Top 10 things we ate in Auckland, New Zealand

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.

Having lived and worked in New Zealand, it holds a special part of my foodie heart. I moved to Auckland as a Melbourne snob, never imagining the food scene to be anything special, particularly nothing compared to the quality of the food in Melbourne. I left Auckland three years later, with a new found appreciation of not only the New Zealand food scene, but the respect for the produce and the history. I grew to love the Auckland food scene immensely, with my eventual goal being to eat at as many of the Top 50 Auckland Restaurants before I left. I managed a gallant 37 out of 50 before flying home to Melbourne.

Eventually years passed and the time came to cross the ditch again. In January, we went back to New Zealand to eat Auckland, and while we didn’t get to cover absolutely everything on our very long food hitlist, we returned with 10 food reasons to visit Auckland again.

Here were my top 10 food memories from eating Auckland in January 2016. Enjoy!

10. Contemporary Japanese at Ebisu

We ate a gigantic Japanese feast at Ebisu in Britomart. Six of us ploughed through almost half the dinner menu with the beef tataki seared Angus with fried shallots, spring onions and sansho pepper being the highlight. The fish was quality too.

9. The “dessert mecca” – Milse

This is a shining example of what to expect from the Auckland food scene – quality, creativity and decadence. We ordered the nectarine pistachio & rose water tart, peppermint chocolate mousse cake ball and chocolate salted almond & caramel gateaux. If my stomach was bigger (and it is already big!), I could have eaten more. With a large selection of delicious desserts, this is deserving of it’s title “dessert mecca”.

8. European style garden to table eating at Ortolana

It’s amazing to see Britomart come up in the last four years or so. It’s transformed from a drab tired area, into a lively, bustling foodie hotspot. Ortolana was one of the first “new Britomart” restaurants I went to, and years later, it is still going strong. My favourite dish was the Ortolana take on bacon carbonara using house made chitarra (guitar spaghetti), guanciale (cured pork cheek), peas and the star of the show, hay smoked butter. In our food delirium we coined the term “deliciousmess” in tribute of the dish being messy and delicious. You can also order the dessert menu from Milse (above).

7. The easy to miss Chuffed Coffee 

I knew the address. I had it starred on my map. But I still couldn’t find the cafe. I ended up having to leech wifi in a nearby cafe and eventually realised I had walked past the narrow entrance multiple times. While there were highs and lows here (eg the batch brew had piles of sediment in it), Chuffed Coffee has one of the best Reuben Sandwiches I’ve ever tasted. The combination of their corned beef, pickles, house made habenero mustard, smoked provolone and sauerkraut was absolutely spectacular. The service was also very friendly.

6. Old school New York with a Kiwi twist at The Federal Delicatessen 

Stepping into “The Fed” instantly brought back memories from when I first went to the iconic Katz Deli in New York City. The Federal Delicatessen is the brainchild of legendary local Al Brown of Depot restaurant, and formerly of Logan Brown in Wellington. After spending a couple of weeks in Canada last year, I’m a sucker for Poutine, and the Montreal Poutine from The Federal Delicatessen didn’t disappoint. The fries with cheese curds were good but it was the flavour-packed hot gravy that stole the show.

5. French style Farmers Market – La Cigale French Market

La Cigale was one of my favourite food spots when living in Auckland. It was voted Auckland’s Best Food Market for the last 8 years, and despite being a relatively small market, it is bustling full of locals, and full of character. I loved starting my weekend at La Cigale or meeting mates here for brunch after a big night. Out of the selection of different foods, the one I keep coming back for is the famous croque monsieurs. Having being away from Auckland for three years, this was a highly anticipated item on my food hitlist – and thankfully, the croque monsieurs were still as good as I remember. In fact, they are still the best croque monsieurs I’ve EVER eaten. The scotch egg wrapped in fennel seed pork mince and beef cheek pies were also good.

4. Eastern Mediterranean cuisine at Odettes Eatery

Located in a cool pocket of Auckland city, the City Works Depot, I didn’t anticipate enjoying Odettes as much as I did. The food was refreshingly different, with flavours inspired from the Mediterranean with a blend of Levantine & African Spice. My tastebuds were singing with joy! The jury is still out on which dish was my favourite. The Avocado Hummus with sunflower fattoush (crispy flatbread), pickled shallots, cherry tomatoes and a poached egg was beautiful. I was also super impressed by the Puy lentils, lime labneh, roasted cashews, savoury crepe and a poached egg. Solid foodgasms.

3. The NZ Icecream frontier at Giapo

Three years ago, Giapo was my favourite icecream in Auckland. Today, it is one of my favourite icecreams EVER. Giapo has lifted it’s game to statospheric levels, and I was absolutely blown away! The gelato and sorbet are handmade in small batches every day, with approximately 1200+ different flavours created throughout the year. Over the course of a week in Auckland we tried 14 different flavours. My favourite was the salted caramel Giapo buono in a deluxe caramelized cocao nib and freeze dried plum chocolate cup. It was EPIC!


A picture paints a thousand words – Giapo is EPIC!

The New Zealand Peanut Slab, Christchurch Hazelnut and Chocolate Evolution flavours were close second. I LOVED the deluxe chocolate lentil cone. Melbourne needs you Giapo!

2. The outstanding degustation only experience at Merediths

Every time I’ve been to Meredith’s, there’s been a dish that has made me ask “how on earth does he do that!?”. The most memorable dish I ate in a prior visit was a bacon and scampi “risotto”. This turned out to be a bowl of foam with a freeze-dried strip of bacon and pork jelly cubes. The dish had all the flavours of an intense, delicious, risotto but without the heaviness of the rice due to the foam. It was stunningly good.

This time around, the memorable dish was the Cauliflower. It looked harmless but it would turn any carnivore into becoming a vegetarian. It was raw and dried cauli with a chickpea adzuki bean mix, cashew cream and mustard, topped with butternut powder. There were so many deliciously different levels to this dish. Carnivores look out.


The beetroot macarons with chicken pate were pretty, but packed with flavour. While the macaron has fallen from food vogue, with macarons tasting this phenomenal, I tweeted that Chef Michael Meredith should be the poster boy to bring back the macaron in 2016. Remains one of my favourite restaurants in Auckland.

1. A contender for my “last meal” – The French Café

Roasted Quail - The French Cafe, Auckland, New Zealand

The French Cafe was pretty much number one of my Auckland food hitlist and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There we so many memorable food moments during the night, but it was the Roasted Quail wrapped in bacon, served with wild mushrooms, chestnut, croissant and black truffle that was my favourite dish on my trip. I could smell the flavours leaping out at me when the waiter put the dish on the table. The dish was intense! It had depth, flavour, body and complexity. The quail was beautifully cooked, but it was the quail sauce and Chef Simon’s twist on a classic bread sauce – the croissant puree – that made this dish lick-the-plate-exceptional! This plate was THAT good, I consider eating this dish as “my last meal”. See my full experience at The French Cafe for the other courses!

Until next time, happy eating!

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.




Things to eat and drink in Tasmania – A Twin Discoveries Food Travel Guide

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.

The first time I ventured over to Tasmania was a foodie holiday with @brhinos in 2012. We packed our sense of adventure, flew into Launceston and booked a hire car. Our intention was to fly into Launceston, doing a big loop around the state via Hobart, then fly out again out of Launceston at the end of the week. We only made it half way. Who would have thought there would be so much food, wine and scenery to be consumed in Tasmania?

tas mt amos.jpg

Overlooking Wineglass Bay on top of Mt Amos – sounds and looks so good!

Every subsequent visit to Tasmania, I discover a new food or eatery that I need to try again. No longer is Tasmania the “Apple Isle”, known just for apples. Their local products expand far beyond what I imagined.

For example, Tasmania has been producing saffron for over 25 years, including Category 1 Saffron, the highest standard in the global rating system. Tasmania grows highly sort after local wasabi, to the quality and quantity that meets export demands overseas. And there is always space in my suitcase to take home some Tasmanian honey.

When I travel, I love filling my suitcase with what I refer to as “food souvenirs” – transportable local foods to take home. Much like the magnets my wife buys in every city she travels to, I buy edible souvenirs that remind me of the uniqueness of a region. That being said, sometimes I think a particular food souvenir is so special that I can’t bring myself to open it. So essentially it just becomes a pantry souvenir, to my wife’s (the magnet collector) frustration.

The honey that Tasmania is most famous for is it’s signature leatherwood which has distinct floral notes. The leatherwood tree is only found in Tasmania, making Tasmania the only place in the world that produces this unique honey. As a result, leatherwood commands a premium price tag, with the 750g Leatherwood Tasmanian Honey Company tin we bought as a food souvenir costing $25.

We found even more honey food souvenirs at an unassuming honey shop in Launceston called OzHoney. While it wasn’t the easiest place to find (mid-building, near a hospital), they have an impressive range of products. The owner is a passionate honey expert, with large acreage of apiaries, and is a keen brewer. We were given the full experience, basically sampling all the products in their large range, from different honey varieties, to tasting honey beers, honey wine and mead.

While I enjoy Tasmanian food souvenirs, one of my favourite local specialties are unfortunately not transportable. Scallop Pies. These heavenly food packages have to be the most anticipated food I hunt down when I fly to Tasmania. I’m not sure why it’s not very common on the mainland of Australia, but they sure know how to make a good one in Tassie!

The best scallop pies we can find in Tasmania are located in the historic, nineteenth century town of Ross, about an hours drive outside of Launceston, en route to Hobart. Having landed in Tasmania the opening weekend of scallop season, we made an extend detour to revisit the 100+ year old Ross Village Bakery, and trust me, it is worth the travel. While pies are $8.95 a pop, the curried scallop and scallop mornay pies are just delicious! Tender, juicy scallops, flavourful sauce and flaky pastry – all the right elements of a complete pie. Additionally, the Ross Village Bakery is famous for it’s signature vanilla slice, it’s traditional semi-scotch brick oven and it’s striking resemblance to a bakery in a 1989 Japanese anime movie called Kiki’s Delivery Service (which happens to draw thousands of Japanese tourists to the bakery! Tip: If you are familiar with the movie, ask to see the room upstairs if they aren’t too busy). Ignoring the novelty, the Ross Village Bakery is the bakery to visit in Tasmania!

In terms of our favourite Tasmanian dining out experiences, we scoured the state for it’s finest. Surprisingly our most memorable meals weren’t at the now defunct Garagiste, MONA’s The Source, or Stillwater, it was at some local favourites.

In Launceston, our most memorable meal was at an Italian restaurant called Novaros. While we haven’t revisited since 2012, the first time we ate at Novaros, I recall the flavourful, almost melt in your mouth, hand made ravioli. There were two tempting options which we couldn’t decide between, so we ordered both ravioli entrees. We literally couldn’t stop talking about it the whole meal. We ate the mains, talked about the ravioli. Looked at the dessert menu, talked about the ravioli. Just couldn’t stop talking about the foodgasm inducing ravioli. So we made the call to sacrifice dessert and ordered both raviolis again. We were like full, fat and happy pigs in mud. After woofing down the second round of raviolis, in our state of food delirium, we glazed over the dessert menu. We couldn’t go past their impressive desserts and went against all rational sense and ordered dessert. It was the end of an epic meal where we had been seduced by their food.

In Hobart, our most memorable meal was at a cafe called Berta. It was a hot local tip from our Uncle Mike, and it didn’t just meet our expectations, it exceeded them. Sitting in the Berta back courtyard one sunny March day, we struggled to order from the menu of endless flavour possibilities.


We were absolutely floored by how good the food was. Super flavourful Texas smoked beef brisket with creamy but crispy potato was just outstanding. As was the crunchy potato rosti with sweetness from red apple, acidity from pickled shallots and powered by the smokiness and saltiness of Bruny Island bacon. One of the best breakfasts I’ve had so far in 2016, found in the humble streets of North Hobart.


Texas smoked beef brisket hash with crispy onion rings, spinach, poached eggs and hollandaise


Herb and potato rosti with poached eggs, apple, parsley, shallot salad and apple honey mustard with free range Bruny Island bacon

Tasmanian Wineries

I am a big fan of Tasmanian wine. For a state that produces less than 0.5% of the total Australian wine production, it certainly holds it own. Tasmania is known for it’s cool climate varietals and high quality wines, with approximately 10% of the Australian premium wine segment. Wineries thus can command a premium – a Tasmanian bottle of wine averages around $22, more than double the Australian average.

Tasmania has seven distinct wine sub-regions, with the Tamar Valley being the largest and oldest. My favourite bottles of wine from Tasmanian are either Pinot Noir, Sparkling or Riesling, but varietals such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris are also fantastic. Interestingly, while only 2% of Australian wine production is Pinot Noir, 41% of grapes in Tasmania are of the Pinot Noir variety. That’s a good thing for Pinot Noir lovers like myself. Below is a running list of vineyards I have visited and recommend, in order of preference:

#1 Frogmore Creek Vineyard, Coal River Valley

It was one of our favourite Tasmanian vineyards in 2012, and four years later in 2016, it’s better than ever. Stunningly good 2012 Pinot Noir and 2012 Merlot. We also love their Forty Grams Residual (FGR) Riesling, and the 42 degrees South sparkling.

#2 Josef Chromy, Tamar Valley

My first visit to this winery in 2012 was ambitious. In between dropping @brhinos off at the Launceston airport and catching my flight, I had just over 1 hour to kill. I decided to race over to Josef Chromy, where I had roughly 1/2hr to smash through their large tasting selection (about 19 wines). With a great cellar door host, I covered the list, purchased a couple of cases and made my flight with minutes to spare. I am a fan of the fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon, Sparkling white, Riesling (try their Delikat SGR) and stickies.

#3 Pooley Wines, Coal River Valley

A multi-award winning vineyard, which has also won best cellar door experience over a number of years. We bought their trophy Late Harvest Riesling, which was deserving of its accolades. Pooley Wines have trophies and awards coming out of their ears, particularly for their Rieslings and Pinot Noir.




#4 Puddleduck vineyard, Coal River Valley

Nice little boutique vineyard with a relaxing setting by a pond. Check out their Pinot Noir and wine dogs out the back!


#5 Springvale Wines, East Coast

A beautiful cellar door with high end Pinot Noirs

#6 Freycinet Vineyard, East Coast

An approachable vineyard with friendly staff and a good range of tasting options. We enjoyed the 2014 Freycinet Pinot Noir and Chardonnay

#7 Devil’s Corner, East Coast

A Brown Brothers acquisition in 2010, the East Coast site is a newly built $1.8 million modern facility with a watch tower and space for local producers Freycinet Marine Farm and Tombolo Freycinet Café. We enjoyed their photographic views of the Hazards, tasty pizza and 2014 Pinot Noir

And finally for you whisky lovers, Tasmania produces some highly prized, premium whiskies. My favourites are Overeem and Sullivans Cove.

That’s it for this Twin Discoveries travel chapter of Tasmania – please let us know if you have any other suggestions!

Until next time, happy eating!

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne


The French Cafe – A top restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.

It was the year 2009. @brhinos and I were still discovering our foodie instincts, and managed to put together the little money we were earning into one night at one of Melbourne’s finest food pinnacles, Vue du Monde. It was five hours and nine courses of pure foodie heaven, an experience that still remains in my top 5 food experiences of all time.

We enjoyed the service of our Maitre’d who happened to be from Auckland. As I was soon to be travelling to Auckland, I asked for food recommendations. One of these recommendations was The French Cafe. And so it was in late 2009, when I visited Auckland for the first time, that my love affair began with The French Cafe.

The History

The Executive Chef and owner of The French Cafe is Simon Wright, a chef who has worked in world class restaurants including fulfilling his dream of working in a 3 Michelin starred restaurant. During his term in London in the late 80s, he met a young Gordon Ramsay, where they struck up a friendship. Simon was so keen to learn from as many chefs as he could, that he would spend his days off working in other kitchens for free. Gordon told Simon that he could work at his legendary mentor Marco Pierre White’s restaurant, the now defunct two Michelin star Harveys, and the best way to do it was to just show up. Simon has a fantastic story, which is detailed in his book, The French Cafe Cookbook. In 1999, Simon and his wife/maitre’d/sommelier Creghan, took ownership of The French Cafe restaurant in Auckland, New Zealand, and transformed it into an award winning food destination.

My first dining experience at The French Cafe was exceptional, one of the best meals I’d eaten in 2009 (behind Vue du Monde). I loved it so much I kept some old photos of the experience and wrote down what I ate that night. I was 5 minutes late for my reservation, but my table wasn’t ready. Immediately I was looked after with a temporary seat at the bar, complete with a complimentary bowl of olives and a glass of the fine Laurent Perrier champagne ($26/glass). Once the table was ready, I had a three course meal, starting with an amuse bouche of salmon tartare with avocado puree, cream cheese, wasabi and roe, served in mini cone. I knew straight away, this was going to be the start of something amazing.

Entree: JAPANESE INSPIRED TUNA – dashi jelly, wasabi cream, avocado, sushi rice sorbet, seaweed cracker, tobiko ($25.00). This was on the specials list and was one of my favourite dishes of all time when I first tried it.

Main: CRISPY ROAST DUCKLING – sweet spices, steamed bok choy, mandarin puree, kumara mash, jus of oranges ($40.00). A signature dish of the restaurant, that remains on the menu today.

Dessert: RASPBERRY SOUFFLE TART – raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb salad, white chocolate sorbet, pistachio praline ($19.00). I wanted to pair this with a wine, to which the sommelier recommended the 2003 Chateau Belingard Monbazillac, which was spectacular.

I enjoyed the food and experience so much, that the first thing I did when I returned to Auckland the next month, was to drive straight from the airport to The French Cafe. Unfortunately it was still closed for the holiday season. Over the next couple of years living and working in Auckland however, The French Cafe would become my top restaurant choice in Auckland AND New Zealand.

The Return

Fast forward to 2016. After moving back home to Melbourne, I hadn’t crossed the Tasman sea for over three years. I knew eventually, the time would come to visit Auckland again. I couldn’t wait to revisit some of my favourite food hotspots. Last month we took the leap over the ditch, with The French Cafe number one on our food hitlist.

I kept an eye on the website booking availability, but managed to book a table on the day we wanted by calling the restaurant directly. My return to The French Cafe was going to be a surprise date night for my wife, and I was proud to say, The French Cafe lived up to all expectations. The food, wine, service and company were all spectacular that night, one of the best meals we had across our food hunting holiday in New Zealand.

The Food Journey

We made the decision not to go with the degustation as I knew I wanted the quail, the tuna and the beef, which weren’t on the tasting or set menu together. So we opted a la carte.

The night started with an amuse bouche of goats cheese wrapped in cucumber croquette. While I’m not the biggest fan of goats cheese, the cheese mash was really well balanced, flavourful and not overly “goaty”. A very solid start. 9/10

To our surprise, the next dish was also compliments of the chef, consisting of smoked salmon powder, salmon roe, goats cheese, asparagus, edamame and crumb. It was a pretty dish with a savoury, intense crumb, paired nicely with an equally intense salmon powder that was chilled. It was lovely mix of texture, temperature, flavour and balance that wasn’t over powering. 8/10

An interesting smoked and cultured butter (both hand churned) came next, served with warm bread. I could have eaten a whole bowl of that smoked butter…

Up next was the Tuna. I jumped at the chance to re-live the first dish I ate at The French Cafe, the Japanese inspired tuna, and ordered the sashimi tuna starter, with soy milk, oranges, pickled ginger, puffed rice and sesame. While it was a different dish and it wasn’t quite the same (is it ever?!), the orange notes, ginger notes, even pineapple like flavours jumped out, all the while not taking away from the fish. This was done by an experienced professional. Fresh, well balanced and nicely seasoned. 8.5/10

Next came our “second course” of king fish ceviche, prawns, coconut, avocado, chilli, lime leaf and mint. The dish was fresh and full of complementary flavours. The kingfish had texture, flavour and a freshness that only quality produce has. The prawn had body to lift the dish to the next level. There was the right amount of zing with the chilli, and the dish just seemed to all dissolve beautifully in my mouth. 10/10
kingfish - The French Cafe, Auckland, New Zealand
Then came the Dish of the Night. The Roasted Quail wrapped in bacon, served with wild mushrooms, chestnut, croissant and black truffle. I could smell the flavours leaping out at me when the waiter put the dish on the table. The dish was intense! It had depth, flavour, body and complexity. The quail was beautifully cooked, but it was the quail sauce and Simon’s twist on a classic bread sauce – the croissant puree – that made this dish lick-the-plate-exceptional! The croissant crumb and chestnuts were a good finishing touch. This plate was THAT good, I consider eating this dish as “my last meal” (common question to chefs). I bought Simon’s second cookbook, Saison – A Year at The French Café, so I could make this recipe. AMAZING. 10/10

For those without access to the cookbook, I remember taking a chef masterclass by Simon Wright as part of the Melbourne Food and Wine show in 2012, where he demonstrated an earlier version of this dish. To my delight, the recipe is still online! You can find it here.
Roasted Quail - The French Cafe, Auckland, New Zealand

Then came the mains. We ordered the Market Fish which was snapper, served with buttermilk puree, crab, sweetcorn, sprouting broccoli and basil. The fish was tender and juicy, and masterfully paired with the greens, herbs and juicy corn that popped in your mouth. 9/10

One of The French Cafe’s signature dishes is the Crispy Roast Duck, with sweet spices, Asian greens, mandarin and kumara. I’ve had this dish on numerous occasions, and it is a good dish, although I must say I do prefer other items on the menu. Tonight the duck was slightly overcooked but there’s a reason why this dish has stayed on the menu for so long, with the combination of the orange, five spice, kumura and a mandarin zing creating a winning taste profile. 8/10

I was so tied between what to order for mains, I made the executive decision to order three mains between the two of us. “We’re on holiday and it’s date night at The French Cafe!”, was my justification. The third main we ordered was a similar style to the quail dish, which in any case, was a good thing. The Aged Beef was served with miso, burnt onions, eggplant, shiitake, buckwheat and wasabi butter. As expected, the dish was packed with flavour, with the roasted onions and mini chopped chives creating an effect that amplified the intensity. Beautiful dish and tasty despite a very full stomach. 9/10

The sheer volume of food we’d consumed meant that now, even our dessert stomachs were full. A risk and sacrifice we were willing to take in order to conquer the savoury menu. We’d let our waiter know we were moments away from our stomachs exploding, but he convinced us to try the granita palate cleanser of lychee, banana, freeze-dried blueberry and vanilla yoghurt.

Our waiter was right. The granita and fruit medley was refreshingly delicious and well crafted, so much so it unexpectedly became the second best dish of the night. Even though my stomach was about to split my shirt and belt open, I could have eaten a full bowl of it. I hope to see it on the menu next time. 10/10

We were left with a lasting impression that The French Cafe is alive and well, potentially the best it’s ever been. Can’t wait to our next trip to New Zealand! Highly recommended.

The French Cafe
210 Symonds St, Auckland
New Zealand
Open Tuesday – Saturday (dinner) and Friday (lunch)
Reservations online and via phone.

Until next time, happy eating!
Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.

The donuts of America – A Twin Discoveries Food Travel Guide

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.

In July and August last year, I focused all of my attention ticking off a large chunk of my foodie bucket list. We flew to America, Canada and parts of Asia in search for the food holy grail. It was fun, although surprisingly exhausting and hard work!

My trophy was coming home five kilos heavier. An extra eleven pounds that meant I could no longer fit into a pair of brand new shorts I bought at the start of my holiday. To my dismay, my extra chunky legs also forced the seams of my favourite pair of jeans to work overtime, eventually splitting down the middle and sending them to fashion heaven.

So to commemorate the loss of my jeans, I feel it is my duty to put this knowledge to good use! This will form the first of a multi-part series of our food travels – simply called The Twin Discoveries Food Travel Guide.

The first topic – DONUTS!


How do you spell it? Doughnuts or Donuts? Officially, the dictionary registers Doughnuts as the correct spelling. The shortened term, Donuts, has actually been used since the 1800s, but it was the American firm Dunkin’ Donuts, now the world’s leading baked goods and coffee chain, which popularized the short hand spelling Donuts over the last 60 years. For me, I’ve always used the short hand version, so I will continue to use the term Donuts for this post where appropriate.

So onto our American travels. We travelled coast-to-coast across 9 cities over the American summer, trying to squeeze in as many meals into a day, ticking off some of the food we had been dreaming about eating for many years.

Our donut agenda started small and grew in proportion to the number of cities we covered. If there is ever a famine in America, I’m pretty sure there won’t be a shortage of donuts. Seriously, I can’t recall ever eating this many donuts in this short amount of time. Our list below is by no means is an exhaustive donut list, but a highlight reel of our most memorable donut experiences in the cities we visited.

So without further do, I present the Twin Discoveries Top 6 Donuts of America, counting down to our favourite donut (doughnut).

#6 – Glazed and Infused – Chicago, IL

Inspired by Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Chicago native and successful restaurateur/chef Scott Harris decided to expand his empire into donuts. He effectively created Chicago’s own hometown donut, found only in Chicago. Since being established in 2012, it has risen to become not only one of Chicago’s best donuts but one of Chicago’s must eat items along with the deep dish pizza and Chicago dog. Pictured is the Cajeta fried icecream flavour (a Mexican version of dulce de leche) and the “Chocolate 4” – chocolate cake, chocolate ganache glaze, dark and white chocolate curls.

Glazed and Infused, 5 locations across Chicago, Illinois

#5 – Carlsons – Annapolis, MD

The state capital of Maryland is a small town called Annapolis, with population under 50,000 people. Known for it’s colonial history and sailing, we discovered perhaps one of our biggest unexpected donut surprises – a large variety of light, fluffy and delicious donuts… at a Thai restaurant! Owner Jittipon Meesiri has been making his donuts for over 35 years, waking up between 1-2am to start baking. We were only in Annapolis for the weekend, but two mornings in a row, I said hello to the little Thai lady behind the counter that didn’t seem to speak much English, and ate their amazing creations for breakfast. Flavours included the Carlson’s sprinkles donut, French cruller, the famous potato donut, sour cream donut and an original glazed donut.

Carlson’s Donuts & Thai Kitchen – 1022 West St, Annapolis, Maryland, 21401

#4 – Dominique Ansel – New York City, NY

Dominique Ansel created food history in May 2013, when he launched his invention, The Cronut, a croissant-style pastry, shaped and fried like a donut, filled with cream and topped with flavoured frosting. It would eventually win him huge recognition, Time Magazine’s “25 Best Inventions of 2013” and a James Beard Award for “Outstanding Pastry Chef”. The flavour of the month in August 2015 was Peach and Bourbon Ganache with citrus sugar, with a limit of approximately 350 cronuts made daily.

We were lined up outside the bakery by 7:25am, and having travelled across the world for this, we waited anxiously after hearing stories of 2+ hour wait times, and the $5 cronuts even selling on the black market for over $100 each! To our surprise, by 8:15am, we had 6 cronuts between the three of us (limits are applied at 2 cronuts per person). As expected, it was delicious, with an interesting, unique flavour and texture. Definitely worth a visit for the experience. Unfortunately the famous cookie shot is only available from 3pm, so we didn’t get to try it.

Dominique Ansel Bakery – 189 Spring Street, New York, New York, 10012

#3 – Firecakes – Chicago, IL

Chicago was one of the last of nine cities we visited in the US. We had excessively eaten more donuts than our bodies could handle, so we were ready to take a couple of days off eating sugar. Unfortunately, all it took was a sign that said “Icecream Donut Sandwich” when walking past Firecakes, and I couldn’t resist. A fluffy glazed donut stuffed with house made vanilla icecream, caramel and chocolate sauce, it was a moment of weakness that I could actually be proud of. It literally felt like a party in a mouth.

The chocolate and espresso cream donut was our second favourite – I know it’s hard to get mixing these flavours together wrong, but when you get it right, it is so, so right! The chocolate gluten free donut was an unexpected surprise – fudgy and tasty, and a shining example that gluten free alternatives can still taste delicious.

Firecakes Donuts, 68 W. Hubbard Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60654

#2 – Voodoo Doughnut – Portland, OR

These babies are the iconic Voodoo doughnuts. The best-selling bacon maple bar, and a voodoo doll shaped doughnut, stabbed with a straight pretzel stick, oozing red jelly “blood”. A top 8 thing to do in Portland according to Time magazine. We waited almost half an hour in line, and when we finally reached the front door, it was Donut HEAVEN….. An overwhelming number of drool worthy donuts to choose from, and they all looked magical. That’s right, over 80 different flavours of donuts – it was an impressive display of all the colours across the sugar spectrum. I can imagine that if I was a kid, and this was my first donut experience, I would have some serious emotional attachment to donuts. Owners Tres Shannon and Kenneth “Cat Daddy” Pogson have certainly got this donut store recipe right!

I noticed the Speciality donuts on the menu board and asked what the “Tex-Ass” donut was. The lady looked at me, directed my attention to the spinning donut cabinet and pointed to the donut that looked like a small steering wheel. It is actually the size six regular doughnuts combined, and is free if you finish it within 80 seconds.


“Okay…. What about the Cock-N-Balls donut, what is it?”, I asked. She stopped looking at me and sheepishly pointed at the donut cabinet. My gaze followed her finger, pointing to a large, phallic-looking, chocolate covered donut in the cabinet. “Look!”, I said to my wife. “Cock and balls, hehehehehe”. Funny how a giant cock can instantly drop male maturity levels back to primary school. These donuts are suitably cream filled, and regularly sell-out on Friday nights.


After a bit of deliberation, we decided to order the three of the most popular items – the voodoo doll ($1.95), the bacon maple bar ($3) and the Portland cream bun ($1.75), “Portland’s Official Doughnut”. All were beautifully presented and tasted as good as they looked. They were soft, light and deliciously addictive. Total price tag $6.70. Definitely worth the wait in line.

Voodoo Doughnut, original location at 22 SW 3rd Avenue, Portland, Oregon. Also available in two other Portland locations, Eugene, Denver, Austin and Taipei

#1 – Blue Star Donuts – Portland, OR

The. Greatest. Donut. Ever. We’d been in Portland for 3 days, and for 3 days straight, we went to Blue Star Donuts. It was the only way to try all the flavours. We were officially addicted.

Owners Micah Camden and Katie Poppe are food empire building legends in Portland, opening 18 restaurants over 10 years, owning burger chains (Little Big Burger), ramen restaurants (Boxer Ramen), hot dog eateries (Hop Dog), and ofcourse, one of the best donut brands in the country, Blue Star. A place where the donuts are made from scratch every day using locally sourced ingredients. A certified, sustainable bread flour from Shepherds Grain, Steibrs Farms cage free eggs, whole hormone-free milk from Sunshine Dairy, European-style butter from Larsen’s creamery and organically sourced fruit.

What makes Blue Star Donuts different is their brioche-based doughnut recipe that originated from the south of France. It can take up to 18 hours to make the donuts from scratch, before it is cooked in rice oil and covered in some of their inventive and signature flavours. Fresh blueberry, bourbon and basil. Maple and bacon. The olive oil and orange donut was unique but a bit too far out my taste range. But I was still in awe.

There was the Hard Apple Cider fritter, made with donut holes, rum soaked raisins and apple shards. But it was the Cointreau Crème Brulee donut that stole the show, and completely blew me away. As I sunk my teeth into the brioche donut, I cracked the crunchy brulee top, and was hit with a creamy vanilla custard. The donut was light but moist after being injected with a Cointreau syrup sweetened with Madagascar vanilla beans. It was a complete donut nirvana moment.

It was a tough choice to pick which donut would be #1 on our list, and how to best describe the difference between Blue Star and Voodoo. We found the best way to describe the difference was Voodoo donuts is your everyday-style, affordable, novelty donut, while Blue star is your restaurant quality, more expensive, high end donut.

In summary, the Blue Star Donut creme brulee donut was the best donut we ate in America, and quite possibly, my favourite donut of all time. It was truely outstanding and definitely worth a visit!

Blue Star Donuts, 1237 SW Washington St, Portland, Oregon, 97205. Also available in three other Portland locations, Los Angeles and Tokyo.

Regretfully missed

Unfortunately we regretfully missed out on numerous donut shops, but our travel itinerary and stomachs could only handle so much. For our next trip to America, we definitely would like to drop in on the following:

  • Gourdoughs, Austin, Texas – a successful food truck turned restaurant, specialising in incorporating donuts into their menu, such as a chicken fried steak doughnut, doughnut burgers and crazy dessert donuts.
  • Doughnut plant, New York, New York – New York’s own hometown donut
  • The Pink Box Doughnuts, Las Vegas, Nevada – with flavours like Campfire S’mores and Fat Elvis with chocolate ganache and banana peanut butter filling

Please let us know if we’ve missed anything off this list, or if you have any other donut suggestions!

Until next time, happy eating!

Written by Brandon (@brandothepig), Melbourne.