Who Knew: Time to Try the Donuts!


Admit it: this is the kind of six pack you want in your weekend.

‘Who Knew?’ is sponsored by Walter Stewart’s Market.

Scientists recently suggested that the universe is shaped like a donut, not the pancake shape we all believed it to be for decades. Light waves leftover from the Big Bang, once thought to run parallel, were observed converging. While we wait for further evidence to determine what carb we most closely resemble, we can’t sit idle. If the universe is but a donut, who am I not to chase that shape down a highly caloric, Homer Simpson-style rabbit hole of dough, glaze, and filling? Let’s go for this, dear reader. Let’s enter the Donut Zone. 

New Canaan has donuts. Dunkin Donuts cranks out a serviceable array of classics from their sparkling new digs at Elm and South daily, and my husband swears up and down that their blueberry cake variety belongs in the global donut pantheon. I love a Dunkie’s iced coffee, but we aren’t here to analyze the strengths and foibles of a national chain. Of greater interest to me are Event Donuts, those rarefied snacks that, if someone drops a box of them off at your front door, your entire week is made. Your faith in humanity is buttressed. Your reaction is slightly bigger than, “Oh, were these left over after your quarterly budget meeting?”

The Tour de Donuts would take 59 minutes of driving, and at the end, you’d be diabetic. But happy.


New Canaan sits within a golden triangle of Event Donut Availability. Within a 20-minute drive, we can find a widely vaunted doughnut popup-turned-storefront, an authentic vintage diner with a strong donut side hustle, and a sourdough bakery that slings a trip-worthy Italian treat. We also have a seasonal appearance, the Blue Jay Orchards’ apple cider donut at Walter Stewarts, which has come to denote fall better than chrysanthemums and sweater weather.  

Blood sugar be damned, let’s visit them all.

Rise Doughnuts

The COVID-19 pandemic bestowed on us some unexpected gifts. Flagrant uncovered public coughing is finally a mortal sin; anyone can use a QR code, and sidewalk dining has become An Actual Thing. We can also thank the pandemic’s bloom in homebound creativity for Rise Doughnuts. Rise began as a cult pop-up donut shop hosted by the family behind Mighty Quinn’s BBQ on weekend mornings, operating first out of Wilton’s Parlor Pizza and, later, the Schoolhouse restaurant building where Baldanza now thrives. Line lurkers would arrive as early as 6 AM on wintry mornings to snap up their rotating selection of sourdough doughnuts (note the schmancy spelling; no shortcuts here!) With well-developed, bespoke flavors like raspberry vanilla, lemon poppy, and Thai iced tea, the doughnuts gave cabin-fevered pandemic families something to look forward to, a special gift to give a friend, and a reason to put on real pants one day of the week.

The flavor board at Rise is all hits, no misses

Rise’s brick-and-mortar storefront, which opened in 2022, now cranks out 5,000 doughnuts weekly, a permanent ray of sunshine in downtown Wilton. On a recent visit, five flavors and their excellent apple fritter were available for $4 a pop, and no, that’s not too much to pay for a doughnut. These aren’t the gimmicky donuts you find covered in Cheetos, bacon, or Lucky Charms—those exist, but I’m glad they don’t exist here. Rise’s approach is more naturally led; their browned butter vanilla bean glaze serves such earthy realness, you’ll shun ordinary sugar glaze for being so boring.

Other flavors–cherry vanilla, chocolate buttercream, and classic cinnamon sugar, were delicate but assuredly present. Their sourdough has a dense, somewhat chewy crumb, giving each doughnut heft and substance without cloying sweetness. Their breakout star, and I’ll go ahead and declare it the best doughnut I’ve ever eaten, is the Wilton Cream. 

Extruded vanilla cream is the stuff of dreams, and other sentences I never thought I’d write.

A decisively upgraded Boston Cream, it’s a hefty, round boy, piped full of exquisite vanilla-laced whipped cream instead of gooey, oft-bungled crème pâtissière and covered in an astoundingly rich chocolate glaze. Go on a Saturday to snag a Wilton Cream, sit in their sunny shop, and be thankful that Rise isn’t closer. If it were, none of your real pants would fit. 


Lakeside Diner

Lakeside Diner is a vacation in the past,” Robin Bates-Mason recently recommended. I’d often driven past this quaint spot on Long Ridge Road without an inkling as to how right she was. It’s a cash-only, honest-to-goodness circa 1951 diner with Formica counters and

The cutest.

linoleum flooring, a wall of fame and student theater, and a lovely view of the lake out back. I’d spied their donuts, too,  a mainstay at the New Canaan Beautification League & Garden Club’s annual holiday greens workshop, but never actually tried one because, at that event, they disappear very quickly.

A recent Saturday breakfast was tasty–a spinach and feta omelet, home fries, and an English muffin hit the spot. But we were seated next to a tidy tower of freshly made donuts, and I found myself staring at them like I would if Martha Stewart were to fly commercial and plop down in the seat next to me. In the presence of such an icon, who has the will to look away?

Local celebrities.

On the way out, I grabbed a box of a dozen to bring to a friend who had recently left surprise Rise Doughnuts on our doorstep, making ours a doughnut-for-donut exchange society. But I had to take one from the box to sample for myself, making it a writer’s dozen (sorry, Terry!), and can report that, eaten warm, they’re as comforting and sugary as any donut you might remember from childhood. The open, cakey crumb almost melts away, leaving you with cinnamon sugar, good vibes, and a longing for your vacation in the past to stretch on indefinitely.


Flour Water Salt Bakery’s Bomboloni

Though we credit Dutch settlers in early New York with inventing the modern donut, sweetened, fried dough is nothing new. The ancient Greeks and Romans were both known to enjoy it, and nearly every regional cuisine in the world has a version of fried pastry, whether filled or plain, long and churro-y as in Spain or spherical and soaked in delicious rosewater syrup like an Indian gulab jamun.


Jelly indeed.

Flour Water Salt Bread gets everything right, minus the fatal flaw in making Darien their home base instead of New Canaan, but we’ll forgive them for it because of their bomboloni. In a shop that bursts at the seams with naturally leavened bread (commercial yeast is for losers) and laminated pastries, their bomboloni (singular: bombolone?) keep me up at night. Made from fried brioche dough and served plain (plain is for quitters) or filled with a rotating array of stellar creams and jams, a FWS bombolone is best enjoyed cut in half first for optimal Filling Management™. 

I watch for their unexpected filling flavors because they’re always beautifully executed, with combinations like sun butter caramel honey, Earl Grey tea, and passionfruit cream. But a recent visit netted me a blue raspberry bomboloni, oozing with sweet blueberry/ raspberry jam and rolled in a dusting of fine sugar. Did I enter a fugue state during which I also snagged English muffins, a couple of bagels, some very fancy butter, and a slab of focaccia? I might have. Did that cost $80? Who are you, my accountant? But it’s all freezer-friendly, and, like a squirrel, I’m thinking ahead. 


Apple Cider Donuts from Blue Jay Orchards 

Bikini season will be over by then.


What announces the arrival of fall for you? Flannel? Football? A big dumb hat? For the past ten years, for me, it’s been the day Walter Stewart’s puts out the Apple Cider donuts from Bethel’s Blue Jay Orchards. For those of us born outside New England, cider donuts are an impossibly quaint tradition, and while I never feel motivated enough to pick my own apples in an orchard, I do seek an annual cider donut. Made with cinnamon, nutmeg, and apple cider baked into the dough, cider donuts are best enjoyed hot from the oven or microwaved for ten seconds. It’s hard to think about fall when winter is still very much in evidence and we have two seasons (asparagus and mosquito, respectively) to enjoy first, but it’s lovely to think that every time of the year comes with a little something to enjoy with a cup of coffee. 

If you find yourself bemoaning the shape of things–the country, the world, your eyebrows–it’s normal. But consider instead the shape of the universe because that shape just might be “donut”. And until they decide that it’s pancake-shaped after all, we’re uniquely positioned to celebrate it. 

In the one appropriate instance of AI for local news purposes, this is Gemini’s take on a “donut-shaped universe.”

9 thoughts on “Who Knew: Time to Try the Donuts!

  1. What a fun read! All of the donut spots are fantastic…however I missed seeing Speedy Donuts on Connecticut Ave in Norwalk, which has been around for almost 57 years! All donuts are made fresh in house daily! Nothing like a Boston Cream donuts that needs a separate bag because it was freshly dipped in the chocolate and still warm.

      • You can add Donut Crazy at the Westport Train station to your additional research list. Of all of the donuts you have mentioned, the Wilton Cream at Rise is one that is worth it to me for the 4 mile walk to burn it off.

  2. Laura, once again you made me laugh out loud – really loud – while reading another one of your great articles. Love them, and love you! xo

  3. Also a must try is Coffee An’ Donut Shop in Westport. Tiny little place with counter space and 4 small tables with fresh home made classic donuts. A must try and CASH ONLY also.

  4. Laura,
    As always, this article is fabulous, fun to read and mouth-watering. I know what an incredible volunteer you are in town for the NC Beautification League and we thank you, so… to alleviate some of your research, I’m sure you could recruit some “interns” to assist you with your firsthand research and taste testing! Thanks for sharing your talent and love of NC to all.
    Kathleen Murphy

  5. Thank you, Laura. I think I need to Rise to the occasion and head on over to Wilton for a Boston Cream. I’m guessing there’s some protein somewhere in that chocolate glaze, right?

  6. What Dimitri said about Coffee An’, with a special pointer toward their Marble Twist (a glazed cake-style cruller containing strands of vanilla and chocolate). Used to live within walking distance of Coffee An’ and those twists are quite deadly.

    Laura, I have forwarded this essay to three people, who all had the same response: “Now I want a donut.”

    Mr. Ault, your Dunkin favorite would never ever ever occur to me but it has now.

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