Friday, February 22, 2013

Busken and Bubbly (or, “Mmmm….donuts -- and Champagne!”)

One cold February morning, I opened the ol’ inbox to find an unexpected message from Micah Paldino, PR Director for Busken Bakery. He had an interesting proposition for me. To wit:

We have a new 140 calorie donut, it's called the Lite-Hearted Donut.

I know that your blog covers wine/spirits, but I was wondering if you have ever tried a sweet fried donut with a glass of champagne?

If you are interested, let me know, would love to see what you think. I'll provide the donuts ;-)

Donuts and Champagne? My eyes glazed. I’d discovered a hole that needed filling. My mission was ‘clair…er…clear. I snagged a couple of bottles of bubbly, tucked them away in the fridge, and headed to Busken where my box of deliciousness awaited.

So, what the story with this “Lite-Hearted” donut? Well, first off, according to the (ahem) nutritional information, a standard glazed donut contains about 300 calories with 16 grams of fat. Each of the “Lite Hearted” donuts apparently contains only the aforementioned 140 calories, 2.5 grams of total fat, and no saturated or trans-fats.

"There is no such thing as a bad donut."
-- H.J. Simpson
The first thing most people will notice, however, is that these donuts are cutely heart-shaped. Sizewise, it’s about 10% smaller than a “standard” glazed donut. There’s also no glaze on the bottom, which probably trims a few calories.

How’s it taste? The biggest difference I could find between the Lite Hearted and a regular donut is the texture. The “meat” of the donut has a very similar flavor, but it’s a little drier and cakier. The glaze tastes like glaze. All in all, especially considering how most “diet” foods taste, I thought it was pretty daggone tasty. I took some to work with me where some of my coworkers “reluctantly” agreed to test them with me. The feedback was universally positive. I’d get them again without hesitation.

But what about the main experiment – the bubbly pairing? Much as I would have loved to pop the bottles and test these sweet fried morsels of deliciousness out that morning, I impatiently waited until I got home from work so I could make these little hearts into an appetizer. As I’ve said on numerous occasions, there are few more food-friendly wine options out there than sparkling wine, mainly because it goes so well with almost anything that has some fat in its construction. KFC, pizza, potato chips, cheese, paté…you get the idea. Donuts fall firmly into this category.

I picked up a couple of dry sparklers of similar price ($12-14) for a side-by-side comparison. You know, for science:

Gérard Bertrand 2010 Cremant de Limoux Brut
Zèfiro (NV) Prosecco Triviso Brut

Now, as you can see, neither of these are technically “Champagne,” since that term is limited to the bubbles from that particular region of France – and because we’re still in the throes of the kitchen remodel, I (like most folks) couldn’t afford to go with a bottle of White Star here.

[Note: I’d also picked up a third bottle – Friexenet Brut Cava, but I couldn’t justify opening three bottles of sparkling wine in one evening – even with dinner – and the donuts were gone before I could test that alongside…]

Both these wines were crisp. The Bertrand had the distinct yeasty aroma that many French sparklers share along with a restrained green apple flavor. The Zèfiro had more tropical fruit flavor flavor and wasn’t carbonated quite as strongly. The shared opinion of Vine HQ was that the French bottle was more pleasant to drink on its own.

On the actual Busken/Bubble amalgamation – we had a split decision, although we agreed  that either bottle was a workable match. The Sweet Partner in Crime enjoyed the Prosecco more with the donut. The sweetness of the donut meshed better with the Prosecco’s fruit, she said. I thought the French bottle was the better counterpart. The yeasty character of the wine lined up better for me with the cakey texture, and I just liked the combination better.

So, returning to Micah’s challenge – now that I’ve had one of these tasty confections with some sparkling wine, I’d suggest that if you want to add some sweetness to a weekend brunch, pick up a few of these to have on the table beside a bottle of bubbly, some fresh fruit, and the entrée of your choice. Or if you’re just craving some glazed, fried dough and don’t want to feel as guilty, I think you’ll not be unhappy…

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