All Cider Donuts Are Not Created Equal
Turns out last weekend, there were two Tour de Donuts. One was ours, in which 12 intrepid New Yorkers set off to determine who makes the best cider donut in the region. The other was out in Michigan where hundreds of bicyclists rode for thirty miles, taking breaks for donut-eating contests along the way.
I think ours was probably better. At least it was more productive.
We only ate five donuts apiece. And while a few of us may have been a bit uncomfortable towards the end, nobody was drenched in donut sweat. And while we did not burn off nearly the calories that we consumed, we ended the day wiser in the ways of the cider donut. Clearly they are not all created equal.
The judging was very close, and ultimately we unearthed two different camps of cider donut lovers that divided the pack of tasters right down the middle. But at the end of the day, there can be only one.
That dividing line was based on one’s love for a crisp crunchy coating versus the love of a soft comforting interior. Even I will not endeavor to find the holy grail of a cider donut that is able to achieve these mutually exclusive characteristics.
Let me back up for a second and tell you about the judging, and remind you about the places we visited.
Every donut was judged on a five point scale for crust, sugar coating, cider flavor, texture, taste, oil and overall. Each taster assigned weights to these categories depending on which was most important to them. Lest you be concerned that this evaluation is all about the numbers, I also asked each participant to name their favorite donut from the five and explain why.
We went to Indian Ladder Farms, Altamont Orchards, Fo Castle, Lakeside Farms and Bowman, in that order. The tour started at Indian Ladder at 9:00 am. We didn’t tuck into our first bag of donuts until 9:20. The last donut tasting and post judging wrap-up concluded just before 1:00 pm.
Five donuts in four hours doesn’t sound like that much. But it takes its toll.
Not everyone made it through. Of the six completed guest score sheets I received, three named Indian Ladder as their top donut and the other three named Altamont Orchards. Indian Ladder ruled the crust category. No other donut could come close to its “crisp crunchy shell.” Altamont had a slight edge over the pack when it came to texture. Tasters praised its “doughy, not too dense” interior.
I would like to think that I could be the tiebreaker, but I recognize that each of these donuts represents a different school of thought, and satisfies a different craving.
In terms of the overall donut eating experience, I prefer Indian Ladder. I enjoy being able to watch the donut machine cranking out donuts in the window. Now I’m no interior design guru. But to me the Indian Ladder donut counter reminds me more of a bakery or farm store while Altamont Orchards feels more like a country store. That may be completely meaningless to you, but I enjoy the surroundings more at Indian Ladder.
That said, I’ve had both better and worse donuts at Indian Ladder than I did this past weekend. Sometimes they have been tough. Other times they have tasted of overused oil. Although my first cider donut of the season from Indian Ladder this year was hot and divine. Altamont Orchards, where I have not gone nearly as often, has never given me a disappointing donut.
But it’s not fair to bring in these outside factors to bear in the judging, so going purely by the numbers, no matter which way I try to cut them…
Indian Ladder Farms’ crusty and cakey cider donut wins by a nose.
Altamont with its soft and rich donut was a close second. Lakeside Farms was a respectable third with the only warm donut received on the tour, and I should note that they dominated the other contenders on cider flavor. But Fo Castle’s pale, “rubbery” “middle-of-the-road” donut lagged behind, and the ridiculously popular Bowman was at the bottom of the barrel with its “commercial”-tasting specimen.
In terms of places to go and experience fall, I absolutely see the appeal of all these places. Thank you to everyone who sent in nominations.
There was just too much gleaned from the tour for one blog post. Keep your eyes peeled on Yelp for more of my thoughts on each of the orchards. And for those of you who missed attending this first FUSSYlittleBLOG event, do not despair. I had such a great time that I’m planning to do something similar in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, Indian Ladder and Altamont are pretty close together. So get out there, try both donuts back to back, and let me know where you stand.