Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Food and Wine Magazine Recipe Test: Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit-and-Green-Tomato Salsa

I'm still enjoying the Food and Wine magazine subscription my husband gifted to me.  Although I'm starting to think it wasn't a gift for me, it was a gift for him.  I've been working my way through the recipes, and he gets to be the taste tester.  Definitely a gift for him.

Next in the queue, a recipe that caught my eye because it's by Stephanie Izard.  Izard is the chef of Girl and the Goat, where I dined last summer on a trip to Chicago with friends.  My favorite girlfriend's husband had a job interview, so I tagged along for a day of shopping and gastronomy.  Dinner at Girl and the Goat was great, minus having to take her husband outside and babysit him on the sidewalk after he drank too much.  Our group of friends took turns sitting with him so no one would have to miss the meal.  It ended up being funny fodder for a wedding toast!  Anyway, it was the first time I ate goat or pig face.  I can't wait to go back.  By the way, if you're from the Girl and the Goat and reading this, my friend is still apologetic about the glass he broke, and the nap he took at the table until we shepherded him to the sidewalk so you wouldn't kick us out.  A bad job interview and double-fisting Manhattans will do that, I guess.  His loss since he's the first of us to go foodie, and he missed the meal!

Back to Stephanie Izard.  I have endless respect for women who brave traditionally men's jobs, and a woman like Stephanie who schooled the boys on Top Chef.  Sometimes I feel the challenge of being an attorney working in the tech sector--it's not always easy making your way in the boys' club.  Good for Stephanie for being a strong woman and a Midwestern culinary superstar.

Izard's recipe in the August 2014 recipe is for Grilled Skirt Steak with Fruit-and-Green-Tomato Salsa.

Here's the link to the recipe: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/grilled-skirt-steak-with-fruit-and-green-tomato-salsa

The recipe calls for:

2 lbs. skirt steak
olive oil
red wine vinegar
soy sauce
sambal oelek
green tomato
sweet cherries
nicoise olives
salt and pepper

Like the Piment d'Espelette of a few entries ago, I had to read up on some of these ingredients.  Sambal oelek is a staple of Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian cooking.  It's chili pepper paste without seasonings like garlic.  Read more here.  Sorrel is a leafy herb used in cooking around the world.  It is rich in Vitamin C and has an acidic, even bitter taste due to the oxalic acid content.  According to Gourmet Sleuth, some spinach or arugula and lemon juice are an adequate substitute.

I went to three grocery stores and couldn't find the sambal oelek or sorrel, so I substituted Dynasty brand Thai Chili Garlic Paste for the sambal oelek, and arugula and lemon juice for the sorrel.  Since I love arugula, I used this is an opportunity to turn the salsa into more of a salad.  I used a handful instead of two tablespoons.  This gave the meal more bulk without having to prep a separate side dish.

I could not find sambal oelek at Kroger or Marsh, so I substituted Dynasty brand Thai Chili Garlic Paste.

Next up, I had to substitute for the cherries.  Cherries are in season in May, June, and July.  I went to two Marsh stores, one Fresh Market, and one Kroger hoping they had some anyway.  No dice.  I called Trader Joe's and Fresh Thyme, they said they didn't have any.  I even enlisted the help of the local police department to see if an officer friend had seen cherries anywhere!  I ended up buying a can of cherries in water.  I opened the can, and they were really mushy, so they couldn't work as a substitute.  They were not firm enough to cut.  I ended up substituting black grapes.

Of note, I also used some manzanilla olives I already had.  These olives are firmer and milder than nicoise olives, but still brought a briny flavor.  I'm not an olive snob.  I love olives in all forms.

Unfortunately, by the time I had made all these substitutions, this preparation was more "inspired by" Izard's recipe than an actual test of it.

I started this recipe on Sunday afternoon.  I chopped all the ingredients and stored them separately in cups since I knew I'd be home late on Monday (and Dallas would be on, so I didn't want to spend a long time prepping!)  It took between 20 and 30 minutes to wash and chop all the ingredients, then mix the vinaigrette.  I tasted the vinaigrette to see if the garlic would be noticeable--the sambal oelek would not have added garlic to the mix.  I didn't notice the flavor of the garlic, but the vinaigrette was heavy on the soy sauce flavor.  This ended up working out well--the salsa needed the salt.  This is why Stephanie Izard is a chef and I'm a wannabe food blogger.

Since everything was chopped and the green onions had already been sauteed and cooled, all I had to do was hit the steak with a little salt and pepper.  While it cooked, I mixed the vinaigrette and all the prepped ingredients.  As mentioned above, instead of two tablespoons of sorrel/arugula, I used a handful to make more of a salad.

The fresh ingredients about to be combined to top the steak.  In this moment, as I looked at the black grapes, plums, basil, green tomato, and a soy and pepper paste vinaigrette, I thought to myself that there was no way this would work together!

The steak was to medium-rare in about six minutes.  I let it rest to get the thickest parts a little more done--one placed looked a little raw, which unfortunately caused the ends to go to medium.  Select a piece of steak that it as uniform in thickness as possible to prevent this from happening.

The final product.

A closer look.

Admittedly, I was nervous when I presented the plate to my husband.  I thought this was going to taste bizarre.  Instead, it was surprisingly fantastic!  The basil and the sweet notes from the grapes and plums really harmonized with the cilantro and spicy zing of the vinaigrette.  This was so fresh and unlike anything else I'd tasted.  The basil was the superstar ingredient for me since it enlivened the sweet plum and grape elements while melding with the spicy pepper for something exotic.  I think he loves this dish more than he loves me.  He was that impressed.

I realize that Izard's recipe would taste differently because of all the substitutions I made due to product availability, and wanting to use up manzanilla olives I already had.  Nevertheless, I'd make this again just how I did it this time because it was so tasty.  This was by far the best recipe I've tested from Bon Appetit and Food and Wine.  It's also a steak recipe that won't leave you feeling weighed down.  Instead, you'll feel revitalized by all the fresh ingredients.

You. Must. Make. This.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Bon Appetit Recipe Test: Chicken, Asparagus, and Wild Mushroom Stir Fry

In the latest edition of recipe tire kicking, here's another from Bon Appetit's "27 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Recipes That Are NOT Boring."

The original recipe can be found here: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/chicken-asparagus-and-wild-mushroom-stir-fry#recipe-ingredients

This one is great--the only clean up is the sautee pan, a plate, and a few utensils--and it goes from ingredients to table in less than 30 minutes.  It's a fantastic weeknight meal full of fresh veggies, and when made without the heavy cream, it's light.

The main change I made to this recipe was substituting chicken broth for the heavy cream.  I'm lactose intolerant and I don't carry my Lactaid around often.  I'm looking for ways to keep my cooking fresh and light.  Heavy cream doesn't fit the bill, especially when it's 90 degrees outside.  I also didn't have Piment d'Espelette.  Frankly, I had to Google what it is--a smoky, mild pepper grown in southwest France.  I learned this from The Perfect Pantry--you can check it out here.  To substitute, I mixed some paprika and cayenne pepper from my spice rack.

You'll need:
olive oil
1lb. boneless chicken breast
1 lb. thin asparagus
1 package shiitake mushrooms (2 if you like mushrooms!)
minced garlic
shallot or onion
white wine
chicken broth
Piment d'Espelette (or cayenne pepper and paprika)
salt and pepper
optional--a squeeze of lemon juice for brightness

Here's how I made the magic happen:

Wash all produce.  Trim ends from asparagus.

Heat one tablespoon olive oil in large sautee pan.  Once pan is hot, add asparagus, salt, and pepper.  Sautee for one minute, then add a splash of water and put lid on sautee pan, allow to cook 3-4 more minutes.  I like my asparagus crisp, so I cooked it a total of four minutes.  Remove asparagus.  Leave the remaining liquid in pan.

Add another tablespoon of olive oil, add the shiitake mushrooms and a pinch of salt.  Sautee 8 minutes, remove and add to plate of asparagus.

Add last tablespoon of olive oil, sautee a tablespoon of minced garlic and, either 1/3 cup minced shallot or I added what I had on hand--1/2 cup of minced red onion for two minutes.  Then add the chicken, Piment d'Espelette (or the cayenne and paprika).  Instead of measuring the cayenne and paprika, I just added a pinch of cayenne and dusted the contents of the pan with the paprika.  After chicken was beginning to turn white on outside (about 5 minutes), I added 1/3 cup white wine and half a can of chicken broth.  In the Bon Appetit recipe, this would've been when the heavy cream was added.

Starting to cook the chicken while the sauteed asparagus and shiitake mushrooms wait to return to the pan.

Bring contents to a boil.  At this time, I removed the chicken so it wouldn't get overcooked, then let the contents boil in the pan until they reduced to a sauce that would coat the back of a spoon.  Taste sauce, adjust salt and pepper as needed.  I also added a little more cayenne pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for a hint of brightness.

The broth-based sauce reduced enough to coat a spoon.  The paprika darkened the color--it isn't burnt.

Turn off stove, add the asparagus, chicken, and mushrooms back to pan to coat in the sauce, then serve.

The well-liked final product.

My husband ate his plate of food before I was halfway done, then returned to the kitchen and ate the contents of the container I prepared for him to take as lunch the next day.  Curiously, he asked what the seasoning was, which makes me think that if I'd used real Piment d'Espelette, it may have been even more intriguing.  I can't say I used the paprika in my pantry often--mainly just for deviled eggs!

The only change we would make next time is to toss in two containers of shiitake mushrooms.  We both enjoy mushrooms, and the container we used was only 3.5 or 4 ounces worth.  If you're going to be missing a starchy element, some grilled or crusty bread will make this dish more satisfying.  I didn't miss the starch--I actually enjoyed having something light.

As an aside, this recipe seems like it would be more aptly named "Chicken, Asparagus, and Wild Mushroom Sautee."  Nevertheless, this recipe (with the broth substituted for cream) was another hit at my house.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Talent on Display at Restaurant Tallent

Once per year, my husband and I gather up friends and make a pilgrimage down to what he believes is the promised land...Bloomington, Indiana. Evidently his most formative and positive memories were formed at Indiana University. So I oblige and try not to hashtag anything #bbn for a few days straight. The trips have varied from tailgating food to Little Zagreb's. This year, we're getting older, wiser, and perhaps more demanding in what we seek out for dinner. We've steadily risen from pizza to elevated "Indiana cuisine." Restaurant Tallent prides itself on offering "what is available in the Southern Indiana region during that season."

Our first trip to Restaurant Tallent didn't disappoint. I only wish I'd taken more photos to share, but since we were in the company of friends in a cozy, dark space, I didn't want to be the tourist diner. There were a few other tables dining on Friday night. The restaurant was somewhere near half full. Half our dinner party had already arrived, so we joined them and promptly ordered wine. I wish I could remember what I ordered since I enjoyed it. I was debating between these three selections from the moderately sized (about nine whites to choose from by the glass) but thoughtfully composed wine list:

Santa Magdalena Pinot Grigio 2009 (Alto Aldige, Italy) $32/ $8.25
Ponzi Pinot Gris 2013 (Willamette Valley, Oregon) $36/ $9.25
Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc 2013 (South Africa) $36/ $9.25

Mostly, I was happy to see selections that aren't what everyone is serving...no overplayed Santa Margherita and Menage a Trois.   Someone had clearly curated the wine offerings lovingly, not based on what their distributor told them sells big.  This little detail set a distinctive tone for me--it represented the thought the owners put into making their restaurant special.

The amuse bouche arrived--tiny specks of fried okra that looked like black eyed peas. They were crunchy and fun.  Perhaps a little awkward to share among a table since it's like putting your fingers in communal bar nuts, but since we were all good friends, it wasn't too weird.  Over a work dinner, those probably wouldn't have been eaten.

We accepted our server's offer to bring bread given that we anticipated that, like any good trip to Bloomington, the night would end with at least one AMF or Hairy Bear. The butter was one of the many memorable parts of the meal. It was satisfyingly salty and at room temperature so it was easy to spread. It drives me crazy when restaurants bring you a frozen brick of butter.

I skipped the appetizer since I'd already indulged in two pre-dinner cocktails at the hotel. I'd checked the menu ahead of time, and the menu online didn't exactly match the selections at the restaurant. My husband chose the heirloom tomato soup and grilled cheese, which are not listed online. The soup was stellar...the most delightful rendition of tomato soup I've ever tasted. The color represented the heirloom tomatoes uniquely--it was red with a tie-dye purple cast. The soup was not the creamy bisque-like presentation you're used to, but instead, more gazpacho-like with the tomato's texture evident and lots of bright acidity. The sandwich was buttery and melty. If I didn't have a full-time job and they served lunch, I'd have to resist the urge to make a midday drive to Bloomington and eat this for lunch. Every day.

Our dinner companions ordered the heirloom tomato soup and the fish crudo as appetizers. The fish crudo was artfully prepared with tiny pearls of melon to resemble caviar.

I selected the scallops as my entree. Again, the preparation offered Friday was not identical to the online menu but it was similar. The three scallops were accompanied by fried green tomato and succotash. Each scallop was pleasantly browned on the outside and buttery inside. The succotash was heavy on the sweet corn, but that was fine by me. Nothing says summer like sweet corn. The wafer of fried green tomato on top was crispy without the grittiness of some fried green tomato preparations. For a particularly hungry adult or a man, the entree may have been a bit small, but it was perfectly sized for my appetite and recent attempts at having more restraint in portion size.

Scallops with succotash and fried green tomato at Restaurant Tallent.

My husband ordered the fried chicken.  It was not traditional buttermilk chicken, as described on the online menu.  Instead, it was a hot Asian interpretation.  It was presented like wings--very small pieces spread across the plate.  The heat wasn't overpowering.  He ended up regretting ordering something fried since he felt uncomfortably full afterwards--with a heavy belly not conducive for drinking like he was still in college.  This one might be a better choice for cold weather or a night when you can go home and curl up with a glass of port and fall asleep.  I think he had scallop envy.  Hot weather plus fried chicken equals sleepy time.

Overall, I could deal with watching IU football more often if each trip involved a visit to Restaurant Tallent.  Although I think eating there just made it impossible to go back to Bloomington and be satisfied eating pizza somewhere like Nick's.  And get the heirloom tomato soup if you go.  I'm hoping I'll be back again soon.

Restaurant Tallent on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bon Appetit Recipe Test: Thai Chicken Soup

I'm kicking the tires on another recipe for you today.  I found this one in a Bon Appetit magazine Tweet--27 ways to make boneless chicken not boring.  This recipe is a hit!

My husband doesn't do ethnic food.  He has the stomach of a child sometimes--after a trip to an Indian restaurant, he ate something spicy and laid on the sofa for hours moaning and rubbing his tummy.  When I'm craving Vietnamese or Thai food, I call up girlfriends and have a girls' night out.  I didn't tell him this was Thai-inspired until afterwards.  He ate it up, proclaimed how fantastic the broth was, and didn't have a stomachache at all.  Then I told him it was Thai and he looked surprised.

By the way, I fully believe in "Jewish Penicillin"--chicken noodle soup--when you're feeling unwell.  This soup might replace the simple chicken noodle or matzo ball soup though.  It's that good.

I followed the original recipe closely, but not exactly.  The original recipe can be found here:

My changes were mostly out of convenience and to cut down on miscellaneous leftover produce in my fridge.  For example, instead of measuring out the mushrooms or sugar snap peas, I tossed in a whole package.  The more veggies, the merrier, right?

Here's my rendition:

2 tablespoons olive oil
5 chive pieces (five bulbs, each with about four stalks of green onion on it)
4 teaspoons minced garlic
4 in. piece of fresh ginger (consider using more if you like more zing)
handful of baby carrots
1 jalapeno (consider using two if you like heat)
1 package of sliced white mushrooms (about 8 oz.)
1 package of organic, boneless chicken tenderloins (there were no 1 lb. packages so I used 1.3 lbs.)
1 can coconut milk (this can was 13.5 oz.)
1 quart organic chicken broth
1 package of sugar snap peas (I think it was about 8 oz.)
Fish sauce to taste (I used about 2-3 tablespoons)
2-3 oz. lime juice
2 handfuls of cilantro

Outside of all the washing and chopping, this is very easy to make and has minimal clean up.

Wash all produce.

Put large soup pot on stove on medium heat.  Add the oil and the garlic.  As garlic becomes golden, chop up the scallions and carrots, add to pot.  I used one handful of baby carrots, next time, I'll consider using two since I really like carrots.

Use carrot peeler to scrape the skin off the ginger, then grate into the pot.  I couldn't find out grater, so I was using a serrated knife.  My patience wore off at four inches of the ginger.  I wish I'd used more, so if you like zing, keep grating away.  The original Bon Appetit recipe calls for 11 inches.

Next, I added the a tablespoon of fish sauce, chicken broth, and coconut milk, then all the chicken tenderloins.  Just toss the chicken pieces into the soup pot whole.  Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to simmer, and set timer for 20 minutes.

While the chicken is simmering, slice the jalapeno thinly.  I de-seeded it to keep the spicy level lower for my husband, but next time, I'll use two jalapenos.  Chop the sugar snap peas into small pieces--they'll look like over-sized rings of green onion.  I always chop mine across or slightly diagonally to make sure I cut across where strings could be.  I tend to find strings, even if the bag says the peas are string-less.

At the 20 minute mark, remove the chicken tenderloins and place on large plate.  Add the pea and jalapeno to the soup pot.  Using a fork and knife (it's hot!), pull the chicken into pieces that will fit on a spoon.  The chicken was really tender and came apart very easily.  Return the pulled chicken to the pot.  Add 2-3oz. of lime juice (I used half of a little green plastic reconstituted lime juice container).  Stir and taste.  At this point, I wanted more salt.  Instead of adding salt, I added another tablespoon or two of fish sauce to get that salty/umami taste I needed.

Taste it to check for the right balance.  Need saltiness or umami?  Add fish sauce.  Need zing?  Add lime juice and or grated ginger.

Remove the cilantro leaves from the stems.  Now you're ready to serve.

For best presentation, use a slotted spoon to scoop up the right balance of chicken and veggies.  Then ladle the broth around the chicken and veggies so you can see them peaking through the surface.  Top with fresh cilantro and serve immediately.

The delicious finished product--Tom Kha Gai inspired Thai Chicken Soup.

Don't add the rest of the fresh cilantro to the leftovers.  It will wilt when sitting in the liquid then during reheating.  Top each reheated bowl with fresh cilantro.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Food and Wine Magazine Recipe Test: Swordfish with Charmoula

Recently, my husband gifted me a subscription to Food and Wine magazine.  This was my first recipe from the magazine, so I thought I'd share the process of kicking the tires for you.

You can find the full recipe here: http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/arctic-char-with-charmoula

The original recipe is Arctic Char with Charmoula.  Marsh did not have Arctic Char, but the swordfish filets looked lovely and I hadn't prepped anything swordfish in a long time.

The charmoula was easy to make in a blender.  It did not have the pretty, slightly grainy texture of the sauce in Food and Wine magazine, but it was still salty, bursting with garlic, and abounding with freshness.  The cooking times held true for the swordfish filets.  I think swordfish may actually be a better accompaniment to the charmoula sauce.  Charmoula tastes like chimichurri, which I often associated with robust flavors of steak or grilled chicken.  The swordfish is meatier than char, so it stands up to the bold flavors.

Here's the end result, served with a Starbucks brown rice and veggie bowl salad I had leftover from a work lunch.  I'm a fan of the recipe, but as suggested above, would swap out a meatier fish like swordfish for the char or any delicate white fish.

Easy Chicken Fresca

At my house, anything that tastes even remotely similar to a chimichurri is a huge hit.  This chicken recipe has the fresh flavors reminiscent of chimichurri, but on a weeknight schedule (no food processor or blender clean up!). The sauce isn't really a sauce or salsa, it's more of a fresh relish, so I'm calling it "fresca topping."  You can get this from ingredients to finished product in about 30 minutes, depending on the plumpness of your chicken.

You'll need:
Olive oil
Minced garlic
Lime juice
A vine ripe or Roma tomato
2-4 Boneless chicken breasts
Cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper

Dice the tomato and sprinkle with salt.  The salt will express some of the moisture from the tomato while you finish the other fresca components.

Diced tomatoes sprinkled with salt.

Begin with 1-2-3.  Mix one tablespoon minced garlic, two tablespoons lime juice, and three tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl.

The moisture for the topping is this 1-2-3 mixture.

Remove one to one and a half cups of cilantro leaves from the stem.  Other than cooking the chicken to a food safe temperature, this is the most important part of the recipe.  The stems are too coarse and get little hairs on them when the leaves are removed haphazardly.  These mistakes create a poor mouth-feel.  Take the time to remove the leaves cleanly.  Wash.  Then use scissors to chop up the leaves.  Pat dry and add to the 1-2-3 mixture.

Pluck each leaf of cilantro from the stem individually.

If you go to hastily, you'll end up with pieces on the leaves that feel like hair in your mouth.

Use scissors to quickly make the cilantro into small bits.

Repeat with the parsley, about half to three-quarters cup.  Wash, chop, and add to bowl.

Drain the moisture from the plate of tomatoes, add to bowl.  Add fresh black pepper and a few dashes of cayenne.  Taste and adjust the salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Finished topping.  Sit on counter at room temp to allow the flavors to marry.

Let the bowl sit at room temp while you prep the chicken.

Preheat oven to 400 and put skillet on stove on medium-high.  Add a splash of olive oil.  While skillet heats, splash chicken with lime, then sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and cayenne.  When skillet is hot--a drip of water from a spoon sizzles--add the chicken.  Cook about three minutes (so meat is golden) then flip.  Cook another three minutes then transfer the whole skillet to oven.  These free-range breasts from Fresh Market were extra plump and required an additional 10 minutes in the oven, then 10 on broil.  If you have any doubts, check temp with a meat thermometer in thickest part of chicken to ensure you've reached 165.  These breasts can also be prepared on the grill.

Chicken ready to be covered to rest.  Resting lets the chicken soak up the juices and rise a few more degrees internally.

Let chicken rest a few minutes, then slice thinly.  Use the tines of a fork to guide you if you're not used to cutting thin slices.  If you're struggling, you also might need a sharper knife.

Arrange across plate and top with your fresca topping.  You can either place the fresca topping directly on the chicken, or beside it if you're not so sure how much you'll like it.  If there's any juice in the bottom of the bowl where your topping was melding together, drizzle it over the chicken to add a burst of lime freshness and moisture.

Presentation option 1: crown the chicken with the topping.

Presentation option 2: place the topping alongside the chicken.  Good for if you're not sure these flavors will be a hit.

A simple salad, brown rice, or quinoa are nice accompaniments.  Or, if you're looking for a light meal, enjoy alone so you have room for fresh fruit or sorbet for dessert.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

PB&J Donut Throwdown: Square Donuts versus General American Donut Co.

When Square Donuts opened in downtown Indy last year, I was instantly enamored.  Not by the donuts in a different shape, but by their PB&J donut.  I’d never had a PB&J donut and I live for all things peanut butter.  I was instantly smitten.  Not to mention the man behind the counter at Square Donuts on weekends is a charmer.  He asked me if the Miss America pageant was in town the last Saturday I dropped in.

Fast forward to July 10, 2014.  There’s a new donut shop in town...the General American Donut Co. on East Street near Fountain Square.  Yeasty, sweet smells were wafting down East Street today.  I tried to grab donuts there this morning, but after waiting in line for 25 minutes (and getting a parking ticket!), only three people had left with donuts and the line hadn’t moved but a few feet.  I walked to the front of the line, caught a glimpse at the donuts, and left for work.  The case contained just a few donuts, priced between $2.25 and $3.00 each.  They were mostly a bourbon flavored donut, evidently the slow seller of the morning.  The donuts were being pulled from racks closer to the kitchen and boxed.

The line at the General American Donut Co. at 7:30 a.m. today.

At lunchtime, my kind husband brought a sampling of what he purchased after waiting in the line (and remnants of what he'd already snacked on) to my office, including the General American Donut Co. version of the PB&J donut.  Instantly, I knew it…it was time for a PB&J donut throwdown!  And General American Donut Co. had a formidable foe.  My dad, while visiting from Kentucky, once said that the chocolate donut with vanilla filling from Square Donuts was the best donut he’d ever tasted.

Recently I purchased a box of Square Donuts to take to the Pride Parade.  I made sure to grab the PB&J donut after I arrived since it’s my favorite.  Square Donuts has the expected flavors…glazed, chocolate, maple, strawberry, sprinkles.  Everything is lined up in the case.  They have coffee servers, but I’m never sure whether there’s coffee ready in them on Saturdays.  I’ve never seen someone pour a cup.

My recent assortment of Square Donuts.  The PB&J donut is in the second row, third from left.

The assortment Greg brought to my office today included a bite of the General American Donut Co. cronut, half a sour cream donut, a PB&J donut, and a donut dipped in oat and nut topping.  The crunchy donut was like a wolf in sheep’s clothing…it looked healthy but deep down you knew it was still frosting and pastry in a  granola costume.  I’m totally okay with donuts not being healthy.  The sour cream donut was huge and hearty, and the sour cream scent was distinctive.  Sometimes it’s hard to detect the sour cream flavor.

The assortment of General American Donut Co. donuts.  The PB&J donut is the whole donut in the center.

So…comparison time.  The Square PB&J donut has a sleek frosted exterior that tastes sweet.  Inside is light and airy, with a small pocket of jelly.  The General American Donut Co. donut is heavier.  Unquestionably, it has more mass than the Square Donut Co. donut.  The peanut butter topping, not really frosting, isn’t sweet and has a grainier texture, likely a nod to General American Donut Co.’s commitment to natural ingredients.  Inside, the donut is bread-like, not airy.  It has about triple the amount of jelly compared to the Square donut.

Overall, the winner of this throwdown is the PB&J donut from Square Donuts.  It is airy and light, like a yeast donut should be.  The General American Donut Co. PB&J donut is more than twice the price of the Square donut and too dense to win.  General American Donut gets props for having lots of jelly and not having artificial ingredients, but I’ll take the risk that the peanut butter icing at Square contains something artificial.  This comparison is like eating a spoonful of Jiff, then a spoonful of all natural peanut butter.  The natural one tastes fine and you know it’s not as bad for you…but you go back for a second spoonful of Jiff in all its sweetened glory. 

Looks like Square Donuts still isn’t cutting corners on their PB&J donut.  I’ll be back soon for more of those.  And welcome to the neighborhood, General American Donut Co.  I might be back if the line is moving faster after you get the kinks worked out.  While you get bonus points for having espresso drinks on the menu, this isn’t the cronut line in New York City.  I don’t get up early enough to wait an hour for donuts.

P.S.—Insider Tip—Residential permit parking on the street in front of General American Donut Co.  Abide, or your $3.00 donut just became a $28.00 donut.

Square Donuts on Urbanspoon

Great American Donut Co. on Urbanspoon