I was in San Diego last weekend. A lot has changed since I lived there twenty years ago including the food scene. That’s probably true everywhere. Food has changed a lot in the last twenty years. Another change is that you can easily find the best foods to eat even when you are a visitor.
My trip to San Diego had me searching for some of the bests. The best breakfast/brunch goes to Hash House A Go Go in Hillcrest. People rave about the Sage Fried Chicken and Bacon Waffles. While I thoroughly enjoyed the fried chicken (not so much the waffle), it was the B.L.T. Mary that surprised me and impressed me.
My Bloody Mary came with bacon, lettuce, tomato, toast, and mayo. I was now able to build half a sandwich as well as have a drink. What a clever and fun concept! Realistically, this was all I needed to call brunch.
The best place for a bowl of ramen noodles is a hip place called Underbelly in Little Italy. I enjoyed my ramen, but loved the ambiance. At Underbelly, you place your order, pay for your meal, and then take a seat. We were seated at the bar. The walls are made of glass so you feel like you are eating outside.
I ordered the Belly of the Beasts Ramen which included a soft boiled egg, oxtail dumplings, smoked brisket, and hoisin glazed short rib. When my order arrived, it didn’t come with a soup spoon. The story behind this is that they say that in Japan they don’t use soup spoons for ramen and the soup is meant to be slurped. I followed the rule and after consuming everything in my bowl with chopsticks, I slurped down the remaining broth. Delicious!
I saved the best thing I ate in San Diego for last. The best thing I had was a donut from the Donut Bar in Downtown. While the Donut Bar also has a version of the donut croissant combination called the crobar, it is not their best offering.
I tried quite a few donuts and my favorite by far was the strawberry split. They take a deep fluffy sugar donut, cut it in half and stuff it with whipped cream and strawberries. While donuts are typically eaten as a form of breakfast, this one makes for a great dessert. I had the strawberry split twice during my short visit, after all it was the best thing I ate in San Diego.
The Cronut is a half croissant and half donut hybrid that was developed by Chef Dominique Ansel for his bakery in New York City. From my understanding, fans are lining up for four hours to buy a Cronut. It has become so popular that Chef Ansel trademarked the name and knockoffs of this pastry are popping up all over the Country under a different name.
I was in NYC last week and I had no desire to stand in line at Dominique Ansel Bakery to try a Cronut. My friend who was traveling with me really wanted one. Luckily, we found out about the copycat Dough’Ssant from Dessert Club ChikaLicious. There was no line. My friend got the creme brûlée flavored Dough’Ssant which I got to try. I was still full from lunch. She really liked the Dough’Ssant. It was fairly light in texture and had the flakiness of a croissant. The top was carmelized and appeared to have been torched like a creme brûlée hence the name of the flavor. It was filled with a small amount of Tahitian vanilla pastry cream like the Cronut.
Why am I writing about the Cronut? Well, I found out that Stag’s Lunchette in Downtown Oakland was making their version called the Faux nut. This was going to be a Pop-Up and the shop opened at 9am this morning to offer them. My friend and I picked up some coffee beforehand and when we arrived at 9am, the line had already wrapped around the corner with about 60 people in front of us.
We had no idea how long the line would take. The weather was nice, we had our coffee, and the people in line was pleasant so the 90 minute wait was not uncomfortable. An employee passed complimentary cups of champagne which was nice.
Stag’s was offering the pastry with one of three flavored pastry creams: Tahitian vanilla, clementine orange cream, and bourbon cream. Also on the menu were Faux nut holes by the dozen. Each item was $6, a dollar more than the Cronut. I definitely wanted the bourbon cream and thought I would try the holes. They also have a two item limit per person. When it was my turn to order, they ran out of holes. I asked how long until the next batch and they told me it would be a long time so I just got the bourbon. My friend ordered the other two flavored Faux nuts.
We sat at the bar near the register and noticed the party behind me got a dozen Faux nut holes. I thought a new batch came out so I went back to the register to request the dozen I wanted. The woman at the register repeated that there were none and I asked how they got theirs when they were after me. She said something about them being saved because they were kids. I didn’t make a big deal about it and went back to my seat. The little girl was so sweet as she came over and offered us a hole. I took one to try and thanked her. Although I didn’t dip it into the side of cream it was supposed to come with, the hole was tasty. It was crispy on the outside and dense on the inside. It gave us a good idea of the dense texture of the Faux nuts we were about to enjoy.
The pastries are essentially split open and filled with one of the three fillings. My friend and I shared them all. My favorite was the bourbon and my friend’s favorite was the clementine orange. I enjoyed the Faux nut and am glad I tried them, but don’t think I will ever have the urge to pay $6 for one and stand in line for them again. I think I prefer a really good, buttery, flakey croissant and a soft pillowy donut separately. My friend actually preferred the Dough’Ssant over the Faux nut.
I have a suggestion for Stag’s. Obviously you can’t make enough holes for everyone, so why not offer everyone in line a hole to taste and skip the champagne?
A couple of months ago, my BFF brought me over a surprise. Fancy donut holes. What is more surprising is that it’s a new donut shop that opened up only three and a half blocks from my work. Donut Savant is in Uptown in Oakland. We shared a few holes. These bite sized treats tasted more like cake than a donut.
The other day, I remembered to stop by Donut Savant to pick up some donut holes before hitting the road for a four hour drive.
When I arrived at the shop, there were a few people ahead of me in line and not a huge amount of donuts displayed in their windows. Many of the trays were empty. I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy a good selection. As I was waiting, there were a couple of refills to the empty trays. I decided to try all the donut holes available and there were six. I also picked up an apple fritter. The seven miniature items cost me $5. My friend who recently moved back to the Bay Area would love to share these with me.
As I recalled from the first time I had them, they definitely tasted more cake. Actually more like an old fashioned donut than the traditional airy donut.
This is the order of best to least favorite:
1. Chocolate dust, plain cake with dark chocolate
2. Vanilla glaze, plain cake with vanilla glaze
3. Maple pecan, plain cake with buttercream frosting and toasted pecans
4. Chocolate frosted, plain cake with chocolate frosting
5. Salted maple, plain cake with maple glaze and a sprinkle of salt
6. Cinnamon sugar, plain cake with a cinnamon and sugar dust
7. Apple fritter, raised dough with granny smith apples and cinnamon
Overall, the holes were all very good and in the future I would order according to what flavor I was in the mood for. However, I would never order the apple fritter again. It’s just not my taste.
The concept of Donut Savant is great and so is the execution. Although I tend to like the traditional airy donuts more than I do old fashioned, it works for me as a bit sized treat.