Donut Friend surprises with innovative flavor ideas

From cupcakes to macaroons, the dessert world has been through a series of trends that sparks the interest of anyone with a sweet tooth. Recently, Cronuts — a classic croissant meets glazed donut combination — have been all the rage, but a classic breakfast staple is about to take center stage: donuts.

Donut BFFs · The Jets to Basil donut is an interesting amalgamation of Italian flavors, as a donut is stuffed with strawberry jam and goat cheese and then finished with a sugar glaze and balsamic reduction. - Alegra Hueso | Daily Trojan

Donut BFFs · The Jets to Basil donut is an interesting amalgamation of Italian flavors, as a donut is stuffed with strawberry jam and goat cheese and then finished with a sugar glaze and balsamic reduction. – Alegra Hueso | Daily Trojan

After 20 years of producing music for bands such as Blink 182 and Drive Like Jehu, Mark Trombino wanted to do something different. After being inspired by the donut shop Donut Man in Glendora, Calif., which stuffs fresh fruit into their glazed donuts, but Trombino decided to create his own version with a twist. A few years later, Trombino, without having any restaurant experience, decided that it was time to start his new venture, and Donut Friend, located on York Boulevard in Highland Park, was born.

While planning a menu for his new eatery, Trombino knew he wanted his donuts to be cheesy. There’s a lot of things that can go wrong with mixing sweets with cheese, so Trombino sought the expertise of various decadent grilled cheese recipes and tried to translate them to the sweet vessel of a glazed donut. After much deliberation and a plethora of donut tasting, Trombino came up with six different donut combinations that find a successful way to incorporate cheese.

One of the best examples, the GG Almond, contains gruyere and honey inside a traditional donut, topped with a sugar glaze and toasted almonds. The sharpness of the gruyere is tempered by the honey and the rest of the donut reinforces the sweetness. Another example is the Spanish Bomb, which pairs Manchengo cheese and quince paste inside a sugar glazed donut sprinkled with toasted almonds.

Perhaps the most interesting combination is the (A)pple Pi(E), a traditional donut  stuffed with caramelized apples and cheddar cheese, topped with a caramel glaze and toasted peanuts.

Donut Friend’s menu features 21 unusual and adventurous donut compilations such as the Bacon 182 — a traditional maple glaze donut with crispy bacon bit topping. The store’s best seller is the Italian-inspired Jets to Basil. The donut is a play on the classic Italian flavor combination of basil and balsamic with goat cheese, fresh strawberry jam and basil, topped with a sugar glaze and balsamic reduction.

These unique combinations are the reason that Trombino’s Donut Friend will make its mark in the dessert world. With its unique style and vivid imagination put into each of the donuts, Donut Friend will prove that donuts aren’t just meant to be breakfast food, but a decadent dessert that can be enjoyed at any time. On top of that, Donut Friend will probably be at the forefront of a new dessert revolution.

On top of a creative menu, Donut Friend gives the customer the choice to DIY (Do It Yourself). The DIY option begins with choosing a donut base (such as traditional, vanilla, chocolate cake or gluten free), then picking from a variety of fillings such as jams and compotes, creams and butters, fresh fruit or cheese, and then finishing the creation with a specific glaze and topping. Donut Friend’s goal is to offer as many ingredients as possible that customers would want to put in or on their donuts — Trombino calls this the “Pinkberry” approach. But for all the inventive flavors Donut Friend already provides, it’s hard to imagine customers coming up with anything more creative.

Donut Friend has been open for two weeks, and the customers are pouring in. The first weekend after opening, Donut Friend had lines out the door, which made even more people curious about the new business. With such a vast base of customers, Donut Friend is likely to beat the average new restaurant shelf life.

Trombino’s motto for his business is simple: “We don’t just do donuts, we do donuts differently.” Donut Friend not only offers creatively flavored donuts, but they take the role of a traditional donut shop, serving espressos, teas and coffees. Donut Friend also has a wide selection of unique soft drinks, including Better Booch (an iced kombucha tea), Margo’s Bark Rootbeer, Mexican Coke and Jarritos.

Coming soon to the menu are two donut spin-offs, including a donut pudding — think bread pudding, made with day-old donuts, and donut fritters — essentially deep fried fruit donuts. On top of that, Donut Friend plans on offering ice cream and fruit bowls in the future.

With a shifting dessert market, it takes more than a new establishment with character to stick around for longer than a year. Donut Friend appeals to the public not just as a dessert joint, but also as a fun place to snack and meet with friends. Its exciting menu and pleasant environment provide customers a rendezvous full of flavor, and with their alternative vibe, people of all walks of life will be taking a taste of what Donut Friend has to offer.