Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Great Donut Smackdown

You just never know what you’re going to find in our company kitchen. As you might imagine, a company that publishes books about planting, growing, and cooking attracts employees who are interested in food. And not just organic, whole wheat, locally grown food, either, though of course we are all over that angle. We have several serious gardeners who routinely share their crop surpluses — I’ve taken home cucumbers, squash, kale, lettuce, garlic, and even tomato seedlings and potted herbs. Ilona, our image coordinator, takes orders and makes weekly egg runs to a local farmer, bringing back dozens of gorgeous multihued eggs. Any week now, a couple of editors who live near an organic farm will start supplying us with early greens and fresh yogurt.

In addition to doing some grocery shopping at work, we often find pies, bread, and other goodies on the table. This is a boon for people like me who frequently don’t eat breakfast until they get to work. Give me cherry pie or zucchini bread over a dull old bagel any day! One day a whole array of beautiful breads appeared, the result of a weekend of experimentation by Dan, a book designer with a serious baking habit. People around here are always discussing sources of humanely raised meat, artisanal cheeses, and the best baked goods in the area.

Which brings me to the Great Donut Smackdown, the result of some heated words about cider donuts, a topic not to be trifled with in this part of the world. The upshot was that several dozen of both types (plain and cinnamon-sugar) were ordered from the two largest purveyors, one in nearby Lanesborough and the other in Pownal, Vermont, and brought in by people whose commutes take them roughly through those vicinities. When they finally arrived, the kitchen was full of people eager to determine once and for all if the Apple Barn makes better donuts than Lakeview Orchards.

Checklists were set up to track preferences and comments. The donuts were noticeably different, and the debate was fierce, but in the end Lakeview’s smaller and fluffier version with crispy edges triumphed over the Apple Barn’s large, cakelike model. The leftovers lingered long enough for an afternoon retasting to change some people’s minds, but by the end of the day, not a crumb was left.

Occasionally, a food bonanza appears after a photo shoot, as with the bowls of dried fruit and nuts that graced the pages of Raw Food by Stephanie Tourles. Not nearly as healthful, but a banner day nonetheless, was the appearance of a cornucopia of M&Ms, Skittles, Starbursts, red and black licorice, and other goodies used for the Candy Construction Company shoot (that book is due out in August; it’s going to be so much fun!). Unfortunately, we never saw any of the fancy treats from Cookie Craft or Ghoulish Goodies, but we can always go home and make them ourselves — and then bring in a platterful to leave on the kitchen table.

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