I had a disconcerting experience during my recent trip to Sacramento, and I feel my meditation needs to be addressed immediately, ahead of all my other scheduled content.
The focus of this article is to discuss and assess what elements constitute a donut these days, and if there are any guidelines remaining as to what can be called a donut. Can I deep fry a loaf of bread or put sprinkles on a bagel and call it a donut?? Is it merely any bread-like circle fried in oil with a hole in it? That is seemingly too rigid of an outline, thereby isolating baked donuts, donut holes, filled donuts, long donuts masquerading as eclairs, square donuts and crullers. Hybrids like the cronut and donnoli do not help my singular committee of me derive distinctions between pastry etymology either. By today’s standards, I could glaze a cookie, core it and call it a donut. My mind becomes sheer turmoil when I think about the future of my beloved donuts.
If we want to truly have donuts we must have defined boundaries! I’m all for creativity and self-expression through pastries, hell, make a donut that encapsulates how antidisestablishmentarianism affected the voiceless peasants in 19th century England if you feel the need, I don’t care, but let’s not stray from the true meaning of a donut. If the photo below is any indication of how the donut has evolved over the years, we may be deviating from our 70 year donut standards plateau, and deviating hard.
An incorrigible believer in rules as an integral part of functioning society, change has never been my strong suit. You can imagine my gut wrenching horror when I bit into my first Danny’s Mini Donut, only to yawp, “Is this a funnel cake?”
I have had mini doughnuts before, Doughnuttery to be exact, and they were able to maintain their cakey donut texture. The frying process at Doughnuttery was the same as Danny’s, therefore I deduced that the difference must have come from the batter.
I watched my nubile donuts transform right in front of me, impressed as always by the elemental force of fried oil. Everything appeared to transact as normal.
The photographs came next, a brief session as Danny’s Mini Donut’s only offers four flavors: cinnamon sugar, powdered, chocolate glaze and vanilla glaze (add your own sprinkles) in sizes of 4, 8 and 12. Judging by the limited options of carnivalesque flavors, I should have readied my senses for a less-than-donut donut experience.
Admittedly, I am a pain in the arse to eat donuts with. I touch, lick and bite them all, anything for the perfect snapshot. But does my gentle cradling of steamy cinnamon sugar ‘donuts’ not make you want them more? The cupping of my hand was distinctly styled to evoke images of a baby’s head being laid to sleep, a child’s first communion and a dove just released into a cloudless sky, all at once.
Danny’s Donuts boasts that their grease cakes are made fresh in front of you, but similar to eating at McDonald’s, do you really want to see all of the oil going into your food? I’d rather just see it leaking out of my pores after the fact.
My accompanying judging panel shared my aforementioned funnel cake sentiments. Our table was pure confusion and befuddlement, as seen on the stunned visages of Annelise and Ryan. This just goes to show that you do not need to have any sort of cultured palette or fine dining experience to know when a donut is not really a donut.
I promptly gussied up this 5 minute old newborn for the famous hand shot. Danny’s Donuts is located in Old Sacramento, which my entourage and I didn’t know was a tourist spot until we turned the corner and entered 1850’s California. To be fair, Sacramento itself is not a tourist spot unless you actually live in Sacramento and have family in town from the suburbs that likes safe and relatively clean “city life”. (If it’s safe, uncrowded and clean, it’s not city life.)
The shop advertises on their site as Danny’s Mini Donuts! “They may burn your fingers, but they will melt in your mouth!”
Yes, they were fresh; No, I did not burn my angelic fingers. They also deliver, which, unless you fry my donuts on my doorstep, I believe this to be false advertising.
And finally, their website, minidonutsoldsac.com, has an unignorable, undesirable, not-grandma-friendly Old Sac in their title. Yum, let’s go eat old sac donuts. I checked and both domains dannysdonuts.com and dannysminidonuts.com are available. Danny, please explain.
The glaze was characterless, presumably concocted from powdered sugar. The simplicity of both flavors left little to be discussed afterwards aside from a group nod that yes, we did just sup on deceitful donuts.
Danny’s Donuts offers ice cream options to pair with the donuts or eat on their own and due to the quick production process, the line was relatively non-existent for a Sunday. (See above comment about Sacramento not being a tourist spot (or a resident spot))
In an effort to become a donut, I, too, jumped into the deep fryer, as shown by the burns on my thighs. Does it make me look more like a lame tourist or an intense athlete?
Old Sacramento proffers horse and carriage rides and this decrepit guy to really create an authentic Old West vibe. After we ate, our disheartened gaggle of pastry purveyors set off to wander around the town in search of something free to do.
Down the strip were several reasonably priced candy stores and an old timey photo spot that included old fashioned garb, props and a sepia filter, but sadly it was closed. Aside from taffy, amusement park food, wild west artifact tours and an out of place olive oil tasting boutique, ‘Old Sac’ had nothing much for us.
Annelise, Ryan and I shuffled back to the car, uneaten donuts still packaged up in the bag.
The other day I saw a cinnamon roll in a window display case, and I couldn’t help but whisper as I walked by, “Someday you, too, will be a donut. Someday we all will.”
Flavor: 5/10 – We saw this coming. Basic flavors can get high reviews if done right, just look at my Krispy Kreme review. Danny’s Donuts were unimpressive in taste and coupled with cheap, greasy, funnel cake texture.
Bang For Buck: 8/10 – You do get a lot for the cost, about $4 for 8, however, what you get is not high caliber. The area seemed to be marketed for kids, who likely are just happy to have sugar and would not know that they are eating a mockery of a donut.
Aesthetics: 8.5/10 – Danny’s itself has a few outdoor wooden tables off to the side, and is located in a charmingly themed town. Inside, the shop is a little dingy, but it can be seen as adding to the carnival ambience. Plus, all things mini are inherently cute.