Tag Archives: donuts

Portland: Donuts, Beer, and More

25 Apr

It is fast approaching that time of year when the travel bug starts biting us British Columbians and we begin exploring our beautiful province and country, whilst also venturing south of the border for trips to Seattle or Portland. I thought this was a good time to condense all that I’ve learned on my trips to Portland and share them here on the old blog. You know, just in case you were looking for a bit of inspiration for your trip.

In my experience, Portland is all about the food and the drinks. Sure, there is an indie scene worth exploring but that ain’t my jam so I am sticking with telling you about the food and booze. On the two trips that I did last year, Portland lived it up to its reputation of being a city all about the beer and donuts (seriously, is it spelt doughnuts or donuts?!). Let’s start with the donuts (or doughnuts, whatever you prefer).

Everyone knows about the famous Voodoo Doughnuts, these are the gimmicky, sweet, brightly-coloured donuts that come with a variety of toppings and funny names (a Cock-N-Balls or Old Dirty Bastard doughnut anyone?). If you see people carrying a pink “Voodoo Doughnut” box around Portland, you know that they are pretty happy with themselves as they have survived the long line-up and now have their doughnut bounty. Consider yourself warned: there is a line-up at almost every hour of the day and they are open 24 hours a day so that’s saying something. There are two locations in Portland and they accept cash only.

A cabinet full of Voodoo Doughnuts

The Loop Doughnut from Voodoo

The Marshall Mathers Doughnut from Voodoo

Once you have visited Voodoo, the donut store that started it all, you should definitely make room to sample Blue Star Donuts. These were the donuts that I actually enjoyed the most and would recommend over Voodoo. Voodoos were fun, but gimmicky, whereas the quality of Blue Star was obvious. They make their donuts from a brioche recipe that takes 18 hours to make from scratch (which they do every day). They speak with pride about the quality ingredients that they use and that they avoid artificial flavours and preservatives (maybe not a big deal for some but I like to know what I’m eating). Their recipes aren’t crazy innovative, yet, they are still intriguing. Some of the flavours are pistachio cheesecake with raspberry hibiscus glaze, a blueberry bourbon basil (delicious), and a blackberry compote with peanut butter powder, amongst others.

Lemon Poppyseed from Blue Star

Maple Bacon from Blue Star

If you are looking for a coffee to wash down your donuts, the coffee that is most famous in the city, and that you’ll be offered almost everywhere, is Stumptown. Personally, Stumptown isn’t one of my favourite coffees (each to their own) but the Stark location, which is in the lobby of the Ace Hotel, is a great spot for people watching and lounging about in the cool space.

Stumptown Coffee at the Ace Hotel

I had actually been trying to find Heart Coffee Roasters (one of my favourites) but I got lost so unfortunately I didn’t make it. I did, however, find Courier Coffee Roasters, which is a tiny little coffee roasters not too far from Powell Books (another must visit) that does great coffee. Other coffee shops worth a visit are Spella Coffee and Barista.

If you are looking for a brunch spot, look no further than Clyde Common. I went here with some girlfriends and we enjoyed a long boozy brunch where you get to make your own mimosas at the table (complete with a choice of two juices). Loved the open space of Clyde Common and the laid-back style, I would definitely return for another meal (they also do dinner).

Breakfast from Clyde Common

If you’d rather have your breakfast fast and on-the-go, drop into Nuvrei. I hadn’t heard about this place before arriving in Portland but whilst walking around the Pearl District in the early morning, I caught a whiff of the smell of baking pastry (probably the best smell ever). I followed the scent and discovered a small line-up at this chic little café. I joined the line (I can never say no to a food line-up) and was rewarded with a buttery, flakey croissant and a bagel sandwich. Other places that I’ve heard do a great breakfast are Pine State Biscuits and Tasty n Sons (I’ve not been to either so I can’t say for sure).

A few posts ago, I raved about Pok Pok, which is a must when visiting Portland. Another must visit, which is very close to Pok Pok, is Salt & Straw.

Salt & Straw serves scoops of unique and delicious ice-cream flavours worthy of waiting in the fast-moving, but consistent, line-up. Flavours change but can include Pear and Blue Cheese, Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper, Stumptown Coffee & Burnside Bourbon, and Sea Salt with Caramel Ribbon. Yum! Try and save some room after eating at Pok Pok for a scoop or two from Salt & Straw. You won’t regret it.

So now that we have indulged in coffee, donuts, breakfast, ice-cream, and more donuts, let’s move on to alcohol! Woot! I was pleasantly surprised with the drink scene in Portland. If I’m not drinking wine, I can be found enjoying some cocktails and boy, did Portland deliver on the cocktails!

My girlfriends and I wanted to drink all of the cocktails on the menu at Saucebox. Seriously, check out the cocktail list here, don’t you just want to sample them all? I can’t narrow down which one was my favourite but I really enjoyed some of the spicy ones (the Jade Scorpion and Kickboxer, for example). The pan-Asian food from Saucebox is decent too, but with the dark, sexy vibe, I would even go just for the cocktails and atmosphere. On a side note, the service we received at Saucebox was outstanding. We had a reservation and the guests before us were late leaving, which wasn’t a big issue for us, but they still offered us all a complimentary cocktail whilst we waited. Excellent customer service!

Another place that does great cocktails, is Departure Bar, which has a roof top bar and serves delicious mod-Asian dishes. Go for the view, stay for the drinks! Trader Vic’s is a tiki bar that offers ridiculously cheap happy hour cocktails (from 3pm to 6pm). Their regular cocktail menu has over 80 cocktails so you will surely find something you like. Try to snag a seat on the patio for some people watching.

Drinks at Trader Vic’s

When in Portland, you must sample the beer. The city is known for it. I’ve lost the taste for beer over the years but I decided to give it a go whilst I was in Portland. When I was there with my girlfriends, we decided to do a fun brewery tour on this:

Ha ha! Yep, lots of fun was had sitting around this bad boy for an afternoon. You pedal your way to three different local breweries, where you are able to sample the different beers on offer. We found this very social and a fun way to see the city, whilst enjoying an afternoon beer tour.

When I was there with my parents, it was in the middle of winter so doing the BrewCycle wasn’t an option so we popped in to Deschutes Brewery, a local brewery, instead. For someone who thought that they were over beer, I sure did knock back quite a few glasses of the Zarabanda brew (the brewery partnered with Chef José Andrés to make this brew).

I loved it. It has been my experience that the food at the breweries has been quite disappointing, so perhaps stick to the beer and eat at one of the great restaurants that the city has to offer.

So there you have it. My trips to Portland in summary. I still haven’t even scratched the surface of Portland’s restaurant scene but when I return, I have a long wish-list to hit up. Feel free to make a comment if you have any questions about any of the places that I’ve mentioned above. Safe and happy travels!


Vancouver’s Sweet Side – Part 1 – Donuts

22 Feb

Alright Vancouver, what’s your weakness? I have spent years searching the city to find treats that will satisfy my sweet tooth and I’d like to share them with you, on one condition; that you will tell me your favourites too! I hate not knowing ALL of the good places, so don’t be shy – let me know!

I recently read “Paris, my Sweet” which is written by self-confessed sweet-aholic, Amy Thomas. The book details her recommendations of Paris and New York’s most outstanding spots to get your sweet fix. I was inspired to do the same for Vancouver and have started with my donut, or doughnut (seriously, which is it?!), selections. Over the next few posts, I will also share my favourite ice cream, bakeries, and chocolatiers. But for now, put down your Tim Horton’s donut and check out some of these local hot spots.

Cartems Donuterie (Gastown)
408 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC

Cartems is, quite simply, all about the donuts. They sell nothing else but that – no coffee, no other treats – just old-fashioned donuts. What makes them different from Tim Horton’s and Krispy Kreme is that they aren’t the airy, yeasty donuts that you’ve come to expect. The Cartems donuts are dense, with an almost cake-like consistency – yum! My personal favourites are The Earl Grey, The Carrot Cake, The Classic, and Cinnamon Sugar. Prices are about $3 per donut.

Stack o’ Donuts

Earl Grey

Lee’s Donuts (Granville Island)
1689 Johnson Street
Vancouver, BC

Lee’s was the first really good donut that I had in Vancouver. In fact, I made sure that I had one on each trip that I made to Granville Island. They must be doing something right – Lee’s has been around for more than 25 years! The donuts are made fresh daily (you can even watch through the window) and fresh, still-warm batches are regularly added to the large wall of donuts throughout the day. There is a huge variety of flavours, including jelly, powdered, old-fashioned, and Dutch chocolate. My favourite is easily the honey-dip donut, particularly when they are still warm.

Lucky’s Doughnuts (Main Street)
2902 Main Street
Vancouver, BC

Lucky’s is a fairly new addition to the donut scene (they opened in Summer 2012) and can be found on Main Street, inside the 49th Parallel Café. A Kits location will be opening soon. Lucky’s offers donut-lovers some bold flavours such as salted caramel, bacon apple fritters, and peanut butter and jelly. I found the simple glazed donut to be wonderfully airy and light, with just the right amount of sweet glaze. The donuts are made fresh daily and all jams, glazes, and fillings are made from scratch. Because of the higher than Tim Horton prices (around $3 a donut), a friend of mine refers to this as “The Holt Renfrew of Donuts”, which makes me giggle. You can also enjoy a coffee or tea in the beautiful café space (if you are able to snag a seat).

Lucky’s Glazed Donut

Cartems Donuterie

25 Apr

408 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2J7

T: 604 671 6015

Brief Description: From its small, downtown eastside location, this pop-up donuterie has made a big splash onto the Vancouver food scene.

What kind of Vancouver food blogger would I be if I didn’t mention Cartems Donuterie? If you haven’t heard about Cartems yet I’d be surprised. It has been one of the most talked about new arrivals on the Vancouver food scene that I’ve seen for a while. Personally, I have been waiting for the dust to settle on this place before doing my review. Now, after multiple visits, I feel confident I can review it without being wrapped up in the hype.

Cartems is, quite simply, all about the donuts. They sell nothing else but that – no coffee, no other treats – just old-fashioned donuts. What makes them different from Tim Horton’s, Lee’s Donuts, and Krispy Kreme is that they aren’t the airy, yeasty donuts that you’ve come to expect. The Cartems donuts are dense, with an almost cake-like consistency, which I actually prefer (as a child our treat was hot cinnamon donuts). They can be quite oily, however, and sometimes they crumble but these are made fresh daily so you are going to get irregularities. One other thing that makes them stand out from the crowd is that they also make a gluten-free donut.

The flavours are quite bold with choices such as Sweet Heat (a chocolate cake dough with chilies, cinnamon, and sugar), The Breakfast Donut (whole wheat with figs, flax seeds and honey/agave) and a Maple Bacon Bourbon donut that is attracting the crowds. Check out their website for some mouth-watering pictures and descriptions of each donut. My personal favourites are The Earl Grey (decorated with pretty purple/pink flowers), The Carrot Cake, The Classic, and Cinnamon Sugar. I find the chocolate donut/chocolate glaze combo, is just far too sweet for me. This was also the case for me with the Sweet Snow (with white chocolate glaze and coconut shavings) but this is purely a personal preference. Prices are a little steep at $3 each, or $15 for half a dozen, but they do try to use local ingredients were possible so that can push the prices up.

Earl Grey

The pop up store is located on the corner of Carrall and Hastings streets, until further notice. Although I haven’t been, I have heard that you can also pick up some supplies at their kitchen which is located at Woodland Smokehouse (485 Commercial Street).

My only complaint with Cartems is that they don’t make enough donuts to cater to the demand. I don’t know if this has been deliberate (to drive up the demand and make the donuts more coveted) or whether it is bad business sense, or if they just don’t have the space to cater for the demand – it is quite possibly a combination of those three things, but be aware that they do sell-out quite quickly. It is best to follow them on Twitter to see if they are running low, or just get there early. Their hours are Monday to Friday from 10am to 3pm, with a later start of 11am on Saturdays.

Final Thoughts: The odd location and short hours make it difficult to get to Cartems but if you do manage to get there, you can expect to find dense, delicious donuts. Would I go out of my way to get there if I wasn’t in the area? Hmmm, probably not.

Cartems Donuterie (Pop-up Shop) on Urbanspoon