Kentucky’s Forbidden Donuts

For a place that doesn’t get a whole lot of national press, Kentucky must have as many claims to fame as any state in the country. There’s thoroughbred horseracing, famous family feuds, bluegrass music, and the nation’s most storied college basketball team. And in the food and drink arena, the Bluegrass State is known for KFC, the Bourbon Trail, mutton BBQ, hot browns, burgoo, and mint juleps, not to mention backwoods Old Kentucky favorites like squirrel and possum.
But I’d never heard of Kentucky as a mecca for donut connoisseurs until I read a piece in the New York Times a few weeks ago. William Grimes described the state as “the last calorie-filled province in an enormous swath of territory where the glazed twist, the apple fritter, the chocolate-iced Long John and the vanilla-cream Bismarck hold sway,” and I was hooked.

Regular readers might recall that I’ve gotten into trouble with my wife over the years for taking the family on long detours to Western New York State’s Amish Country in pursuit of donuts. With that unpleasantness in mind, I didn’t insist on hitting all seven donut shops scattered around the central and northern part of the state mentioned in the article. But we were already planning a long-weekend trip to Kentucky when the Times piece came out, so I added donuts to our weekend to-do list.

Our first stop was Hadorn’s Bakery, an institution in Bardstown, a lovely small town in the heart of bourbon country, for more than 26 years. Hadorn’s didn’t make Grimes’s list but I smelled the place from a block away and noticed the line snaking out the door at 9 a.m. on a Saturday morning and figured it had to be good.

I had to recalibrate my order three times while standing in line though, as the hungry individuals standing before me snatched the last of the pumpkin donuts and two other varieties before I could call out my order. But I came away with a half dozen decadent little beauties: two glazed, two chocolate glazed, a caramel glazed and a pretzel donut.

The plain glazed were 60 cents, the others 70 or 80, and they were all light, moist, fresh and melt-in-your mouth treats. On my walk back to the hotel my plan to divvy up the donuts when I got back to the room went up in smoke, and my wife and sons had to battle it out for what I’d left in the bag.

On Sunday morning, I was ready for round two at Burke’s Bakery in Danville, another appealing small town that hosted the Vice Presidential debate in October. Burke’s was part of the NYT piece and also came highly recommended by Stuart Meyer, who produces a show called Small Town Flavor. Meyer featured Burke’s in an episode of their show (see below), and after watching the segment, I was ready to get in my car and make the 8-hour drive before the clip had even ended.

But you never want to digest too much hype before seeing a movie and donuts are the same way. Burke’s doesn’t open until Noon on Sundays and they bake only a few varieties of donuts rather than their usual full assortment, so I was unable to get the coconut frosted special or any of the others I had in mind. I had a crumb donut and a glazed, both quite good and a bargain at 60 and 65 cents, but it wasn’t the this-donut-has-changed-my-life experience I was hoping for.

On Monday morning, I was geared up to try the maple bacon donuts at Nord’s Bakery, a popular neighborhood joint in the Germantown section of Louisville, but my sons, ages 3 and 5, decided to sleep in late, after we dragged them out late three nights in a row. I didn’t have the heart to wake them up but I feared that my chances of getting one of their famous maple bacon donuts were dwindling with each passing minute. Still, as we set off from our hotel around 10 a.m., I felt like we still had a shot since it was a weekday.

But by the time we found the place, alas, the maple bacon donuts were history. I did feel a bit better though when Martha, the young woman at the counter, told me they’d sold out hours ago, rather than mere minutes, and my mood brightened further after I tucked into a crunch nut donut that was full of nutty, coconut goodness.

We repaired to Sunergos Cofffee next door with a bag full of the little treasures, (they don’t mind and their coffee is great) and my 3-year-old son James devoured his chocolate glazed donut so quickly that he tried to attack my wife’s donut while it was still in her mouth – a sure sign that he knew he’d stumbled across a pretty damn good find.

“This kid is like the Homer Simpson of donuts,” my wife complained, trying to restrain him with an outstretched leg.

Nord’s was the clear winner of our Kentucky donut quest – the others were very good but these were sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-for-them good. Like the Rolling Stones song, I didn’t quite get the donuts I wanted, but I learned that the Bluegrass State does indeed have one more little known treasure to be proud of: its forbidden donuts. But if you want to reach donut nirvana in Kentucky, you need to get your donut loving behind out of bed much earlier than I did to get the good stuff.

[Photo credits: Dave Seminara]

Opening A Box Of Japanese Cookies

As I mentioned in a previous post, my wife recently came home from an astronomy meeting in Tokyo and brought back lots of Japanese snacks. One of them was this tempting box of cookies she got at a sweet shop next to the university.

My wife loves Japanese culture. She loves the orderliness and attention to detail, both important traits for a scientist despite media stereotypes, and she loves their exquisite sense of beauty. For some reason Japan has never drawn me. I prefer the ebullient chaos of Africa or the Middle East. I’m more Tangier than Tokyo.

Still, I won’t say no to a box of Japanese cookies, especially when they come so nicely packaged.
The Japanese like putting things into neat, decorated little packages. Once we broke the seal on this box and opened it, we found it sealed on the inside too.

When we opened that up we saw six varieties of cookies awaiting us. All neatly arranged, of course.

The white ones tasted like meringue and the green ones tasted like green tea. As for the four other flavors, well. . .I have no idea. My wife says she experienced lots of flavors she couldn’t identify during her week in Japan.

The cookies came with a handy leaflet explaining them all, but that was in Japanese!

Free macarons in NYC on March 20

March 20 isn’t just the first day of spring. In New York, it’s also Macaron Day, where at least 11 bakeries across the city will be handing out free macarons.

As notes, macarons are the “new cupcake.” What’s so tasty about macarons? For starters, the classic French pastry feels less indulgent than a cupcake, but the flavors like caramel, coffee, ginger, pistachio, raspberry are sweet enough for any sugar fix.

New York’s first annual Macaron Day coincides with the fifth annual Jour du Macaron in Paris. So far, participating shops in Manhattan include Bouchon Bakery in Columbus Circle and Macaron Cafe, a sweet little find in the Garment District that sells its namesake treat for $1.95 a piece.

You know you’ve found a good macaron when the candy-colored confections are crispy on the outside but soft and chewy on the inside (gotta love that buttercream or ganache filling).

Details: Tell the participating bakery you’re there for Macaron Day. One free macaron per customer; quantities are limited.

I know I’ll have a hard time walking out of the bakeries without being tempted by all the other treats.

Celebrate National Dessert Month at 5 Fifty 5 in New Orleans

October is National Dessert Month! Okay, it’s actually National Pizza Month, National Pasta Month, National Pretzel Month and National Pork Month too, but I’m putting my weight behind this one. (Oh who am I kidding, I’m sure I’ll put my “weight” “behind” them all!)

To celebrate this all-important occasion, 5 Fifty 5, the restaurant in the New Orleans Marriott, is offering an incentive to those guests who want to “eat dessert first!” Those who rise to the challenge will receive 20% off their entire bill.

If you can’t quite bring yourself to follow a decadent chocolate cake with lobster macaroni and cheese, crab meat sliders, or a 20 ounce steak with truffle fries, you can still enjoy these delicious desserts after your entree. Special creations unveiled for the promotion include Oreo sandwiches with Creole cream cheese shooters, seven-layer chocolate cake with an Absinthe shake, and a strawberry napoleon with pecan crunch. Can’t decide on just one $5.55 dessert? Order all five for $25.

5 Fifty 5 has won two “Best in Show” awards at the New Orleans Food and Wine Experience, and makes all desserts (plus breads and pastries) in house. The Marriott hotel is located on Canal street in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

If you can’t make it in for a dinner of dessert in October, don’t worry: at 5 Fifty 5, National Dessert Month will extend through November.

Gadlinks for Monday 8.24.09

One of summer´s last weekends has come and gone. Enjoy the warm sun while it lasts! … and take some time to enjoy these travel tales as well.

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening!

More Gadlinks HERE.