When I found out I was going to Nashville for a conference, I did two things: I looked up how far Ann Patchett’s Parnassus Book Store was from my hotel, and I researched donuts. I like to find gourmet donuts when I travel, and I’ve yet to read an Ann Patchett book I didn’t love. I don’t usually seek out book stores when I travel, except maybe Powell’s in Portland, but I love Ann Patchett. State of Wonder, Bel Canto, The Patron Saint of Liars, and Commonwealth are all beautifully written books. And she, the author of them, has a book store! In Nashville!
So I went. It was as wonderful as I’d hoped it be.
I bought a couple of books, sat on the leather couch in the middle of the store, enjoying the warm wood floors and shelves, and I wrote. I soaked in the books and the quiet for a while. Then I went around the corner to Fox’s Donut Den, got some coffee and a maple cruller donut, and I wrote some more. The donut shop was a better place to write, with the red and grey squiggly formica countertops, the bell on the door that jingled every couple of minutes as people poured into the shop, and the joyful sound of voices ordering donuts.
That evening, back in my room, as I spread my books and journals around me on my hotel bed, I realized, oh my God: I’m living my dream. When the kids were small, and I was a stay at home mom, my entire life revolved around caring for them. It could be suffocating, being responsible for these little peoples’ every need. I couldn’t nap, I couldn’t go away. I could barely shower or use the bathroom alone. I certainly couldn’t read a book. There was no break. I had no escape.
In those times, my dream wasn’t “Calgon take me away.” My dream was “What I wouldn’t give for a hotel room, all to myself, where nobody will need anything from me. Where I can just read my book in peace.” And here I was in a hotel room, all to myself, where nobody needed anything from me, and I was just reading my books in peace.
On my final day in Nashville, I visited the donut shop I had been drooling about for two weeks: Five Daughters Bakery. Go look at their Instagram and see if you don’t drool too. They have a 100 layer donut, which is really a cronut, but cronut doesn’t sound very dignified so they don’t call it that.
As I stood in front of the case, I was overwhelmed by the selection. I knew I wanted the blood orange donut. For sure. But I couldn’t decide on the croissant-donuts — would that really be something I’d like? So I asked the woman behind the counter, very originally, “What’s your favorite?” (every person who approached the counter after me, which was about 10 in the 30 minutes I sat there, also asked her “What’s your favorite?” or “What do you recommend?”) She said the vanilla bean 100-layer is a classic and isn’t overwhelmingly sweet, which is what I wanted to hear. I got one of those, too.
Would the buttery, 100-layer donut be something I’d like? Um. Yes. It was indescribably good. It was satisfying to bite into, with its crisp give. And the sweet glaze over the buttery pastry, and the crisp of the layers, and the hint of salt in the buttered layers to go with the sweet of the vanilla bean glaze and glllaahhhh.
The blood orange donut was phenomenal as well, with its crisp-chewy, golden-brown, fried-dough outside and its soft-chewy, warm-sweet inside, and the tangy citrus icing on top that had just the right balance of sharp and sweet, and omg it was so good.
Nashville was a cool place, I’d go there again. But these donuts from Five Daughter’s? They are a destination. They are worth planning a trip around. If you have any reason to go to Nashville and are undecided about it, you should go for these donuts if for no other reason. And also the bourbon and popcorn at Merchant’s Bistro.