All Commentary
Friday, April 7, 2017

The Free Market Sets Donuts Free

Freedom of expression via donuts is a beautiful, delicious thing.


I fell in love the day I turned one. My parents had decided to use my birthday as an excuse to take a long-weekend vacation (an excuse I’m noting for future reference), and when they remembered it was actually about me and not them, they went ahead and let me try chocolate for the first time. (Apparently there’s a rule that babies shouldn’t really have chocolate until they’re a year old. I don’t know if this is a real thing or not, but it’ll mean more for me if and when I have a baby, so I’m doing it.)

It was immediate infatuation.

If we didn’t live in a free society, that fancy donut would only be available to the dictator. The rest of us would be left with raisin pound cake.My dad let me have a baby-sized bite of his chocolate-coated ice cream bar, and then went to eat the rest of it himself (perks of fatherhood). But I was in love and a whole year old so I was not going to let him get between me and my love so soon. I grabbed his ice cream hand with both of mine and pulled it towards me, mouth and eyes wide open, ready to devour.

I only partially succeeded (thanks more to the element of surprise than sheer strength. I never did enjoy working out), but it established the precedent that has more or less determined the remainder of my life.

My resounding love of chocolate – as long as it doesn’t have stupid fruit in it – has matured and become more nuanced through the years, and I now appreciate many things. But there is one that has never wavered, never faltered, never done anything but grow, and that is my love of donuts. Especially chocolate ones, naturally.

Donuts are one of the reasons I love the market so much.

At least once a week, I go online and see a new donut invention available to the public somewhere. If we didn’t live in a free society, that fancy donut would only be available to the dictator. The rest of us would be left with raisin pound cake. If people weren’t free to express their creativity in food, we’d be left with sad, bland peasant fare. If we were only allowed to have certain ingredients, bakers would be severely limited in what they could make. If we had regulations dictating an official range of donut types (don’t get any ideas, Washington), we wouldn’t have the beautiful, original, sometimes-kinda-weird masterpieces that pop up in my newsfeeds.

None of these would be available without the free market:

Donut Bar (San Diego and Las Vegas)

This place has won a ridiculous number of awards, and looking through their menu and gallery, I’m not surprised. They have adorable Cat in the Hat donuts, French toast donuts made to order, and the most exciting part: donut ice cream cones. Yes.

Via Instagram

Donut Bar keeps the free market-ness going even further by supporting the local breweries, featuring local beers on tap on Friday and Saturday evenings, and they have mimosas and craft beers in the mornings as well. Because if you’re eating a donut as big as your face, you’re going to need something to wash it down.

The Doughnut Project (New York City)

This bakery made the rounds on social media lately for the fruits of their monthly local restaurant partnership. In February they teamed up with Clinton Hall, the first beer garden in America and now a beer and burger restaurant, to make the Flamin’ Hot Doughnut Grilled Cheese: one huge donut sliced like a bagel, “glazed” with habanero cheese sauce, filled with cheese and bacon, and hung above a bowl of tomato soup. For real.

Via Instagram

It was so popular that they extended the partnership through the middle of April, so if you’ll be in NYC before April 16, you still have a chance to get one for yourself! (Which is another free market benefit: if something is unexpectedly popular, you can just keep it going. Try altering the deal in a country where the baked goods are decided by the Doughnut Czar.)

The Doughnut Project has a regular menu too, but most of them still aren’t your usual. Think more along the lines of clementine glaze paired with chocolate cream filling, lemon and sea salt glazes, a sweet-and-savory doughnut-and-everything-bagel mashup, and the darkest chocolate doughnut you’ve ever seen. They even made a Dandelion Yellow crayon doughnut last weekend in honor of Crayola’s discontinuing the color.

Stan’s Donuts (Chicago)

Stan’s goes all out for holidays and other special occasions: they made flower bouquet donuts for Mother’s Day last year, created a hangover donut for the day after New Year’s, and came up with a Star Wars donut in honor of Rogue One’s release.

Via Instagram

Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken (Washington, DC, Falls Church, VA, and soon Los Angeles)

I first learned about chicken and waffles when I was living in Kansas, and now that I’m down South in Georgia, the idea is even more present in my mind. So I was painfully aware of a lack of chicken and doughnut places while I was searching for amazing doughnuts until a friend saved me from my suffering and introduced me to Astro.

Via Instagram

They have doughnuts and they have chicken, obviously. But they also have a food truck, and that makes me even happier, because food trucks are awesome.

Donutology (Kansas City)

All these gourmet donut places sound bougie enough to make Marx spin in his grave, but sometimes that’s not going to cut it. Most of the time you, like I, probably see these fancy-schmancy donuts and think, “That’s great and everything, but I am but a simple donut-lover, and sometimes I don’t want rosemary-infused lemon butter artfully folded over an organic chocolate cake donut, served on butterfly wings, dusted with unicorn dust aka rainbow sprinkles, and somehow presented in a real-life Instagram filter. Sometimes I just want a donut my way.”

Say no more fam. The market has come up with a solution for that, too.

Via Instagram

Enter Donutology. As the website says, “After years of research, we’ve made an astonishing discovery – everyone has a unique donut gene. People don’t want plain and simple anymore. They want a donut that expresses their unique personalities.”

Sounds dopey, but what that actually means is that you create your own donut, right there, freshly made in front of you. You choose the donut, the icing, the topping, and the drizzle, and away you go.

P.S. Having lived in KC, I can personally recommend that you take advantage of the local coffee and local milk Donutology also sells. You never knew you’ve been drinking peasant milk until you taste Shatto.

Manila Social Club (Brooklyn, Miami)

I will not deny that these are overkill, and I don’t know how you could eat one without feeling guilty, but the Manila Social Club makes two donuts with prices in the triple digits. The first is a $100 donut made with Filipino yam and Cristal champagne (which sells for anything from $100 per bottle to $600 per bottle, if you were wondering), and covered in 24kt gold dust and 24kt gold leaf. The second is a $150 donut made with rose, Patrón Platinum, a bunch of fancy spices and seasonings I don’t even understand, and covered in edible silver dust and leaf.

Via Instagram

It’s beautiful, it’s expensive, it’s shiny, it’s totally unnecessary, and I’d probably judge anyone who actually buys it. But it’s also a work of edible art, and the fact that it exists and is available to the public and not just royalty is a sign that we’re doing alright economically.

Project Poke (Fountain Valley, CA)

Project Poke is a sushi restaurant, so while this one isn’t actually a donut, it’s shaped like one and it’s beautiful and it looks delicious and it opens the donut market to the people who are trying to be healthy.

Project Poke invented the “sushi donut,” which is a circular roll of rice stuffed and topped with all the usual things you’d find in sushi – fish, avocado, cucumber, seeds, wasabi, etc – and served on seaweed.

Via Instagram

They posted a video showing how it’s made, so if you’re not planning on being in California soon but want to eat healthier without giving up donuts, you can make it for yourself. Hurray for sharing ideas instead of patenting them!

Round Rock Donuts (Round Rock, Texas)

It’s Texas, so of course Round Rock’s most famous donut is huge – it weighs two pounds. That doesn’t sound like a lot until you remember a donut is fairly light, and realize that means a two-pound donut would look like this:

Via Instagram

The donuts on the right are normal-size donuts. The ones on the left are donut holes.

Only in America.