Fringe Food

A Saintly Return

  • Photos Josh Davidson

What’s the first thought that pops in your head when I say maple? Now: bourbon? And what about: bacon?

You’re probably thinking this is a review of the latest sugar-shack-turned-ultrachic-supper club. But now try this: maplebourbonbacon? One word. You can hold it, carry it, covet it, and down it in a few lustful bites.

Donuts were not on Rachel Corber’s mind when she first entered culinary school after graduating from McGill. But the founder of Saint Donut excelled in the pastry department, and soon found herself working as a pastry chef at many of Montréal’s finest restaurants and caterers, only to find, six years later, that chocolate fondants were not her true passion.

“I’ve always liked working with dough,” she confided to me over the phone. It’s a modest statement from a woman who only two days later served up a few thousand donuts to concert-goers at POP Montreal’s free Arcade Fire show.

If, like me, you’ve been unpleasantly surprised to find your corner dépanneur replaced by a cupcake shop (or, far worse, a “cupcake boutique”), you might dig Ms. Corber, who, firmly opposed to the oversaturation of this town’s cupcake market, is actively concocting her own unique counter-attack.

Which brings us to that humble—yet surprisingly versatile—letter ‘D’. Sandwiched quietly between Crème Brulée and Escargots, Corber’s donut venture reveals the versatility of this long-neglected dessert item. Donuts for Corber are not only sweet but salty, crunchy, and even liquory, to name a few.

She’s been making them since co-launching Jane Donut—she renamed it Saint Donut after her partner relocated—at last year’s POP craft fair, ‘Puces DIY’.

The Jane Donut table caused such a stir that her offering at this year’s POP fest warranted a bigger venue—namely, 100,000 Arcade Fire fans.

The Jane Donut table caused such a stir that her offering at this year’s POP fest warranted a bigger venue—namely, 100,000 Arcade Fire fans.

“I have an excellent staff,” said Corber. “And I’ve been wanting to do my own thing for a long time in the pastry world. Donuts do not exist anywhere in Montreal, except on the rare brunch menu, or at Tim Hortons, which are generally not very fresh.”

With her eye on a permanent store space in the Mile End neighbourhood, one gets the sense that the Montreal bagel might—and this is a first—have a rival in the hot, doughy, hollow-centred category of edible items.

One need only experience one of Corber’s donuts to realize the diplomacy of the phrase, “Tim Hortons donuts aren’t always that fresh.”

I am old enough to remember donuts made from scratch at an old-school coffee shop down the street from my childhood home. This was a place with greasy laminate countertops and terrible coffee, but it formed part of a donutscape not yet dominated by the greedy giant known as Timmy. I’m sure the donuts were made there from scratch because they weren’t all perfectly round and the dough was inconsistent, running the gamut between flaky and bricklike. But these were donuts, and recalling them now makes me think Tim Horton’s should rename their products ‘sugar-hoops’.

If the golden era of donut shops passed you by, or you are too young to remember it (both of which may be remedied by a simple screening of Wayne’s World), then let’s be clear: you’re missing out. Corber’s donuts, even in the midst of the chaos of a free Arcade Fire show, tasted chewy and fulfilling. The homemade plain doughnuts came to life when dunked in a variety of warm glazes. And lo and behold, the toppings actually tasted like real things. As in, the maple tasted like maple syrup, the coconut shavings like coconuts, and yes, the bacon like bacon (big coarse chunks of it).

I’d like to tell you just to go eat one, already. But that might be tricky unless you happen to run into Ms. Corber at your friendly neighbourhood cupcake-boutique protest. So why don’t you pester her online instead: let her know you want donuts, and she’ll be more likely to set up shop again soon. We hope for everyone’s sake that we won’t have to wait until the next time Arcade Fire come to town!

More info at facebook.com/saintdonut and @SaintDonut

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