Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Donuts are the New Black

by Erin

Some of you long-time readers might remember when our good friend Lauren (who we visited in NYC in August) did a field report on Kumquat Cupcakery about six months ago. Well, she just got back from her Miss Independence Tour where she traveled through both northern and southern California, visiting friends and having a blast. A few days before she was set to leave on her trip, I was reading David Lebovitz's food blog (so fabulous, with beautiful pictures) where he was in San Francisco eating lots of wonderful treats. I saw this post about Dynamo Donuts, located in the Mission, and immediately wrote to Lauren asking her to do another field report for us! I told her that donuts are going to be the new cupcake - the hip, adorable, millions of possible flavors treat - and she could be on the cutting edge! So here it is folks, Field Report #2 by our #1 field reporter:

Dearest BCD sistas,

As you know, last week I embarked on the historic Miss Independent Tour 2008, a journey of sunshine, soul-searching, and of course, sinning (to prepare for the upcoming Halloween party!). My favorite sin is, obviously, vanity, but gluttony runs a very close second, so when I received an email from EP pleading for a field report on baked goods, I couldn't possibly refuse.

I spent the entirety of my short time in San Francisco indulging, from Day 1 at the Burning Man Decompression Party to Day 2 at the Jelly Belly Factory, so stopping at Dynamo Donut on the way out of town seemed like a good way to round off my time in this gorgeous city. I knew very little about the place besides a glowing BCD endorsement, so I had no idea what to expect when I pulled up to the joint (parking spot right in front, for a New Yorker, is a tremendously positive sign). Dynamo isn't an actual shop, it's just a walk-up window with just a few seats scattered out front for whomever is lucky enough to nab 'em. Today, it looked like a little coffee klatch of young professional women (I assume this because I overheard the phrase "I NEVER eat donuts" multiple times) had gotten all the seats.

As I approached the large, welcoming window, I noticed the menu on the right side listing the many types of donuts that may be featured, though they only make 3-4 flavors daily. They sit in glass cakestands right on the counter so right away I could see that today's flavors were Chocolate Anise, Ginger Orange, and Vanilla.

Obviously Chocolate anything is a no-brainer. I asked the guy working for a recommendation for a second treat, as is my policy when in doubt, and he was all in favor of the Vanilla, so I went for it. He and the girl working were super sweet about letting me take pictures, as apparently I was not the first blog representative to ever stop by. I think the donut thing is catching on, eh? Anyway, I got two donuts and an enormous iced coffee (and he let me add my own soy milk, another big plus in my book) for $6, which I thought was a deal for such a specialized, trendy business.

So, since the gals had all the outdoor seating occupied, I had a donut picnic in the Mustang, which was fine by me because I was completely in love with her. The coffee, I must say, was really strong and rich, just the way I like it, so that was a nice start. But oh man... the donuts. Seriously, when I say I don't even really like donuts, I mean it. Dunkin Donuts... could live without em, for sure. I really hate the sugar rush followed by nausea and then immediate hunger that most donuts result in for me. But these... they are NOT Dunkin Donuts. They are rich and complex and interesting and OMG.

First I tried the Chocolate Anise, which as promised, had a deep dark chocolate flavor with a subtle licorice-y kick at the end that really made it memorable. The whole thing is perfectly crunchy and glazed on the outside and cakey and moist on the inside.
Honestly, I couldn't decide if I liked the Chocolate or the Vanilla (which had a great citrus-y ending) better. Both had this light and flaky texture with enough bite and crunch to make them really satisfying. I definitely couldn't finish them, and they still held me over until I stopped on the side of the road for a freshly prepared tostada several hours later. Another $2 very well spent, but that's a different story.

And that, my friends, is the Dynamo Donut story. The BCD sisters have taught me that donuts are the way forward, and I'm much more inclined to believe them now. Thanks, EP, for the suggestion! Can't wait to see you both for some serious sinning this weekend!!

Thanks, Lauren! We LOOOVE you! Maybe someday we can go back to SF and have Dynamo Donuts together, just like we did with the Kumquat Cupcakery. Keep up the good work!

EP & X

Monday, October 20, 2008

Lazy Days in LA

by Xani

Obligatory Black Coffee and a Donut shot, from Simon LA

It was totally wild to get on the plane in Fairbanks where it was snowy and the mercury hovered around 20 degrees, and then emerge in LA where temperatures were in the high 80s and the sun was shining bright on the palm trees! I had a rough flight from Fairbanks to Seattle (a pox on people who don't know airplane etiquette!), but the Seattle-LAX leg was wonderful-- had a row all to myself and one of the clearest flights I can remember-- I watched the scenery change out the window and it was so beautiful. All the mountains, fields, rivers, farms and lush green forests of the Pacific Northwest, then the landscape gradually changing, seeing small towns/cities, then all of sudden, huge sprawling Los Angeles laid out in front of you, and the Pacific ocean beyond. Kind of magical.

Anyway, all that magic makes a body hungry! Jenny picked me up from the airport and after a quick change, we had our first meal at Urth Cafe, known for its great coffee, celebrity clientele and wonderful salads. I didn't take pictures but I will say the Greek salad I had was so fresh-tasting and yummy... just the thing I needed after a week in the frozen North! We followed up dinner with a little dessert at Pinkberry, which I must have at least once every LA visit. I was a little disappointed they didn't have the seasonal pomegranate seed topping they had there last October (my first Pinkberry experience and my favorite topping ever), but it was still just as good as ever.

The first meal where I did manage to take pictures was at the lovely Campanile, which features a "grilled cheese night" every Thursday. How wonderful! And these were no ordinary grilled cheeses! We started with a couple of appetizers: some beer battered squash blossoms stuffed with burrata, and some prosciutto-wrapped fresh figs. Another reason I love going to LA-- the availability of seasonal ingredients (such as squash blossoms) that I just can't get on the East Coast this time of year. Plus Campanile sure knows how to fry a blossom and wrap a fig!

Then, the grilled cheeses. These were not the Kraft singles and Wonder Bread creations you may have grown up with. Oh no, these were on par with Melt Bar and Grilled in Cleveland (one of my faves) and made me feel like every town (especially Baltimore) needs a grilled cheese restaurant! I had the burrata with more prosciutto, caper relish, and fresh, cool chickpeas and cherry tomatoes. All served open-faced on a piece of perfectly grilled, house-made bread. It was served with a lightly dressed, mixed-green salad and (even better) a big basket of crispy frites for the table to share. Because what goes perfectly with grilled cheese? Fried potatoes!

Grilled Burrata sandwich

Blurry Lamb

Jenny got the roasted lamb sandwich and we switched plates halfway through. This sandwich, while not technically a grilled cheese, was just as awesome. The lamb was SO tender, you could easily cut it with a fork, and it was topped with just the right amount of feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and artichoke hearts. Campanile sure knows how to do a sandwich and I bet their regular menu is just as good. Sadly I almost never repeat places (except Pinkberry) because there's just so much I want to try when I'm out in Cali!

The next day we had a macrobiotic lunch at M Cafe de Chaya, which is in a strip mall that has valet parking. Only in LA. We shared a couple inari sushi rolls (described as "organic brown rice stuffed inside a seasoned tofu pouch and garnished with a variety of tasty toppings;" I predict this will be the new IT thing in sushi) and tofu cakes before chowing down on our salads. I got the Gado Gado which had Thai flavors and lots of fresh produce, but I did not enjoy the tempeh triangles that came with it. Something about the texture/flavor/appearance... yeah, just not my thing.

Edamame Inari and Tofu cakes

That night we had dinner at Izakaya by Katsuya, a cute little sushi joint where Jenny has seen many a celeb! Of course, the celebs knew I was coming, so they stayed home that night. But, the sushi and the company was very nice-- I especially liked how they have whiteboards with all the daily specials that they bring over too your table to peruse. I tried yellowtail belly sashimi for the first time and it was killer! Also, their spicy tuna on crispy rice, which is ubiquitous in LA, was one of the best I've had. But the real thrill came after dinner, when we headed to Simon LA, in the Sofitel Hotel. We got a table on their gorgeous patio (complete with fire pit, heaters, water features, etc), ordered some coffee and tea... and THIS:

Be still my heart!

... and I don't even like sweets (much)

Billed as the Simon Junk Food Sampler ("old favorites all grown up") this HUGE dessert platter included: a milkshake, rice krispy treats (regular and chocolate), donuts, caramel corn, warm cookies, homemade hostess cakes and snowballs, ice cream, sorbet, AND cotton candy (my fave). It was over-the-top, it was obscene, it. was. AWESOME. Seriously they need to have this available at all restaurants and for home delivery, because everyone needs to feel like a kid again, every once in a while.

My last meal in LA was the next morning, right before Jenny and Andy took me to the airport. We stopped at Hugo's Restaurant for a leisurely breakfast, which I want to mention for two reasons. Reason the first: I had the Go Green Frittata, which was absolutely one of the brightest green things I have ever seen in my life. Observe:

It's made with egg whites, chard, beet greens, kale, spinach, broccolini, zucchini, asparagus, quinoa, garlic, and topped with alfalfa sprouts and apple-mango-mint sauce. It wasn't the best breakfast I've ever had (I still think egg-white anything is a little bit wrong) but it was the greenest!

Reason the second: I SAW A CELEBRITY! Jonah Hill was eating breakfast a few tables away. Finally.

Then it was back to LAX (with a quick stop at Crumbs to pick up some assorted mini-cupcakes for my in-flight snack-- the other passengers were totally jealous when I broke those babies out mid-flight!) and back home. A big thanks to Jenny and Andy for, again, being such wonderful hosts. I had such a fun and delicious visit and enjoyed the weather, the shopping, the eating, and the trend-watching. Mark my words, inari, junk food platters and two-tone tights are the next big things!

The next big things on the blog: Monster Lobsters and Halloween madness!


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