I just had a holy experience.
It involved a doughnut pilgrimage.
In West Asheville, you see the rustiest glider in front of a doughnut shop named HOLE, with a baby blue vintage truck/van in the parking lot. I noticed several children playing inside the back of it that’s set up with a table. And had always thought it was like a food truck or something.
“The truck’s more of a mascot slash billboard,” said owner Ryan Martin, turning over flour calmly as I spoke to him on a Friday morning. “We don’t drive it. It’s for customers to sit.”
As customers, Ryan and his wife, actress Hallee Hirsh, became interested in learning how to make dough. Hallee went on to work here, then they later bought the place.
The menu is very simple: four freshly made doughnuts at the cash register in a little white box with a glass door you can open yourself: molasses bourbon, cocoa, vanilla glaze, and toasted almond sesame and cinnamon. Four at a time, and one changes weekly.
In addition to the four fresh ones on display, they have yeast doughnuts, which are raised all night.
Behind the counter you can see the doughnuts in the process of being created, flour powder popping up into the air like a snow flurry, little circles of dough evolving into their torus futures.
Employee Laurie Crosswell was beaming at the register full of smiles and said she fell in love with the place after only moving here six months ago. “This place is like Cheers for doughnuts,” she added.
The stone-ground flour is local. I saw a guy wheel in some ingredients on a dolly. Ryan took a moment from his prep to write him a check, handing it to the guy personally.
Two little kids grabbed some $1.00 HOLE stickers, thinking they were free. No one seemed to mind.
“We also dehydrate peaches, strawberries and ginger ourselves for toppings,” Ryan added.
Before I sampled the four for myself, I asked Ryan to describe how he made them. “They’re crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside,” he said. “Some describe them as being similar to Amish doughnuts.”
Apparently, the high protein ratio in the flour gives them the crunch, with not too much sugar. “There’s a little bit of a chew to them,” he added.
As I was leaving I offered to buy the four on display, but they gave them to me for free in a white paper bag with PennyCup coffee from the roaster down the road in the Arts District.
At home after photographing them on a cutting board, I took on the heroic mission of devouring all four.
It had to be done.
When on a doughnut pilgrimage, the minimum you must eat is four.
I ate the Toasted Almond Sesame and Cinnamon first, and loved how the bite collapsed into a chewy but not too sugary delectation. It tasted like cinnamon toast and a croissant somehow miraculously conjoined at birth, emerging as a beatific circle. The Molasses Bourbon was a tasteful champion during my doughnut journey. And I finished with the yummy Vanilla Glaze.
I justified this all by the high-protein content.
The texture of these HOLE doughnuts is like nothing you’ve ever tasted. They are big when you see them but they move from chewy to soft in your mouth and don’t feel heavy at all.
Hey, I ate four.
I wish I had gotten five.
High-protein, folks. High protein.
This is a good-feeling spot just up the hill from the French Broad River, the interior of which almost feels like a ski lodge, it’s so comfortable.
With a recipe all its own, HOLE might just be the top doughnut shop in the universe.