That’s No Moon… it’s a Donut!

Happy New Year!  (Chuc Mung Nam Moi! – Vietnamese)

I was having a conversation with a friend… we know that sometimes the little things in life can really make a difference… it’s funny how a small moment can have a huge impact on your life.  No, I’m not talking about stepping on an ant while traveling back in time changing history… this blog post in gonna be themed around the latest Hollywood blockbuster of Rogue One and how they helped to lead events where a young moisture farmer from Tatooine miraculously defines “one in a million” odds to blow up the Death Star via using The Force!

In Spring 2015, I started playing a game made by Fantasy Flight Games called Star Wars Armada.  I got into it because my friend/neighbor got into Naval Intelligence work because he loved identifying silhouettes of Star Destroyers as a kid.  He joked, “We are going to Worlds [Championships.] Since I love playing games (to prevent mental atrophy), I bought some plastic ships and set off “to be the very best… the best that ever was.” Well, I played in some local tournaments and got crushed!

However, with no expectations, I somehow became the 2015 North American Champion at GenCon!  I subsequently became the 2016 U.S. National Champion!  I even got credit from the 2016 North American Champion – love from Canada (Greater Toronto Area).  Haha… from an absolute zero to someone who now garners Internet infamy (just Google “GenCon Special Star Wars Armada”)!  Thanks to the Intensify Forward Firepower Podcast for naming the GenCon Special (haha… they talk about me at 18:45 and you can hear my squeaky voice at 35:50 for a few minutes). Not Urban Dictionary levels of fame, but I am also credited twice for terms on this blog.  What’s even more surreal, I was asked to playtest for Fantasy Flight Games!  This whole experience has been quite the trip!

Recently, I got to go to the World Championships in Minneapolis, MN and to check out The Baker’s Wife for theDonutQuest!

Minnesota Nice is definitely a thing!  They gave me a bag of 3-4 donuts as a welcome to their fair city!

Front: (L) Luke… Australian National Champion (got travel to US as part of his win).  Back (L) Steven… Final Four at 2016 Worlds and Member of Intensify Forward Firepower. (R) Austin… does mathematics for stocks in NYC.

I am thankful for meeting all kinds of folks due to my minor celebrity status… again, this is all so surreal!

In summary, little things can make a big difference! So buy somebody a donut or flash them a smile, you just might brighten their day… or give them Hope in humanity!  And Rebellions* are built on Hope.  😀

*In life, your Rebellion is any challenge where you are against impossible odds.

Rating:

  1. Blue Star Donuts (I went here and remember that the Chocolate Basil was amazing.  Note: I like slight hints of spicy/savory in my desserts.)
  2. DaVinci’s Donuts (Smaller portions don’t lead to a big sugar crash and there are unique gourmet flavors!)
  3. Gourdough’s (They make everything BIGGER in Texas, including DONUTS!)
  4. Voodoo Donuts (Probably the first best donut I ever had.  It was a Maple Bacon Bar.
  5. The Baker’s Wife (Decent donuts.  I would say that this is the baseline for donuts that are worth eating.)
  6. Duck Donuts (Superior to Krispy Kreme/Dunkin Donuts but you’re just getting a blast of sugar… there isn’t anything that really make it unique.)

 

Donut Ya Know – (Pumpkin) Carve Your Own Path!

Halloween is the best holiday ever!  Fun as a kid and potentially more fun as an adult!

Usually the weekend after Canadian Thanksgiving (which coincides with the other holiday which really shouldn’t be celebrated), I host a gathering known as Pumpkin Guts and Gory where we carve pumpkins! Yeah, while it can be construed as a boring wholesome activity…

Your life can be described as a pumpkin… a blank canvas where you carve whatever path you choose (yes, if you have the means to read this blog, this statement applies to you!)… just remember that you have to accept the consequences of your actions.  Also, there is a potential to get smashed as well, but every pumpkin season, you get to carve a new path.

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2016: Left to Right: “EEK”, “Ninja Face”, “Travelocity Gnome”, “Jack Skellington” and the small one celebrates the 50th anniversary of Charlie Brown and Snoopy (yeah, not my best work… you need bigger pumpkins for more oxygen for a brighter flame!  I tried to use “digital” LED candles but they don’t “hold a candle” to candles!

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Haha… back in the day when Maxim was a witty magazine until they started having quizzes like Cosmopolitan.  There was always a devil girl advertising Altoids, the curiously strong mint.  I took that concept and applied it to a mudflap girl.

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This is the year that I got really big into archery so I made a design off Archer.  This could be the funniest cartoon ever!

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This is the year that I got really big into CrossFit so I made “Deadlift Girl.” Granted I carved it before the Force Awakens… but, hey, strong is sexy! Smart is sexy too!

I feel “Archery” and “Deadlift Girl” were better carved pumpkins due to applying the concept of negative space.

Sour Cream Pumpkin Donuts

Substitute: Milk –> 4oz Sour Cream; Pumpkin Extract (splash); Pumpkin Spice (Penzey’s – to taste).

Donut Limits Define You! – (Gluten-Free)

I got invited to a Labor Day/Housewarming Party.  One of the people that lived there can’t eat gluten (even traces of soy sauce will set her off) at all. I mean… it’s sad enough that she can’t eat Bon Chon Chicken.  Of course, I took it as a challenge to make something that she would enjoy.  But, hey, I’ve eaten GF cookies, err… cardboard before so I set out to not make it suck for everyone else!

Note: She was out of town so she can’t comment on the deliciousness of the donuts but others loved it!  Hey, life is also about timing and luck!

Gluten-Free Cake Base Recipe:

1.0 Cup King Arthur GF Flour

0.5 Cup of Almond Flour (yeah, you make Macaroons with this)

1.0 Cup of Trader Joe’s Applesauce

1.5 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Melted Stick of Butter (4 oz or 8 Tablespoons)

1 Egg (Large)

Icing:  Chocolate/Peanut Butter Ganache

I’ve heard people go full on Paleo and make pizza out of rice or cauliflower as the flour substitute.  So I went with the assumption that the King Arthur GF Flour would not have any flavor.  To fix this, I used Almond Flour to give some nuttiness flavor.  However, Almond Flour is dense and I would need more eggs to act as a combiner to keep the donuts together. At this point, I’d be making an omelet as it’s not gonna satisfy your sweet tooth.  I used applesauce instead of sugar and milk as the liquid portion. Hey, if I was going GF, I might as well not add more sugar for super healthiness.

Yes, at this point, I knew people would be eating a granola bar so what makes these health bars taste OK?  Chocolate!  What makes chocolate better?  Peanut butter!  Hence, the ganache.  Ganache makes it sound fancy, right?  Just equal parts of heavy whipping cream boiled onto dark chocolate… then I threw on some peanut butter!  Boom!  Taste explosion!

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So the philosophy point…  Donut Limits* Define You!  Of course, limits do set boundaries but it doesn’t mean you can’t live life like an asymptote! Life’s a journey… find ways to enjoy the ride!

*Limits can be physical, mental, emotional… or that really big guy that blocks your path!

Donut Mind the Gap (Hole)… Focus on the Lemon Curd

As anyone who has played a MMO knows, in addition to questing, there is often a crafting element where you collect materials to make items. Similarly, the DonutQuest is not just about searching for the best donut shoppes, but also crafting/making donuts!

 

food wars

Inspiration comes from many sources.  Shokugeki No Soma (also known as Food Wars) is a blend of anime and Alton Brown as the show talks about chemistry, origins and other food facts.  In this particular episode (Note: Can be seen on Crunchyroll), the older Aldini Brother uses lemon curd in his dessert during his culinary battle!  Lemon curd has British origins and I’ve made it before for tart filling.

Base Baked Cake Donut Recipe:

1.5 Cup Flour*

0.5 Cup Sugar

1.5 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Melted Stick of Butter (4 oz or 8 Tablespoons)

0.75 Cup Milk*

1 Egg (Large)

Splash of Vanilla (or whatever flavoring that you want)

Before mixing everything together for the final batter, it is important to whisk the egg and sugar first (I call it “whitening the eggs” or “creaming the eggs” but I’m not sure if this is the correct culinary term.)

*I think using Cake Flour and Buttermilk will make the donuts fluffier (e.g., less dense).

Lemon Curd Ingredients:

2 Lemons (Zest and Juice)

4 oz Butter (1 Stick)

6 oz Sugar

2 eggs

My friend Ashley, a hand model (seriously, her hands were photographed for some work propaganda, err… brochure), helped me test the donuts at work.  I have to make the donuts at night for people to try the next day so I have to account for refrigeration and transport.

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Ashley then microwaved the donut for about to 5-8 seconds and the taste was markedly improved!

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The big batch for the gym…

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In the future, I should really inject the lemon curd as a filling… that being said, I’ll probably use the extra curd as filling for crepes!

Randomly, the Aldini Brothers from Food Wars introduced me to an Italian kitchen knife known as a mezzaluna!

 

Coffee Meets Donut – Date at Duck Donuts

I got a match on the dating app called “Coffee Meets Bagel” whose owners turned down $30 million dollars from Mark Cuban (yeah, that basketball guy) on Shark Tank!  I decided to go on a “Coffee Meets Donut” Date.  I thought that it was a pretty creative idea… well, at least punny…

There’s a Vietnamese saying…

Đen tình, đỏ bạc.

  • Translation: Black in love, Red in gamble
  • English equivalent: Lucky at cards, unlucky in love

Hmm… I’m not an expert in Vietnamese, in love, or in money… but I’ll go with my Quinnism of…

“Money doesn’t buy happiness but it sure helps.”

Back to the Kang Sisters of Coffee Meets Bagel… what was going through their minds to turn down that kinda money from Mark Cuban?  Well, the Kang Sisters, if I recall, have some serious credentials like Harvard degrees and working with/for big companies in executive positions.  For all intents and purposes, I’m pretty sure that the Kang Sisters were doing OK so they could afford to go for the “home run.”

Getting back to my date, prior to meeting up for our Zeroth Date (I consider online dating an introductory service; so the Zeroth Date is really where you determine if you want to go on a First Date if that makes sense.), we talked about donuts and she mentioned Gourdough’s (hey, I’ve been there too!).  A “Donut Date” seemed like something different to do so I asked her to go to Duck Donuts in Rockville, MD.

Yada yada… (Seinfeld watchers will get this allusion).  Well, at least I learned that at Franklin’s BBQ you can order it to go and they will vacuum seal it to take on a plane.  Every time I’ve been to Austin (love that city), I never could get up early enough to get in line for BBQ!  Furthermore, she was an asian girl with freckles so that was pretty unique.  I always try to look at the positive and unique value of people so I asked her out again and she “donut” wanted to.  So for all you daters out there… my advice is to consider the unique value of people… not just the numbers game!

Duck Donuts

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Duck Donuts uses a vanilla cake as the base for their donuts.  It comes out warm and hot like Krispy Kreme (when the light is on).  PSA – caramelizing sugar (much like superheated steam) is very dangerous!   Latent heat requires more energy to cause a phase change of a substance (breaking of bonds between molecules) than sensible heat which is what we experience temperature-wise when cold beer becomes hot and hot pizza becomes cold.  At a power plant, a steam leak is often detected by a whistling sound and workers walk around with broomsticks in front of them for detection to prevent getting sliced in half by the invisible steam.  Yes, contrary to Hollywood Movies, when you are the Terminator or Freddy Kreuger walking through the Boiler Room… you can’t “see” steam when it’s this hot.

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I talked to Gene at the counter… He said…

Most popular among kids – Cinnamon Sugar.  Hey, maximize the sugar hit!

Most popular among women – Lemon Icing with Shredded Coconut (Did I hear him right?  Ladies, is this true?  I guess it’s like a Pina Colada?)

Most popular among men – Maple Icing with Bacon Pieces. Obviously.

I went with Chocolate Icing with Raspberry Drizzle (left) and I got my date Blueberry Icing with Salted Caramel (right).  I always liked those chocolate boxes where the lid had the different chocolate flavors (the raspberry filling one) to help you decide which piece to eat.  For her, I made my selection based on Ted’s Bulletin’s famous poptarts.

As Forrest Gump would say, “Life is like a box of chocolates which is like which is like a box of donuts which is like online dating, you never know what you’re gonna get.”

 

Rating:

  1. Blue Star Donuts (I went here and remember that the Chocolate Basil was amazing.  Note: I like slight hints of spicy/savory in my desserts.)
  2. DaVinci’s Donuts (Smaller portions don’t lead to a big sugar crash and there are unique gourmet flavors!)
  3. Gourdough’s (They make everything BIGGER in Texas, including DONUTS!)
  4. Voodoo Donuts (Probably the first best donut I ever had.  It was a Maple Bacon Bar.
  5. Duck Donuts (Superior to Krispy Kreme/Dunkin Donuts but you’re just getting a blast of sugar… there isn’t anything that really make it unique.)

Top 4  are what I consider the “Elite” tier.. if you’re in that town, you should go to that donut shoppe!

 

HOTlanta! – DaVinci Donuts

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Ever wonder how to finance The Donut Quest? One must look to Homer Simpson for VisionQuest guidance!  Admittedly, it is somewhat cool to say that you “control power” for a living! Well, not exactly, but I do regulate it.  Not as cool though as “making lots of money” working at the US Mint.  Get it?

Work sent me down to HOTlanta.  It must be noted that a nuclear reactor is critical under normal operations and you don’t get into trouble until it’s SUPERcritical!  Haha… yes, while I don’t understand how dilithium crystals work, I argue that Scotty worries too much on the USS Enterprise!

Visit to DaVinci’s Donuts:

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I love the presentation of the “business special.”  The donuts are smaller (about 60% to 75% of normal-sized ones) but “plumper.” As you can see in the pic, it comes in a pizza box and the lid has the different flavors.  It’s a classy touch.

 

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So I tried Tiramisu (unfortunately, I don’t remember what this is supposed to taste like!)… I shared the rest!

Rating:

  1. Blue Star Donuts (I went here and remember that the Chocolate Basil was amazing.  Note: I like slight hints of spicy/savory in my desserts.)
  2. DaVinci’s Donuts (Smaller portions don’t lead to a big sugar crash and there are unique gourmet flavors!)
  3. Gourdough’s (They make everything BIGGER in Texas, including DONUTS!)
  4. Voodoo Donuts (Probably the first best donut I ever had.  It was a Maple Bacon Bar.)

 

 

Da Gainz

During lunch* my friends asked me, “Aren’t you gonna get fat from all the donuts?”  I simply replied, “It’s all about the gainz.”

*Note – We often debate and solve many of the ills of society such as the ranking of the best eats including the “premium fast food” category.

What are da gainz?

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As part of the CrossFit family (e.g., cult)… I’ve tried all kinds of exercise and training (Normal people would call this “dieting” but this term has negative connotations (denying yourself of nutrients) and does not exist when one enters Super Beast Mode.  This blog is all about positivity.  I will never tell anyone to “Never Give Up” but rather “Fight On” because the former phrase implies that impossible odds are against you.

While I am a doctor (Well, a “fake one” – PhD – Piled, Higher and Deeper in Chemical Engineering), I am not a medical one so my statements are based on empirical observations and reading books/Interwebs.  YMMV.

What physical characteristics can be attributed to youth?  If the Fountain of Youth is what leads to immortality (e.g., health), what do we need?

  1. Strength: Look at every professional sport, age is a factor!  As we get older, we lose muscle mass so, in general, the younger athlete will be stronger.  That’s why you don’t see many 40-yr olds competing in the Olympics or the World Cup.
  2. Flexibility: Remember how bendy you were as a kid?  It’s super apparent in guys and doing the “splits.”  Look how young the Olympic gymnasts are!  However, ever notice how some old yogis look so fabulous?

Astute readers will notice that I did not mention heavy cardio/running endurance?  It can be done when you’re over 100!  But I bet he can’t come close to carrying/moving boxes like someone younger.

Which brings me to… the Stages of Weightlifting:

  1. To lose weight!
  2. To get cut.  (Yes, lifting heavy weight overhead will require you to stabilize your core so that what gets you that six-pack!)
  3. To impress girls.
  4. To impress guys. (Yes, 3&4 are inter-changeable for your own needs. Easier/more concise to explain as I’m coming from a heterosexual male perspective.  Also, I doubt I will ever graduate to Stage 4!)

In terms of training (Paleo, Mediterranean, etc), I would say that moving away from processed foods (Tip: Read the label on your bread.  The big difference between bread and cake is really sugar.  I noticed this while spending a few hundred hours learning pastry at a French culinary school.) and too much sugar is what is causing a lot of our health problems.  I believe that diabetes is the cause of other factors, such as heart disease which ultimately take most of the credits for mortality rates.  🙁

This gets to the other part of the blog.  In addition to the primary quest of finding good donuts, I’m going to practice and develop unprocessed/homemade/healthier donut recipes!  Luckily, a have a whole gym of victims, err… tasters for my creations!  (I don’t have a sweet tooth… potato chips and the Teenage Ninja Turtle diet are my weakness.  My gym eats a lot of donuts… which is surprising since they are super ripped people.  Go figure.)

Additionally, a strong body is useless without an equally strong mind and fighting spirit…

In order to win, you must be willing to lose.  My joke is… “Don’t go for a Laos, or settle for a Thai, when you can go for a Nguyen.” 

It’s just a play on words (I know quite a few awesome Laotian and Thai folks).  First, to gain muscle mass, you are actually breaking down muscle tissue to get stronger.  If you ever wondered why all the guys in martial arts flick practice kicking bamboo, it’s because they are causing small microfractures in their bones that heal giving more bone density.  If you keep rubbing your skin, a scab will eventually form that will make your skin tougher.  All in all, stress makes us stronger!

For every gain/success we see, there is a backstory of numerous losses/failures that we don’t see.

In donut philosophy terms, without the hole, we wouldn’t be surrounded by the great taste!  So focus on da gainz (your goals) in life… and failures are just the means to help you get there!

The Quest Begins…

WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE… Life isn’t perfect, but things are going pretty great and then something abruptly happens… and you go from top of the world to feeling like an absolute ZERO.  Tapping my Philly roots, I recalled this…

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Feeling like a ZERO, I took control of how I felt* and thought about a zero-shaped object… one that brings me happiness… and that’s how the tagline for this blog took shape.

“DONUT Life Get Ya Down!  Eat DONUTS!”

Astute readers will notice that the tagline begins and ends with donuts… some deep philosophical connection with the Lion King, Circle of Life shit, right?  Steve D., remember my Best Man’s Speech for you?

Oh, I drew the banner by freehand (I’m AZN) so it had to be a Double Dragon with a Questing Donut Samurai (c’mon, was I really gonna pick a Western Monty Python one?)!  The art style was inspired by XKCD and The Oatmeal.

*Note: Nobody can tell you how you should feel because your feelings are your feelings!  Furthermore, Q’s (that’s me) Theory of the Conservation of Thought goes like this…

When a thought is created, it cannot be destroyed.  In your mind, you need to create positive ones to displace the negative ones.

So, in my soul-searching, being lazy, I naturally sought the Interwebs for guidance… As a man, the Interwebs tell me that I should seek an adventure… climb a mountain, wrestle a bear, etc… Considering that I’ve survived death several times in my life (seriously) and, frankly, I’m lucky to be here today, I decided that I did not want to press my luck on these “adventures.”  I mean, I guess it would be kinda cool to pee off of K2 but that’s a lot of work…

The premise of this blog…

  • Travel every few months to a new city and put their finest Donut Shop to the test!
  • Buy a donut for the customer in front or in back of me… Perhaps, they will share an interesting story!
  • Since I am not infinitely rich (donations are always welcome), I’ll try to post monthly content on donut recipes that I will try!  Reader suggestions are always welcome!
  • Visit new places to catch Pokemon.**

**What is PokemonGO?  OK, you’ve probably been living under a rock so you won’t likely think this blog is humorous or punny.  BTW – I’m on Team Yellow and join my Facebook Group… why did I pick Yellow… because ZachZag said so!

Since I used to write Ultimate Frisbee cheers, here goes…

I want to eat the very best,
Like no one ever has.
To taste them is my real test,
To make them is my cause.
I will travel across the land,
Searching far and wide.
Each Donut Shop, to understand
The power that’s inside
Donut Shops
(Gotta Taste ’em all)
Donuts and me
I know it’s my destiny

Donut Shops
Like a best friend
In a world we must defend
Donut Shops
(Gotta taste ’em all)
A mouth so true
My taste buds will pull us through
You feed me and I’ll eat you
Donut Shops
(Gotta taste ’em all)
Gotta taste ’em all
Donut Shops

TARGET: DaVinci Donuts (July 2016)