There are mornings where I wake up hungrier than any man or beast has ever been. I may be waking up with my spine in the shape of a wet noodle and crusty eyes, but, the thought of chowing down on some wonderfully tasty dishes for breakfast is something that I look most forward to. I’ve never been much of a breakfast guy, whereas my breakfast has to consist of the standard American offerings (that includes the usual eggs, bacon or sausage, potatoes, toast and a number of foods that you’ll find at any eatery or household), but, there are times that I feel a little feisty. If I eat in the morning I usually feel like chowing down on something savory or even salty. But, there are times that I want to dive right into things and boost my blood sugar higher than it needs to be. Yes folks, there are mornings where I want some sweets in me. The thought of diving head first into a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes with melted butter and maple syrup running down the sides gets my motor running like nothing else. Or, the smell of fresh strawberries piled on a pair of French toast slices with powdered sugar and syrup oozing every is an image that I cannot resist. You can’t see me right now, but, while I may be typing, my mouth is watering at the thought of chomping on that, and it’s not even breakfast anymore! The problem with those dishes is that you have to be sitting down to eat them. Taking pancakes, french toast or even crepes on the go is not something that is necessarily easy to do, nor recommended (believe me, try eating a pancake by hand at your computer desk and tell me how bad of an idea that was). But, there is one breakfast sweet treat that is not only portable, but very, very tasty indeed: donuts.
Donuts… I can see it now. Just the mere mention of the word conjures of images of golden fried dough with frosting, sprinkles, cookie crumbs, cinnamon toast crunch, peanuts and nearly anything you can think of is something that I can’t resist sometimes. It’s not often that I have a donut, but knowing that I may have a limited amount of time to eat and that extra portability of those delicious morsels of sugar really make it easy to pick up and go. So when I heard that LA was going to have its first ever Donut Fest, I was ecstatic. You mean to tell me that for the first time we would be able to go to a festival where a number of donut vendors from all over would be coming together to sell their delicious treats? Sign me up! Oh yeah, I was stoked for this and couldn’t wait for it. Unfortunately, I would have to wait a year for the show to happen. You see, last year Donut Fest was scheduled to happen, and for a variety of reasons, it was canceled. I was bummed, and I’m sure that a lot of others were as well. So, when I heard that they had worked out the kinks and that Donut Fest was finally coming to LA I was thrilled. To be honest, it’s about time that we finally get a Donut Fest out here. Considering all of the food fests out here it’s surprising that we haven’t had one yet. But, after waiting for what seemed like an eternity, we would finally be getting what we had been clamoring for. Well, at least what fatties like myself were waiting for.
The location for Donut Fest ended up being Union Station in Downtown LA. A nice place for an event, albeit in not the best of places for parking. If you’ve ever been to the area then you know that Union Station sits across the street from one of LA’s most famous of streets, Olvera. This little street is a little slice of Mexico and became the place to be for all things Mexico over the years. There’s plenty of food, souvenirs and amazing finds to be had. However, as amazing as it is, it is a landmark and that brings out tourists and locals from all over. Not necessarily a bad thing most of the time, but on weekends it’s a bit of a nightmare to visit. The area is packed with people, there are a lot of one way streets and parking is pretty tough to find. That is unless you don’t mind parking two hundred miles away. So knowing that this show was going to take place at Union Station made me wonder how it was going to go down. Thankfully I was able to find parking no problem, but, I can only imagine how it may have turned out for those folks that arrived a little later on in the show. That being said, the location was a primo one, and no doubt they were going to have a good amount of foot traffic. And boy did they have a good amount of people show up.
I remember a few years ago I was lucky enough to go the first ever LA Cookie Con. I had heard about the show on the radio (just a few days before the show) and was fortunate enough to go to the show as media. Seeing as how it was the first show they had ever done, I didn’t expect it to be too crazy. Most first time shows are really all about dipping their feet in the water and trying to get the word out and grow from one year to the next. But, that was how it used to be. We live in the age of social media, and if you build it, they will definitely come. This show was not only big, but, they had sold out. Hell, when I arrived at the show there was a line of people going around the Pasadena Convention Center. The wait was easily a couple of hours, and before long most of the samples for people had run out. Needless to say, the organizers hadn’t planned for so many people to show up, and while there were a ton of happy people, there were also folks upset about not getting what they had come to to show for. This, in a lot of ways, was the same issue that we ran across with Donut Fest. I think that Angelinos (as well as numerous tourists and observers) caught wind of the show and came out in droves. This wouldn’t normally be a bad thing, but, considering the fact that when we had arrived there were a few vendors that had left and a few that had stayed behind were out of stock was a bit disappointing. I don’t know for sure, but, if it was anything like Cookie Con, I think it was the massive response of the people that overwhelmed all of the vendors that had shown up that day. It’s a great problem to have however. On one hand you have a large amount of people buying all of the product very quickly and the vendors leaving happy. On the other hand, attendees that did not arrive early to see those vendors walked away hungry, disappointed and frustrated. I’m sure that some of them had come from far and were really looking forward to this show.
One vendor who we saw at Donut Fest was one that we saw at Cookie Con. It’s a vendor that we have met several times before, and each and every time we see them they are making quite an impression. Sure, it’s easy to make a great impression when you have a table of donuts in front of you, but when they are as tasty looking and clever as far as ingredients go, there is something to be said about what they do. Besides, the great imagery and marketing materials is what makes them standout. Seeing them at Donut Fest wasn’t surprising, and I don’t know if it was their experience from the previously mentioned Cookie Con, but, they were one of the few vendors that didn’t run out of food. In fact, while we arrived to the show before the halfway point we were surprised to see how many of the vendors had run out of food. DK’s was definitely not one of those, and we were definitely happy to see that. Plus, yakking it up with the always beautiful co-owner of the shop (miss Mayly Tao) and her staff was one of our highlights that day.
We also had a great time chatting with Donut Savage (aka the Glazed Donut Bar) and seeing them create their works of art. I remember standing off to the side of their booth, looking at their donuts and my mind being blown when they busted out the blowtorch. I’ve seen a blow torch being used to char up a steak or even when making creme brulee, but, never have I seen it to cook up a donut. Coincidentally, that donut being made was a creme brulee donut. Man, oh man, that was awesome. I didn’t get to try to one, but, you know the old saying, you eat with your eyes first. I’m sure it was just as fantastic tasting as it looked. Their store front is in Whittier, and after having seen on their website that they serve the best ice cream of all time (hey, I don’t care what anyone thinks, it’s definitely true IMO), Thrifty Ice Cream! Now I know I have to go eat there. I can practically taste the rocky road ice cream as I write this….hmmm…… Oh yeah…
Anyways, at the show we also had a chance to chat with the guys from Primo Passo Coffee. While I’m not a big coffee drinker, I did get a cup of the one of their cappuccino’s. All I can say about that is that it was amazing. I should have taken a picture, because it was almost too nice to drink (almost) and worth drinking all the way through. I was definitely awake after that cup and could have gone for another. It looks like their main storefront is out of Santa Monica, so, if you’re ever in the area be sure to go. I know I’ll be heading over sometime for sure.
There was one vendor there that was one of the most intriguing. In all of my years (in fact, I hit one more notch on that belt, as of the moment I am writing this, it’s my birthday), I have never heard of donuts being made with tofu. In fact, that’s one of those combos I could have never imagined, and yet, most definitely exists. I saw this first hand at Donut Fest brought to us by a company called Ring-Baked Donuts. They are located in LA and feature a whole line of donuts that are not only GMO free, but gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian. I don’t normally take those things into consideration while eating though. As a loud and proud meat eater who also feels the need to consume any and all allergen laden foods, I thought I should point that out to those wanting to know. But, seeing these donuts in person was a very pleasant surprise. The donuts were selling like hotcakes and with flavors like honey, butter, matcha, sugar and a few others, there is something for everyone. I didn’t get a chance to try these unfortunately, but, there was a crazy line and plenty of hungry onlookers. I definitely would like to try these, and if anyone has ever had a chance to savor these, I would definitely like to hear your opinion of them.
All in all, it was a great show. It was a lot smaller than I anticipated, and a few vendors left early (those of whom sold out of stock and did not return) and that left me a bit disappointed. But, I enjoyed it for what it was. I mean, come on people, it’s a show devoted to doughnuts. One of the most heavenly of breakfast pastries that has ever existed. It was sure to be a winner. I just hope if the organizers decide to make a show next year, that they take it to a larger location and bring out more vendors. I saw a few people dejected when they knew they couldn’t get a doughnut from Trejo’s or any of their favorite (and new favorite) donut shops. So, while it was a bummer to see that happening this time around, I do know from having attended Cookie Con in the past and a few other shows that the first annual event is almost always a little rough around the edges. This show was highly anticipated, and we’re almost sure to get a bigger and better show the next time around. I was pretty happy to check it out, and I was very fortunate enough to chat with the owners with our lovely reporter Alliyah. I look forward to the next one, and I hope you will too. Now, stop reading this and go get yourself a doughnut. I know I’ll be getting myself a dozen..or two….or three….om nom nom nom!!
Interviews by Alliyah Becerra
Videos by Brandon “Gee” Grimes
Words and Photos By Daniel Navarrete
For more information on the Donut Fest LA and any upcoming shows, check them out on their website at Donut Fest LA
This article was prepared or accomplished by Daniel Navarrete in his personal capacity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Spektrum Magazine, or its affiliates.