A New York Times travel piece this weekend explores The Twists and Turns along a Kentucky Doughnut Trail, pointing out “a ROAD trip is always nice. But a quest is even better. Set a goal, and the miles become meaningful. And what goal could be more meaningful than the great American doughnut?” (We couldn’t agree more, though we might quibble with them about a few oversights.)
Their tour begins at Louisville’s Nord’s Bakery and the maple bacon doughnut (inexplicably bypassing Plehn’s Bakery in St. Matthews).
But the next stop is Burke’s Bakery in Danville, Kentucky. A frequent contender in Ace Donut Wars (and editorial fave), it converted new fans during the Thrill in the Ville II,the Vice Presidential Debate at Centre College. Although the writer pokes gentle fun: “‘Delicatessen’ obviously has a different meaning in Kentucky than it does in New York, something like ‘an establishment that sells chicken salad,’” we are saddened that he passed up their infamous dressed eggs. Still, a doughnut road trip is a doughnut road trip, and appetites must reasonably be prioritized.
He correctly observes, “The baked goods are the draw, awide variety of coffee cakes and pies, with a first-class lineup of chubby cake doughnuts iced in chocolate, vanilla and maple. Some are rolled in toasted coconut, others in cake crumbs.” We would recommend the yeast over the cake variety, but it’s impressive that he discovered their hidden treasure, “sugary cinnamon-pecan pinwheels, flat swirls of dough with nut bits embedded in hidden creases.”
In Lexington, the writer visited the reigning Ace Donut Wars champ, the immortal Spalding’s (which also earned a Serious Eats rave last year). Though he did miss the tasty new artisanal doughnut upstart across the street from the old Spalding’s building, North Lime Coffee and Donuts which has recently revived a neighborhood tradition, to great critical and popular acclaim.
Doughdaddy’s and Magee’s are also included.
He concludes, “Food writers often lament the death of road culture and the slow strangulation of homey American foods by predatory restaurant chains. But in this corner of Kentucky, at least, you can still find a plump round of fried dough filled to bursting with caramel and apple for $1.29. All is not lost.”
As Rob Bricken put it in his searing Ace Donut expose more than a decade ago, “The Quest for the Hole-y Grail,”
“In a sense, doughnuts are all filled – with democracy, colored red, white and blue. All the people, all the bakers, all the eaters, all the doughnuts – our diversity is our strength. With all our unique skills and ideas and flavors, we can do anything. But if we squabble over party politics, or age or gender, or topping, nothing gets accomplished, and no one gets to eat.
Together in a tightly-packed dozen we stand, but divided, we fall. When JFK took his trip to Germany and said, “Ich bein ein Berliner,” he thought he was saying, “I am a citizen of Berlin.” In fact, what he said was “I am a doughnut,” because a Berliner is a type of doughnut. Many people have thought this was a social gaffe, but now, I’m not so sure. I think JFK was a doughnut, like we’re all doughnuts. In this light, I’d like to end with a little song.
But I’m not the only one.
I hope someday you’ll eat us
And the world will live as one.”