Last weekend, I tried Denver’s Voodoo Doughnut for the first time. I am not much of a doughnut person, to be honest, but these were special circumstances.
Last Friday was National Doughnut Day. Social media was saturated with pictures taken at Dunkin’ Donuts and Krispy Kreme, both of which were offering free doughnuts to anyone who bought a cup of coffee. I got stuck in the office on a tight deadline, unable to leave. I spent the whole day thinking about doughnuts but ended up missing the festivities altogether.
The following night, I was out on foot with one of my girlfriends, wandering around Denver’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. She suggested we stop in at Voodoo Doughnut and then end the night at one of the nearby bars. She had no idea about National Doughnut Day, or how I had suffered the day before. She’d only brought it up because we were a few blocks away. After spending all day Friday thinking about doughnuts, I just couldn’t say no.
I want to note that I prefer the spelling “donut” to “doughnut.” Seeing the latter on their pink boxes, and then writing it several times today has made my brain twitch. It makes it hard for me to love Voodoo Doughnut. Apparently, there are limits to my tolerance and they are defined, in part, by spelling. I did some research to confirm that I am not entirely crazy: either spelling is acceptable. In fact, when I learned about the aforementioned holiday, it was written as “National Donut Day.” Writing that feels better to me. Whew.
We ordered a dozen of the best-selling doughnuts. It came out to nearly $24 and was served in a pink logoed cake box. It’s been a while since I’ve bought a dozen doughnuts, so maybe I’m just out of touch. But $24 seems like a lot for doughnuts, right?
Once we had our dozen in hand, we stepped outside and walked across Colfax Avenue to Streets of London Pub. We ordered two glasses of bourbon on the rocks and requested a utensil of some sort to assist with the gluttony that was about to begin. We sipped on our whiskey drinks and used a fork to tear small bites from every single doughnut in the box so that we could try all of them.
Here are some observations from my first twelve or so tastes of doughnuts from Voodoo Doughnut in Denver:
1. The Bacon Maple Bar doughnut is pure magic. It’s just a traditional maple bar, but it’s turned into magic with the addition of two fresh strips of perfectly crispy but not overcooked bacon, laid atop the maple icing. It is very difficult to cut off just one bite with a fork, because of the whole strips of bacon. Thus, as a matter of practicality, I think I ate half of it. It pairs nicely with bourbon on the rocks.
2. The Voodoo Doll doughnut failed to live up to the hype. It is a yeast doughnut in the shape of a voodoo doll, covered in chocolate icing and then decorated with a face. I was told that it is commonly served with a raspberry filling and a pretzel “spear” so that the customer can stab the doll and make it bleed. After a shot of whiskey, I was particularly disappointed to discover that our Voodoo Doll doughnut had the pretzel spear but no raspberry filling. What is the use of stabbing something that won’t bleed?
3. The Captain My Captain doughnut was surprisingly delicious. At first, I only hoped I would not hate it; I loved the name, as I have a fondness for both Walt Whitman and for Robin Williams’ character in Dead Poets Society. But it’s another yeast doughnut, topped with white icing and then covered in what I believe are Cap’n Crunchberries, a cereal I generally find to be too sweet to enjoy. So when it turned out to be delicious, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a perfect application of the famously odd texture of Cap’n Crunch, contrasting the softness of the yeast doughnut and the creaminess of the icing.
4. The Maple Blazer Blunt doughnut has an image problem. How can I explain this tactfully? It is a yeast doughnut rolled into a cylindrical shape. The tip is covered in icing, which is then dipped in red sprinkles. Visually, these details are supposed to suggest a certain kind of rolled “cigarette” that has just been lit. I did not know what the doughnut was called, nor did I recognize what it was meant to resemble. I opened the box and asked my friend if she thought it was odd that Voodoo Doughnut would serve something that looks like a phallus.
5. The Old Dirty Bastard doughnut was an unexpected hit. At first, it simply looked like too much sugar. I was hesitant to try it after all the others. It’s another yeast doughnut, and it’s topped with chocolate icing, crumbled Oreo’s, and peanut butter. It is rich, yes, but exquisite. The ratio of peanut butter to chocolate is nearly perfect. And the textural combination of the crunchy Oreo crumbles, the creamy icing, and the fluffy yeast doughnut is simply delightful. It also pairs nicely with bourbon on the rocks, perhaps because of the high salt content in the peanut butter, the bitterness of the chocolate, and the hint of caramel in the bourbon. The next time I have those infamous monthly chocolate cravings, I think I might skip the Midol and head out for an Old Dirty Bastard.
We spent an hour or so on the patio of Streets of London Pub, tearing apart doughnuts, discussing our likes and dislikes, and licking our fingers between sips of bourbon. Any woman who is fortunate enough to have a close female friend or two already knows this truth, but it bears repeating here: Few things strengthen the bonds of female friendship like gorging on fried things, alcohol, and sugar together, without judgment, and without men.
My friend and I eventually sampled the entire dozen, leaving two-thirds of each doughnut mangled in the box. But the Bacon Maple Bar doughnut was gone entirely. We are ladies who sometimes count carbs, stab edible voodoo dolls, and drink bourbon, but we are still ladies. We do not abandon bacon-topped doughnuts in the middle of the night.