Doughnuts MPLS

Sundays in downtown Minneapolis are frustrating for out-of-towners. Despite the tease of bright, bold signs offering milkshakes, bagels, sandwiches, or falafel, this part of the city shuts down on the weekly day of rest, leaving hungry travelers to choose among local pubs, Starbucks, or Five Guys as dining choices. Not the worst of dilemmas, but this predicament did put me in sour mood after walking the maze-like skyway system of downtown and passing two charming little donut shops that were closed. Two.

[20 minute Skyway walk from my hotel to the Minneapolis Convention Center in 30 secs]

So a mission was set. I’d skip the hotel’s breakfast buffet the next morning in favor of doughnuts and coffee, compliments of one of the two spots I’d passed by on Sunday afternoon. At five days and four nights, my trip, I figured, had room for visits on multiple days. But which place to hit up first?

How about both?, suggested my friend Antoinette, in town for the same reason as I – junior girls volleyball. [Yes, the story of my life.] Antoinette is a smart woman. The mission settled in with plans to pick up goods from Bogart’s Doughnut Co., and then try a couple at Cardigan Doughnuts close to our hotel. From Bogarts, I selected the lavender cake and chocolate cake. And doughnut holes for my volleyballer. And it was the classic glazed, a churro roll (with caramel sauce), and the Blackeye (coffee) cake down at Cardigans. Here’s how the match up went down…

Bogart’s Chocolate Cake vs. Cardigan’s Churro Roll
Winner: Bogart’s
Though bursting with churro flavor, the Churro Roll lacked the moist, chewy inside that makes a churro special. The caramel sauce, however, could be described as nothing but delightful. I could fill up pages on things I’d like to drizzle it over. The chocolate cake proved everything I hoped it would be – rich and luscious and just the right kind of chocolaty. I had no choice but to eat the whole thing immediately, despite my current weight loss goal.

Bogart’s Lavender Cake vs. Cardigan’s Blackeye Cake
Winner: Cardigan
It wasn’t that the Lavender was anything wrong; just that the Blackeye was everything right. Well, okay – perhaps I may have wanted a bit more lavender taste and aroma infused into the cake. Even so, the deft balance of Blackeye Roasting Co. coffee flavor throughout the Cardigan doughnut along with the gently sweet glaze gave me happy shivers. I still have another day-point-five here so I’ll be sure to grab a few for my carry-on bag to keep me company on the way home.

Bogart’s Holes vs. Cardigan’s Glazed
Winner: Cardigan…by a thin sliver of icing
And just by a sliver of icing does Cardigan win. It was a supreme glazed doughnut, and so were the holes.

So it’s been a tasty-sweet trip so far. Thankfully, I’m averaging about 20,000 steps to offset some of the billions of calories I’ve eaten since landing.

I’ll add that, thanks to the awesome customer service I received at Cardigan, I returned the next day to try their oatmeal bar, a build-your-own concept. Usually a plain oatmeal kind of girl, I felt somewhat pressured to add a little somethin’-somethin’. So I did, and glad about it.

Cardigan Donuts
40 South 7th Street #207 (second floor of skyway)
Minneapolis, MN

Bogart’s Doughnuts
Nicollet Mall, 80 S 8th St (and one additional location)

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Sweet Spots :: Afters

Afters is a place I’d heard about plenty of times (thanks to Instagram) but never wanted to try. You see, I’m not impressed with food fads. Or at least I try not to be (I did fall victim to a few crazed objects of taste – tiramisu and curly fries, and chicken fingers in their early days). And mash-up food fads drive me cray. Straight cray. I haven’t tasted a cronut. I dislike cookie-flavored cupcakes. I despise the idea of topping my fro-yo with anything found in the breakfast aisle – Fruit Loops, Pebbles, and the like.

I do take a brookie every now and then; but really, they’re pretty close in their DNA to classic bar cookies, a sweet treat from the 80s.

Anyway, it’s these deeply held feelings that kept me away from Afters for months after one opened in Long Beach, despite how delicious the idea – ice cream stuffed doughnuts they call milky buns – sounded; despite how heavenly pictures of their confections looked on social media. But my passive boycott would not be for long thanks to my kid and her friends and their plans to “chill” at Afters following volleyball practice (hence the name?).

I could have said no. I could have given her my debit card and had her go it alone while I sat in the car. But I was curious. I wanted to see what all the hype was about – why there were grown folks standing in line past the door, and so well behaved. So I joined Kourtney and her friends and her friends’ moms and dads (who, by the way, were my friends, so the sitting in the car thing would have proved awkward and antisocial). And being the great mother that I am, I made a sacrifice by taking the lead in line, ordering before everyone else. Which meant I received my order first. Which meant I took mine down in about three bites, done before the rest of our group had finished ordering, leaving me to wallow in jealousy that I had nothing left while everyone else ate.

Don’t judge. You don’t even know what I ordered.

Afters Long Beach Sweet Spots

See, I plain-Jane it nine times out of ten. Simplicity is a winner in my humble opinion, so I don’t need dozens of flavors and textures fighting it out for my attention. Therefore, I ordered the glazed milky bun with Madagascar vanilla ice cream – no toppings. And it disappeared so quickly because – served warmed, the glaze from the doughnut glistening in its gooeyness, each syrupy crystal dancing on my tongue as it melted, in a fierce tango along with the fluffy doughnut and the delicately rich ice cream – that shit was bomb. Had I not been with company, it’s likely I would have gotten back in line for another, telling myself it was okay because I’d wake early and run four miles; and if I couldn’t make it out of bed at dawn’s crack, I’d take a one-day meal sabbatical. These are the brain games I play with myself to justify pigging out. (By the way, my day-long self imposed fasts never make it past 8:30 a.m.; and any run I finish lasting more than a couple miles almost always results in exceptional hunger, only satisfied by mounds of carbohydrates and cheesy fats.)

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So it’s probably best that, in the future, I stick with my tendency to stay far, far away from food fads. There are plenty of established choices (like pizza) to keep me my thighs thick, my belly bloated, and my cholesterol high.

Afters Ice Cream
5708 E. 7th Street in Long Beach
and other locations

Sweet Spots :: Long Beach Creamery

It’s been open now for a few weeks but it wasn’t until this past Father’s Day Sunday that I got my first lick of Long Beach Creamery. With my kid passed out just having finished the fifth and final dance recital performance of the weekend, and my husband passed out from drinking too much wine while we were away for the fifth and final dance recital performance of the weekend (he went to show number one on Friday), I was left to venture out on my own.

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I walked it, as my neighborhood’s new scoopery is just a half mile away. After being cooped up in the Carpenter Center all week (we were there for rehearsals too), applying fake eyelashes, slanging trophies during intermission to newer dance moms and grandparents, and stabbing my kid (accidentally on purpose) in the head with dozens of hairpins over the weekend, wine just wasn’t enough. My sweet tooth needed some action, and my restless legs were intent on helping out. So I walked.

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The place is full of life – the kind of energy that shakes you like caffeine. And even more invigorating is the mural on the wall listing the many folks who contributed to the shop’s Kickstarter campaign, the effort responsible for getting the Creamery a storefront.A have a lot if people to thank, as my portion was delightful.

No surprise that I went relatively simple with my selection – a scoop of whiskey vanilla with toasted almonds in a waffle cone bowl. “Do you mind waiting a couple minutes for the waffle cone bowl?” my scooper asked. Umm, so I can watch my very own cone bowl being pressed expressly for me? No way would I mind! And so glad I did, as the cone tipped the scale on my experience from awesomely fabulous to fabulously awesome (there is a difference – and the latter is better). These are real flavors, folks – not just hints at them. I easily found both the whiskey tones and the perky taste of vanilla bean in a single bite. And my toasted almonds truly took the experience to another level with their smoky crunch.

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You’re likely more adventurous in your ice cream outings than I, so would appreciate some of their other flavors. The night I went, they offered banana chip and camemberry, and midnight oolong, and something called Elvis (a gluten-free option I didn’t bother asking about). There’s a choice for everybody if you go with a group, and the opportunity to split your single scoop into two minis if you want variety while rationing calories. And they’re open ’til 9:00 on the weekends, so it’s a definite late night stroll kind of place. Perhaps by the end of the summer, I’ll be brave enough to try camemberry if they still have it. I’ll probably just Google camemberry as a start. If it’s scary enough, I may not even ask for a sample until winter. Then again, in a waffle cone bowl and topped with toasted almonds, I’m sure just about everything at Long Beach Creamery is pretty darn fabulously awesome.

Long Beach Creamery
4141 Long Beach Blvd. in the LBC

Sweet Spots :: Georgetown Cupcake

When my daughter groaned immediately after I told her of my upcoming work trip to DC, I thought her upset about it was due to my proximity to the president and Michelle and the girls. But no – though she’d like to visit the White House and say what’s up to her future pals Malia and Sasha, what she really wanted to do was head to Georgetown Cupcake to chat and eat with the baking stars of TLC’s DC Cupcakes. In earnest, she asked if I could please, please stop at Georgetown Cupcake and bring something back for her.

What I hadn’t exactly made clear was that, although my flight is to DC, the meeting will be held at a conference center in Leesburg, VA; and with no car to get around, I’ll likely be stuck my entire trip, relegated to the conference center bar each night. But I figured it would be a nice gesture to Google Map the place, see if I might be able to hitchhike my way after a day long of plenaries and breakouts and boxed food.

To our delight, we learned that there was no need at all for me to venture away from the conference facility during my trip, as LA has a Georgetown Cupcake of its own. So this became a mini-adventure for us, an evening getaway that without homework or volleyball practices or dance classes we could afford to take. I did have a run scheduled that day after work, but what better way to get your cupcake on than stinky and sweaty. Heading to LA in my muggy workout clothes made me feel like I earned a few cupcakes.

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I’d planned to purchase several varieties, bringing treats to my fro-workers the next morning for all to try. But at $3 a pop and cupcakes to purchase for my girls, I had to split samples at work with a choice few instead of sharing the wealth with my entire suite. The Coffee Cookies & Cream, the Strawberry, and the Red Velvet cakes I tried were tasty – moist and balanced with a frosting that any sweeter would have been cloying; but what I can’t get out of my head is the Salted Caramel, one I shared (slightly begrudgingly) that was joyously received by all. I could eat another couple-few of those right this minute. If I don’t get back up to the LA location soon, I really may have to consider the whole hitchhiking thing.

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Georgetown Cupcake
143 S. Robertson Blvd. and other US locations

Sweet Spots :: Extraordinary Desserts

The last time I went to this place, I was on a diet. It was almost three years ago – I’d given up carbs in want of a quick slim down that didn’t require physical activity (during what I call my sedentary years). As proud as I was to resist letting anything at San Diego’s Extraordinary Desserts touch my lips (with the exception of a few sips of cold water), the concoctions lining their display have shown up in my daydreams and fantasies ever since.

Last weekend when I was in San Diego once again to celebrate my 2nd oldest’s 21st birthday – remind me to bring up the nose ring later if I forget; actually, I won’t forget – I was once again in the middle of a no/low-carb thing in preparation for my Vegas trip. However, the birthday girl earlier wanted Italian and I was so close to vacation that I figured I might as well eat like I was on vacation; and even if I managed to lose another pound or so before getting to MGM’s lazy river, my bikini wouldn’t know the difference. So I said what the heck, and got the fam to head a few blocks away from our lunch spot in Little Italy to Extraordinary Desserts.

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It’s a good thing there’s no place like this near the LBC – otherwise, I might get the hankering to quit my civil service job and fill out an application to wait tables or work behind the bar; that way I’d have daily access to incredible (extraordinary) sweets with a discount. And booze too!

It was hard to make a selection once we were seated. I’m not a chocolate person. But I am a chocolate CAKE person. Because of this fact, I finally opted for a slice of their Viking cake based on looks alone. All I noticed were stacked layers of dark brown cake. Little did I realize the chocolate creme brulee and milk chocolate cream padding these layers, nor the crushed chocolate almond praline crust pushed into the frosting. It was ridiculously decadent and effervescent and palatable and crunchy-smooth if there’s such a thing. It was truly a sensual experience. We probably could have used a room, my cake and I.

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Also tasty were my husband’s Dulce de Leche cheesecake – with caramelized pecan edges, a hint of sea salt, and whipped cream – and the birthday girl’s berries and ice cream (not the raciest choice for a 21st birthday, but it fit her; she did enjoy her first official, card-wielding drink at ED, a sangria made at the bar; as a non-wine person, she was a little disappointed at the taste so I had to explain the complexities of true sangria; how the fruit sits and ferments a bit with the alcohol from a liqueur, which isn’t commixed with the wine until later, along with a clear fizzy soda and a sweetener; she was likely only half-listening).

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Now about the nose ring. Those two words coupled  together usually don’t cause any bother for me – people should feel free to pierce any ol’ hunk of cartilage they’d like. But when my husband and I picked up our new 21-year old to find her with not a teeny sparkingly nugget pierced delicately through one nostril, but rather a thick and rounded rod of metal reminiscent of something you might find on a bull drilled through her nasal septum, we got a little itchy. We were honest about our initial dislike (in particular, our 11-year old). We did our best to look away, to avert our eyes. But it’s her nose and she’s been an adult now for three years. And, as she told us several times, she could always tuck it in (ewwww!).

I’ll get used to it, I’m sure (though I don’t think my hub will anytime soon).

At least there were desserts.

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Extraordinary Desserts in San Diego’s Little Italy
and one other location
1430 Union Street