John’s Space Age Donuts

2013-08-16 01While visiting family in suburban Johnson County, Kansas, I decided to put my jet lag caused early awakening to good use and go buy some donuts. A few minutes of internet research later, I settled on John’s Space Age Donuts. Located in downtown Overland Park, John’s looks exactly as you would expect for a shop that’s been in business since 1967.

2013-08-16 02The dining room has a U-shaped counter with seating on the two legs and display cases across the front. With a large door between the kitchen and dining areas, the place reeks (in a good way) of oil and deep-fried dough. Service is brisk but friendly and the selection is broad, although they didn’t have the blueberry donuts that niece number two requested, so we settled for raspberry.

2013-08-16 03The donuts were still a warm and very surprisingly tasty. They are dense donuts, but neither soggy with oil nor undercooked and doughy. The apple fritter, pictured above, is a masterpiece with a crispy exterior, moist interior, and plenty of apples.

2013-08-16 04The cake donuts are nice, too, and the dough itself was flavorful. Even unglazed, these donuts would be a pleasure to eat. Unlike some donuts (think Krispy Kreme) that seem to expire within a few hours of baking, these were still fresh when we finished the remaining ones the next day. Must be some of that space age technology!

While I am not the biggest donut fan in the world, it is a sure bet that I will be back to John’s Space Age Donuts next time I am in Kansas City.

Finger Food at Tawn’s Label Debut

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Saturday evening, Tawn officially launched his Tawn C label of women’s clothing.  About two dozen friends and former fashion school classmates came to our house to view and try on his collection, see the website, and click “like” on his label’s facebook page.

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All that was asked of me was to prepare the food and drink for the guests.  Tawn wanted only easy-to-eat finger food and appetizers, so I scoured my recipes and cookbooks and spent the day making several dishes.  There are two or three more I would have made had time not run out.  Here’s a closer look at them:

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Pastry puff strips baked two ways: with Italian cheeses or za’atar, the Middle Eastern spice made with sesame seeds and various herbs.

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Toasted baguette rounds with smoked ham, whole grain mustard, Spanish olives, and cherry tomatoes.

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Toasted baguette rounds topped with a roasted beet and green apple salsa, improvised from a Martha Stewart recipe.

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Toasted baguette rounds (I toasted a lot of those!) topped with wasabi cream cheese spread, smoked Norwegian salmon, avocado, and capers.  I had purchased shiso leaves that I was going to include on this but forgot them!

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Repeat of my watermelon, cherry tomato, feta cheese, and mint salad from a few weeks ago, except this time I used a yellow watermelon which made it so much more colorful.

 

Recovery and Donuts

September 28, 2010 will go down in the history of Krungthep (Bangkok) as the day when the scars from May’s political violence truly began to heal for the Big Mango’s shoppers.  It will also go down as a red-letter day in the spreading influence of American fast food and the subsequent spreading of Thai waistlines. 

To the first point, Central World Plaza, the largest of the buildings that were badly damaged in the fires set by angry protesters after their leaders surrendered to police on May 19, reopened today.

While about 70% of the mall reopened today, the 70% that suffered no damage in the attacks, the remaining portion depicted above is expected to be rebuilt and open next August.  The portion opening today includes the Isetan department store, the 15-screen SFX World Cinema, and the grocery store.

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Can a mall’s reopening indicate political healing?  Of course not.  That was just a banal attempt to hook your attention as a reader.  Under the surface, the issues and power struggles remain, yet to be resolved.  But for those of us who live here, whose lives were disrupted by the political events of April and May, the opening of Central World Plaza is another sign of life getting back to normal.

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In other news – and possibly an attempt to draw away some attention from Central World’s reopening – the first Krispy Kreme doughnut franchise in Thailand opened today at the Siam Paragon mall, just down the street from Central World.  Doughnuts have been popular in Thailand for at least a few years, as evidenced by countless Dunkin’ Donut and Mister Donut outlets.  Last year, a Malaysian chain called Daddy Donut entered the market and they even have a mobile donut truck that sets up in different locations to sell donuts to hapless passersby.

Nonetheless, there is no lack of hoopla surrounding the opening of this first Thai Krispy Kreme.  If you want my opinion, I think the fad won’t last.  The Hong Kong locations of Krispy Kreme only lasted a few years before they closed and I don’t think the Bangkok crowd, which is quite fickle with its fads, will turn Krispy Kreme into an overwhelming success.

The big question is this: What’s the big deal?  Thai culture has so many fantastic desserts and snacks and they are inexpensive, readily at hand, and perhaps slightly healthier than a doughnut.  As I notice the Thai high school and university students in their uniforms, bigger, taller, and heftier than their counterparts were even a half-decade ago, starting to approach the bodily proportions of their peers in the American Midwest, I can’t help but wish the influence of Western style fast food chains would wane.

So here’s to progress, as it were.  A reopened mall and a new fast food shop.  Bangkok, you’ve come a long way.

 

Street Vendors

Krungthep is a city that eats on its feet.  Thais have this snacking habit, unintentionally following the “five small meals a day” advice that so many weight-watchers hear.  Whether a mid-morning snack of khanom krok, little salty-sweet rice flour and coconut milk pancakes, an afternoon snack of freshly sliced tropical fruit, or a quick bowl of guaytiaw – rice noodles – to stave off hunger, there is always plenty to choose from along a Thai sidewalk.

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This picture accurately captures a dilemma that is increasingly common here in Thailand.  Alongside the plethora of street vendors is an equally-abundant number of convenience stores.  The difference between the two is not price – neither the 7-11 snacks nor the ones from street vendors will bust your budget – but quality.

“Fast food” when it comes from street vendors is made from fresh ingredients, is very rarely more than a few minutes (or at most a few hours) old, has no preservatives, and generally is more nutrient-dense than calorie-dense.  “Fast food” when it comes from the convenience stores and Western fast food chains that are increasingly common is quite the opposite, offering few redeeming values other than a quick way to expand your waistline.

And, sadly, that expanding waistline is just what we’re seeing.  Childhood obesity is growing rapidly in Thailand and especially here in Krungthep you see more and more children who are wearing X-Large size school uniforms.

In the months to come, I’d like to write more about Thai street vendors and snacks.  They are often a bit self conscious when it comes to taking pictures, but I’ll look for some opportunities to share with you more about the foods we eat here.