I like being different. But in this case, after finding the highway to the national park blocked by ten feet of snow, I wished I had gone to Cancun for spring break like the rest of the senior class. Oh well. At least it made for a good picture.
“We have a four-wheel drive, don’t we?”
Instead of traipsing across the national parks of Oregon, we settled for the pot-happy hipster city of Portland. Our Land Cruiser threaded through multicolored mazes of pastel-painted Volkswagen buses, stained lean-tos and homemade kiosks. The majority seemed to sell some variant of ganja, weed, or happy plant. We observed two sedans at a four-way intersection cede the right of way to each other for a full minute before one wandered through, leaving a lazy trail of dank haze. Welcome to Portland.
Don’t get me wrong. We found that in addition to “Over 100 Varieties of Smooth Elevation Sold Here,” Portland offers a veritable cornucopia of excellent foods, utilizing fresh seafood from the Pacific Northwest in combination with the loads of crisp vegetables from California. But in a hipster city, one eats hipster foods, like organic custom-roast bark coffee, or sesame sauerkraut or doughnuts. But not just any doughnuts. Voodoo doughnuts. The darlings of social media, snapchat filters and Instagram galleries, Voodoo doughnuts are the current “it” thing for cool travelers and hip locals to acquire as a guest star on their Facebook walls. We joined a winding queue of smartly-dressed young professionals, glittery divas, and grizzled loggers outside the doughnut shop. The bearded Portland native in front of us, who’d clearly seen too many doughnuts in his day, introduced us to the best locations for beer and bar food. He told us about how the recent legalization of weed in Oregon resulted in a boost in tax revenue fourteen times the size promised by the pro-marijuana lobby during the push for legalization. The longhaired duo behind us in the line told us stories of their experiences smuggling, “exquisite Oregon product,” through the TSA to their friends in Florida. At the end of a very educational and entertaining half-hour, we finally penetrated the doughnut mecca of Voodoo and received our just rewards. A chocolate doughnut fashioned into a witch doll and decorated like a gingerbread man. Turns out, taking the requisite picture of the doughnut was more enjoyable than eating it. The plain doughnut bread sucked the saliva from my tongue and caught in my throat as I struggled to swallow. The Star Market quality chocolate syrup was polluted with grits of plain sugar which numbed my taste buds and made my teeth ache. The swirl made of icing sugar drew a penalty for unnecessary roughness.
Not fit for human consumption
To be fair, the monumental task of living up to such inflated expectations is practically insurmountable for a place like Voodoo Doughnuts. I just wish a single dessert didn’t make me feel more disgusting than a game of whiskey pong. Despite our experience with Voodoo, we found ourselves walking into the glass-fronted Blue Star Doughnuts. Glossy white walls rose twenty feet into the reflective ceiling. The spartan plastic counter was colored sterile white, topped with smoothly rotating Ipads and a glass display case. Trays of doughnuts rested behind the stone-faced cashier on smooth white carts rolling on silent tracks. There was not a single customer in this pale vision of a mental asylum in the future. My roommate was too put off to eat, opting to scrunch up in the perfect, ninety-degree corner and retreat into his phone as I ordered. The sad-faced cashier was a warden presenting a convict his last meal: a raspberry-buttermilk doughnut on a featherweight white disc. The dessert itself was a plain round doughnut, topped with a slathering of regular red frosting. However, the first bite proved this was no 99-cent Dunkin product. The dough was a dense, moist mass of warm, fragrant sourdough with a crispy toasted skin. The raspberry topping was lighter than spring mint, with a lemony undercurrent and a slightly spicy bite. I even smiled at the cashier. He gave me a mournful look. Maybe it’s him who’s on death row.
Raspberry Buttermilk; Orange Creme Brulee
Two stores, two doughnuts, two different experiences. Voodoo gave me a toothache while Blue Star made me remember why doughnuts are so good. However, I was able to talk to some interesting people on the line at Voodoo. Really, not the worst deal in weed-town.