Back in the day, I remember dreading 7 am morning hockey practices, but what made me continue going was the fact that my Dad would pick up an assorted dozen from the Timmy Ho’s on our drive home. This was the Seventies in Hamilton where the chain was born and when Tim Hortons was still the revered real deal. From that moment forward, the donut has symbolized for me the ultimate comfort food. I have spent way too much time and money, trying most of the monstrosities out there that call themselves donuts these days, from overly sweet Krispy Kremes, to dried-out 7-11 apple fritters, to the sad little Timbit disasters they now make at Tim Hortons. And this is what has led me here at 7 am in the morning, over 30 years later, to meet up with Rags and Jordan, owners of Cartems Donuterie. Except now, I am not in need of comfort from my bruised hockey ego, but another 12 hour cooking shift and a bottle of Jim Beam I had just finished drinking only a few hours earlier. And then it happened – Rags handed me a warm and freshly baked Maple Bacon Bourbon donut and at that moment I was magically transported back to that time. I had found it, the donut I had been looking for.
Let’s set the record straight: these are most definitely not your Pop’s donut, but a donut for the 21st century boasting tasty and unique flavour combinations, without becoming overly precious. On top of that, Cartems attempts to use only the highest quality local and sustainable products. For example, the candied bacon on the donut I had just finished had been smoked specifically for them for 48 hours at the Woodland Smokehouse & Commissary, the same place that currently houses their donut factory. The slightly sweet and salty chips of bacon in contrast to the surprisingly subtle Maker’s Mark bourbon maple glaze made this donut easily my favourite of the options tasted. Another top choice is their most popular, The Earl Grey, which is a tea flavoured glazed donut topped attractively by hand with crumbled rose petals. You could easily finish a few of these in one sitting. One last donut of note I was lucky enough to try, was the Mexican Mole, a spicy chocolate concoction incorporating the flavours of the red traditional mole of Central Mexico. There are at least a dozen choices available each day which always include a couple of the vegan and gluten-free variety.
Cartems began about 3 months ago and their donuts can currently be found at their very popular temporary pop-up shop at the corner of Hastings and Carrall Street or in the storefront at the Woodland Smokehouse & Commissary on Commercial Drive. Get there early as they sell out almost daily. Plus they do catering for special events with previous clients including Vancouver Fashion Week, Gastown Shop Hop, and Salt Spring Coffee. For the latter, they developed a one-of-a kind creation – an espresso and spice donut with a coffee liquor and espresso glaze, finished with chocolate ganache and cinnamon foam. Now if I could just get my hands on that one, I may have a new, new favourite donut.
John Paul McFarland is a Vancouver based Writer, DJ, Cook, Sports Fanatic, Theatre Enthusiast, and Film Geek, but mostly obsessed with Sixties Soul, Afro Funk, and Good Eats. He would love to one day eat for a living, but fears he would develop gout like that former NY Times food critic did. So instead, he cooks.