Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Voodoo Doughnuts

Dearest Readers,

Yes, it might be the most talked about donut shop in the world, but is that going to stop me from sharing my own experiences of the legendary Voodoo Doughnuts? No.
The SIBF and I had been hankering after this moment for the length of our trip - people had said 'You're mad to queue for doughnuts!'
But ya know what? We really WEREN'T mad to queue for donuts, for Voodoo Doughnuts is more than just doughnuts. It's a way of life.
The soft squishy doughnut dough, the to-doughnut-for thick luscious icing, the vibrant colours of joy...
These doughnuts are works of miniature art, each and every one, and the experience of being behind those gold glitter bricks and within those purple walls is like no other.
Everyone is happy! It's a Doughnopia (Doughnut Utopia) and actually BETTER than you think it might be. The shop itself is amazing both exterior and interior. A giant donut hangs over you next to glittering golden chandaliers, neon lights invite you to read into the Voodoo Doughnut History and merchandise lures you towards out of proportion Retail Therapy.
But, despite these visual pleasures, the doughnuts are still The Main Thing.
Trays and trays of them are being taken from the oven every second - the multicoloured magic glints at you from behind the counter, each Doughnut crying "Pick Me!" as you gaze with the eyes of the Doughnut-Eater.
The menu offers mutiple Doughnut challenges and sings out with Doughnut Potential, and it is hard for a first timer to make their choice before they're at the front of the queue.

Best of all are the magical pink boxes piled high and awaiting their Doughnut filling. Everyone gets a box - even with just one Doughnut - but this isn't wasteful for that box you will cherish and (in our mad case) travel halfway across the world and back with because it reminds you of the essence of the Voodoo Doughnut itself.
If you're still not convinced, check out the Doughnut themed stained glass windows and the multi-coloured local band vinyl:

So which Doughnuts did we choose? The giant Doughnut on the ceiling spoke to me and I went classic: Vanilla and Sprinkles:
It was sheer pop candy perfection (and someone once told me you should always match your donut to your nail polish so I had to choose this one).
The SIBF went for the Voodoo Doll - the Doughnut for which Voodoo Doughnuts is famous. Who could blame him? This Doll comes with it's very own pretzel stabbing stick and is iced in one eyed glory. Its little arms reach out to you and the thick chocolate icing, umptuous and gooey, matches perfectly with the 'howdidtheymakeitsodelicious?' sticky jam inside.
These are Donuts to savour. They are Doughnut Fine Art, and who knew Doughnut making could be such an exquisite art form? Am I desperate to go back? Yes. Is it worth going to Portland just for Voodoo Doughnuts? Yes. Did I buy enough doughnuts whilst there? No. Did I need a cup of coffee with my donut? Extraordinarily, NO! The Doughnut speaks for itself.

With fondest dough,
Whimsy x
 PS - the bloody jam goo leftover on the greaseproof paper from the Voodoo Doll says it all...
 PPS They even have a pink on-the-run Voodoo Doughnut Van for Doughnut-a-porter!!!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Oui Presse? Mais oui!

Dear Readers,

I have found it. I have found the ultimate Pacific North West coffee shop and it goes by the name of 'Oui Presse'.

Frequent Readers of 'Confessions' will be well aware that my top ten list of coffee shops around London fluctuates on a relatively regular basis, well, we now need to reserve the Number One Spot for Portland's 'Oui Presse' - the most perfect coffee shop I have encountered on my American Adventures so far.

I've enjoyed coffee shops in Seattle, and I've appreciated some of the coffee houses in Portland, but I have constantly been searching for something more, something with a certain je ne sais quoi, and I finally found it after a long walk through Southeast Portland's Hawthorne District.

Whilst 'Oui Presse' is slightly further away from the main strip of Hawthorne it is well worth the detour and the wait - I urge you NOT to stop at any of the other places on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard but rather to wait until you reach Hawthorne and SE 18th and visit this most delightful, super-cute and ultra-delicious of coffee shops.

I have been thinking a lot about the art of the coffee shop on this trip and, whilst I appreciate different customers want different things from a coffee shop, I am certain there are some universal truths. And they are that a most wonderful coffee shop should contain:

  • a beautiful interior
  • something to distinguish it from other places
  • a unique sense of self (see above) 
  • friendly staff 
  • a calm, super clean and comfortable layout and, above all, 
  • most excellent coffee
and I am pleased to say that 'Oui Presse' has all of these things. 

Beautiful Interior

Something to distinguish it from other coffee shops

It not only has an ice cream scoop collection as shown above but also curates magazines from across the world, meaning there is no shortage of reading matter if you turn up and realise yo have forgotten your book!

A unique sense of self

I didn't manage to take photos of the thermos collection hanging on the wall, or the bunny slippers - see the website, believe me, you're going to want some - but I think the picture above of hand-drawn cakes as a substitute for the real thing will suffice to give you a sense of the uniqueness of 'Oui Presse'...

Friendly Staff

You can just about make out the completely delightful, friendly lady who made our amazing coffee in the picture above.

Calm, Clean,. Comfortable

This image is taken from inside the shop looking out - who doesn't want to see a silhouette of a girl with a ponytail while they're drinking coffee?

And this photo is of the door to the restrooms, because who doesn't want to be reminded to 'EAT CAKE' and 'SHOP' when they're in a coffee shop?!

Most Excellent Coffee

But above all, the coffee was the BEST I have had in the whole of Seattle and the whole of Portland so far. And that is saying somehting. SIBF had a cappuccino pictured above, but I had the most wonderful  confection called a 'Noisette'. It was the most perfect coffee I have ever drunk. I wish I could go there every day and drink a Noisette whilst writing in the corner. I might even eat a slice of Pistachio Cake too. 

Readers: the message is simple. When in Portland, visit 'Oui Presse' and find yourself leaving with a desire for bunny slippers and wishing that you lived in Hawthorne so that you could go everyday. 

Whimsy x 

Monday, 11 August 2014

Get your HOT CAKES!

Dear Readers,

And so my American Adventures continue via HOT CAKES in Seattle's beautiful Ballard district.

The SIBF and I mastered Seattle's public transportation meaning that we were able to meander away from Belltown's PUNK cafe and towards Ballard's deliciously indie bunting clad twisting avenues and seaside ways.

Number one on my list in relation to this beautiful spot was HOT CAKES (an exquisitely designed molten hot cake establishment). Years ago on a cookery course I went on, we were told that whenever a hot pan was being moved across the kitchen we had to shout HOT PAN so that everyone else knew to keep out of the way. And that shouting capitalisation is how I feel about HOT CAKES! It seems like a name that needs to be yelled, which completely goes against the relaxed, sugar-sweet and comfort vibe you get when you're inside this mighty fine establishment.

Beautiful twee aesthetic apart, HOT CAKES is amazing because you can actually see directly into the bakery where all that molten chocolate marvel happens from the cafe. It was hard not to stare - the bakery is on a huge scale in contrast to the small public area - and all the cafe workers are also the bakers. Hence we discovered when SIBF commented on having 'blowtorch envy' that the lady who made our beyond delicious to the power of five thousand milkshakes is also a pastry chef who brulees bananas when she makes her kids a banana split! That sounds like my kinda mom!

But enough - onto the milkshakes. Whilst I was incredibly tempted to go for one of the alcoholic variations (see impressive liquor shelf in the photo below!), the earliness of the hour made me sensible and I had Vanilla Bean instead.

SIBF went for the seasonal and local Raspberry Milkshake. I have to say the HOT CAKES milkshake is the best milkshake I have ever had.

Thick, creamy, full of real vanilla bean black pinpricks AND with a scoop of supersoft puffy whipped cream and a sprinkle of vanilla sugar on top. HOT CAKE HEAVEN.

If you're ever in the area (and by that I mean the Pacific NorthWest) believe me, HOT CAKES is worth the detour.

News of Portland's best coffee shop coming in the next edition!

Stay tuned and stay sparkling,
Silver Whimsy x

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Silver in Seattle

Dear Readers,

When Whimsy goes on holiday, the sugar and sweet tweesthetic (twee aesthetic) is replaced by something more punky. Something, frankly, more akin to BEDLAM and so it is that I bring you news of a most excellent breakfast spot in the heart of Seattle's Belltown.

We stumbled on this coffee shop and for jet-lagged travellers it's opening hours of 6am to 9pm make it a very warm and welcoming place.

Not only were the two guys manning the shop kind and friendly, they were incredibly hard working and actually genuinely make the best toast ever! For this cafe sells simply: coffee, toast and desert making it my kind of establishment.

It also does a fine line in unusual interior decor and you could happily sit for hours staring at the ephemera suspended from and perched on the ceilings, walls and shelves.

I had a cafe au lait and the cinnamon swirl toast. Oh my goodness - the toast is one inch thick and thickly buttered with a velvety deep cinnamon swirled throughout the melt in your mouth brioche.

The crust was dusted in golden cinnamon sugar and they served it with a little pot of nutella on the side. My mouth is watering just thinking about it! I want to go back for more!

If I lived in Seattle I think BEDLAM would become one of my number one haunts. It's location on second avenue is super-cool. Second Avenue is one of those streets that no-one tells you about, but where you can find all of the greatest bars and local bistros and, of course as we now all know, a super-fine breakfast establishment. (There is also a kind of scary punk record shop nearby, but that's another story.)

Not only is there free wi-fi, there is also a host of paperbacks for you to borrow on the stairs and an upstairs snug with comfy chairs and lots of space to hang out.

In a city famous for its coffee, maybe it's best not to stress over where you can get the most amazing super-fine aeropressed cuppa, but rather stumble on a genuine neighbourhood favourite and let your jetlag pass as you gaze at punky art and write your postcards.

Caffeinated love from,
Whimsy x