Doughnuts, you have gone too far.
Not long ago, we were your biggest champions. We cheered when you evolved into the scrumptious, flaky cronut, and when you multiplied up and down the West Coast through the Blue Star chain, which brought slick, beautiful rings from Portland, Ore., to Los Angeles. We welcomed such top tier bakeries as Dough in New York; Union Square Donuts in Boston; District Doughnuts in Washington; Curiosity Donuts in New Jersey; and Federal Donuts in Philadelphia. They were making versions of you that were airy, yet were rich, gorgeously glazed and garnished.
It was a thrill this year when you appeared at Wylie Dufresne’s Du Donuts and Coffee, in Brooklyn, New York, in superb cakey style, with flavours such as Creamsicle, Mexican Hot Chocolate, and even the shouldn’t-work-but-it-does “Peanut Butter and Yuzu.” We were also ecstatic to see you take cruller form, coated in maple and cinnamon sugar, at Danny Meyer’s Daily Provisions cafe.
But now, you’ve overreached.
You tarted yourself up at Glam Donuts in Minneapolis, stepping out in a garish combination of Sriracha and peanut butter.
You debuted at Datz Dough in Tampa in the form of a $10 donut ice cream cone. The Nutella-lined “cone” is made of doughnuts filled with jelly-donut-flavored soft serve, topped with bacon caramel popcorn, whipped cream, and a cherry.
The corporate shill
You officially jumped the shark when JPMorgan Chase Bank made its own doughnut. Mark Isreal of the Doughnut Plant, a perfectly respectable purveyor of fried dough, lost his mind and created the Ripple, three concentric doughnut rings the size of a large pizza. The visual effect, and flavours such as Thanksgiving (cranberry, sweet potato, and candied ginger), ensured it was a huge hit on social media. And then the whole thing was revealed to be a Chase small business promotion. We tried to eat one in the office, and it was a terrible user experience.
Once you became commercialized, it was all over. Anyone thought they could put something in a ring shape and call it a doughnut.
The spaghetti doughnut is the latest smash hit at Smorgasburg in Brooklyn. (It’s always Brooklyn, isn’t it, doughnuts?) Not a dessert-like snack, it’s actually an entrée—flavoured like cheesy, bacon-flecked bolognese—forced into doughnut clothing. People are lining up for it every weekend in New York, even though perfectly delicious spaghetti bolognese is available in literally every neighbourhood of the five boroughs.
And look what you’ve done to Instagram.
(All right, we will admit that we enjoyed a sushi doughnut.That ring of sticky sushi rice, draped with assorted fish slices and covered with seeds, was delicious and fun. An editor wanted us to call it a “sushbomination”, but might we suggest we just rename it a “sushi ring” and move on?)
Which brings us to the savoury doughnut sandwich. For a while, it was a gimmick you’d find at the State Fair alongside the fried butter and funnel cake. No longer.
First, there were the Monte Cristo doughnut sandwiches at District Donuts in New Orleans. We could be persuaded.
But then we heard about what’s going on at Gourdough in Austin. Their Dirty Bird sandwich—grilled chicken breast with pesto, mozzarella, and grilled peppers on a doughnut—is one of the shop’s more conservative options. It offers six varieties of Donut Burgers. And an entire section of Donut Entrees that includes the Boss Hog (pulled pork, potato salad, and BBQ sauce on a doughnut, depicted above). The culmination is the Drunken Hunk, which is a doughnut topped with a mound of bacon-wrapped meatloaf, potato pancake, and candied jalapeños.
We would do anything for love, doughnuts. But we won’t do that.
Aggression in Atlanta
We don’t know anyone at Gourdough. But we do know Ford Fry, the Atlanta-based restaurateur who recently introduced a doughnut brunch to his Beetlecat restaurant. We can make peace with his straightforward doughnuts, including one topped with Captain Crunch—and even the “Buford Highway,” which pays tribute to Atlanta’s Asian restaurant neighborhood with a doughnut garnished with pork “floss” (essentially, barbecued pork that’s cooked way down to strand-like texture).
But like all these sugar-high chefs, even Ford goes too far. It’s apparently a new rule that you’re not allowed to gripe about any kind of fried chicken sandwich, even one that has an egg and the “bread” is actually two whole donuts. (Not even sliced!) But isn’t it clear why the doughnut Benedict, which includes poached eggs, shaved ham, and red pepper hollandaise, should be outlawed?
Fry laughed when asked why in the world he had to go there with a doughnut Benedict sandwich. “In our Inman Park neighbourhood, there were already a bunch of places doing straightforward brunch. We wanted to do something different,” he said. “We’re getting a good response on the doughnut Benedict.”
We’re all going to crash from this sugar high. (And clogged arteries.)
Which will be terrible, because on its own, the doughnut is nearly a perfect thing. It’s chewy with a hint of crisp on the exterior. It’s sweet, but light enough not to be cloying. It is designed to be dipped, topped, dusted and sprinkled. The innovation is built in! Why do we need to take it to grotesque extremes? At this point, we are just baiting Pizza Hut into making a doughnut-crust pizza. Taco Bell is almost assuredly already working on a doughnut chalupa. Do we really want that?
When this happens, and it inevitably will, don’t come crying to us.
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