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Tour de Donut Nominations: Wild Card

September 17, 2018

It’s about that time of year again. Time to go donut picking. But it doesn’t quite feel right yet. School has started, but I’m still wearing shorts and sandals. Instead of raking, I’m mowing. And yesterday I broke into a sweat just standing around outside.

Still, people are heading out to our local orchards for donuts and apples, because that’s what you do in the Capital Region when September rolls around.

So when will we have this year’s Tour de Donut? I don’t know. Most likely it will be some time in October. Part of the joy I take in the fall tour is getting to drive around in the countryside when the air is crisp and the leaves are peaking.

However, before heading out to five different orchards to taste and evaluate apple cider donuts, our custom is to open the floor to nominations. And we’re going to do that today. But this year’s tour is going to be a bit different from that in year’s past.

To explain, we’re going to have to go back in time.

This project of looking for the very best apple cider donut in the Capital Region started all the way back in 2010. And almost every years since then we’ve visited five completely different places.

Last year was different. We went to the best of the best orchards, within a reasonable driving distance. That left out two previous winners. Hicks Orchard and Cider Belly. Hicks is amazing, but it’s just too far away. And Cider Belly, downtown Albany’s excellent cider donut shop, does nothing but make apple cider donuts all day.

The plan was for the best of the best to go head to head against Cider Belly in the finals. After the results from last year’s tour, that would be Golden Harvest in Valatie Terrace Mountain Orchard in Schoharie [NOTE: Golden Harvest was my personal favorite, which is why I mistakenly remembered it to be the winner of the tournament of champions.]

But then we realized at least one excellent cider donut place was overlooked. And looking back, there were other orchards along the way that just had a bad day when the Tour de Donut rolled through.

So there has been a small change in plans.

We are adding a wild card round to the Tour De Donut. And the winner of this one will go up against Cider Belly and Golden Harvest Terrace Mountain Orchard in the finals. So this is your last chance to nominate an orchard for consideration. But first, I’ll ask to take a look at where we have been.

Year One
Year Two
Year Three
Year Four
Year Five
Year Six
Year Seven

After the Tour de Donut last year I finally got to taste the cider donuts at Lansing Farm. Without a doubt, this very local 8th generation farm on the Colonie and Niskayuna border deserves a shot.

Saratoga Apple had bad oil when we visited them in 2012. But I have every reason to believe this was an anomaly. They should get a second chance.

Lindsey’s was the first stop in 2013, and made an excellent donut. But they seemed to have been rushed, or the oil wasn’t quite hot enough at opening, because the two sides cooked unevenly. That was just a case of bad timing.

Bellinger’s Orchard in Fultonville was running on just one robot in 2015 and the continuous additions of cold fat to keep production moving had in impact on the crispiness of one side. My hope is that a return visit would find a fully functional donut station.

What else?

We could return to Bordens, but maybe earlier in the day so we could get some fresh donuts instead of the clamshell packaged leftovers from the morning.

Or we could hit George’s Market & Nursery in Latham. They have a fryer, they are close to the others under consideration, and have somehow never been included on a previous tour.

Or maybe there is a worthwhile place that I haven’t even considered yet.

I’ve mostly come to peace with the idea that we will not be able to sample every single cider donut offered in and around the Capital Region for this tour. So we’re just going to have to do the best we can.

That said, now is your chance to weigh in on this final outing. The nominations are open. But please remember, when you suggest your favorite cider donut, to include a bit on what makes it so good. And the fact it’s “to die for” tells us nothing. Details matter. Let’s talk about the crust, crumb, flavor, texture, sugar coating, spices, moisture, warmth, or any other qualitative factor you can bring to bear.

As the weather cools down, and it’s looking more like donut season, I’ll announce the date and final itinerary for the Tour de Donut: Wild Card. Stay tuned.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. -R. permalink
    September 17, 2018 11:50 am

    To be honest, I grow weary of the annual Tour de Cider Doughnut/Donut. You’ve been doing this a long time, and how you still find cider doughnuts compelling after nearly a decade is somewhat of a mystery to me (there are better doughnuts to be eaten in my opinion). Are you continuing because you believe there’s a definitive exemplar of the perfect cider doughnut to be had? I for one do not, any more than there’s a perfect slice of pizza, or a perfect chicken wing. I know, I know – cider doughnuts are indicative of the area…but they’re just not that good.

    • September 18, 2018 12:45 am

      It’s not about perfection. It’s about celebration.

      Otis has this right. It’s hard for me to get those words out, in that precise order. Someone should mark the occasion. But it’s true.

      More than anything else, the Tour de Donut is a celebration of local farms… and just how many we have here in the Capital Region. If anyone is not convinced, just look at how many years we’ve been doing the Tour de Donut.

      But you are right too. It’s growing weary. So we’re wrapping it up. I have every reason to believe that in the end Cider Belly will win this handily. However, I’m also drawing this out so that Cider Belly has a reason to keep on going. They are another gem in Albany’s crown.

      The point isn’t the destination. The point is the journey.

  2. September 17, 2018 12:23 pm

    I think of the tour more as the “tour of places where cider donuts happen to be served”. You get the chance to ramble around the countryside on a crisp fall day and stop in at stands where various other harvest-related activities are going on. The donuts are a focal point, but you can enjoy the ride even if you don’t particularly like cider donuts.

    As to the choices, my favorite of all the donuts I’ve tried (but I have not been on all tours) may have been the dark cake-y donut at Samascott in Valatie. But that was fresh from the fryer at their orchard, and a donut purchased another time from their roadside stand was not nearly as good.I also like that place (forget the name) on the Western tour that makes their donuts out of yellow cake mix and has the label for the mix on the wall. As a Saratogan, I’m not a big fan of Saratoga Apple donuts but there’s lots of fall activities (hay rides, corn maze, many pole varieties for sale), per above.

    But of course Cider Belly, being a professional year round outfit, can run rings around all of these. it’s not a fair fight at all.

  3. Ryan H permalink
    September 17, 2018 2:38 pm

    You know I’m a Schuyler Bakery partisan, but their quality varies day by day. Their cider doughnuts on the day of the tour were not up to snuff. When done well, they’re crunchy and greasy, with enough apple flavor to combat the oil flavor.

    The unfortunate thing is, like Otis says, the best apple cider doughnuts come from places that specialize in making doughnuts, not growing apples.

  4. Buffsoulja permalink
    September 17, 2018 5:57 pm

    According to the results from your blog – Terrace mountain not Golden Harvest won best of the best last year.

    • September 18, 2018 12:27 am

      Oh. My. Word. This is what happens when you get old. The memory is the first to go.

      I had to go back and check. You are absolutely right! I’ve been saying this wrong all year. MY personal favorite of the day was Golden Harvest. Jack’s too. But the results of the tour are not one man’s opinions. It’s not always my pick. Sometimes I’m in the minority.

      Let me fix that right now, with my most sincere apologies to Terrace Mountain and Golden Harvest.

    • September 18, 2018 12:38 am

      Fixed.

      • Josh K permalink
        September 18, 2018 9:13 am

        Yeah you mentioned how Golden Harvest won a few times, and it was really messing with my memory because I could have sworn Terrace took the title.

        I have had Golden Harvest when warm – and they were FANTASTIC. But because we had them served lukewarm at best, I couldn’t bring myself to vote for it and opted for the delicious and hot, melt in your mouth variety at Terrace Mountain – which I know its main fault is that it puts way too much sugar on.

  5. Rock permalink
    September 23, 2018 9:37 pm

    I think Lansing’s Farm deserves consideration- great crust, crystallized sugar coating, very light and airy and overall very good. Even the next day!

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