Okay, it’s now time for Offbeat Eats to get back Stateside. Last August (yes, yes, I’m behind again), we joined friends of ours from college and TivoCommunity in our annual tradition: a Death March. That’s a 20+ mile hike through an urban area exploring all the food options, and this year we decided to give Seattle a try. There were a few reasons for this: (a) it’s been a perennial top finisher in the polls when we’ve been selecting cities to visit, and (b) my college roommate Steve had just moved there from San Francisco back in 2015. So we rounded up the usual cast of Death Marchers plus a few locals from the Pacific Northwest, and set out on our hike (basically a giant loop starting by Volunteer Park and looping through University of Washington, over to Phinney Ridge, and through downtown, ending up down near Georgetown). One of our first stops was a find by Steve: Mighty O Donuts.
And now for another abrupt change in venues… Last Fall, Carol and I were headed off to England to meet up with relatives and celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Like last year’s trip to Réunion, we always like doing a hike, and this time we decided to do a rather long one, hiking the southern half of the Cotswold Way hiking trail, hiking from Painswick (a quiet little Gloucestershire town) to Bath, a distance of approximately 85 miles as we hiked it. It also gave us a good opportunity to catch up with my sister-in-law’s family, who live in the area. One of our big goals in visiting them again was to visit the Stroud Farmers Market. A lot of towns in the area are traditionally market towns (from way back historically, when only certain towns were designated as such), and Stroud has one of the more vibrant markets with a very impressive list of vendors (alas, one of the vendors I had wanted to see, Trealy Farm, whose owner I had met in Reykjavik of all places, is there on the opposite week from my visit). Particularly, this was a good stop for our trail preparation, since we were able to secure quite a few provisions for the trip, like some good charcuterie, some cheese, and some other trail snacks. But one of the vendors that was spoken highly of by our hosts was Pippin Doughnuts.
Donuts are still one of the food items that’s have been on the rise. When just a few years ago the local donut shop was starting to disappear from a lot of areas, there’s been a distinct turnaround, and a lot of areas are opening local donuts stores featuring good quality donuts (you can see a list of other places I’ve reviewed here), and the gamut runs everywhere from, well, plain everyday donuts, to elaborate confections like the bacon donut from Dynamo Donuts. Indeed, on a recent trip to Portland, Maine, we discovered a Portland favorite: The Holy Donut.
For the last stop on our food tour, they took us to Leonard’s Bakery, a modestly-sized bakery located in the Kaimuki neighborhood, not to far from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, with their gleaming sign advertising malasadas and pão doce. The destination wasn’t particularly a surprise, since I’m pretty sure that Leonard’s Bakery was far and away the most-recommended place on Oahu, with literally dozens of people telling me that I had to go to Leonard’s and order a malasada. But I’m sure quite a few of you are now asking “what’s a malasada?” Well, as I mentioned, Hawaii is quite the culinary melting pot, and that influence includes Portuguese cuisine (a large number of Portuguese workers came to Hawaii from the Azores in the late 19th century to work on the sugar cane plantations). This immigration added several major items to Hawaiian cuisine, including Portuguese sausage (available at most breakfast places in Hawaii, and also widely available as a choice in a standard plate lunch), pão doce (Portuguese sweet rolls, kind of like a sweet dinner roll), and the malasada. The malasada is basically a Portuguese donut: a nominally egg-sized lump of dough is fried up and, in its most basic form, served up rolled in granulated sugar. It’s one of the classics of Hawaiian cuisine (indeed, the wedding we attended had fresh malasadas at the reception), and it’s a dessert widely available across the state. And, as I mentioned above, most anyone’s list for “Best Malasada” has Leonard’s near the top of the list.
On our last full day in Cleveland, we wanted to get some breakfast before doing our daily exploring, and, quite frankly, we wanted donuts. The problem is, it’s rather hard to find good donuts these days… sure, there’s a Dunkin’ Donuts on damn near ever corner, but those aren’t really good donuts (especially since the vast majority of DD locations don’t bake on-site anymore, just truck in their donuts from a regional bakery). I actually remember a time when there were a lot of independent donut shops selling donuts and coffee, but these days you usually have to do a little bit of research to find the few remaining ones. One of those is Becker’s Donuts.
Every once in a while I find a place that I’m absolutely sure that I’ve already reviewed on Offbeat Eats, but when I was looking at the site archives, I realized that I haven’t actually reviewed any places in Rehoboth Beach, despite several visits here in the last few years. So I guess this trip I’ve got to remedy that. I’ll start with one of my Rehoboth Beach favorites: Fractured Prune Donuts. Fractured Prune is an Ocean City, MD based donut chain that’s been around since the 1970s (the funky name has a backstory, the original location was on land once owned by a Prunella Shriek, who was a woman athlete renowned for her frequent injuries, and was thus called “Fractured Prunella”)…
On the last day of our visit to Ireland, I had a spare hour in my schedule, so I decided to walk up from Temple Bar to Lower O’Connell Street to check out the An Post Museum (central location of the 1916 Easter Rising) and the fairly new Spire of Dublin. Neither of which really impressed me much; the An Post museum is more of a “room” than a “museum” (although it is neat to see gunshots and mortar damage to the building outside), and the Spire is basically a giant steel toothpick that’s already showing a bit of corrosion. But on the way back down to my hotel in Temple Bar, about a block south of An Post, I noticed the smell of…. fresh donuts.
My first morning in San Francisco, I decided that it was time to knock Dynamo Donuts off of my hit list. I had been craving a trip to Dynamo Donuts since reading about them on David Lebovitz’s blog almost three years ago. Luckily, it’s only about a mile away from Steve and Emily’s place, and they’ve been there several times, so it wasn’t hard to convince Emily to come with me for a trip to Dynamo. Located in the Eastern part of the Mission, Dynamo is a little bit of an odd fit, being located in a block that’s mostly various Latin American restaurants and stores. But being the Mission, this isn’t too out of place (if I had to pick the two major types of dining establishments in this part of town, “taqueria” and “coffee shop” are probably on the top of the list). It’s also a fairly subtle storefront, being basically just a short ordering counter and a door that leads both inside, and through to a nice patio in back (that’s easy to miss). But really, it’s about the donuts anyways…
Sometimes I really worry about the state of donuts these days. Most of the local donut places have closed and been replaced by Tim Hortons or Dunkin Donuts. And worse yet, most of those don’t even cook the donuts on site anymore, they truck them in (it’s no longer “time to make the donuts”). So most donuts these days are stale, pale imitations of what a donut should be. But every once in a while I find a local donut place that shows that some people still care and try and make a good product. One of these is Allie’s Donuts in North Kingstown, RI. I went there several times a kid with my grandpa, but in recent years I’ve either never been around at breakfast time, or it’s been a holiday and Allie’s was closed.