Monday, November 24, 2008

Ep.1: An Open Letter to the City of Seattle

Exterior shot of the Queen Anne location.
To the Emerald City:

Once I declared, “Seattle is not an ice cream city.” Though I appreciate the many gelaterias, sprinkled across Seattle, gelato is no substitute for ice cream. For a long time, one had to catch a ferry over to nearby Bainbridge Island and, while that trip is well worth it, that trip should be one of leisure not of necessity. I am pleased to say that a new day is dawning. There is now a gourmet homemade ice cream shop in the city of Seattle: Molly Moon’s.

News spread fast this past summer of the Wallingford business: great ice cream, funky flavors and lines out the door. I’d heard rumors of the Salted Caramel and the Strawberry Balsamic, but seriously doubted my relationship with these flavors would move beyond the sample phase. But I was so pleasantly surprised by the Salted Caramel that I immediately began ordering and completely forgot to sample the Strawberry Balsamic! It only got better: When I ordered, the girl behind the counter complimented my choice of flavor combinations—a compliment that makes my heart sing. After my experience, I too would heartily recommend ordering Salted Caramel with their Spiced Cider Sorbet. it tastes like a caramel apple! Though next time I go, I’ll have try the Baracky Road.

A prosperous business, the lines were still long on a recent chilly, autumnal afternoon. I blame the wait for my decision to break my usual “no cone” rule. Fresh waffle cones always smell good, but theirs smelled like something special. Wonderful and a little bit chewy. (The zip-up hoodie I purchased still has the aroma permeating it.)

With the arrival of Molly Moon’s, Seattle has made great strides in its dessert culture. My sincerest congratulations. My only sadness in this welcome change is that it comes so close to my departure of the city. I will soon begin a cross-country drive out of Seattle, but hope to visit again soon!


P.S. I was also pleased in a recent trip to Gelatiamo
to find Toasted Almond. Thanks for answering another plea.

Note from 2012: In recent years, Molly Moon's has been found on more than one list I've seen of the "Best Ice Cream Shops in America." I grew to be particularly fond of their rich Theo Chocolate, which uses chocolate from the nearby factory of the same name. The hoodie I bought continues to be worn with frequency, though the waffle cone smell has long since departed.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

So you like doughnuts, eh?

A dozen Mighty-O doughnuts. Four French Toast doughnuts on the left.
For a Southern boy, deep frying is the preferred method of food preparation at every meal. Seattle has many options for the doughnut lover.

Mighty-O – My personal favorite in the Seattle area. These vegan cake doughnuts are cooked in peanut oil making them lighter. From what I’ve seen, they also feature the largest variety of doughnuts in the area, including Grasshopper (chocolate doughnut with a minty topping), Lemon Poppy Seed, and my personal favorite French Toast. (pictured) (Top 20 to Visit)

The spread at Mighty-O.
Top Pot Doughnuts – These doughnuts come with a price tag that might seem high, but be assured: these cake doughnuts are meaty, filling the space of two normal doughnuts. It’s no wonder their slogan is “hand-forged donuts.” Their seasonal Pumpkin doughnut and Chocolate Sandcastle are my favorites.

Winchell’s – Winchell’s is a chain in the western United States. Based on my search, they are also the only place you can find authentic French Crullers in Seattle proper. Actually, finding really tasty rise doughnuts—yeast doughnuts, as opposed to cake doughnuts—is quite difficult in this city. Winchell’s is also open 24 hours. Need I say more?

Also in the Northwest is the legendary Voodoo DoughnutsWhere else can you get a maple doughnut topped with bacon? Other doughnuts toppings include Cocoa Puffs, crushed Oreos, Butterfinger, and Tang (including the Mango Tango, which is mango-filled). They also perform wedding ceremonies! For anyone visiting Portland, this is a must: Go to the downtown location of Voodoo donuts and then take your doughnuts for a walk at the waterfront park crossing as many of Portland’s nine bridges as you like.

Four great places for doughnuts! You can never enough too many doughnuts! Just ask Homer (1:50 into the video).

Note from 2012: Winchell's has closed. Good luck finding a decent French Cruller.
Note from 2017: Voodoo Doughnuts isn't especially good. Time has taught me it is all hype and no substance.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Field Report: Carol Lee Donuts in Blacksburg, VA

My brother and blogging mentor Brian reflects on fall, football and fried pastry:

I'm here to spread the good word about Carol Lee Donuts
. If you ever have a sweet tooth in Blacksburg, VA, you absolutely must go there to enjoy the best doughnuts in the world.

When I first moved to Blacksburg, Carol Lee Donuts was located near the campus of Virginia Tech. This location made for quick and convenient breakfast detours in between classes. But a few years later, the owners decided to move to their current location at 1414 North Main Street, which is a pretty long walk from downtown. There was only one thing left for me to do: when my lease ran out, I moved into the apartment complex right behind the new location.

Whenever I travel to Blacksburg these days, I always bring a cooler with me so I can take a dozen Carol Lee Donuts back home. I always get four White Delights - these doughnuts are filled with white cream (NOT custard) and topped with chocolate, and though you can't go wrong with any of your choices, I think White Delights are the best. Then I get a mix of Chocolate Icing, Glazed, Powdered Sugar and Cinnamon Sugar. I've never been a fan of fruit-filled doughnuts, but my wife always gets a few of these. After I get my dozen doughnuts, I usually get three or four more to enjoy right away. I generally get another White Delight as well as a Cinnamon Twist, a cinnamon-flavored, glazed-covered, stick-shaped doughnut that does not fit in the dozen donuts box. In recent years, the third doughnut I get is a Maroon & Orange Sprinkled Donut, which Carol Lee Donuts started making for Hokie football weekends to promote game day spirit. And I always get some milk to wash it all down.

I last visited Carol Lee Donuts the first weekend in October before Virginia Tech's Homecoming football game against Western Kentucky. Even though I had already eaten an early breakfast in Harrisonburg, VA (Mr. J's Pumpkin Muffins, which I couldn't pass up after missing out on them last October), my first stop in Blacksburg was still Carol Lee Donuts. I had originally planned on getting a White Delight and a Maroon & Orange Sprinkled Donut, but I called an audible when I walked inside. The Chocolate Iced Donuts had just come out of the oven, and I can't tell you the last time I had a HOT Carol Lee Donut. The Chocolate Iced practically melted in my mouth as I ate it, and might have even been better than the White Delight. It was my second great breakfast of the day, and the Hokie football team didn't seem to mind that my donuts lacked the football spirit - Virginia Tech won easily, 27-13.

So go to Carol Lee Donuts!!! Just one visit will make you a believer, and you'll soon be looking forward to your next trip. And if you really like their doughnuts, well...there are some nice apartments just behind those woods in the back.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In space, no one can hear you scream (for ice cream)…

I recently began tutoring at 826 Seattle, a non-profit creative writing and tutoring center. It is a chapter of 826 National, a non-profit started by my favorite author and publisher Dave Eggers.

When the first tutoring center of this type opened at 826 Valencia in San Francisco, the property owners required its residents to have a storefront operating in tandem with the tutoring center. Eggers facetiously chose to have a pirate supply store, not anticipating how much money this store would generate, assisting with the operating costs of the tutoring center. Thus, having a clever store is now part of the structure of all 826 chapters around the country. 826 NYC has the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Co. The exterior of 826 Chicago touts the building to be “The Boring Store” with signs clearly stating “Not a secret agent supply store.” 826 Seattle is home to Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company.

There are many things a person needs in space, not least of which is freeze-dried ice cream. (Freeze-drying both preserves and reduces the weight of food, removing the water content.) Growing up, this product was a whine-worthy product when visiting the Virginia Air and Space Museum. Over at Greenwood Space Travel Supply Company, we carry four different varieties: mint chocolate chip, chocolate chocolate chip, classic Neapolitan and, my personal favorite, an ice cream sandwich variety, which comes in a retro flying saucer shape.

826 Seattle has many programs, in-school, after-school and during the summer months. Programs are “structured around the belief that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that strong writing skills are fundamental to a child’s future success.” Please make a donation to this inspiring organization that makes a difference in the lives of young people daily. Their current fundraising effort in the Third Annual Mustache-A-Thon; choose a mustache that makes you feel generous and donate toward the cause. Why? Because (a) you know you have $20 and (b) facial hair is lazy and has been getting a free ride for too long! It needs to do something…for the educational advancement in young people. The elections may be over, but you can still make a difference!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Go vote! Now! Stop reading and go vote!

If you're still reading or vote absentee and want to feel like a sucker, there are many establishments giving away free products to folks proudly sporting an "I Voted" sticker. Some examples include:

  • Krispy Kreme
  • Ben & Jerry's
  • Chick-fil-a
Now go vote! And tell others to do the same. Let them know about the free stuff, too.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Gorging on the Gourd of the Gods (Blog Post #50!)

Midnight Halloween night marked the end of the Third Annual Pumpkin Challenge! And no time of the year am I more self-congratulatory than during the conclusion of the year’s Pumpkin Challenge. (One must be when so many see only silliness in that which gives one's little life purpose for a month-and-a-half each year.) Congratulations Self! You knocked last year's (virtually unopposed) record right out of the water!

Granola with pumpkin seed*, Pumpkin bread with chocolate chips and walnuts, Pumpkin pasta with mushroom and sausage*, Ginger pumpkin mousse, Savory pumpkin quiche, Pumpkin butter, Pumpkin ravioli, Curried pumpkin peanut soup, Pumpkin dumplings, Chocolate-covered fig with pumpkin ganache filling, Pumpkin-spiced marshmallow, Pumpkin cheesecake*, Pumpkin ice cream*, Pumpkin pancakes, Pumpkin praline bars, Pumpkin doughnuts, Pumpkin-turkey goulash, Pumpkin cream cheese muffin*, Pumpkin pecan cheesecake*, Pumpkin mascarpone pie, Trinidad spiced pumpkin, Pumpkin bread pudding*, Pumpkin saag, Pumpkin butterhorn, Pumpkin curry, Spiced pumpkin chocolate truffle, Curry pumpkin seeds, Sweet and spicy pumpkin seeds, Chocolate covered pumpkin seeds, Pumpkin spice cake

*Items also consumed in the 2006 or 2007 Pumpkin Challenges. Maker of product also matches.
Italicized items were my homemade by yours truly. Need any recipes?

For those of you keeping count, I consumed 30 different varieties of pumpkin foods this year, a remarkably high number given the fact that so comparatively few were repeat items from previous years!

This year, my quest inspired more people to branch out and try adventurous pumpkin concoctions than in previous years. I also had more people rooting me on. And again this year, several people shared their recipes to me. That being said, the MVP award--or should I say MVPP, "Most Valuable Pumpkin Provider"--goes to Rebecca my co-worker, co-volunteer at 826 Seattle
, and Marisa’s Ice Cream field reporter. In addition to providing many fascinating links, she also brought me pumpkin saag for lunch one day, proving that autumnal squash is not only tasty, but also brings people together.