Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Miss Donut's doughnuts

The internet is great. But sometimes, the good old fashioned phone book is invaluable. That is especially true if your quest is to find mom-and-pop doughnut shops in a new area. You know, the kind of shops with a lunch counter that still serve coffee in white enamel cups for 50 cents and the senior citizen gentlemen that read the paper and catch up on the local gossip; these sorts of shops don't usually have web sites. What they do have is old fashioned, homemade doughnuts. And they are always worth the find.

We flew to Virginia on Saturday. Yesterday morning, I cracked the big 3-inch thick northern Virginia area phone book, and let my fingers do the walking right to ‘B’ for Bakeries. That's where I found Milan Bakery and Miss Donut in Falls Church, VA.

By the time we got two toddlers and a baby out of the house, it was lunchtime. So my friend and I, another dietitan, packed turkey sandwiches for the kids and set the GPS for Falls Church. We arrived at a storefront bakery with a blue awning. And when we opened the door to Milan Bakery and Miss Donut, we knew the doughnuts would be worth the trip. What blissful aroma of sweetly fried dough. Another sign of the goodness to come: There were only two or three left of many of the varieties. I chose three cake doughnuts, chocolate glazed, honey wheat glazed, plain sour cream; and a maple frosted raised doughnut and a French crueler.

We got the kids set with their turkey sandwiches and then, yes, we sat with our heads tucked behind our brown paper bags of doughnuts, out of view of the kids and the two of us RD’s tasted and swooned over freshly fried, sugared dough. Of course I tried the plain cake doughnut first. A doughnut shop’s plain cake doughnut is a signature of its quality. The plain cake has no sweet glaze or flavors or sprinkles to hide the flavors of old grease that may have been used in which to fry the doughnuts. The dough should be sweet, but not too sweet. A hint of spice – nutmeg or cinnamon – is nice too; just a hint to give the donut a bit of depth. Well Miss Donut’s doughnuts delivered on all accounts. The outside was still a bit crunchy, indicating freshness. The cakey part was faintly sweet – no spice – just dense and rich. Moving on to the maple raised doughnut, I found it divine too. It was chewy and fresh, and was smothered in just the right amount of subtly flavored maple frosting. The chocolate cake doughnut was perfect: pure cocoa flavor, but not too sweet either. No, I did not eat three doughnuts for lunch, only about a total of two and a half – because I had to try a bite, or three of each flavor. I also had coffee with lots of milk to balance out my lunch.

And yes, we did let the kids sample the doughnuts – after they finished their healthy lunches. What sweet smiles lit up their faces.

Friday, October 10, 2008

My fairy godmother

Ever wish you had a fairy godmother who would do a little housework for you when you weren’t looking? Well, you may have one living right under your nose: Get your kid interested in spending time in the kitchen and a little magic may follow. That’s what happened to me.

It all started when I was upstairs taking a shower. Now my three-year old daughter knows that when I take a shower, she has free-reign and I’m unable to supervise her escapades. I always give her a lecture about being good – and on days she seems particularly adventurous, I’ve even forgone the shower. This is not ideal, but much easier than picking up gigantic messes resulting from pure curiosity. Out of eye- and ear-shot, a three-year-old can get into a lot in just ten minutes. She knows enough to be safe. And I keep my knives, etc. out of reach. But in just 10 minutes, she’s flooded the kitchen with her “baby’s bath” water, covered an entire wall with lots of “beautiful PIT-chors,” and found my secret stash of marshmallows. And S. loves marshmallows.

But yesterday, she did the dishes for me. There were a few cups and bowls in the sink from breakfast. And despite the very loud clanging of glass against enamel, not a single juice glass or cereal bowl or coffee cup was broken. And the proud look on her face when I came into the kitchen was priceless. Thanks fairy godmother.

She helped me with dinner last night too. She helped cut up pears for the pear butternut squash soup and she dumped in the 2 teaspoons of curry. With the soup I was able to use up the pears that were starting to get a little too mushy to eat out of hand. The soup was delicious. It was simple too. First I roasted an entire butternut squash in the oven. Then I sautéed an onion and the pears, added chicken broth, the roasted squash and curry. After it simmered a couple minutes, I blended it up with the emersion blender. Simple and only a roasting pan and the soup pot to wash. My fairy godmother was disappointed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Mushroom Festival

Our coats are still drying after attending the 40th annual Houby Festival in Berwyn on Sunday. Houby is Czech for mushroom. On our way to the Festival, we envisioned a parade of floats with children in cute little round-topped mushroom costumes, tasting a variety of mushroom dishes, and chatting with some local mushroom foragers while we purchase their local finds. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

Now I understand that this is an election year and have been lots of politicians in any parade in America in 2008. But the 40th annual Houby Festival parade was pretty much only politicians. I will do a shout-out to the Morton High School marching band in their classic, classic maroon and gold uniforms – they sounded great. And the guys who built and rode the six-seater bicycle were impressive. But I only saw one mushroom in the entire parade. It was a small red and white speckled cartoon mushroom on the sign for Past Houby Queens.

The food tents had fairly limited choices, none of which were indicative of their location at a mushroom festival: Hot dogs; steak sandwiches; barbeque; and fried dough with various toppings including strawberries and whipped cream, ketchup and cheese, and mushrooms. And that was about it; except for the booth from our favorite local Mexican restaurant, the Tamale Hut Cafe. They were serving corn on a stick, chicken nachos and mushroom tamales. We purchased our mushroom tamales and corn on the cob "Elote"and headed for shelter from the chilly rain in the tent with the lively Czech band. The tamales were yummy. Traditional Mexican tamales are not huge – and these weren’t either – but they were brimming with spicy (but not burning) sauce, a slice of roasted jalapeno, cheese and mushroom slices. I probably ate one full mushroom in my tamale. But the tamale and the corn slathered with butter, lime, chili powder, mayonnaise and cheese warmed us right up.

And about those mycologists, there were none. I did not see a single fresh mushroom at the Festival – although there was a table full of mushroom knick knacks. There was also a table with fresh vegetables from a local farm. But there were no mushrooms.

Without their namesake, I do wonder if the Houby Festival will live to see year number 41.