All posts by Duc

Duck Donuts (Charlottesville, VA)

Duck Donuts is a small chain that got its start in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which harbors a tiny town named Duck (yes, it’s a little confusing that my name is Duc). They added a new location in Charlottesville, Virginia this year and I happened to be in the area for work.

I prefer not to taste new donuts without my co-blogger — I feel guilty and I like to bounce opinions off her. But sometimes you just have to step up and do the hard work.

Duck Donuts is unique in that it fries donuts to order. Since this is impossible with yeast-raised donuts (which can overproof when left out), they exclusively serve cake doughnuts. Your options, therefore, are limited to coatings (glazes and icings) and toppings (things like sprinkles and peanuts).

An automated dispenser drops batter into a trough of oil and a conveyer belt draws them out for cooling. People working there apply your flavor choices.

I selected glazed, cinnamon sugar, maple, and strawberry.

Upon inspection, I found them to be absolutely delicious. A crunchy crust gave way to soft, warm cake inside. Laurel has commented on the tendency of cake donut batter to contain cinnamon even when the coating outside doesn’t mesh well with it. Duck Donuts didn’t have this problem — the dough flavor was sweet and rich, providing a delicious and versatile base for the topping options.

For the toppings I tried, most were successful. The sugar glaze was the right amount of sweet. The maple icing had just enough maple syrup flavor without being overwhelming. My favorite was the cinnamon sugar, which I tend to associate with cake donuts. The only disappointment was the strawberry icing, which didn’t have nearly enough strawberry flavor for my liking.

It can’t be a coincidence that my favorite doughnuts have been those that are fried fresh on demand. But, like Indian Creek Farm‘s donuts, I can report that Duck Donuts age well even 24 hours later.

So, in short, these are amazing. Keep an eye out for Duck Donuts’ ever-expanding empire because it’s certainly worth driving for.

Score: 5/5

(Yeah, that’s right, I’m just going to casually throw that out there. No big deal. Easy 5.)

Krumpe’s Do-Nuts

On our way home from a trip to Charlottesville, my wife and I stopped for lunch in West Virginia. Never wanting to miss an opportunity to find some donuts, I searched Yelp for local delicacies. Right across the border, tucked away in Hagerstown, Maryland, was a highly-regarded family establishment called Krumpe’s Do-Nuts. I had to check it out.

The shop is tiny and hidden in an alley that you would never go down, if not for the excellent signage:

Krumpe's Do-Nuts

The yeast donuts are uniquely chewy to me — in a good way. The texture is very pleasant and the insides are moist. They all have just the right amount of topping, be it glaze or cinnamon sugar, to accent the tasty interior.

The only cake donut, which is chocolate, also provides a rare experience for me: it actually tastes like chocolate. The cake is firm, but moist, and again I enjoy the texture immensely.

[Editor’s note (i.e. a note from Laurel): This is pretty hard to believe. I have never in my life tasted a chocolate cake donut that actually tastes like chocolate. Either Duc is taunting me, or I need to get to Maryland, posthaste!]

Krumpe's Do-Nuts - Chocolate Donut

Krumpe’s 80-year history of doughnut-making certainly shows in the product’s quality. I happily concede that these are great donuts, and I can certainly imagine eating all of them, although I limit myself to a more reasonable quantity (let’s say 3, for the sake of argument), before giving Krumpe’s a perfect score.

Yes, that’s right. Krumpe’s gets a 5/5.

Doughnut vs. Donut

Since it’s still going to be de facto winter for a while, I thought I’d ease us into doughnut review season with an explanation of why I don’t use the vernacular spelling, donut, and decisively prefer “doughnut.”

Fifth Grade

Scene: Mrs. Wiener’s English class. We had a small in-class spelling bee and I was sure I had it in the bag. Primarily concerned with the harder words towards the end, I wasn’t focused on the boring initial rounds of easy ones.

It was my turn. Doughnut.

“D-O-N-U-T,” I spouted.

I think, deep down, I knew better, but the popular short spelling came too easily. I was out.

That traumatic experience is part of why I always spell “doughnut” in its full, and, in my opinion, correct form. But there’s more to it than that.

D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T Origin

You can find one of the first written definitions of the word “doughnut” in Washington Irving’s 1809 satire History of New York, as he describes treats served at high-class tea parties:

balls of sweetened dough, fried in hog’s fat, and called doughnuts, or olykoeks—a delicious kind of cake

You can tell from the passage that at this point in time, doughnuts more closely resembled what we now call a doughnut hole, so the “nut” refers to it being a small round lump rather than the ring-shaped fastener that’s meant to be mated to a bolt (holes aren’t mentioned until around 1861, so the common speculation that “nut” is a variant spelling of “naught” or zero in reference to the hole seems off). It’s funny how it still works with the modern form of this pastry, though.

The contraction “donut” first appears around 1870, but its rise in use coincides with the founding of the Massachusetts-based chain Dunkin’ Donuts in 1950. Correlation is not causation, but the strength of this enduring brand is hard to dismiss.

Nowadays, the full spelling is used more often outside the United States while it seems like most Americans have embraced the abbreviated version.

Language Evolves. Get Over It.

Theodore Roosevelt: A Few Shots at the King's English

Simplified spelling is as American as, well, the doughnut itself. So why do I cling to the old spelling? I empathize with spelling reform, but ultimately, I believe that it’s more important for words to convey meaning than be easy to spell. Whatever you want “nut” to be—the chunk, the fastener, the reference to emptiness—the “dough” is unambiguous: a thick paste of flour. It’s the foundation upon which this dessert is built.

Secondly, are we really going to allow silly restaurant chains to meaninglessly change our language? If the folks at Olive Garden start writing UNLIMITED BREADSTIX everywhere, here’s hoping we’re strong enough to resist.

And finally, there’s more at stake here. One of my major complaints with the current trend of artisanal doughnuts is the narrow focus on toppings. Innovative frostings and glazes are fun and they’re often the first thing you taste as you bite down. But that enjoyment is fleeting if it’s followed by a dry, overly dense, aftertaste-ridden pastry. The dough is vital. Let’s not obscure its role in the experience.