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Four Donuts and a Hot Dog

April 18, 2010

As they say in High School Musical, “I love Troy.”  And for sake of argument, let’s just include Watervliet in that blanket statement for today.

Last week, I discovered some amazing new donuts in Troy thanks to some keen reporting by All Over Albany.  But sometimes finding something good brings more questions than answers.  Thanks to a lot of hard work yesterday, one of those questions has been answered.  Specifically, “Who makes a better Boston cream donut, Bella Napoli, The Cookie Factory, Schuyler Bakery or Dunkin’ Donuts?”

What, you’ve never heard of a control group?

I don’t quite know how this all got set up, but it had something to do with a late-night phone call with Albany Jane.  We had a donut date scheduled for last week, but our wires got crossed.  And somehow our attempt to reschedule turned into a brainstorming session that gave birth to a four-way blind tasting.

Complete with guest judges.

Nicole from Kitchen Words was there and so was E from Eat in Albany.  Of course there was Albany John, and I brought along my ace-in-the-hole Young Master Fussy, who couldn’t wait to get his paws on four examples of his favorite type of donut.

There were no scores.  Judges brought their own criteria to bear.  E even brought her own notebook.  It required a lot of soul searching about what one looks for in a truly great donut.  Some prioritized balance, while others looked for a donut that really stood out from the pack.  The question asked of each was which one was their favorite.

Bella Napoli won over Albany Jane, Albany John and E.
The Cookie Factory had in its corner Young Master Fussy and me.
Schuyler was Nicole’s top choice.

It was interesting to see preferences emerge on family lines.  But the kiddo made his decision well before I came to mine, lest someone suspect I tried to tamper with one of the judges.

Dunkin’ Donuts got zip.  Although to be fair, it was Young Master Fussy’s second choice.  I attribute that to his familiarity with the chain.  Despite my best efforts to put good food into the boy, he has probably had in his life more Boston cream donuts from DD than from any other source.  But that is my burden to bear.

Surely the other judges will weigh in with their observations, so what follows are some of my impressions of the donuts.  I break them down into icing, donut, filling and overall.

The Cookie Factory won me over with a hearty smear of the darkest brown and most cocoa-loaded icing of the batch.  It was firm, but not as welded to the donut as Dunkin’s wall-to-wall chocolate sheen.  Both Schuyler and Bella Napoli’s were a bit softer, with a lovely sheen, but neither did much for me.  Although I wished The Cookie Factory’s icing wasn’t quite so sweet.

My favorite donut shells were from The Cookie Factory and Bella Napoli.  Each was light and tall, with a rich and tender crumb.  The Bella Napoli donuts were the lightest and the highest of the batch, but were also a bit oilier and possibly even too light.  Dunkin’s donut was oddly flat, especially in comparison.  Schulyer’s was oddly bready.  While the other donuts had a yellow interior, Schuyler’s were strikingly white.

The judges had very different opinions on the fillings, although there was broad consensus on an artificial flavor coming from the Dunkin’ cream.  I preferred Schuyler’s, which I found to have a nice clean taste.  This was in contrast to The Cookie Factory and Bella Napoli where I picked up a bit of unpleasant starchiness.

Overall it was a very difficult choice between the two best donuts.  Ultimately it came down an evaluation of each bakery’s one big flaw.  The Cookie Factory’s was a bit sweeter than I would prefer, and Bella Napoli’s was lacking in structural integrity.  But in the end, sweetness can always be compensated for with additional coffee or milk, and there is no way to make up for a donut that is just too soft and unctuous.

Although clearly, based on the other judges’ votes, I am alone on this point.

Maybe this means I’m growing up, and Boston cream doesn’t hold the same place in my heart as it did when I was a kid.  Speaking of kids, Young Master Fussy pretty much licked all the icing off all four donuts and pronounced The Cookie Factory to be his favorite.

There were two big wins of the day.

One, Young Master Fussy came to learn from direct experience that just because four things look the same, and all have the same name, doesn’t mean they all taste alike.  Some things are better than others.  Two, after the tasting was complete, I took the boy out for his first hot dog ever.  I know I’m protective of his food choices but all these years and no hot dog is a bit much.

We went to Famous Lunch and sat at the counter.  He loved it.

It may not be three lunches in one day, but hopefully four donuts and a hot dog will be something the kiddo remembers for a while.

There are only six more days remaining to vote.  Everyone has been very supportive, but we need to share the FUSSYlittleBALLOT with more people if we are going to reach our goals.  Please get out there and help spread the word about what we are trying to achieve.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 18, 2010 10:59 am

    Your son had never had a hot dog? That’s astounding. Oh! Right! You’re not a native NYer – it makes more sense when I remember that.

  2. Jean Patiky permalink
    April 18, 2010 11:03 am

    LOVE IT!!! But what is “structural integrity” of a donut?????

    You are a master of descriptive words.

  3. April 18, 2010 12:07 pm

    It’s only a true late night phone call when there’s weird breathing on the other end. Or loud bar noises.

    I had such a blast doing this. We should make weekly tastings of things a thing. I’ll let you work on the description. I think it was neat how everyone really differed in their preferences, mostly because they were so darned similar.

  4. wendalicious permalink
    April 18, 2010 5:51 pm

    If you’re going to be doing tastings of things, I want in.

  5. Sarah M. permalink
    April 18, 2010 6:39 pm

    I’d be more interested in a 4-way rundown of a plain glazed… although so many places up here lack those in favor of plain cake doughnuts (ew).

    p.s. Just got back from Austin and the caloric equivalent of three lunches per day. TACOS!

  6. April 30, 2010 10:49 am

    I love donuts.. I would have to agree one that falls apart loses my vote.. I have to have some structural integrity. Plus, I think I probably would have liked the really sweet one, as that seems to satisfy my palate!
    -Sylvia

  7. Josh K. permalink
    September 30, 2013 6:47 pm

    Just discovered LEGENDARY donuts in Buffalo – Paula’s Donuts. The Peanut, Red Velvet, Glazed Pumpkin. Oh man. A must.

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