Over the past few weeks, I've encountered multiple Santa Feans—both natives and transplants—who feel intermittent frustration with this city. Beautiful and temperate as it may be, sometimes it feels small and lackluster, especially for those of us under 50 without deep pockets. That's why places like Whoo's Donuts are so exciting: They help us feel less left-out of the trends (read: artisan doughnut crazes) larger cities enjoy.
With Whoo's, ChocolateSmith owners Jeff and Kari Keenan took a risk to fill a culinary void. Since last September, they've gifted Santa Feans with decadent fried dough in an exciting assortment of flavors and textures.
I'm not going to lie: I gasped when I first saw the prices. I'd never experienced a $2.50 doughnut. Now, I understand. The Keenans are committed to using quality ingredients that are organic and/or regionally sourced when possible. The pistachios garnishing the popular white chocolate lemon pistachio cake doughnut hail from McGinn's Pistachio Tree Ranch in Alamogordo. The doughnuts contain no artificial flavors and are fried in organic palm oil. Filling and glazes are handmade. If you still need more convincing, I compared the prices at Whoo's with other famous gourmet doughnuteries nationwide, and they're on par. After all, you're not paying for a Krispy Kreme; you're paying for a unique doughnut experience.
Although Saturday mornings boast the largest assortment of flavors, the "standard" flavors are pretty special, too. Cake doughnuts include a classic buttermilk and a few chocolate varieties that feature embellishments from the ChocolateSmith, like English toffee. (Cake doughnut lovers: Keep your eye out for a blue corn cake with jalapeño jam in the near future.)
The yeast-risen flavors include classic rounds (plain or frosted) and more inventive creations like the maple-bacon bar. The texture of these doughnuts is doughy and breadlike; I prefer an airier texture, but Whoo's doughnuts make up for any shortcomings with their thoughtful dressings. More powerful flavors, such as bacon, are applied in moderation to prevent them from overwhelming the richness of the supporting flavors. The overall result definitely satisfies.
Filled doughnuts are always my favorite, and the options at Whoo's do not disappoint: candied orange and cardamom cream-filled, key lime cream-filled topped with vanilla-lime glaze and crushed bits of graham crackers, blueberry jam with vanilla-berry glaze. Each one features that sweet spot in the middle, where fresh filling encounters glaze at play, creating an extraordinarily good bite.
Just as the Keenans took care in selecting creative, original flavors, they were meticulous about choosing a coffee blend that aptly complements the doughnuts' sweetness. Whoo's offers both iced and regular coffee provided by Cedar Crest's Fat Boy Coffee Roasters and fine teas from Harney and Sons.
The shop itself is bright and comfortable, allowing customers to sit and savor the doughnut experience—which is also available at 15 delivery spots around town. Doughnuts cost $1.63-$2.53, and the shop also sells breakfast burritos and sandwiches by The Providers. At the end of the day, leftover doughnuts are donated to one of several organizations that feed the hungry or homeless.
Santa Feans can now proudly say that we've got the artisan doughnut thing covered. Thank you, Keenans.