I love donuts. But it’s the kind of love that should probably be mediated by a therapist. Sticky, sweet, greasy toruses of temptation. Just one, you say? Oh, sure, that sounds great on paper, but there are so many kinds. And they’re so ... damn ... cheap. A half-dozen is like, what, three bucks? And then you can’t just save them for the next day because they’ll go stale and … What I’m trying to say is that the path to self loathing is paved with donuts.
So, Albuquerque’s local donut explosion, with three top-class shops opening over the past five years or so, has been a little tough for me. It’s like if Superman suddenly found that Metropolis had a boom in Kryptonite stores. If there were such a thing as a Kryptonite store, and if Superman thought Kryptonite was incredibly delicious. And if instead of an alien ubermensch with the power to fly and super-strength, he was a middle-aged food writer. You know what? Let’s just pretend that analogy never happened. The point is, my love for donuts has never been more difficult to control.
The other day, though, I hit upon a sort of solution. Instead of gorging myself on whatever fare is closest at hand, I would henceforward only allow myself to eat the best donuts in town, so at least I would grow fat on quality. Of course, this meant that I needed an objective designation. So I gathered up a half dozen of my friends and arranged the very first Weekly Alibi Quasi-Scientific Food Fight.
The other day, though, I hit upon a sort of solution. Instead of gorging myself on whatever fare is closest at hand, I would henceforward only allow myself to eat the best donuts in town, so at least I would grow fat on quality.
I gathered up a few boxes from local favorites Donut Mart, Rebel Donut and Duke City Donuts, and also included a box from Dunkin’. If it turned out that under blind conditions we preferred the national chain’s confection, so be it. Five tasters were given small samples of donuts from each shop, organized by type. They then awarded the samples a position from 1 to 4, with 1 being the best. Whichever shop received the most votes for first place won the category.
Round 1: Cake
Winner: Duke City Donuts
A cake donut is more or less the original form, the grandaddy donut that first paved its way to American hearts and stomachs. The thickly fried, heavy batter becomes a moist and delicious bready treat that needs no topping to complete its decadence (although one can’t hurt, either.) Duke City Donuts, with their old fashioned, hand crafted approach won the category, with Rebel a close second.
Round 2: Glazed Raised
Winner: Donut Mart
Though not quite as venerable as the cake donut, the raised, or yeast, donut has become the backbone of many a box of the sticky treats. They taste lighter than cake, even though they absorb more oil in the frying process, and thus lend themselves to being an ideal platform for flavored glazes and frostings. Donut Mart, the most widely spread of Albuquerque’s donut shops, with five locations throughout Burque, took a definitive lead in the category, with its offerings hitting just the right notes of sticky, soft and sweet.
Round 3: Maple
Maple is one of the trickier donut flavors: if it’s a touch too sweet or if the shop commits the cardinal sin of using an artificial flavor, the confection is sunk. Rebel’s maple bacon donut was far and away the favorite, even besting the savory sweet of Duke City’s famous example. Our judges liked that the maple was of a darker variety than the others and had a more authentic, robust flavor.
Round 4: Boston Cream
We saved this gooey mess for last, and I’m afraid that donut fatigue had begun to truly set in by that point. Still, we managed to muster our last reserves of stamina and push through. Boston cream donuts are essentially a miniature, portable cream pie with, ideally, delectable vanilla custard secreted within a raised donut shell. The offerings from the various shops ran the gamut from a repulsively artificial tasting glob from Dunkin’ to a resplendent pastry-like concoction from Rebel. In fact, Rebel, with a custard that had distinct cream cheese-like accents, won the day against its super-sweet peers.
And The Winner Is...
Duke City Donuts cleaned up in terms of dominating the categories it won and almost always garnering a first place vote or two in the ones it didn’t, indicating an outstanding overall quality. Rebel won the most categories, although it didn’t place quite as highly in the ones it lost, so I declare it a tie between them for “Best Donut.” And although Donut Mart placed third, its win for best glazed, the most popular variety of donut, is nothing to scoff at. Dunkin’, I’m happy to say, had no shot at the winner’s circle, never placing first in a category at all (and often being singled out as the worst).
So there it is, folks: Rebel and Duke City share the Ty Bannerman crown for our city’s best donuts, and Donut Mart holds a completely respectable second place. Unfortunately for my growing belly, with options of this caliber, there’s no excuse not to shop local.