August 19. 2014
So..I love donuts. Donuts were a staple at coffee shops in the 50's and 60's - the kind of coffee shop before Starbucks defined coffee culture. Coffee shops "in the day" had aluminum trim Formica counters, padded swivel stools, and booths with shiny vinyl. Your waitress was a hardened pro. Crisp apron, big hair, and my name was always Honey or Sweetie. Singles and those in a hurry, regulars sat at the counter. Plain old coffee in a china cup and saucer was served up with chit chat and that donut. No Wi-Fi or iPhones, folks talked, lit up a cigarette, lingered. The donut held a place of honor on the counter on a little cake stand often covered by a glass dome.
Somewhere, with the nutrition revolution, donuts fell out of favor, went the way of white sugar, fat and white flour.
My boomer friends, the 50-60 somethings, feel the same way I do about donuts: they love them, but it's a closet thing, or at least it was. We had to sneak donuts. Pick them up in an unmarked car using a drive thru. Get rid of the bag in a park dumpster- wipe the sugar off lips and reapply the makeup. Forty years of sneaking donuts, but now, THEY'RE BACK! (YES!) Thank you younger generation, foodies, and entrepreneurs of goodness.
What has changed? The donut is no longer the plain ordinary donut, gees, they are gourmet, all the trend with twists like local organic ingredients, seasonal toppings, catchy names and latest flavor crazes like maple bacon--AND... people have their places they think have the best donuts--enter Portland, OR and four girlfriends off on a knitting and shopping retreat. Just as an FYI, we are four among thousands of other knitters every year attending Stitches West, a knitting convention held in Santa Clara, CA. Once a year is not enough so this year we decided we needed to meet mid year, and Portland seemed like a good place to go. My casual mention of hey, "when in Portland, you need to try Pips Original Donuts" brings the return volley of "no, no we must go to Voodoo Doughnuts!" and then another piped in with "what about Blue Star Donuts? we have to go to Blue Star" for donuts. Chatter evolved into who had the best donut place. Game on- let the donut wars begin! Which of us was right, which was the best donut place?
What woman in her right mind isn't ALL over three days, three servings of world-class donuts, a trial, a taste test in the name of science? These women...we are ready, willing and able to test donuts. Thing is when you walk around with a box of donuts turns out the entire city is willing, ready and able as well. Donuts in boxes are a real conversation starter - strangers become friends-everyone recognizes a donut box. And so it went, in between yarn shops, restaurants, salt water soaks, the Rose Garden and Japanese Garden, river walks, comedians and musicians we ate donuts. We shared our donuts with the waiters and passerby's..most of the time-there was once we protected our donuts from that really cute group of joggers that knew a pink voodoo box when they saw it tho.
Disclaimer: There are likely lots of amazing places in Portland to get donuts and while we only happened to know of these three we are more than happy to hear about your favorites.
So, the first day we went to Voodoo Doughnuts. The line wrapped around the corner. Fifteen minutes later with an assorted dozen Dirty Bastards, Mango Tango, Cock N Balls, Captain Crunch, Maple Bacon - they were huge, glistening, covered in stuff, like Captain Crunch cereal..we walked the long walk of shame with our pink box, 10 blocks back to our hotel. Had a following holding that box, kind of like the pied piper. We sat outside in the hotel cafe and we gorged.
That was Friday. On Saturday, we waited until the afternoon to hit Pip's Original. Little funnel cakes of goodness, hot off the press, sprinkled with cinnamon, dollops of cherry preserve, Nutella or honey and sea salt. A warm crunch. Each a mouthful. This is my personal favorite donut place and a must stop on the voyages north and south. I digress. Anyway, we shared a 'flight' of Chai tea, iced as it was a broiling 80+ degrees. We each ordered a sampling of the donuts on menu. Today, however, we were tamed by Friday's excesses into ordering a more reasonable amount. Everyone had to agree, Pip's was wonderful. The deliberating was in full swing. Loved Voodoo, now loved Pip's. Sweet neighborhood location, little local music, vintage magazines, fabulous fabric store near by, biscuit eatery, knit shop. We could see ourselves moving here, walking our dogs, eating donuts daily... we packed up several dozen for the men folks back home.
Early Sunday the texts messages were flying between our rooms, "You up? " Blue Star????" "Yes, ready in 10".
Blue Star was fancy shmancy. A gal was using a crème brûlée torch to caramelize the sugar, then she stuck little vial on top, vial filled with Cointreau. Seeing is believing. Check out the photo below. Another long line-E ticket ride. Another assortment of exotic offerings like amazing hard cider apple fritter, maple bacon, key lime, bourbon cherry. And, this hang out had the cutest dogs EVER outside. English spaniel, Pug, and Frenchy. Good thing Blue Star had dog doughnuts. I made a note to self: don't forget to get dog doughnut cookies for Jemma and Nigh.
We took these human donut jewels back to the hotel outdoor café once again. They sparkled and glistened with sugar. We photographed them, posed, with the light streaming through the window. We bit, we savored. It was good. But it was also time to pack up the loot and head home. The eight hour drive south was tempered with dreams of donuts, the visions of our spouses getting their boxes of donuts and being ecstatic, the new knitting projects, books from Powell’s-
So what did we decide, who won the donut war? No one! We didn't decide, we just couldn't. We did decide we needed more time to decide, we needed another taste test. We need to go back to Portland.
Photos of Voodoo Doughnut 22 SW Ave Portland, OR
Photos of Pips Original Donuts
Photos of Blue Star Donuts 1237 SW WashingtonSt. Portland, OR