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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.”

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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.

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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.