Well hello lovely blog browsers! The warmest of welcomes back to Portland where I’m afraid we need to get right down to business and that business is donuts. Donuts that, frankly, are not for kids.
See? Told you.
The history of the humble doughnut is often debated and strewn with examples of where they could have come from – in the 19th century, the Dutch were deep frying small balls of dough often stuffed with fillings that didn’t require cooking while in the mid 1800’s, an American ship captain removed the centre of the doughnut altogether thereby eliminating the potential for uncooked centres.
The first automatic doughnut making process debuted at Chicago’s 1934 World Fair after its creation in 1920 by a Russian born immigrant. You can see perhaps how claiming the creation of the doughnut as we know it today might be tricky but this is why the ever-evolving little bun continues to surprise and delight with each re-invention.
Krispy Kreme boasts over 750 stores worldwide while Dunkin’ Donuts dwarfs this figure with over 10’000 and there’s even a National Doughnut Day each June which was initiated by the Salvation Army in the late 1930’s as a way of honouring the men & women who served doughnuts to soldiers in WWI. Quite often though, the sickly sweet jam filling or oily slickness from super glazed rings puts me off going any further than that first bite so honestly, doughnuts have never been my Achilles Heel.
Until now. Until here. Until Blue Star.
Blue Star opened its first of 3 current Portland branches (2 bakery and 1 satellite) in December 2013 and almost immediately became pitted in local competition against the flashier Voodoo Donuts. The things about flash however is that it doesn’t always equal substance so when trying to decide on which place to try in our recent visit (because even I can’t condone doughnut duplication on the same day), we went with the online vote which seemed to say jazz and excitement and wow factor await you at Voodoo whilst class and style and quality can be found at Blue Star which is where we ended up.
Let’s just state the bleeding obvious here – this place is awesome.
The clean, elegant, minimal environment with glossy white tiles, blonde woodwork and chalkboard-esque placards on the walls seduce your inner Martha Stewart…
…the slouchy-meet-preppy-meet-friendly staff are like the results of a love affair between’Reality Bites’ and ‘New Girl’ and they power through the queue in a genuine, professional way…
…and then there’s the doughnuts. Or to be precise because we are on this side of the pond, the donuts.
The self-penned website description of this company uses words like ‘classic brioche’, ‘sustainable bread flour’, ‘Sunshine Dairy’ and ‘Larsen’s Creamery’. If that wasn’t enough to convince you, how about ‘organic’, ‘rice oil’, ‘fresh’ and ‘glazed to order’?
If you’re still dragging your feet at this point, I can only say ‘Cointreau Creme Brulee’, ‘Valrhona Chocolate Crunch’ and ‘Chocolate Almond Ganache’ and hope that you finally come to your senses and get over there. You’ll have to wait now because you took so long making up your mind but jump in line behind salivating tourists and box-laden locals and prepare to enjoy this now-not-so-secret, Portland secret…
What to choose, what to choose, what a first world problem…clearly the more unusual the better in a day that follows bone marrow ice-cream and, common as they may be here, Maple Bacon donuts have yet to become mainstream across the pond so that was the first choice, followed by Blueberry, Basil & Bourbon and Cointreau Creme Brulee which comes with its very own shot of orange liqueur waving at you from the golden, sugary, cracked top.
I did share.
It’s just that these are the first doughnuts I’ve ever had that tasted light years away from the stodgy, sugar coated, jam filled dumplings of brown paper, supermarket bakery bags.
Each of these donuts was beautifully light and soft, the brioche dough almost disappearing in your mouth so nothing but the delicate flavours lingered. The triple B was first to meet its fate with a gorgeously shiny, berry hued glaze cracking between your teeth before the blueberry sweetness hits your tongue before giving way to the strongest flavour, the fresh basil. It sounds an unusual combination. It is. It sounds like it could work. It does. You eat. You’re a touch confused. You like.
To a little London lass like myself, maple bacon sounds quintessentially American and like something I absolutely wanted to get involved with. The salty bacon bits were the first thing tasted and their juicy, crumbly texture complemented the silky softness of the dough so well before the sweet maple flavour zoomed in with a sugary hit to challenge the meat. Totally. un-ashamedly my favourite.
Last but not least, the intriguing combination of Cointreau and creme brulee. This, you would suspect, would be the ultimate in dessert sweetness and you’d be kind of right. It is sweet but it was a subtle sweetness that was balanced with the simple dough. The glaze shattered as you bit into it and then melted in your mouth while the squeezing of liqueur over the top added a sense of fun without tipping it into zany-for-the-sake-of-it eccentricity.
I would say that Blue Star Donuts have converted me to donuts but that’s a bit of a generalisation because what they’ve actually converted me to is quality donuts and I think we all know, as with all things, those are just not the same thing. Not only were these chic little treats utterly scrumptious and so airy it felt like there was nothing in your tummy at all, they were also the perfect fuel to kick-start another gloriously blue skied, West Coast day.
Oh Blue Star, your apology for not shipping donuts at this time makes me sad. Your donuts make me anything but.