A Donut Worth Driving For
There’s not a lot I won’t do for a good donut. Sure, there are people who might say that forty minutes is too far to drive for a donut. But I’m not friends with those people.
Over the past couple of months my friend Laura and I have started a semi-weekly tradition of journeying out to Motueka, a neighboring town about a 40-minute drive west, for morning tea of coffee and donuts.
Sidenote: Many of you reading back home in North America probably just said, “Hold up, morning tea?” It’s like a mid-morning snack but it’s an established thing that people here do daily. I assume it's carried over from British culture, the same way driving on the left has. Honestly it’s like having a second breakfast (which is fitting since we are in the real Middle Earth, land of the second breakfast.) Like I’ve said before, I believe in fully embracing local customs while traveling. I also believe in fully embracing any chance to eat two breakfasts. Anyways, back to the story…
We heard that there were some legendary donuts at this place called The Smoking Barrel, so on a coinciding day off, we hopped in the car and made our way out to “Mot” as the locals call it. At first glance, Motueka itself can seem kind of unimpressive overall; it’s usually just a blip on the radar as travelers pass through on their way to Abel Tasman. The highway turns into High Street and you drive through town for about 45 seconds before the road opens back up into vineyards, rolling hills, sheep-strewn fields, mountains, and all that other boring new Zealand stuff.
This is a “don’t judge a book by its cover” story because, like Motueka itself, the Smoking Barrel is nothing special from the outside. If you were going out for dinner you might easily pass it over for the Thai restaurant two doors down, but oh my friends, that would be a mistake. Mostly because that Thai place’s Jungle Curry is terrible. I digress. Anyhow, it’s a pretty average-looking small town restaurant.
Inside though it’s got a funky modern bohemian American Southwest vibe: high industrial ceilings, hanging ferns that drop down in macramé plant holders, exposed element light bulbs, and glossy wooden tables. The espresso machine is tucked behind the front half of a rusted-over mid-century truck and a wood-fired stove greets you as you walk in. Just past the coffee machine is the glistening cabinet filled with rows of artisanal donuts. There are the classics: raspberry vanilla custard, hokey-pokey, strawberry white chocolate, and nutella boysenberry, as well as the special ones stuck with a syringe of filling: snickers, salted caramel and bourbon, and key lime pie, to name of few. The list goes on, but I won’t torture you.
And if donuts aren’t your thing, first of all, what’s wrong with you, but secondly, they also have some dank homemade bagels you can have instead, and they come with a heaping portion of cream cheese and your choice of pesto or jam. So if you’re like me, and you like your carbs with a side of carbs, you can start with a bagel and finish with a donut. You can see why I’ve become a regular here.
There’s also something grounding about becoming a regular somewhere as you start to make a home in a new place. And I use the term “regular” pretty loosely, it’s not like we’re on a first-name basis with the staff or anything, but regular enough that Laura and I both hold loyalty cards that they stamp every time we buy a coffee. It's kind of amazing how much the smallest things, even as small as a business card sized piece of paper in your wallet, can cultivate a sense of familiarity and belonging in an unfamiliar place.
So in Motueka, a place that might seem like nothing to write home about, these donuts are something to write home about. Or more accurately, something to write to you about, my anonymous blog audience.
Here’s to donuts worth driving for! Life’s short man, enjoy the donuts, enjoy the drive.