Inaugural Donut Fest is nothing to glaze over

SHARE Inaugural Donut Fest is nothing to glaze over

Instagram images courtesy of Gurnee Donuts, Glazed and Infused and Doughnut Vault

By Selena Fragassi

For Sun-Times Media

Chicago is no stranger to food fests—and we’re not just talking the Taste of Chicago. In the past few years, the city has devoured a number of independent culinary celebrations including Baconfest, WingFest, the Food Truck Social, even a Food Film Festival. But a Donut Fest? Surprisingly, that’s a first.

Debuting at Wicker Park’s newest event space 1st Ward on Sunday, it’s the brainchild of Lakeview resident and donut aficionado Alyssa Erickson who grew up in small town Wisconsin where the baked good was a childhood staple. Yet, she says a transformative moment happened after getting a bite of local bakery Do-Rite Donuts a few years ago.

“Ever since, I’ve been on a mission to find the best donut in Chicago,” she said.

Erickson put that plan into action last October, partnering with Poutine Fest creator and Time Out Chicago dining contributor Rebecca Skoch to coordinate this weekend’s showdown and public tasting. At the end of it, one of the 15 vendors (Glazed and Infused, West Town Bakery, Doughnut Vault and smaller shops like Gurnee Donuts and Reuter’s Bakery) will come away with the coveted title of “best donut” in either the public vote or judged panel, which includes one of Chicago’s finest and The Langham Chicago pastry chef Scott Green. With a history of inventions like Endgrain’s Doughscuits (a donut-biscuit hybrid that is sliced open with a spread of crème fraiche and honey glaze) and Firecakes’ Donut Ice Cream Sandwich filled with house-made gelato, expect it to be quite the competition.

“Chicago vendors are always willing to push the bar more than the rest of the country, it’s the cornerstone of our entire food scene,” Skoch said of the mass donut appeal that has piqued in Chicago the last two years. Although the craze has hit the rest of the country, too, most notably headlined by New York’s cronut clamor, the launch of a number of purveyors in our city the last year alone is nothing to glaze over.

“It’s not just a breakfast food anymore, everyone is getting on the bandwagon to put donuts on their brunch and dessert menus,” Erickson said. “It will only continue to grow.” Which, sorry to say, means you can expect more hour-long waits and more sold-out signs at donut shops across town.

“We’re hoping not to have a line at the front,” jokes Skoch who assumes the fest crowd will follow suit and be there bright and early when the doors open at 8 a.m. Attendees receive a gift bag that includes coupons to taste quarter portions from all 15 vendors as well as drink tickets for a number of local coffee brewers like Dark Matter. On the way out, guests can purchase a baker’s dozen or more to take home, with proceeds benefiting Un86’d, a local nonprofit aiding service industry workers who are injured or sick.

Although there are the naysayers who bemoan another “fat fest” coming to our city, Skoch said to keep in mind it’s for a good cause. “It’s just one day to celebrate a food everyone likes and raise money for something important. If I can sell out tickets because people love donuts, great. It’s not like anyone wants to go to Kale Fest.”

DONUT FEST

When:8 to 1 p.m. Sunday

Where: 1st Ward, 2033 W. North

Tickets: Sold out

Info: (773) 537.4440; eventbrite.com

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