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Crullers That Bloom in Spring

The glazed look (Photos by Anne Fishbein)

{mosimage} Have you ever seen a strawberry doughnut from the Donut Man? It is an iceberg of a doughnut, a flattened demisphere big enough to use as a Pilates cushion, split in two and filled to order with what must be an entire basket of fresh strawberries, and only in season. The fruit is moistened with a translucent gel that lubricates even the occasional white-shouldered berry with a mantle of slippery sweetness, oozing from the sides, turning the bottom of the pasteboard box into a sugary miasma in the unlikely event that the doughnuts actually make it home. The tawny pastry itself is only lightly sweetened, dense and slightly crunchy at the outside, like most good doughnuts, with a vaguely oily nuttiness and an almost substantial chew. It is the only doughnut I have ever seen that is routinely served with a plastic knife and fork. It is worth every penny of the $2.50 it costs.

In springtime, a man’s fancy turns to thoughts of doughnuts, raised-glazed by the dozen, to bismarcks bursting with raspberry jam, to crullers great and small — cake doughnuts from underneath the colossal plaster doughnut at Randy’s near LAX, drive-thru buttermilk bars from the illuminated display case in the hyperelongated Donut Hole in La Puente, even the occasional chocolate doughnut from Vons.

For years, I’ve satisfied my modest doughnut cravings at a small neighborhood place a few blocks from my house, where the same three guys are always smoking outside the screen door out back, where the proprietor suddenly lapses into Chinese when you ask to substitute a few drops of milk for the Kreamer in your coffee, where the bulbous, unglazed buttermilk doughnuts aren’t half bad. But several months ago, a crisis struck the local doughnutville — after a week or two of mucking with the signs, it suddenly mutated into a chain fried-chicken restaurant that just happened to serve doughnuts in the morning. If you wandered into the shop much after 10 a.m., the clean, sweet smell of frying doughnuts was replaced by the animal funk of legs and thighs being fried up for the lunch rush — not a bad smell, but a different one. The doughnut case began to share space with Southern-fried breast tenders. And even at 6:30 in the morning, when the place had been purged of its fowl odor, I couldn’t help wondering whether the same fryers were used for both maple bars and catfish, or whether it was a coincidence that my daughter’s doughnut with rainbow sprinkles superficially resembled a hush puppy. Clearly, I needed another place to go.

For a moment, I transferred my fealty to Primo’s Westdale Doughnuts, in the shadow of the Westside cloverleaf where the 10 and the 405 intersect. Primo’s tart-sweet buttermilk bars are justly renowned, and its underrated crumb doughnut is swell. (I really grooved on those crumb doughnuts when I was 8 years old — Primo’s has been around a long time.) I went to Bob’s in the Farmers Market, of course — the plain cake doughnut there is a thing of beauty, the kind of doughnut Homer Price once made a million of, a doughnut that I have more than once declared the best doughnut in Los Angeles, even better than the freshly made cake doughnuts you can get before 10 a.m. at Philippe’s downtown. A morning at Bob’s is always a happy morning. The doughnuts really are the best in L.A.

{mosimage}I made a pilgrimage to Frittelli’s, a new, high-end doughnut parlor a block up from Spago, where the delicate maple bars are frosted with the real goods from Vermont, the jelly doughnuts are likely to be filled with peanut butter and jelly, the French crullers are glazed with Valrhona chocolate, and never a trans fat has darkened the door. When you order a dozen doughnuts at Frittelli’s, they are packed not into greasy cardboard but into a fancy baby-blue satchel that could be mistaken for a Tiffany’s bag from 50 yards. They are Beverly Hills doughnuts (although when I went to Beverly High, the doughnuts everyone craved came from the old Toluca Mart down on Pico). On occasion, Frittelli’s doughnuts come flavored with Meyer lemon zest. They are doughnuts with better breeding than you.

Which brings us back to the venerable Donut Man, a 24/7 joint out on Route 66 in the former citrus town of Glendora, the Lourdes of twists, tiger tails, Bavarian creams and apple fritters that are probably big enough to start on the USC offensive line. It is true — Glendora is at least 45 minutes from wherever you might be. And there’s not a lot to do in Glendora, unless you are visiting the headquarters of the National Hot Rod Association or stopping by on the way to the Ontario Airport. But the doughnuts — they’re magnificent, French crullers that melt away in your mouth, glazed doughnuts as light as froth, fresh peach doughnuts in season that capture the soft light of California summer accurately as Beach Boys songs. Springtime, though, is for strawberries.

Donut Man, 915 E. Route 66, Glendora, (626) 335-9111.

Frittelli’s Doughnuts & Coffee, 350 N. Canon Dr., Beverly Hills, (310) 276-1408.

Primo’s Westdale Doughnuts, 2918 Sawtelle Blvd., West L.A., (310) 478-6930.

Bob’s Coffee & Doughnuts, 6333 W. Third St., Stall 450, L.A., (323) 933-8929.

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The Donut Man

915 E. Route 66
Glendora, CA 91741

626-335-9111

www.thedonutmanca.com