If Shakespeare had tasted the new doughnut stars of the Westside, he may have never penned the line, “Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?”
Unlike the chain shops with their preformed pastries that sit for hours packed on trays, the treats crafted in the open kitchen of Blue Star Doughnuts in Venice and Sidecar Doughnuts in Santa Monica glow like newborn babies nestled in the nursery.
We pitted these two new gourmet doughnut crafters against one another to see which would come out on top.
Buttermilk Old-Fashioned at Blue Star
A small chain with a handful of locations in Portland, Oregon (and one in Tokyo), Blue Star on Abbot Kinney offers both traditional standbys such as apple fritters and head-turners like Cointreau crème brulée (garnished with a pipette of the liqueur). This bakery starts with a base of buttery brioche dough and adds sustainable, organic ingredients. The quality will cost you, as the doughnuts run about $3 each, but the superior taste of “European-style” butter cannot be denied.
The best doughnut of the bunch is the simplest: the buttermilk old-fashioned. The cake-y interior comes almost slightly underbaked, leaving a creamy center to contrast with a pleasurably crunchy exterior. It's almost reminiscent of the texture of a good French fry. The Orxata glaze (a play on Mexican horchata, rice milk with cinnamon, vanilla and sugar) adds just enough sweet flavor without distracting from the wonderful mouthfeel that makes these doughnuts so stellar.
Butter & Salt Doughnut at Sidecar
The brand-new second location of Sidecar (the first opened in Costa Mesa in 2012) boasts a handful of doughnut with flavors such as huckleberry and “ham and eggs” (filled with Benton's ham and a poached egg), as well as a few seasonal varieties that rotate monthly. Look for a persimmon-flavored treat in January. The cozy space has a few outdoor tables for those who want to linger and a fast-moving line if you're craving sugar on the go.
Priced at $3 to $4, these pastries aren't cheap, either, though they're baked hourly — with the unsold doughnuts immediately whisked away to a donation box for local charities. Warm doughnuts appear fresh from the fryer constantly, just begging to be sampled. With options such as a Madagascar vanilla twist and Bûche de Noel (glazed with Callebaut chocolate and topped with a darling mushroom made of meringue), it's tough to stop at just one.
As with Blue Star, it’s easy to be dazzled by all the trendy ingredients in use at Sidecar (bacon! Haupia custard!). The one you'll crave, however, is the basic “butter & salt” doughnut. Stick around, grab a cup of Stumptown's 40 Winks coffee — specially roasted for Sidecar — and wait until a new batch appears fresh from the oven, steaming and soft. The vanilla bean cake is indecently decadent, bathed in browned butter and sprinkled with fleur de sel.
Winner: Is it cowardly to call a tie? Sidecar’s butter & salt melts in your mouth when warm from the oven, but Blue Star’s buttermilk old-fashioned has the shelf life to last all day. Give in to too much of a good thing and go for both.
Blue Star Doughnuts, 142 Abbot Kinney Blvd, Venice; (310) 450-5630, bluestardonuts.com.
Sidecar Doughnuts, 631 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica; (310) 587-0022, sidecardoughnuts.com.