Gathering of doughnut lovers sweetens Griffith Park

L.A. Metblog contributors organized the city's first 'Donut Summit.' Participants sampled 200 doughnuts from more than 40 different shops.

June 14, 2010|By Scott Gold, Los Angeles Times

Cruller, cruller, burning bright;

In a strip mall late at night;

What immortal pastry

Could better harden arteries?

As summits go, the gathering in Griffith Park on Sunday wasn't exactly Camp David.

Then again, Los Angeles has a well-documented love affair with doughnuts. Our food blogs venerate the "unsung heroes of doughnutry," which is not a word but should be. Our iconic, 30-foot-tall doughnut atop Randy's has appeared in films and is viewed as a standard in the arm of urban design known as novelty architecture.

In this town, frittering away one's day debating the finer points of maple logs and old-fashioneds can be seen as a form of civic responsibility.

So organizers of the first "Donut Summit" didn't mince words, billing it as the "social event of the season."

There were promotional photographs in which doughnuts were arranged into headpieces, necklaces and brassieres. And 26-year-old Alexandra Apolloni, one of the organizers, penned the above poem for the event — "modeled after the oeuvre of William Blake," who once contended that "Energy is Eternal Delight," but clearly never dropped by Stan's Donuts in Westwood for a late-night buttermilk.

The summit was the creation of a band of friends and bloggers affiliated with Los Angeles Metblogs, a network of city-specific blogs and collaborative information sources.

Last year, the same group was behind another food and cultural event called the Hot Dog Death March, in which celebrants completed something akin to a pub crawl, but stopped at noted hot dog stands. These events are steeped in all things Los Angeles; the instructions noted that because "nobody walks here, the 'march' … will involve vehicles."

About six months ago, the group was tossing around ideas for a new event.

"We thought: What would be fun?" said Lucinda Michele Knapp, 33, another organizer and Metblogs contributor. "We said: 'Let's try something else that might kill you.' "

"Doughnuts came up," Apolloni said. She and a couple of friends had been taking "mini-road trips" to tour the city's doughnut monuments, such as the giant faux-pastry atop Randy's (emblazoned with the D-O-N-U-T lettering responsible for the spelling of the Donut Summit).

"I'm fond of L.A.'s doughnut culture," said Apolloni, a Metblogs writer who is studying toward her doctorate in musicology at UCLA. "I'm interested in the whole phenomenon."

The phenomenon is very real. Scores of people turned out – from Riverside, San Pedro, Long Beach, Simi Valley – and sampled roughly 200 different doughnuts from more than 40 doughnut shops.

There was talk of how to resuscitate a stale doughnut (try it refried), argument over the integrity of doughnut conglomerates versus mom-and-pops, and palaver between those who eat cake and those who eat "raised glazed." One wily celebrant was distributing free Hertz Donuts — when you pinch someone's arm and then say: "Hurts, don't it?"

Populating the scene were dozens of boxes — of the pink cardboard variety — stuffed with sugar twists and blueberry cakes, Johnny's from Montclair and DK's from Santa Monica, Bee's from Mid-City and Kindle's from south Los Angeles. Timeless debate raged amid the packages over just who produced the best doughnut in the metropolis.

Will Campbell, 46, lost track of how many he'd sampled as he made the rounds.

"I can't say I've tasted everything," he said, "because I want to walk out of here."

There was doughnut trivia: The original name of Dunkin' Donuts? (The Open Kettle). The doughnut shop that appeared in "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home?" (Winchell's). National Doughnut Day? (The first Friday of June, not coincidentally).

There were also awards. For the record, the winner of Best Overall Doughnut: The Donut Man, in Glendora, known among aficionados for fresh-fruit filling.

And, finally, an event that began with poetry ended much the same way, as celebrants read doughnut haikus through a bullhorn. One man discovered that "Bavarian Cream" was five syllables, and another offered this entry, to much applause:

Griffith Park, summer;

Doughnuts are all that I see

Heart palpitating.

scott.gold@latimes.com

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