will drive for treats



I would walk drive 500 70 miles, and I would walk drive 500 70 more (bc round-trip)……

Yesterday I drove allllll the way to Atlanta (Illinois) in search of pie. I found it in a little retro cafe that dates back to 1934, is right off of Route 66, and is across the street from this gem:


Though the town of Atlanta doesn’t quite boast the heavy traffic of its yesteryear, the Palms Grill Cafe was completely full at 1:45 on a Sunday afternoon. After sitting down, waving away the need for a menu (“I came for the pie” “Of course, you can’t come here and NOT get the pie!”), and settling the matter of “You want these *your order of 3 slices of pie* boxed up to go or warmed up with ice cream?”, I cleared the way for the heavy green-striped ceramic china and settled in.

On today’s made-from-scratch-award-winning pie menu was:


I opted for cherry (perfectly tart with a flaky sugared crust!), blackberry (with whole, fresh blackberries!), and chocolate cream (light, whipped chocolate cream mousse, not sweetiesweet french silk – basically the best case scenario if you were to have a pie-to-the-face à la Three Stooges), and a cup of coffee to wash it all down. The adjacent table tried to take a sneaky pic of me with this collection, and I’m fairly certain I made it into their Route 66 spring break photo album….


Driving home, via backroads for as long as possible, I happened upon a town called Funk’s Grove and obvs had to check it out. I mean, come on: Funk’s Grove. What’s there besides a dilapidated train station and an antiques shop that have gone the way of ghost town status? A little maple sirup grove that has been in production by the same family (the Funks) since 1824. 1824!! That’s no typo and neither is “sirup.” Sirup is the preferred oldtimey spelling by Webster’s when you’re referring to the product that results from the boiling down of sap, without the addition of extra sugar (and that’s what we’re referring to here – you won’t even find an ingredients list on the bottle, because sirup.)



Why can’t I get a legit chocolate shake?

Dear Dessert Oasis,

Last night, all I wanted for dinner was a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate milkshake, so I went to a local diner and ordered exactly that. But when I sipped my shake, it was too sweet and not very chocolatey at all. I asked the waitress about it, and she said they use vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup to make their chocolate shakes.

So my question is: why don’t places use chocolate ice cream to make chocolate shakes?

No Nilla


Dearest No Nilla,

You are a treat-seeker after my own heart.

Why, indeed, don’t places use chocolate ice cream to make chocolate shakes?? Why is vanilla always the default base? Shakes, donuts, marshmallows, you name it, it’s always vanilla first and chocolate as an afterthought.

I’ll tell you why. It’s because 40% of the population prefers vanilla. (These are the people you hear saying, “Oh, I judge an ice cream shop by their vanilla.” Why not judge by their chocolate? It’s difficult to get a soft chocolate ice cream using real cocoa, and a crappy, artificial chocolate should make you walk right back out the door. Judgement complete.) And the other 60% aren’t only chocoholics. Maybe chocolate gets 30% and the rest is made up of strawberry, coffee, mint, maple, tutti-frutti, peanut butter, whatevs. Restaurants want to minimize their unused inventory and hence try to use vanilla + flavor/add-in for EVERYTHING.

Now for a coffee milkshake, let’s say, this works. It’s just like an overly creamed coffee. For peanut butter, fine, no one can drink a straight glass of peanut butter anyway. But for chocolate? Forget about it. Real chocolate lovers can sniff out a fake with half a sip. It would be more aptly named a “chocolate flavored milkshake,” and then I would know right off the bat not to order it. Also, don’t tell me a strawberry milkshake wouldn’t be better using strawberry ice cream too….

If I ruled the world, I’d have both chocolate AND vanilla options always. That’s right, I wouldn’t banish vanilla completely, but I wouldn’t allow it to carry on with its “my way or the highway” forceful antics either. I’d make the world a harmonious swirl and everyone would be treated equally in their dessert quests. But since I don’t reign supreme, here are some tips when trying to order a chocolate milkshake:

1. don’t get your hopes up – go in expecting the worst: vanilla base only.

2. look at the dessert menu – if you only see apple pie à la mode with vanilla bean, hot fudge sundae made with vanilla ice cream and nuts, brownie with a scoop of vanilla (like that’s some extra treat)….chances are they don’t have chocolate ice cream in the kitchen.

3. ask before ordering – make double sure or be double disappointed when you are served a light tan shake.

My advice today would be to go grab a pint of chocolate and make your own milkshake to help erase last night’s bad taste.

The more chocolatey the better,
Dessert Oasis

ps: here was my bfast today: the so simple but so rare maple glazed chocolate donut. think about it: why is maple glaze almost always only on a vanilla donut? why is strawberry glaze only on a vanilla donut? haven’t donut makers heard of chocolate covered strawberries? why isn’t anyone making chocolate raised donuts??!?!?! what is the world waiting for?????


Have a dessert question?  Email me at courtneysconza@gmail.com – from funnel cakes to fondue fountains, if it has sugar, I’ve probably eaten it.

National Donut Day 2016


Alarm set for single digits? Check. Ready to hop out of bed bc I’m already sleeping in a donut t-shirt? Check. Mapped list of hot spots? Check. Girl Scout over-preparedness at full throttle? Yes. But did I really believe Central Illinoisians would be skipping school/work/sleep to celebrate a food holiday? Not reallllllyyyy……..

Silly me.

Bright and early (8:35!! AM!!!!!!!!!!!!) and in a big ol’ line at the Pandamonium Doughnuts truck where they were already sold out of their free, new release of black and white donuts. What?!?!? People were actually lined up at 7:30am?? Oh yes. (caramel apple fritter, cookies n cream, “You wore that shirt on purpose, right?”)


On to Art Mart, where people were going about their morning routine none the wiser that the nation is joined in celebration. But tucked amongst the breakfasty baked goods was a tiny “Ye Olde Donut” sign, and standing behind the counter was a barista who exclaimed, “You’re wearing a donut shirt! And it’s National Donut Day! I love it!!!” She knows. (maple glazed cake, Bavarian cream long john – like a Boston cream pie, mmmmmmm)


My donut day trek took me then to Carmella’s Creme where the cases were filled like I’d never seen before! They. Were. Prepared. Rows of twists, oceans of sprinkles. Tables of every-day-is-donut-day patrons eager (“Well look at that – a donut shirt!”) to learn some Donut Day history. I think some of them may have been around for the inaugural event…. (sugar dusted raised, glazed chocolate cake!)


Finally a quick coffee at Dunky to round out my morning (all this before 10am – aren’t you impressed??!). Aaaaaand a couple more donuts. Aaaaand a whole staff of donut t-shirt groupies: “look at her shirt!” “come here, did you see her shirt?!” “donut shirt!”  <—italics = whispers. (classic strawberry frosted with sprinkles, and actually one of the best puffy, eggy crullers I’ve ever had in my life, made even better by the fact that it was FREE with my coffee purchase in observance of the holiday)


And now back to bed to dream of sugary ethereal halos. I’ll be hanging up my new uniform until next year. Or at least until next week…….


pretty doughnut lineup

*excuse me, but did you know that a police lineup is called an identity parade in British English??!?!!? can you believe it??! so good….ok, back to the desserts:


You know when something’s so cute you just want to pinch it? And you know when something’s so pretty you just want to eat it? Yeah, well, if this is you, then this is your donut shop.

Be advised: Sidecar Doughnuts is NOT a 24/7-keep-’em-coming donut place. When the sign says they close at 4pm (on weekdays, 9pm on Fri/Sat), they mean it. Not 4:01, not 4:02….4. And not like anything in LA is close, but unless you live in Santa Monica or Costa Mesa, you are making a deliberate trip for these donuts.


And so, at 4:02, with customers inside and fresh, warm donuts ready to be mine, my face was dumbfoundedly pressed up against a locked glass door. The Sidecar staff are experts at avoiding eye contact. I am an expert at putting on a pathetically pleading face in times of dire need. The Sidecar staff then shows their hand and become experts at sneakily sneaking me in and relocking the door behind me. (!!!!!!!!!praise be to the donut guardian angels!!!!!!!!)

Luckily, I already had my order planned, so I ordered, tipped, thankthankthanked, and was out by 4:04. Like a pro. Here’s what I had:


maple bacon – made with Vermont maple and smoky, perfectly crispy and salty Niman Ranch bacon

violet – vanilla cake infused with violet oil and topped with a violet (edible) and candied violets – different and delicious and a bit like Chowards!

butter & salt – restaurant bread baskets as we know them should just call it quits and use these at every meal instead. warm, buttery, salty, sweet, dense but not heavy….

huckleberry – huckleberry glaze on a huckleberry cake packed with tangy sweet Oregon huckleberries….huckleberryhuckleberryhuckleberrrrrrryyyyyy. get it.


They have everyday flavors as well as monthly special flavors, so they keep you wanting/coming back for more. And I will be coming back for more… What’s happening in March? Cara Cara orange? Chocolate & rye? Coconut cream pie? Oh, ok. Yes. Yes. And yes. And, lesson learned, I’ll be sure to get there at noon.

Oh, and were you wondering what they do with all the leftover fresh-from-the-oven-post 4 o’clock donuts? I sure was. Answer: they donate them. (or should I say, they doughnate them….that’s right) Good thing they let me in when they did, and good thing that was their answer bc I was mere seconds away from beginning my dumpster diving career….


Sidecar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Legend of Ye Olde Donut Shoppe


Long ago (starting maybe 60 years ago), in a land far away (Champaign, IL), there was a little hut (a glorified lemonade stand really), called Ye Olde Donut Shoppe. They made donuts daily: hand-cutting the dough and whipping up their own fudgey or mapley icing. The donuts were so delicious that they often sold out quickly and every afternoon (most afternoons? did this really happen?) the sign on the hut would magically change from ‘Ye Olde Donut Shoppe’ to ‘Ye Olde BBQ Pit.’

I have recounted this tale so often that I began to think that possibly I made it up. Ye Olde What? On which street corner? It’s not there now…. was it ever there?? And then I saw this:


Ye Olde Donut lives!! Ye Olde Donut is real!!! Ye Olde Donut has become a food truck with only a handful of donuts and some egg sandwiches??! Shame. Knowing this could not possibly be the conclusion of the story, I set out to track down the elusive donut selection of yore. There were rumors that the donuts were being made in the Law Building, but no one working at the Law Building knew anything about it (actual law librarian quote: “I don’t know anything about any donuts.”), and upon searching at 8:30am (8:30AM!!!) one day, all I found was this disapproving glare:


Donut judge me.

As it turns out, getting a donut from Ye Olde requires some wake-up and some know-how. Secret tip: it is best to place an order ahead of time by #1: calling their phone number or #2: going into the Law Building cafeteria and asking the cashier the cryptic question, “Can I place an order for donuts?”

And then, on your appointed donut pick-up day, you rise with the sun and head to the Law Building through the misty morning fog. It will seem locked, but don’t be deterred – at least one door will be open.


Make your way past the bronze uptights on the wall and head for the cafeteria. It will probably be deserted, or maybe there will be one lone lady making tuna sandwiches. If you tell her you are there for the donuts, she will know your name. Great customer service or mystical powers? Up for debate (at the Law Building! I just came up with that).

Each donut is $1 (cash) and if you are lucky (and early, like 7:30am early) there may be more donuts to add to your already boxed order/cardboard treasure chest (if you will). Apple fritters to rival Randy’s, chocolate iced cake that tastes exactly like “donut,” the mildest maple bars, specials of blueberry, red velvet, Devil’s food or some seasonal delight (the Halloween orange is even orange-flavored!)……


So there you have it. A legend to be passed on for generations to come….. And as my epic adventure came to a close and I headed out the door, the oracle cafeteria lady whispered, “Well they did used to make bbq.” (for real, and also I asked)

I KNEW IT!!! And I lived happily ever after.

Voodoo Doughnut saves the day!


Voodoo Doughnut is from Portland. I was in Denver. Glazed and Confused is in Denver. It was Monday. Glazed and Confused is closed on Monday. Thank the donut angels that Voodoo is now also in Denver (and open 24/7). And so the story continues…..


The hype is real. With a rotating donut case (next time I’ll be smarter and take a video), merch plastered on the walls, and a laminated “Top 10” list of best sellers next to the (cash only) register, maybe I was a bit worried that these donuts wouldn’t stand up to all the lore.

Oh but fear not! Not only does Voodoo dazzle with crazy enormous specimens like the cock-n-balls and Tex-Ass challenge (both so so big…. too big? maybe. maybe best to have a three-way with those cock-n-balls), and have exciting flavors like the Bubble (finished with bubblegum dust and a piece of Dubble Bubble) and the Memphis Mafia (a fritter with banana chunks and cinnamon covered in chocolate frosting and peanut butter), they also have the classics: cruellers, old fashioneds and buttermilk bars. Both the crazies and the regs are well-executed with delicious attention to detail (so your grandma doesn’t have to order an Old Dirty Bastard donut to go along with her morning coffee – oh but what if she did?? yesssss). In short, Voodoo is worth a stop.


Back to Monday: Planes needed to be caught. Breakfast had to be eaten. A difficult decision had to be made.

Decision: one enormous peach fritter, a maple bacon bar (bc breakfast, and bc that bacon was perfect), a Portland cream (pouring one out for the original), a buttermilk bar (hot tip from cashier girl), a maple blunt (good for more than just a photo op!), a chocolate coconut cake (bc chocolate, bc coconut, bc duh), and, but of course, a Voodoo doll (with a pretzel “pin” and raspberry jam guts!).

I’ll be returning for the Mexican hot chocolate doughnut and some dirty snowballs some day, but until the next Denver/Portland trip, I will have my pink box memories to keep me full.

Voodoo Doughnut Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Saturday vibes for an unlaborious Labor Day weekend


What better way to start a long weekend than with a box of donuts? No better way.


Upon driving past Carmella’s Creme Donuts, you think: Great! Carmella’s is still here! Then you think: Oh shit – Carmella’s looks vacant and dilapidated and definitely not happening. And thennnn you think: But the Open sign is on the door, sooo???

Don’t be fooled by the peeling paint, overgrown shrubs or taped/wired drive-thru menu – Carmella’s is still making fresh donuts every day! (they’re open every day from something crazy like 5:30am to something afternoony like 3pm) The broke-down drive-thru window is even still in service – broadcasting your order through the intercom like a voice straight from 1986.


They’ve got all the classics: long johns, maple glazed, sugar raised, chocolate chocolate, buttermilk plus their version of a Boston Cream: Angel Cream (sweet). I’m no coffee know-it-all, but their coffee is on point and has that bright acidity that all the hipster coffee houses are going for these days.

This might not be the best metaphor whilst eating, but you know when you take a shower in a grimy tub but still emerge clean? Well, I’m not saying Carmella’s is grimy (it’s not… I don’t think…? It’s not.), but you will be amazed at the delicious freshness delivered through these shuttered doors.

9am honorable mention: the foodie family at the table next to me already planning tonight’s dinner. They decided to leave it – they wanted to maintain some element of surprise in their day.



Carmella's Creme Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato