****THE ULTIMATE DONUT-OFF!!!!!!!!!***
Ahhh!!! What??!?! What’s Happening?!? Why??!?!
Recently, I took a short trip to Portland, Oregon to perform some geek reconnaissance. Portland is home to a super famous donut shop, Voodoo Doughnut. Most people have heard of it, as it’s appeared on several food shows on TV. As tourists (I was with that girl who bought me X-Wing stuff on Force Friday, and has also been following me around for 10 years), we were obligated to go. However, as we learned more, a name appeared out of the shadows; Blue Star Donuts. Several people (mainly locals and trusted friends) said that Blue Star was, by far, the superior donut. However, we hate our friends and Portland is full of hipsters, so we didn’t know who to trust.
We had to know. There was no way we were coming this far and only having one. We had to know who was the best.
So, right off the bat, Voodoo has a line around the block.
Pffftt…waiting in line for doughnuts? That’s like those ridiculous people who drive for two hours through traffic, struggle to find parking, wait in line, panic at the sheer number of options, then spend over $20 on various breakfast items so you can try them all at Dunkin’ Donuts (aka…me). I was close to aborting the Donut-Off mission right then and there, but based on the positive Dunkin’ experience, decided it was worth it. Inside, the place is pretty wild and the ambiance worth the trip alone. It’s essentially what would happen if Willy Wonka got into doughnuts and Garage Rock at the same time.
We got: the Voodoo Doughnut (the signature), the Grape Ape, and the Old Dirty Bastard, as well as their 7″ vinyl record, “It Ain’t no Cupcake (Workin’ at the Voodoo Doughnut).”
The Voodoo was your standard jelly-filled doughnut with chocolate frosting, shaped and decorated into a Voodoo doll. The Grape Ape had vanilla frosting and “grape dust(???)” and the Old Dirty Bastard was a crazy mess of chocolate, Oreo, and peanut butter.
Blue Star Donuts
Again…a line, but it wasn’t as bad as Voodoo. Technically, we could get inside the store, so that’s positive, though if two more people showed up, or one really large person, it would be back to Voodoo status. The store was much more utilitarian; most of it was dedicated to donut production and the places to sit were adequate, but crowded and difficult to get to with a full store. Not to say it wasn’t clean, quite the opposite. The lean efficiency and subtle decor was a huge contrast from the crazy and wild party at Voodoo.
One difference is the menu…it’s kind of a “whatever we feel like today” which is a little disappointing, but I guess makes sense considering the ingredients they use and their availability. We bought: the Blueberry Bourbon Basil (their signature), Passion Fruit Cocoa Nib, and Mexican Hot Chocolate.
There isn’t much to say about these donuts, but in a good way; they’re exactly what they claim to be and made with a subtle precision. You’re not meant to scarf these donuts down, but take a bite and allow the flavors to process before taking a second bite. Not to say they aren’t filling, but they are just right.
The Fruity: Passion Fruit vs Grape Ape
These ones were exciting to try because of how unusual they are. Most doughnuts/donuts are sweet, but not necessarily fruity. The mystery “Grape Dust”, in my opinion, was probably Grape Kool-Aid sprinkled on the pastry. It was unexpectedly tangy and delicious and went well with the vanilla frosting. The Passion Fruit was also delicious and unexpected, as it had a spicy kick to it that developed a few moments after tasting it.
The Choco: Old Dirty Bastard vs Mexican Hot Chocolate
The Old Dirty Bastard was intimidating to eat, as the Oreo pieces added a ton of mass to it. Once you got started, though, it was easy to keep eating because of all the familiar flavors and the mildly crunchy texture of the Oreo’s went well with the dough. The Mexican Hot Chocolate was a mess to eat and the chocolate got everywhere, but wow…dude, texture. I feel dumb saying it, but it was such a smooth donut to eat and the chocolate was spot on. It also had a slight hint of spice to it, but nowhere near the Passion Fruit.
The Signature: Voodoo Doughnut vs Blueberry Bourbon Basil
Now, this might not be the fairest comparison, as Blue Star doesn’t necessarily have a “signature” donut, but the person helping me at the register, as well as the website, tout the Blueberry Bourbon Basil in the top spot. The Voodoo Doughnut was fun; it put me in a good mood to see the different ingredients get worked into a theme: filling as “the blood”, the dough making up the shape of the body, and the frosting making up the unique design on each doughnut. The Blueberry Bourbon Basil doesn’t have the overt appeal to it, but is attractive because it’s a simple and elegant presentation.
Just…look at it. It looks so good. Again, this isn’t a donut to scarf, but one to savor.
The Jams: 7″ Vinyl vs…well???
After the trip was over, we threw the record on and listened to it. We should have known better…the cashier was so unaccustomed to selling these that it took him over five minutes to find one. We should have just settled for a day-glo green hoodie, but we’re determined and stubborn. It’s…well…let’s just say it makes a great conversation piece! Unfortunately, the only comparison to Blue Star was some mildly pleasant tunes on the in-store radio. Voodoo wins this category by default.
So…without further a-do…..
THE WINNER OF THE ULTIMATE DONUT-OFF IS……
******BLUE STAR DONUTS!!!!*******
Congratulation (singular)! You did it! Here’s your award!
Not to say Voodoo isn’t worth going to, but a pattern quickly became apparent when trying these donuts. It shouldn’t be a surprise; Voodoo’s offerings match their personality. The doughnuts are wild, overt, some are shaped like dicks, and generally chaotic and outrageous. Unfortunately, this also makes them a little too sweet. The Old Diry Bastard, for instance, gives you such sugar shock that you need to share it with someone or get Diabetes (all types) 3/4 of the way through. Also, despite being crazy, they are also very familiar. You’ve tasted all of these flavors before, maybe not on a doughnut (looking at you, Grape Ape), but it should all be familiar. Blue Star, on the other hand, takes some risks with their flavors and develops something truly unique. I’ve never tasted anything like Blue Star before; not only that, but it never gave me sugar shock, either.
It feels like Blue Star Donuts require lots of testing, refining, and culinary expertise, while Voodoo Doughnuts are what happens when The Sex Pistols have a free show in your kitchen (which happens to be stocked with doughnuts) and everyone’s hungry. If we could, we would give out a “Most Fun Doughnut Shop” award to Voodoo, but we’re not going to. It’s just…it’s just not in the budget. It’s…listen, I can’t. It’s out of my hand–out of my hands!
TL:DR? Blue Star donuts taste better than Voodoo’s (and they don’t spell it the dumb way with a “ugh”), though when we encountered doughnut smugglers on the airplane (for real), they all had Voodoo boxes, so maybe they fetch a better price on the black market?
Also, you might be wondering…”Dude, Cody C, WTF?!?! You go all the way to Portland, then all you do is eat donuts?” Well, no….I did other stuff. Keep an eye out for the next Portland blog post, where we talk about Powell’s and Guardian Games! And, Lego Lana Del Rey!