“There are two sides to every story.” This phrase has been following me around for several weeks. Maybe it’s the alternative facts-age replacement for that cliché of acceptance, “It is what it is.” Whatever the reason, people keep offering me the “two sides” adage to explain away any contentious dispute, so it pops into my head while I’m doing something so noncontroversial as eating donuts.
Make that gourmet donuts, what some like to call artisan donuts. Plenty among us would argue artisan donuts are a pointless waste of money. That there’s little one can do to a single donut to make it worth paying three or four dollars, when you can get a dozen conventional donuts for less than a buck apiece. It’s a fair point, considering the base ingredients don’t vary all that much. Artisan donuts tend to rely upon flour, butter, and sugar, just like any other.
Last year, the urban gourmet donut trend made its way into Carlsbad Village, where The Goods began marketing donuts in the three to four dollar range. Paying a visit, I found myself browsing the likes of s’mores donuts, boasting a chocolate glaze topped by toasted graham cracker crumbs and “brûléed” mini marshmallows.
However, unlike other gourmet donut makers, which seem to specialize in unexpected flavor combinations that might involve the likes of tea, breakfast cereal, or root vegetables, The Goods seems to emphasize making elevated versions of classic donut styles, offering most as either cake donut, or the billowy, raised yeast variety. A fine example is The Goods’ use of Tahitian vanilla beans to cook up a vanilla glaze from scratch.
My favorite of the bunch has been the simple chocolate glaze donut, presented here as a Chocolate Ganache, owing to a glaze made from a “housemade blend of cacao berry, milk, and dark chocolate.” A lifetime of eating basic chocolate glazes has taught me to expect little actual chocolate flavor. Typically, it’s a bare hint of fudge enveloped in a frost of crystalized sugar.
Easily enough to touch any childlike heart, but a far cry from the darker, relatively complex chocolate notes provided by this ganache. It’s only a bit larger than a conventional donut, but here The Goods’ insistence on a richly genuine chocolate experience justifies the higher price tag. If you buy my side of the story, that is.
Such improvements aren’t guaranteed to win everybody over. Most of my life, my favorite donut glaze has been maple, even though years have gone by since I’ve been naïve enough to expect genuine maple be involved. And yet, here it was: the Vermont maple glaze, promising “100% pure maple syrup combined with butter and powdered sugar.” I almost tripped over myself ordering it, but unlike the chocolate, the ratio here didn’t win me over: the genuine maple got lost in a lot of cloying powdered sugar sweetness.
Then again, that powdered sugar played well as a coating to a mixed berry jelly donut, balancing the tartness of the fruity jam, and the doughy biscuit flavors of the pastry. Whether it tastes like an extra couple of bucks is debatable, but I’d rather eat one of these than three old school donuts. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.