Monday, September 21, 2009

Jack Frost Nipping At Your ... Taste Buds?

I think one of the reasons I like to talk and write about food is that it gets people excited. Food is the one thing that we as living beings all need. Even better is when you can get people passionate about the food choices they make. I don't necessarily mean that the food is healthy or local or sustainable, but that you can get into a healthy debate over who makes the best "insert-name-of-product-here". Since I've started writing this blog, nothing has gotten people more excited than their passion over donuts.

Starting with my first entry on Fractured Prune donuts, all the way up through my visit today at Jack Frost donuts located on the corner of Pearl and Fulton Roads in Brooklyn Heights, Ohio, everybody seems to have an opinion about whose are best. I have to say that many of the recommendations have been wonderful and almost all of them have led me to bakeries that are putting out some very unique and tasty donuts that the community can enjoy.

Our little group arrived today around 1:30 pm at the only Jack Frost storefront left in Cleveland:

My friends had already talked up Jack Frost for several months, so my expectations were high. However, nothing prepared me for the onslaught of donut goodness that was about to appear in front of me when I walked in that front door. The choices were staggering:

Generally speaking, the donuts come in two varieties, yeast-based and cake-based. The cake-based donuts had their flavoring components usually baked right into the dough. The yeast-based donuts were usually glazed or topped off with flavorful components. Only just recently have they started offering a raspberry filled yeast donut. One of my friends bought one and claimed that it was just marvelous, fruity without being too sweet. After listening to the woman working behind the counter give us a basic rundown of what was available today, I picked six that sounded good, packed everything back into the car and headed to my friend's house for some photography and a donut tasting.

Here is a shot of the box of Jack Frost donuts I bought today:

"Every Batch From Scratch" definitely instills confidence in me. Once I opened up the box, I was met with some extremely attractive donuts:

From left to right, top to bottom, we have a Caramel Twist, Banana Split, Cinnamon Sugar Apple, Blueberry Cake, Key Lime, and Chocolate Chocolate Nut. I will say that the one thing they all had in common was a very fresh taste. These had clearly been made very recently. Also, none of these donuts were in the least bit greasy. Now that you've met the players involved, let's give each of these bad boys a turn on the hot plate.

First up was the blueberry cake donut with a sugar glaze:

And a shot of the interior:

This had a wonderfully soft and delicate texture to the crumb. Unfortunately, the blueberry flavor was a bit muted and the sweetness from the dough and the applied glaze overtook the fruit flavor, which was a shame. I tried a bit of my friend's sour cream cake donut (similar style, different flavor) and it was very, very good. I think this donut really does have potential, the fruit flavor just needs to be amped up a little bit.

Second on the roster was the Caramel Twist:

And a shot of its interior:

This yeast-based donut was quite visually striking when I saw it in the store. Consisting of a chocolate glaze, a vanilla creme on top and then a caramel drizzle, it really looked like a million dollars. Unfortunately, the caramel flavor got lost in all of that chocolate glaze, which along with the vanilla creme were the predominant flavors. It wasn't a bad donut by any stretch of the imagination, but "Caramel Twist"? Nope, not so much.

The third donut I photographed and tasted was the Banana Split:

This yeast-based donut was a play on the flavors of an ice cream treat, the Banana Split. Underneath the vanilla creme in the top center lies a banana puree with just a bit of actual fruit in there. It was then sprinkled with powdered sugar and topped with a maraschino cherry. Conceptually, I really liked the idea of this donut. In execution, I think there were two small problems. First, like the blueberry donut before, the banana flavor was too subtle. If I had picked this donut up without knowing what it was beforehand, I might not have guessed accurately just by tasting it. Secondly, both myself and another friend who also tasted this donut thought that a chocolate sauce drizzle over the top of the donut might have really tied the flavors closer to the original ice cream treat.

The fourth donut I sampled was the Key Lime:

This yeast-based donut was the surprise hit of the entire box. Topped with a graham cracker topping and then a nice dose of key lime curd, this donut had it all; sweetness, tartness, texture and lightness. If I had to get a dozen of just one donut I tasted today, it would be this one. This one is highly recommended.

Next up was the Cinnamon Sugared donut with Glazed Apple topping:

And a close-up shot of the Glazed Apple topping:

This cake-based donut tried to mix the much loved cinnamon sugar donut with a complementary apple topping. The apple topping was actually quite good and had lovely chunks of apple that still had texture. The only real problem I had with this donut is that the cinnamon flavor was just not strong enough to stand up to the sweetness. Apples and cinnamon obviously have a definite affinity for each other, so on the conceptual level, this was a fantastic idea. The issue here is with the balance of the two primary flavors.

Finally, the Chocolate Chocolate Nut donut:

If I had to pick a runner-up in today's donut tasting, it would be this one. The Chocolate Chocolate Nut donut is a yeast-based donut that is then dipped in a chocolate glaze, coated with chopped peanuts, and finally finished off with a bit of chocolate creme. The contrasting flavors of chocolate and peanut may be simple, but they were extremely well balanced and played off each other quite well. The fact that you had both crunchy and creamy in the same bite was also a big plus for this one.

While none of these donuts register as my favorite all-time donut, all of them were tasty and two were simply outstanding. With the sheer variety of donuts available at Jack Frost, there is sure to be at least one flavor for every palate. I highly recommend that you stop by Jack Frost Donuts and put together a tasting for yourself to see what you like best. Heck, at only $4.70 for six different flavors, it's a fun way to spend an afternoon with friends or family.

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