There’s an episode of The Simpsons where Homer decided to sell his soul to the Devil (who ironically turned out to be Flanders) for a donut. As idiotic as that decision was, I ended up pratically doing the same thing today when I visited Cartems Donuts. Not literally of course, since I have no idea of whether souls or the Devil exists, and even if they did, I certainly wouldn’t trade my soul for a donut (as much as I do enjoy them). Metaphorically. Let me explain. *Rant Alert (just skip to the pictures if you’re uninterested)*. Easily the number one current health/food fad that I cannot stnad is the gluten-free fad. Okay, I do recognize that there are people with actual problems with gluten; hell, I have a friend whose mother has recently been diagnosed with Celiac’s. However, at the rate that the gluten free market is expanding right now you’d think that half of the population have gluten allergies as opposed to the actual 1-3%. In other words, the vast majority of gluten free customers do not actually suffer from gluten issues, but are rather buying the products under the completely false believe that they’re somehow “healthier”. They’re not. Look, I don’t mind being proven wrong, and if there’s new evidence showing that avoiding gluten do in fact benefit “normal” people, I’ll gladly go back on my opinion. As of right now however, no such evidence exists, and the only thing that I see are false marketing and widespread misinformation. *End Rant*.
So what does this have to do with Cartem’s Donuts? Well, when I visited their Main St. location today, I found much to my disappointment that their shelves were partically empty. They only had only a few varieties of their regular donuts available, most of which did not look very interesting. However, they did have some of their more exciting flavours available in vegan/gluten free versions (which at $3.5 cost $0.25 more than their regular donuts). Faced with the choice of either going empty-handed or going against my morals and lending support to a stupid fad that I cannot stand, I ended up chosing the latter (yes I’m weak). I got their Smoked Maple Walnut (vegan), their Salted Caramel Donut (vegan and gluten free) and their Earl Grey Donut (conventional).
Seriously, that’s all the donuts you got?
Smoked Maple Walnut (vegan version, $3.5):
The dough was cakey, tender and moist, but had a slightly weird “eggy” scent (which is ironic considering that it’s vegan). It was sweet, which was fine by me as I love sugar. The walnuts lent a really nice crunch, and definitely had a strong smokey flavour. Personally, I’m not sure whether the smokiness worked for the donut, but it was definitely unique.
Salted Caramel (vegan & gluten free version, $3.5):
I don’t know if it’s due to the fact that it’s gluten free, but the donut was very soft as in I could hardly pick it up without it falling apart in my hands. Fortunately, it tasted a lot better than I had anticipated. The dough was soft, moist and cakey, and had a nice rich chocolate flavour. Although I couldn’t really detect much caramel flavour in the glaze (it just tasted like a plain glaze to me), it definitely had a good hit of a salt that paired well with the overall sweetness of the donut.
Earl Grey (conventional, $3.25):
The only conventional (i.e. non-vegan/gluten-free) donut that I got. The dough was much firmer than that of the salted caramel (so I could actually pick it up without fear of it falling apart on me), but was still cakey and soft. I’m quite impressed to find that the glaze did indeed have a pretty strong Earl Grey scent. I did find the doughnut to be a bit bland however: without the glaze on top the dough itself was largely flavourless.
As much as I would love to rip apart some of the donuts, I do still need to maintain some credibility, and the truth is that I did actually enjoy everything, gluten-free or not. Of course, fairly or not, I cannot resist comparing Cartem’s to Lucky’s, which were just a few blocks away. I will say that the donuts at Cartem’s had much bolder flavours than Lucky’s, which I found to be too subtle, even borderline bland. However, I do prefer the dough from Lucky’s, and they certainly do a MUCH better job at keeping their shelves stocked. While I do find both places to be over-hyped, I still enjoyed my visits enough to want to return in the future.