Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pittsburgh Flour Power: Peace and Love (and Little Donuts)

Saturday March 10, 2012
Pittsburgh, PA

Donuts, little ones, man. Here in the City of Bridges, feeling the love.

“Feed Your Inner Hippie,” is the catch phrase on Smallman Street, here in the Strip, the historic market district. It ain't Vegas, but it ain’t square. Far from it, you dig?

Groovy donuts (and the Bruins vs. Penguins game tomorrow) have prompted a ten-hour road trip from Milltown (Maynard, MA) to Pittsburgh.

It’s a Steel Town Saturday morning, and the line in the hole-in-the-wall donut shop just off 21st Street is short. Cool.

A cat in a dark pullover accepts the plain ringlets, fresh off the production line, while his female colleagues—one wearing a hoodie with colorful hearts, the other in a funky pullover promoting the shop's peaceful slogan—toil for the man.

"I can guarantee you," the hipster says, “You’re going to like them.”

The first two, a glazed and a sugar-sprinkled, are on the house. Far out, man.

But we can’t eat them yet. Photoshoot material.

Hepcat decorates the other donuts with funky toppings: chocolate chip cookie dough; chocolate, caramel and coconut—a la the cookie the Girl Scouts call a Samoa; raspberry lemonade frosting; maple frosting and bacon chunks.

The donuts, like hippies during a sit-in, occupy two plastic containers. The Photographer and I take them outside. Takin’ the treats to streets, man.

In see-your-breath cold, my wife places different donuts on a parking meter as bemused Pittsburghers nod and smile their approval.

“I like it,” says one dude.

“I’m gonna have to sacrifice the Samoa,” the Photographer says. But then she changes her mind, doesn’t want to place the little donut, its surface sticky and inviting, on the steely counter of the behemoth patio heater on sidewalk.

Picture this: I devour the sugar-sprinkled freebie. Crispy and sweet, man.

We carry the rest of them, now contraband, to the 21st Street Coffee and Tea shop next door. Upstairs, empty coffee bean sacks from Latin America, like the one promoting the Zenda Vista Alegre brand, adorn the walls.

I enjoy a café mocha and the serene scene, visible via the long rectangular window: Unencumbered blue sky above; straight ahead and across Smallman Street, the brick and mortar Pennsylvania Railroad Fruit Auction & Sales Building; and to the right and across 21st Street, Saint Stanislaus Kostka (the patron saint of youth) Church, its majestic brick bracketing the twenty-two foot diameter window.

We share, in true hippie spirit but without the bell bottoms, the already sample-sized donuts. The Photographer savors the first half of the French Toast Strawberry.

“It does taste like French toast,” she says. “I was a little skeptical.”

It’s flavor is, like, sublime as the bells from the Polish church chime, signaling the time: 10:30. I’m diggin’ the vibe. But I need another donut.

Time to split.

Back at Peace, Love & Little Donuts, I get my fix.

Sweet little donut friend of mine, topped with banana and chocolate chips. Oh man, so tasty you are. Better than the rest. Best of the bunch.

Peace out, my flour children.

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