Steel City Pops (Birmingham, AL): Getting my hands on these pops was a complete surprise and one of the more happy surprises of the entire trip. These guys are coming up with flavors way beyond chocolate, cherry and orange. How far beyond? How about: Arnold Palmer, Sweet Potato Pecan, Buttermilk, Pineapple Jalapeno and Cherry Sour Cream. And yes, buttermilk was my favorite.
The Heavenly Donut Co. (Birmingham, AL): I emerged from my tour bus at first light only to be greeted by several quarts of hot coffee and a box of doughnuts from heaven via Brock from (ironically) Heavenly Donut. Brock knew I didn’t have a way to get to the shop so he brought the shop to me. Although the entire selection was out-of-this-world, I was especially partial to the old-fashioned.
Gibson’s Donuts (Memphis, TN): This place got me good. Not only did one of the owners (Britton) offer to drive me to his establishment, he and his father gave me one of the warmest welcomes I’ve ever received. I had the pleasure of getting behind-the-scenes to see how the doughnuts are made, and to spend some time with the talented folks who make them. I also spoke to several locals who had been coming to Gibson’s since they were kids, and were now bringing their kids. As for the doughnuts, I can officially state that their standard, glazed yeast doughnut is the finest I’ve ever consumed. Why so good? For one thing they triple rise the dough and use a very persnickety glazing machine that looks like it was constructed around the turn of the last century. Oh, and they just flat out know what they’re doing.
Emporium Pies (Dallax, TX): The menu on their site states they offer seven pies. I was lucky enough to try bites of three: Drop Dead Gorgeous (spicy pumpkin custard with a gingerbread crust), The Drunken Nut (Bourbon pecan with a shortbread crust) and Buttercream Gang (buttermilk just like Grandma makes it). They were all good, but I finished (yes, finished) the Buttercream Gang. Now that’s good eats.
Holtman’s Donuts (Cincinnati, OH): I’m traveling across the country on my Edible Inevitable tour, so I might as well check out the best doughnuts the country has to offer. Although I hold that Gibson’s has the best doughnuts, Hotman’s has (hands down) the best traditional dunkin’ stick. Crusty on the outside with a thickish solid glaze and an almost buttery interior. If I lived anywhere near this shop I’d be the size of a cruise ship.
Aglamesis Bros. (Cincinnati, OH): There’s nothing like a soda shop. Except … an old-fashioned soda shop that also houses homemade chocolate. As you enter in Aglamesis’, on the right you can get shakes, malts and egg creams galore (I got an egg cream). On the left, piece-after-piece of really, really good chocolate. I picked up some sea salt caramels and dark chocolate pecandes. I should have picked up more. The sea salt caramels are my favorite thing in the shop.
Long’s Bakery (Indianapolis, IN): On my quest for the country’s best doughnuts, I found what’s called cinnamon fries at Long’s. Don’t be surprised when you have to wait on a line down the block for them. Your patience will be rewarded.
Proper Pie Co. (Richmond, VA): Their savory pies are out-of-this-world, but their pumpkin pie with salted caramel glaze is the best pumpkin pie I’ve ever had in my life. That’s right… ever. Not only is the consistency creamy and not too sweet, the slightly bitter bite of the caramel brings a perfect balance. If you’re in the area, you’d be doing yourself a disservice by not trying a slice of this pie. I will also go on to say you should probably try the coconut cream pie too. Yes. Get both.
Mason’s Creamery (Cleveland, OH): I said it first on Instagram and I stand behind it, their apple cider sorbet was better than 90-percent of the apple pies I’ve ever had. These guys are doing ice cream proud. Try a couple flavors if you can including the salted caramel and the Earl Grey.
The Franklin Fountain (Philadelphia, PA): Step into this place and you immediately feel out of place for not wearing a straw boater or signing in a barbershop quartet. Inside Franklin’s it’s perpetually 1904 and the menu reflects the sensibilities of that gentler age. The menu sports everything from hot milkshakes (really) to genuine “phosphates,” which do indeed derive their tang and fizz from acid phosphate. I had a Hemingway which, with it’s hint of absinth, I feel certain Papa would have enjoyed.
Paula’s Donuts (Buffalo, NY): These doughnuts absolutely rank with some of the best I’ve ever had. More specifically, their sour cream old-fashioned absolutely hits the mark. They’ve nailed it.
Images © Alton Brown, 2014