The Many Scales of Best
The other morning I was casually flipping through the 2018 Reader's Choice Awards from "Sauce Magazine" as I got ready for work. As I turned the page, a picture jumped out at me, donuts!! For those that know me well, you know I don't eat them regularly but am pretty well-studied and opinionated.
I followed the displayed picture over to the column of winners and in the top spot I saw "Strange Donuts". When it comes to donuts I tend to be more of a traditionalist, which runs in contradiction to what this bakery stands for, experimentation. While I appreciate the effort they make on pushing the limits of these delicious pastries, for me the argument against has always about the fundamentals. Like with many things in life, I see mastering the basics before iterating, at the very least to understand them, is key. Strange tends to have creative toppings but they tend to sit atop or inside an uninspiring pastry. I find it hard to get behind something new that seemingly overlooks the basics.
With that on the table, I want to stop because this post is less about criticism and more about lists and large-scale voting. Its important for me to accept that my top donut shop does not not have to be the same as yours or Sauce's reader-base. But what I feel this list lacks as I reflect on it is context. People answering the survey for any place should be compelled to answer "why it is their favorite." It might be the service, location, price, cuisine, happy hour, knowing staff or management. Favorite is a tricky word because it can mean different things to different people and we all measure this on a subjective scale. Sauce's survey is huge for this list so I do not believe people could be compelled into long-form answers of this but I would say this inspires disengaged voting and is rather lazy on their part.
When I think about why Strange may have won, there are a couple reasons that come to mind beyond the fact I may simply be on the wrong side of the majority.
Beyond survey size concerns as well as people simply disagreeing with me, if there is one thing Strange has created, its an incredible brand. They do a fantastic job of selling themselves, which is a huge part of the battle. If there is one concept repeatedly driven home in "22 Immutable Laws of Marketing", its how important brand perception is when winning business. In the words of hip hop producer Rick Rubin, "the best art divides the audience". Most people I know feel strongly about Strange one way or another. They talk about how much they love it or hate it.
Back to the donuts. I was out of sorts enough that after reading the award, I went by Strange Donuts since I hadn't been in a couple years at least to see for myself. I grabbed a gooey butter cake donut and I believe the other one was called Husky. Toppings for my part, were too soft on the top and came off all over my hands as I attempted to pick them up. The Husky's flavor profile was decent, while the cake was still a little too soft. Meanwhile, the gooey butter cake was way too sweet and also missed the pastry fundamental mark. But those are just my opinion.
Go Forth Boldly
"Its so good to be classic and not trendy",