My guest deemed this as the “next it” doughnut place. Such a declaration was enough to have me eager to go. Seeing as fellow food blogger, and self proclaimed daily diner, “Miss Vancouver Piggy” and I were in the neighbourhood and looking for something sweet; we ventured two blocks away from our original destination to “Cartems Doughnuterie”. Here we paused for an after lunch dessert. And here I would like to mention that this blog post is written with her insights as well as my own.
Conveniently located by a busy bus line, they see traffic from those getting off and more from those grabbing a desert ring to go before their ride arrived. Walking in, the space surprisingly opens up like a breath of fresh air. Here a path is instantly formed between glossy wooden seating on either sides. Benches and high tops, round tables and stumps for stools, and bar tops by the door. The bar stooled ones offered hooks for coats and bags under the tables. And the ones by the front of shop windows offered people watching capabilities. I almost thought they could have maximize the free space a little better. Not that more seating was necessary, nor was there any needed to showcase all the doughnuts behind glass. It’s just that real estate isn’t cheap and therefore a waste if not best maximized. Though “Miss Vancouver Piggy” asked me to consider the space needed should a line arrive.
The Doughnuterie was set up very industrial-like. Raw with worn brick walls, smooth with buffed wood features, roughed with hardwood floors, and unique with a row of light bulbs in beams. Together with the presence of fluffy doughnuts and their cartoonish logo it was a pleasant balance of cute and edgy. The logo, a thought bubble with a smile.
With all the doughnuts premade and many more cooling on trays stacked on a rolling rack in the back. There was only the need for one employee running the place. She was patient with our indecisive nature and gave us all the time needed to snap multiple photos. I was most pleasantly surprised by her willingness to give just fresher doughnuts from off the racks. Usually you serve the older ones first, meaning those at the counter.
The doughnuts are lined up in columns and kept safe behind windowed glass. Here flavours are separated into two groupings. There doesn’t seem to be a difference between the set to the right or the double level on the left. Each flavour is presented with their name, a select few include a description as well. The type of sign was an easy way to differentiate between the regular offerings and those on special rotation. The pre printed signs offered consistency and the ones written on black cardboard offered variance.
This is no “Tim Hortons”. If you are in looking for a traditional boston cream or a honey curler you won’t find it here. Here they experiment with the fun and offer you the different. Majority have names that serve as obvious clarification, and other are presented clear enough to offer visual understanding. Maple walnut, pink lemonade, raised salted caramel, blood orange, vanilla bean, chocolate glaze, Mexican mole, triple chocolate, salted caramel, earl grey, whiskey bacon, chocolate toffee, cinnamon burlee, citrus dust, coconut cream, regular and blueberry yuzu fritters, and the classic doughnut.
The “sweet snow” looked like a chocolate doughnut with chocolate glaze, sprinkled with sweetened coconut shreds. “Stuffies”, referred to the doughnuts piped full of cream or jellies. Today there was a cranberry jelly, an apple pie filled, and the London fog. The “Fig-get about it” was a clever play on words. A doughnut I assumed like the “stuffies”, filled with a sweetened fig puréed.
“The kitty” came in pink with an iconic Hello Kitty bow on its sign. This was a nod to the famous cat without infringing on copyright. I assumed “cinnamon sugar” would taste like the sweetness left at the bottom of a milky bowl of “cinnamon toast crunch”. The best part in my opinion.
There was a lot I wanted to try, but between “Miss Vancouver Piggy” and I we tried limiting ourselves to sharing just three. We wanted the different and refrained from the familiar. She, a fan of tea flavours and not actually drinking it, chose the two tea related ones. “London fog stuffie”, filled with vanilla bean whipped cream, glazed with earl grey icing and drizzled with a white chocolate ganache. Despite the generous oozing of filling and the sticky nature of the doughnut this was surprisingly not as sweet as it looked. The vanilla bean was an appreciated gentle additional to the whipped smooth homemade cream. The glaze offered the slighted hint of tea, accented with the sweeter sauce of white chocolate. A decant doughnut I could not eat all in one sitting. Through it may be prudent to know here, I am not too keen on such sweets.
The “Earl grey” doughnut was eye catching in beauty. The scattered petal sprinkles highlighted this ring over all the others. Though the connection between the doughnut’s flavour to these edible flowers was lost on me. Earl Grey tea’s main ingredient is Bergamot orange, a fragrant fruit similar in size to an orange, and similar in colour to a lemon. Its flowers are white. These petals looked to be from roses without any smell of them. At least its presence didn’t hinder on the over all taste. None the less this was a pretty doughnut and I felt girly bringing it to my lips. And surprised this was not as dry as it looked. A soft spongy centre perfectly sweetened with the evenly spread icing atop. The ideal doughnut to enjoy with its name sake tea.
And of course we had to go with the one topped with bacon sprinkles. “Whiskey bacon”. This was more moist than it looked. I always forget that when you use alcohol in cooking it looses its buzz worthy edge and trades its bitterness for sugar undertones. Here the whisky added a smoked burnt taste to the mix, burnt in a good way. We didn’t make out much of the bacon, and could have used some of its grease or fried up pieces inside the actual doughnut dough, and not just as a topping. As a whole it almost tasted like a pecan maple doughnut. “Cartems” is a popular stop for those working in the neighbourhood, so it is of no surprise that I ran into a friend here. She came in to pick up some treats for her and her coworkers after their shift. Already making this one of her guilty pleasures. And I was not shy to request the taking of pictures of her doughnut order. She proudly announced her frequenting of the place and her fixation on their classic flavours, deeming our collection out of her scope.
“The dark night” was clearly named after “Batman” with the bat symbol on its sign. A chocolate doughnut with chocolate butter cream, topped with chocolate brownie pieces, chocolate chips and walnut bits. This looked as decadent as it read.
“Cinnamon burlee”. A glossy doughnut with its sugar topping burnt by a torch, for that crisp creme burlee topping feel.
There were two types of salted caramel. One with a chocolatey base and the other with a more traditional spongy white dough. She got the latter, the “raised salted caramel”. And deemed it her go to, and her favourite.
For those with dietary restrictions a reusable clipboard and an alter-able sign sits on top of the counter. Here on Velcro are names of vegan and gluten free doughnuts, and those that fall under both categories. As always Vancouver business owners consider all its customers and the growth in the vegan lifestyle.
And if you are looking for more than just sweet snacks, visit Monday to Friday between 11:30-2:30pm to capitalize on their limited lunch specials. Today a Japanese bun and a deep fried fritto were on the menu. Their write up and demonstrative servings sat on the counter. I wonder how popular these are and how often are they ordered. When is the last time you went to a dessert shoppe and demanded something savoury that ate like an entree? Though it must be noted that their offerings are a clever way of utilizing their equipment and techniques for something other than doughnuts. Would I come back? – No. Would I line up for it? – No. Would I recommend it? – Yes. Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – Yes. Each ring that we enjoyed was better than it looked, and that says a lot as they were each delicately crafted. The doughnuts were good and their presentation certainly memorable. I have never heard of, or even thought possible majority of their creative flavour profiles. Though personally I am plenty happy with any run of the mill, procession made, chain available doughnut. So at “Cartems” being $3 each and $15 for half a dozen, it is a little much for me. Though the price certainly reflects their quality and the fact that these are gourmet doughnuts. They have brought something new to the doughnut game. And although I enjoyed the union of flavours, none of this would be something I crave for again. More as a novelty and less as the stop for my doughnut addiction. You crave a powered jam doughnut or a Krispy Kreme. Though if I was just judging a doughnut by its toppings, this place would take the cake. Don’t deny your cravings.
To read “Miss Vancouver Piggy’s” review of “Cartems” on our blogger’s date click HERE.