Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Orange may be the new red but are donuts the new cupcakes?
According to Paris style pundits, orange is the “it” color for fall. But I bet those harpies across the pond wouldn’t even consider the crassness of an American donut or the lowly cupcake. Of course call them beignets or petite fours and it’s a different story.
In our crazy quilt of food obsessiveness, I’ve never understood the passion for crumbs of either kind--donuts or cupcakes. I mean, the donut is nothing more than fried cake batter laced with various icings and flavors while a cupcake gives short-shrift to a real slice of cake.
But I’ve had a change of heart .Witness the Portland food truck called the Urban Sugar Cafe, a mobile donut emporium that is very special.
Urban Sugar is in a re-habbed Good Humor truck that has been put to good re-use
The menu shows all of the daily specials and regular offerings
Husband and wife donut duo Kevin and Valeri Sandes both have culinary backgrounds and are putting them to good use. He’s a southern gent, and she is a West Coast gal. What they produce are mini donuts, which are made right in the truck. What they do to them is the big story here.
I met up with them the first time over the weekend at Flea Bites, the food truck gathering where all of th vendors congregate at the parking lot of the Flea-For-All shop. This was Flea Bites last meet up for the season--and Urban Sugar’s debut.
The madding crowd nosh and dine on Flea Bites food-truck cuisine
The donuts are sold in packages of singles ($3); doubles ($5) and sugar rush ($12). In that order you get 6, 12 or 24 mini donuts per box. The toppings, however, are incredible.
I tried the Southern Sugar. Here the donuts are covered in a maple-bourbon drizzle, filled with a maple pastry cream and topped with candied pecans. I had a double box, which I brought to a dinner party I was attending afterwards. As soon as I arrived everyone saw what I had in my hands and made a mad dash for these fabulous looking pastries. They were gone in a flash before we even had dinner.
Southern Sugar donuts in all their glory
You can also buy them “plain,” sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon. Other piece de resistance toppings include: The Lucy (chocolate cream, chocolate sauce and chocolate graham crumble); Ol’ Blue eyes (lavender cream, lemon curd and nilla crumble) and Irish or Not (sugar dusted, Bailey’s pastry cream and caramel drizzle), to name a few. There are daily specials, too.
Check out their Facebook page for daily locations; however, they‘re often parked at the corner of Commercial and Franklin, near the Casco Bay terminal.
What I thought would be another flash in the pan of fast-food hamburger joint turned out to be impressive indeed. The Massachusetts chain, B. Good, is all about burgers of every stripe—beef, vegetarian and turkey--and wholesome salads and all around bonhomie in their attractive shop on Exchange St.. I went in for a hamburger on Friday and was very impressed by the quality of the meat, the nice char on the outside of the patty and the simple topping that I chose (pickles). The fries—more crisp than soggy—were excellent though unsalted and needed some seasoning. For $10 you get a combo platter of a big burger on a very good bun, fries and unlimited refills of a small-size beverage of choice.
The first floor dining area at B. Good
A classic burger and fries
The shop has two floors of seating--on the first floor, with counters and comfortable tables; upstairs there’s a wine bar and more executive-type seating with cushy chairs and even a round conference table in the middle.
Their motto is "eat real food" and it shows here where the in-store ground beef is sizzling on the grill
The second floor bar and dining area
It was packed on its first day, and I bet it will remain so forever on. It just goes to show, bring something good and of high quality to Portland and it takes off like the proverbial rocket ship of success.
John Golden has written about food, dining and lifestyle subjects for Downeast magazine, the Boston Globe, Cottages and Gardens magazine, Gourmet magazine, Cuisine magazine, the New York Times and the New York Post.
In his highly opinionated blog, John reports on his experiences dining out all over Maine and his visits with food personalities, farmers and farmers’ markets throughout the state.