Saturday, August 8, 2009

Organic Brown Eggs $2

We just returned from what I’m calling our ‘farmcation,’ (similar to the popular and economical staycation, but instead of staying home for our summer vacation, we stayed on Grandma’s farm.)

The hand-made brown wooden sign down the road from Grandma’s was painted in white, hung from a tree, and advertised “Organic Brown Eggs $2.” The new neighbor had around 50 beautiful Isa Brown laying hens; he also had new baby chicks only a few days old. My little girls adored seeing the chicks under a heat lamp in a cardboard box in his garage. The neighbor told us they were even hatched by the hens. (We didn’t have chickens on our farm when I was young, but all our neighbors ordered their chicks from a catalog and they arrived in a box by mail.) The lone rooster, it was reported, crowed every morning at 4:17!

My baby was so excited to see all the fluffy brown hens running around – and also, no doubt, to know where the eggs she was about to eat came from – she screeched with joy! We bought two dozen of the beautiful brown eggs for $4.00. (We would have paid $10.00 at our local farmers market.)

At home, I curiously conducted a taste test against conventional store-bought eggs. At 20 months and 4 years, the members of my tasting panel did not have most discerning palates; they liked all the eggs hard-boiled and scrambled. My husband and I also participated. Here are our results:
· Egg shells: Conventional – pale brown; organic brown – darker, but still relatively pale brown with (pretty) brown speckles
· Egg yolks both when raw and cooked: Conventional – yellow; organic brown – brighter orange-yellow
· Taste: Conventional – the egg-y taste I’m accustomed to and adore; organic brown – richer, deeper egg flavor

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sweet Donuts

We turned off Interstate 94 in hopes of locating the ice cream shop I’d read was in Kalamazoo. (I later remembered it was Tommie’s Goodie Shop and is known for its creative homemade flavors.) We never found the ice cream shop.

What we did discover was Sweetwater’s Donut Mill. It was just a few minutes off the expressway on the main drag, Stadium Drive. Always on a quest for a good plain unglazed cake donut (the standardized test for a donut shop), I am not one to pass up a promising-looking independent donut shop. There are a few good ones in my area of western suburban Chicago: Kay’s Bakery in Forest Park, Honey Bee Bakery in Downer’s Grove and Bridgeport Bakery on the South Side of Chicago. They all have what I consider their specialties – but none of them do all things donuts well. For example, Bridgeport Bakery’s Boston Cream donut is tremendous (with homemade vanilla cream), but their chocolate glaze is too sweet on the chocolate cake and the plain unglazed is passable.

The perfect donut shop must also have a lunch counter with stools for patrons to sit upon and drink black coffee from white enamel diner cups. The donut shop I discovered in tiny Peru, Illinois, on the way back from a camping trip has such a lunch counter, which is frequented by older gentlemen catching up on town gossip. The fact that donuts in Peru are also only 50 cents a-piece adds a great deal to the shop’s charm.

Donuts at Sweetwater’s are 84 cents a-piece and I have no problem paying this price for any donut worth its sugary, fried weight. I am happy to support a good old-fashioned donut shop. And Sweetwater’s Donut Mill was that type of shop; with a lunch counter to boot!

As we walked in the door, the Sweetwater’s counter attendant was just bringing out a fresh wire tray of hot cinnamon and sugar dusted cake donuts – at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. And I can nearly guarantee the same experience for you, whenever you should arrive. Sweetwater’s makes fresh, hot donuts all day long because they are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sweetwater’s plain cake was rich and cakey, but not too heavy. Tiny dark specks in the donut confirmed the ever-so-subtle flavor of sweet nutmeg. But there wasn’t even a hint of old-grease flavor. It was a sweet and simply delicious product; and it passed the quality test with very high marks.

The Peanut Butter Cup donut was an entirely different breed of donut. Smothered with home-made peanut frosting and generously filled with chocolate buttercream, it wasn’t very simple – but it was delicious. The cherry cake was heavy with tiny pieces of maraschino cherries and was truly pretty in pink. Even the French Crueller, which the counter attendant threw in for free, “Because I think they’re only good when they’re still hot,” was light, fluffy, egg-y and sweet fried goodness. The chocolate cake was deep dark cocoa. There were over twenty varieties; many were original like Snickers, Banana Cream Pie and Reeses.

The shop doesn’t have a web site, but they do have three locations in Michigan: 3333 Stadium Drive and 2138 Sprinkle Road both in Kalamazoo, and I-94 at Capital in Battle Creek.