Like a tsunami of fried dough and treacly glaze, the first annual Donut Fest has come and gone. Hosted at Chop Shop's 1st Ward event space on January 26, the deep-fried juggernaut sold out tickets and packed the house with upwards of 15 doughnut purveyors from across Chicagoland. Each spot doled out doughnut samples to attendees, along with a myriad of whole doughnuts in an array of outre flavors. Far beyond your standard glazed doughnuts and cake doughnuts, purveyors rose to the occasion with doughscuits (doughnut biscuits), bismarks, duck fat-fried doughnuts, and lots more. Here's what you missed, or if you were lucky enough to attend, here's a reminder of what you're still reeling from:
(Donut Fest 2014)
The fest was a mix of trendy newbies and longtime bakery staples. Everyone from the perpetually packed Doughnut Vault to Andersonville's revered Swedish Bakery and Taylor Street's beloved Scafuri Bakery were in attendance hawking their own takes on doughnuts. The popularity of the festival and the sheer mass of vendors is solid proof that the doughnut bubble is not popping anytime soon, and that there's plenty of room for deep-fried bakeries in the market.
(Nutella-filled bombolini from Scafuri Bakery)
Some of my favorites were the blueberry-chocolate doughnuts from Fritz Pastry, the French toast doughnut from Donut Den, and the adorably pint-sized s'mores doughnut holes from Beavers Coffee + Donuts. Mad props to Swedish Bakery for their perfectly prepared custard-filled bismarks. Even the sample size slivers were massive and borderline difficult to eat, but flavor- and texture-wise, they were comparable to a decadent slice of Boston cream pie. I also loved the Nutella-filled bombolini from Scafuri. My god. The duck fat-fried doughnuts from Chop Shop, filled with berries and glazed with maple, definitely had a duck fat flavor, which is great if you like that sort of thing, although it did sort of combat the sweetness of the confection. Cakey, moist glazed cake doughnuts from Gurnee Donuts were my favorite of the "classic" varieties, while West Town Bakery & Diner thought waaaaay outside the box with their beer and pretzel doughnut filled with spiced cookie spread. Served warm, they reminded me of that blissful moment I first sank my teeth into a hot Krispy Kreme doughnut. Then there was Endgrain's incomparable doughscuits. Less a doughnut and a more a deep-fried biscuit, they earned sweetness from pastry cream and tangy crème fraîche.
(Duck fat-fried doughnuts from Chop Shop)
In the end, West Town won the people's choice award, while Endgrain took home top prize from the judges. Could Donut Fest be the new annual hotness? Here's hoping.
- Matt Kirouac