Traditionally, after long and successful lives elsewhere in the U.S., doughnut shop chains come to Boulder County to die.
Deep-fried dough — filled and topped with sweetness — has always had a tough time dovetailing with our local devotion to fitness, protein and yoga pants. In the shadow of the Flatirons, doughnuts equal guilt.
History is a sad parade of doughnut emporia that have gone under in these parts including the recent Daylight Donuts, Tastefully Toasted, K’s Donuts, Dizzy’s Donuts and Winchell’s. My friends on a Boulder history Facebook page reminded me of the city’s many independent spots over the last 50 years such as Dixie Cream, Spudnuts, Norm’s Donuts, German’s Donuts and Rogers Donut Shop.
It’s not like Boulder County is doughnut-free. A handful of chain doughnut operations survive in the area. A few bakeries make them, and most supermarkets and gas stations sell doughnuts. But genuinely great fresh doughnuts are few and far between.
Into this doughnut void have stepped devoted chefs and bakers. Whether you are a fan of yeast-raised bready doughnuts or denser cake versions and churros, there are tucked-away places in Boulder County that traffic the scratch-made treats.
Freshly reopened, the Farmstand at Arapahoe and Broadway in Boulder is a coffee shop in the office of the former gas station opposite Alfalfa’s Market. The coffee is drip and there is no seating but the counter glows with trays of well-made yeasted and cake doughnuts. The varieties, ranging from vanilla bean to chocolate crème, are crafted next-door at The Riverside event center by pastry chef Ethel Calderin. The small menu includes breakfast tacos, and Calderin’s Miami roots shine in a spot-on creamed cheese and guava paste hand pie.
Another unlikely doughnut outpost is the Motorrad Cafe, an Airstream trailer in the parking lot for the dirt bike-focused House of Motorrad east of 30th St. and north of Pearl Parkway in Boulder. Erik Hotaling makes yeasty dense puffs of dough in simple varieties like cinnamon sugar, honey cider and powdered sugar.
Doughnuts are on the menu every day for lunch at OAK at fourteenth, better known for fine dining. Only one flavor is made each day and only about 20 doughnuts, each topped with a doughnut hole. “The idea was to make a dessert people could grab quickly,” says OAK chef Steve Redzikowski. “We’ll run out right away sometimes and people are so disappointed.” OAK’s changing flavors have included lemon meringue, hazelnut s’mores and creamsicle, with Colorado peach doughnuts every August.
At Petite Fleur, the French bakery inside Boulder’s Rosetta Hall, pastry chef Julia Wirichs offers glazed and cinnamon sugar vegan doughnuts. Other daily doughnut fixes include Stem Cider doughnuts at Acreage, beignets at Lucile’s Creole Café and churros at Centro.
The line at Blackbelly Market is getting longer now that pastry chef Lisa Balcom turns out a limited number of brioche doughnuts on Fridays. Flavors range from Boston cream to a maple-frosted and coated in house-smoked bacon bits.
Meanwhile, the varieties change every week — we’re talking yeast-raised Boston cream, chai-frosted, espresso-glazed or sour cherry jam-filled — but the result’s the same at Shamane’s Bake Shoppe. “They all disappear right away on doughnut Thursday,” says owner Shamane Simons.
Colorado Gets Its Food Groove On
I was a Boulder food editor in the early 1990s when the James Beard Awards were created to honor chefs and food writers. Every year the organization would query me about my nominations for chefs and restaurants and then promptly ignore Colorado in the nominations and winners. It took years for a handful of eateries in Aspen, Denver and finally, Boulder, to be recognized by the Oscars of dining.
That makes the recent list of semi-finalists for the 2020 James Beard Awards a vindication with 18 Colorado chefs, restaurant owners, eateries, bars and a distiller represented. Last year there were only eight. They even created a new award for Best Chef: Mountain instead of lumping Colorado in with Texas.
Boulder’s perennial honoree Frasca Food and Wine is up for Outstanding Restaurant and its Denver spinoff, Sunday Vinyl, is listed for Best New Restaurant. Kelly Whitaker — of Boulder’s Basta and Dry Storage — is nominated for The Wolf’s Tailor in Denver.
Denver eateries nominated include Bar Dough, Beckon, Hop Alley, Spuntino, Super Mega Bien and Annette. Colorado Springs offers Four by Brother Luck and the Penrose Room and Grand Junction has Bin 707 Foodbar. Other Colorado nominees include Element 47 (Aspen), Leopold Spirits, restaurateurs Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch, Sushi Den and Williams & Graham.
Few will make the final ballot but use this list as a guide to the state’s stellar food and drink options.
Local Food News
Tickets for Blackbelly’s first Bites with Butchers event on April 17 are now on sale. A $90 ticket gets you access to a butchery and cooking demo with Head Butcher Isaac Sullenger and Chefs Hosea Rosenberg and Arun Astraelis; hors d’oevres and a spread of food; cocktails and local beer; and more goodies. The April event’s theme is “CHARCbite: The Making of Charcuterie and Cured Meats.” Head to blackbelly.com/upcoming-events for tickets and info on other Bites with Butchers events.
Coinciding with Women’s History Month is Empower through Flour, a woman-led initiative to raise funds for women’s groups through food. This year, female chefs around the country are putting on special menu items, the proceeds of which benefit Girl Up, a U.N. Foundation-led group that engages, trains and mobilizes girls around the world. Support the cause at OAK at fourteenth by purchasing Chef Sarah Beckwith’s orange and date sticky toffee pudding with caramelized Rice Krispies and black currant ice cream, or at Caroline Glover’s Annette in Aurora, with the house peanut brittle and huckleberry ice cream. More info at empowerthroughflour.com.
On Tuesday, Feb. 25, the Boulder County Commissioners announced the 2020 Sustainable Food and Agricultural Fund recipients, which will help local farms fund regenerative ag improvements and programs. Recipients are: Ollin Farms ($40,000 to build on-farm demonstration areas for sustainable farming techniques), McCauley Family Farms ($40,000 to build soil-regeneration units), Cure Organic Farms (for cover crops, creating a native pollinator habitat, decreasing erosion and more), Aspen Moon Farms ($55,000 for heritage grain production). Cottonwood Farm, Black Cat Farms and Skypilot Farms were also recipients.
Words to Chew On
“There is no one healthy diet. We have a lot of latitude. That’s the lesson from studying diet cross-culturally. You see that people have been healthy on a huge range of foods.” — Michael Pollan
John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles on KGNU (kgnu.org).