10 Best Places for Donuts Across the Country

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by Andrew Knowlton

randysdonuts.jpgEvery culture has fried dough--German Berliners, Italian zeppole, French beignets, and Indian balushahi--but none can top the gut-busting pleasure of the American donut. It's the latest iconic food to undergo a renaissance; here are our picks for the best classic and newfangled donut purveyors across the country.

Randy's Donuts
Los Angeles
Los Angeles has donuts on just about every corner, but you can't beat this legendary stop near LAX. Look for the huge donut atop the building (a 1952 landmark). The buttermilk and crumb raised donuts are crowd-pleasers. 805 West Manchester Avenue, Inglewood; 310-645-4707;

Dynamo Donuts
San Francisco
At this counter in the Mission District, long lines form early for Four Barrel coffee (roasted nearby) and inventive donuts including lemon-Sichuan, apricot-cardamom, and the excellent caramel de sel. 2760 24th Street; 415-920-1978;

Who Were the Caaninites

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by Craig Bolotin

saudi1.jpgStuffed with dates, bloated with tea, and in the midst of a pitched battle about Israel’s right to exist, I blurted: "Look, I can’t have the discussion about the Canaanites, again!" (To wit: who was stomping around the Holy Land first, 3,500 years ago!) "Tell me the name of the great fish restaurant around here, Al, something you mentioned it earlier?"

It was New Year’s Eve – the Western one. Saudi Arabia uses the Hijra calendar, which is 11 days shorter than the Gregorian, in case you want to book ahead for next year. I had come to research a Hilary Mantel novel I’m adapting for a film. I was in Jeddah, on the Red Sea. There are two Saudi Arabias. The liberal progressive folks in Jeddah, and cities along the coast, known as the The Hijaz, who summer in Europe and Beruit, read the New York Times on line, whose kids go to schools abroad, decry the religious conservatives, and those in Riyadh, the capital, in the middle of the country and the Eastern Provinces. Blue states, red states.

The Dumpling Title Bout

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by Louis Gropman

dumplingstea.jpgWe cut through the sprawling, meticulously manicured park amidst the morning haze, humidity and blare of cicadas and car horns. By 11am we had reached the stark wrought iron and glass doors to Grandmother’s towering apartment complex, a node of Shanghai’s stupefying development. We took off our shoes in the narrow halogen lit hallway outside her 12th story apartment and stepped into plastic slippers waiting at the door. The warm smell of an active kitchen beckoned. The dining table was set with teacups and chopsticks. We were asked to take our seats.

Since we had arrived in Shanghai as the guests of our dear friend Lynn, Noam and I had been trying to navigate the customs and culture of the city by way of its incredible cuisine. Lynn’s grandmother pressed in universal grandmotherly persistence to discover the favorite food of us two foreign Jews. We responded with an immediate and unanimous call for dumplings, or gyoza. And so here we were, the privileged guests of a personalized dumpling brunch.

My Grey Gardens

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by Laura Johnson

dinglepeninsula.jpgMy best friend Kim swears my favorite movie is 'The Blue Lagoon.' Ok, I admit, it's true that I have watched it a half a dozen times or more over the years. But when you're 15 years old and the same age as Brooke Shields and she's frolicking on a tropical beach with a cute boy and I am stuck in a small town, on a farm in Georgia with boys who look nothing like Christopher Atkins, one can understand my emotional attachment. Kim would also tell you I am a huge fan of 'Far and Away' and yes, I have also watched that movie more times than I can count. I am sure that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman would prefer that movie be removed from their list of credentials on IMDB because as many times as I have seen it, I still couldn't tell you what's going on in that movie.

'The Blue Lagoon' was filmed on Turtle Island on Fiji and 'Far and Away' was filmed on the Dingle Peninsula on the west coast of Ireland. Turtle Island is high on my list to visit and the Dingle Peninsula is one of my most favorite and most magical places I have ever been to. After almost 19 years of being a 'Stewardess', I am often asked what my favorite place is. There are a lot of places I love but Ireland and the Dingle Peninsula are always on the top of my list.

The Heart of Ohio

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by Chris Low

raneyfarms.jpgIt's not a common occurrence for me to be hit with something that rocks the fabric of my gastronomical universe so unbelievably hard that I'm forced to reassess all that I believed to know about food and my own taste buds.  Quietly hiding in the heart of Ohio, I had come upon what I can only call a culinary A-bomb, and it came in the form of a deceivingly plain post dinner pie. Encased by a simple crust, peaches purchased from Amish neighbors lay nestled in gooey fruitiness, cold vanilla seeping in from the sides. It looked harmless enough.

The first bite stops time. Holy smokes! Where has this been all my life? Had I really been eating pie before? As I continued to devour bite after bite I realized the entire goodness of this pie lay in the fact that the peaches, perhaps the best I'd ever had, were fresh, locally grown and home baked.  I was beginning to question the origins of everything I've eaten before. Where had it been coming from and why hadn't I ever tasted ingredients that were this good?

A Man Made Blunder Turns Wonder

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by Cathy Pollak

seaglass.jpgEvery time we are in Mendocino we find ourselves at Glass Beach. It's just up the road in Fort Bragg and is the most interesting State Beach Park I've been to. We happened upon it accidentally many years ago and now the kids beg to spend every waking minute of our vacation time there.

Starting in 1949 garbage was dumped into the ocean in and around the Glass Beach area. We're talking old cars, miscellaneous household items and lots and lots of glass. This went on until 1967 when it was finally realized that dumping trash into the ocean may not be a good idea. However, by then so much refuse had been dumped, it just became kind of an aquatic graveyard.

Amazingly, mother nature took over. After years and years of grinding and pounding in the waves of the rocky coast, Glass Beach was born. These rocks and millions and millions of pieces of glass sit on top of the sand. No spot is left uncovered. There is enough sea glass to fill millions of wheelbarrows and there would still be some left over.

World's Best Banana Pancakes

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by Jeanne Kelley

bestpancakes2.jpgI remember a conversation with my good buddy and talented food writer, Monica Parcell, a few years back. The gist was the proliferation of food bloggers and the common themes. We basically bitched  “we don’t care about your vacation to France” (because it’s always France, and maybe sometimes Tuscany).

So here I am, talking about my recent trip to Indonesia. But, it’s not just about sharing vacation memories, it’s about Banana Pancakes. When we weren’t staying at a hotel with a buffet breakfast (like the Phoenix Hotel in Yogyakarta – with the lovely morning adventure of fresh exotic juices, spicy soto ayam – chicken soup with condiments, rice porridge, tapioca with coconut cream, eggs sambal, fried noodles, platters of fruit, cheesy yogurt, fresh donuts, etc.) our choice for breakfast was between “banana pancake” or nasi goreng – fried rice with veggies topped with a fried egg and a few shrimp puffs. I always opted for the nasi goreng – it was too good to pass up. I love spicy food- even in the morning.

When trekking in Sumatra to view orangutans, we camped out on the river near Bukit Lawang one night. Oudin, our camp-master fixed us an amazing dinner, then for breakfast, Banana Pancake. The pancakes were like the others served on Java and Sulawesi, but impressive in that they were fried in a well-seasoned wok over an open fire in the middle of the jungle.

A Restaurant in Italy

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by Charles G. Thompson

italyresto.jpgOpen and become a part owner in a restaurant in Italy?  Sure, why not?  That’s exactly what happened several years ago when chef Jeremiah Tower and I decided to try our hand at operating a ristorante in a small hill town in Umbria, Italy.  What no one tells you before you arrive to attempt such an endeavor are the hoops you must jump through, and the circus-type feats you must attempt to get the necessary licenses and permits to start a business in Italy as a foreigner.  Madonna! It was like trying to squeeze olive oil out of Cararra marble.  Endless meetings with lawyers, police chiefs, and building inspectors and we still didn’t have the necessary permits and documentation to operate a business. 

It all started in 2003 while on a three week trip to southern France and Italy.  Italian friends told us about a small restaurant where the owner of the property (a small hotel along with the restaurant) was looking for a chef to become a part owner in the restaurant.  Ristorante Carleni was located in Amelia, a small hill town in Umbria not too far from the well-known town of Todi, and relatively close to the A1 auto route.  The A1 connects Rome to Florence and is heavily traveled.  We looked at the restaurant and were intrigued.  We initially thought that we might operate it on a seasonal basis opening in the spring and closing in the fall.  We went back to try it out in the spring of 2004.  After much effort and hand wringing we both decided that there were far too many roadblocks and difficulties, and opted not to proceed with the project.  But this post isn’t really about the restaurant, it’s about beans.

Some of the Things I Ate In France

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by Anya Strzemien

parispeaches.jpgLucky for me, every few years I go to Antibes, France with my family. When that happens I feel compelled to photograph almost everything I eat, before I eat it. There are two reasons for this ritual: One, French food is so gorgeous it's just begging to be photographed. Two, photographing it is almost my way of saying grace for and being mindful of the bounty of food (and, trust me, it's bountiful) I'm about to consume. Food is fleeting. The photos are forever.

For the last two trips I've posted these collections on Facebook and have received a really positive response. It sometimes amazes me how much pleasure people take in looking at photographs of food they can't taste, but I suppose that goes hand-in-hand with people who love TV shows about food they also can't taste (see: The Food Network). 

1. When I arrived in Antibes, my mother had picked up some peaches and strawberries at the daily open-air market in  Antibes. Those strawberries were some of the sweetest I'd ever tasted, and after that the purchase and immediate consumption of them became a daily ritual.

First Stop Monaco

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by Laura Johnson

vanityfaircover.jpgI grew up on a farm in south Georgia. I had no appreciation for the fact that we grew our own crops; I never once had a meal from a can. Everything we ate came straight from the farm to the table. We even had a pond and stocked fresh trout and other fish.

Who knew that would become the hip and trendy way to eat?

I remember being a little bit embarrassed that I grew up on a farm. My Mom subscribed to magazines such as Vanity Fair and Town and County. I loved the photos, especially the 'society' photos of all the pretty women dressed in colorful frocks in high heeled shoes.

I could relate because my Mom got the Sears catalog and I dreamt of the day that I was old enough to order those high heeled Espadrilles in all sorts of colors. I remember seeing a piece in Town and Country of Jackie-O on a yacht in Monaco, wearing those shoes. 


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