ads that you immediately chuck in the trash. Sure, someone might come out and protest it for some reason (I never realized the lord was so opposed to strawberries) but there isn’t much there to delight people or entice them to return. When I arrived in Poulsbo for the Viking Festival, I knew I was going to have a great time.

Poulsbo was settled by a community of Scandinavian immigrants because the area reminded them of home, and now with its rows of cute colorful houses, it definitely looks the part. Poulsbo is a city that lives and breathes its Scandinavian heritage, and it’s only right and natural that they’d have a viking-stravaganza one weekend a year–it’s so enthusiastic that I’m just surprised it doesn’t involve raids across the sound. Nearly every shop on their main street is viking related, from Thor’s Hammer and Needle Tattoo to The Nordic Maid to Viking Brew to a bookstore focusing on Scandinavian topics to a market filled with special imported foods, the pride in Poulsbo runs deep.

The Town

 accurate viking statueViking king Olaf statuethors hammer and needle shopfrontIf you think Thor’s hammer is impressive, wait until you see his needle Skeradreparekkr–it can piece twelve dudes through the midsection all at once. Or one very lucky lady.

thors hammer and needle

damn tourists

free parking for kings only

king harald vei

viking brew

the nordic maid

viking mural

one way mural

fish mural

trolls den

The Donut Eating Contest

There were back-to-back eating contests the entire second day of the Viking Festival. First donuts, then oysters, then lutefisk. It comes as no surprise to anyone that the greatest number of competitors came out for the donut contests, which were separated into multiple divisions: young children, slightly older children, under 18, adult, and a Guinness world record attempt. The first two groups were judged on the speed eating of one donut. The under 18 and adult division had to speed eat three donuts. The Guinness attempt? Only one donut. One three pound donut.

sluys giant donut

tiny vikings eating donutsThose knit viking helmets are the cutest f’ing thing, and I want one, even though it won’t look half as cute on me.

donut victory

donut competition

viking contemplates giant donut

cheering vikings

I think it was a huge misstep to not advertise that the final competition was a Guinness attempt or the size of the donut involved. The people who signed up clearly had no idea what they were getting into. They weren’t professional eaters (and that’s fine),  but nobody just shows up off the street ready to eat a three pound donut on a whim! The person who came closest to finishing hers said that she had gone to Burger King beforehand, and that all she had wanted was one donut. That, to me, doesn’t sound like someone who was ready to try to be the fastest person in the world to eat a three pound donut. Over the course of a grueling hour and fifteen minutes, the people who signed up were harangued by some local radio personality to keep going, to finish the monstrosity in front of them. It’s rare but not unheard of for stomachs to rupture, and I think it’s irresponsible to peer pressure people who aren’t prepared for the challenge in front of them. Not only was it rough on the contestants, but it was also a slog for the attendees–how long can you sit and watch someone halfheartedly eat? I walked away, did some stuff, came back, and the contest was still going. They eventually cut for time because no one had finished and now it was significantly delaying the rest of the day’s events.

The Paddleboard Races

happy day at the viking festival             viking stand up paddleboardThere were a surprising amount of people signed up for the stand up paddleboard races. They had two races: one was one mile, and the other was five miles. The mile race took just under 23 minutes for the last competitor to cross the finish line, so I didn’t end up sticking around to watch the five mile as there were other things I wanted to see and do while I was in town.

The Rest of the Festival

viking biking

viking helmet

In addition to all of the eating contests and paddleboard races, there were a few different bike rides, a viking crafts center with metal and woodworkers, an area filled with replica nordic jewelry and tools for sale, a place where you could learn a bit of sword and shieldplay, and of course, some places where you could buy food, drinks, and some various trinkets, including something called “viking chips” which is a fried spiralized potato so I’m not really seeing what’s viking about it, and when I try to search for it, the internet assumes I mean “viking ships” so I don’t think vikings were the founders of the modern potato chip after all, and OH I GET IT, IT’S A PUN.  I think the only other thing I could have asked for would have been more viking stuff for sale, because after seeing a bunch of people walking around in them, I really, really wanted a helmet and the only ones for sale anywhere were the cheapo plastic jobbers. I so wanted to slap that helmet with the badass metalwork above on my head and mosey on out of the tent, but it didn’t seem prudent, what with there being armed vikings everywhere. Next year, I’ll be back, with golden braids down to my ass and an appetite for a three pound donut.