Thursday, December 27, 2018

Blackbird Doughnuts, Boston

Every town has its iconic doughnut shops, some are the mom and pop variety, the ones that have been there for a zillion years, and of course, then there are trendy new artisanal ones.

Like Blackbird Doughnuts, in Boston, MA.
"Blackbird Doughnuts, located in Boston’s South End, is dedicated to creating unique gourmet doughnuts from scratch.  We are the only artisanal doughnut shop in Boston that bakes on site! We aim to take the pastry craft to the next level by combining interesting flavors with classic favorites, while using as many natural and locally sourced ingredients as possible. Come by and check out our bakers in action."
Blackbird has a few other locations around the Boston area as well, including one in Cambridge.

My local friends know that I'm a bit of a donut lover, so they of course have recommended Blackbird to me as long as I can remember.  But, to be honest, I kinda though "eh, just another donut place that locals love, I have other priorities".  I can't say I've been blown away by other similar recommendations like Top Pot in Seattle or Doughnut Plant in New York.

I didn't seek out Blackbird, until an event at the office I was visiting had extra, so I tried one.  I immediately went back for another, and regretted not discovering them sooner.  I can't wait to try more!

Along with traditional doughnuts (cake and raised), Blackbird also makes doughnut cakes (stuffed with seasonal jam, topped with cream cheese buttercream), and mini doughnuts.

Cake Doughnuts

" Often referred to as “Old Fashioned”, cake doughnuts are made in the style of a traditional cake batter with butter, sugar, eggs, and dairy – we use buttermilk and sour cream. Our cake doughnuts have a tender crumb and a rich, yet delicate taste. We make frostings and glazes to complement the texture and style of our cake doughnuts."
I was not really into cake doughnuts for years.  I definitely thought I was a raised doughnut girl all the way (or really, a fritter girl ...).  Why have a cake doughnut, which to me was essentially just cake without the part I actually like (frosting)?  But in recent years, I've found myself enjoying them, like the Wild Blueberry version from Doughnut Plant in NYC, most of the chocolate cake donuts from Dynamo Donuts in SF, or the amazing old fashioned at Johnny Doughnuts in the Bay Area.

So the first doughnut I selected from Blackbird was actually a cake doughnut.  

Blackbird rotates flavors often, and when I had them the first time (December, 2018), they had 10 cake doughnut varieties, some seasonal (like gingerbread), others fairly classic (but sold in mini size, as a stack), and some vegan.

[ No Photo ]
Cookie Milk Cake Doughnut.

"Our signature vanilla cake doughnut, topped with a glaze made of milk infused with oreos and chocolate chip cookies finished with housemade oreo cookie butter and cookie chunks."

I didn't take a photo of this doughnut, as I just though "oh hey, random donuts", and didn't think I'd be reviewing it.  I had no idea what I was about it experience, clearly.

This was crazy good.  Crazy crazy crazy good.  Dense cake base that had some depth of flavor to it, from the buttermilk and sour cream.  Slightly oily but only in that you could tell it was fried awesomeness, not off putting.  Really a great base.

Then, the toppings. The glaze was sweet and covered it well, and the bits of cookie (oreo and choc chip) added a nice touch, as did the actual chunks of cookie stuck on top.  Did I get the "milk" aspect of it? Nah, but it was a good glaze.

The center of the doughnut was the best though.  It looked like a chocolate donut hole perched in the center, and it turned out to be a ball of Oreo cookie butter (!), and it was the things dreams are made of.  It was just ... soo good.  Soft, almost like ... half-baked Oreo brownie dough.  It was amazing.

I was fairly blown away.  I want another of this, or any cake variety!

Raised Doughnuts

"The trademark of a raised doughnut is its airy, fluffy texture. Our raised doughnuts are made with a brioche dough and topped with a variety of house-made glazes, frostings, and toppings. Brioche is a rich, tender, yeast dough made with eggs, milk, and butter. We stick to the basics and only add a few secret ingredients so our soft, fluffy, buttery dough pairs perfectly with any topping."
Since the cake doughnut was so good, I quickly went back to get another, and this time went for a raised doughnut to compare.

The pickings were getting more slim at that point, so only the basic vanilla glazed, chocolate sprinkle, and marshmallow coconut remained.  I snatched up the coconut to try something slightly unique, but I wished I could have tried the fascinating sounding "Everything Bagel Doughnut" though, a stuffed doughnut with whipped cream cheese inside, and all the classic everything bagel toppings on top (garlic, onion, sesame, poppy seed).  While I have a serious sweet tooth, the idea of a savory doughnut did intrigue me.
Marshmallow Coconut.
"Fluffy raised doughnut base glazed in marshmallow coconut and topped with coconut shavings, like freshly fallen snow."

The raised doughnut was less exciting.  The base was a fairly standard raised doughnut, not too greasy, but not notable really.  It was ... just a raised doughnut.  

The topping though was what I was interested in, although I knew it might e a mixed success.  And, it was.  The marshmallow glaze was great, and, as you can see, it was very well coated.  Sweet, marshmallow glaze.  Nice.  

The coconut shavings really were generous as well, but that was the problem.  Sometimes I just don't really care for coconut, the texture just bothers me.  And that is how this went.  I didn't want a furry doughnut!  

So, I didn't love this.  A fine doughnut base, but not special, and well applied toppings that I just didn't really want.

I'd like to try another raised doughnut of a variety that is more appealing to me.
Blackbird Doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Good Culture Cottage Cheese

Pretty sure you never expected me to review cottage cheese, right?

Bear with me.

Good Culture is a brand of, yes, cottage cheese.  Just cottage cheese.  Premium cottage cheese.
"Cottage cheese, but better. Real food, simple ingredients, no artificial anything."
They make two product lines, one with whole milk (organic) and one low-fat (natural).  Not sure why they choose to make only the whole milk line organic?  Each line comes in different fruity flavors, along with classic plain flavors.

I haven't had cottage cheese much (at all?) in at least 15 years, but, when I was younger, I actually ate quite a bit of it.  I loved it drizzled with Catalina dressing (ok, smothered by), and served alongside some sprouts.  I think my mom got me hooked on it at some point.  So when I had the opportunity to try Good Culture, I said yes, wondering if I'd find myself liking cottage cheese again.

I tried several varieties (and no, I didn't smother it in Catalina, although I did try adding thousand island, since that is what I had on hand ...).  It didn't re-inspire me to eat cottage cheese,so I shared the rest with my family.

My sister quite liked it, and shared a bite with her 11 month old, even though she had never liked cottage cheese before.  And ... she liked it!  My mother also enjoyed it, and she too gave some to the baby, who again accepted it.  So while it wasn't the product for me, I was glad to see it appreciated by others.

Certified Organic, Whole Milk, 4% Milkfat
"We've got the goods. A thicker, creamier, simple ingredient experience." 

I had only the fullest fat option, the 4% product line, all organic.  Available in "classic", strawberry chia, blueberry açai, pineapple, and mango.
The flavored versions all come in only one size, a single serve, loaded with 17g of protein!  The classic flavor is also available in a larger format.  My sister loved the size, calling it "perfect for a snack."
Pineapple: The Curd.
When you tear off the lid, all flavors look like plain cottage cheese, as all varieties have the fruit on the bottom, in a layer at the base, like "fruit on the bottom" yogurts.  You need to mix in as you please.

Which of course, for me, meant that first I'd try the plain cottage cheese to evaluate it.

The first thing I noticed is how small the curd is.  Very, very small.  A bit too small and mushy for my preference.  I like to see distinct curds!  I think this is the aspect of it the baby liked though, and both my mom and sister said that while it was different, they didn't mind.

The cottage cheese to me was ... fine?   I mean, it was cottage cheese, not particularly exciting as a concept.  Creamy, sure, but I didn't taste anything particularly notable about it, and thought I'd taste more difference from the fuller fat content.
Pineapple: Compote.
"Paradise awaits! our organic pineapple is a tantalizing tropical temptation for your tongue (cabana boy not included)."

The first flavor I tried was the pineapple.  After much digging, I was able find the fruity compote at the base.

It was good.  Sweet, fruity, some chunks of pineapple.  Not too sweet, not a goo.  The pineapple and cottage cheese were a nice, classic pairing, something I used to make on my own from regular cottage cheese and canned pineapple actually.

The layer of fruit compote was pretty thin though; I would have liked more.  It also was hard to reach, just like those fruit on the bottom yogurts - personally I prefer the style with the mix-in on the side, so you can access it immediately and add it in as you please.

So, overall, a good flavor, standard cottage cheese, good for what it was.
Strawberry Chia: Compote.
"In the mood for something sweet? our strawberry chia blend is sweeter than a pile of kittens snuggling a pile of babies. yeah, believe it."

Next I went for strawberry chia.  This time I knew what to expect.  Same basic small curd cottage cheese that was fine, but still cottage cheese, and still a smaller curd than I wanted.

In the base, the fruit, this time, strawberry chia. I didn't care for this at all -  the strawberry was just kinda sweet, not chunks of fruit as I was hoping, and, well, I don't really like chia.  I also didn't find the cottage cheese + strawberry combination to make sense in my head.
Blueberry Açaí Chia.
"Good things come in threes.  Organic blueberries, açaí berries, and chia seeds make for the perfect trifecta on your tongue."

The blueberry açaí chia was slightly better than the strawberry chia.  At this point, I knew what to expect with the boring small curd cottage cheese, and went right for the goodies on the bottom.  While I didn't think blueberry and açaí would go well with cottage cheese, I do like those fruits and was interested to see what this was like.

I was pleased to find a more substantial layer of the fruit than in the other varieties.  It did have a few small whole berries, plus a little bit of the chia seed, in a blueish-purple goo.  Fruity, sweet, but not what I wanted with cottage cheese.  The chia was fairly insignificant, so if you are looking for crunch from chia, you won't get it here.

Another one that just wasn't for me, but this is the flavor my sister and her daughter particularly enjoyed.