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SWEET VICTORY FOR NEW VALLEY ARRIVAL.

Byline: Steve Carney Staff Writer

It turns out the doughnut of presidents and kings is a big hit among deputies and journalists too.

Krispy Kreme - the favorite doughnut of President Clinton and Elvis Presley - was overwhelmingly voted the best of the Valley's glazed in a pseudo-scientific survey at the Daily News testing lab late last week.

The contest was held to mark the arrival of Krispy Kreme, the North Carolina-based chain that is opening a store in Van Nuys on Tuesday.

In the rankings of taste, sweetness, texture and appearance, second-place Foster's Donuts of Chatsworth was closer to the cellar-dweller than to Krispy Kreme's No. 1 ranking.

``As doughnuts go, it's so different from the everyday. Just look at them and you can pick out the Krispy Kreme,'' said Daily News restaurant critic Larry Lipson, one of the five panelists in the blind taste test. ``The sweetness is there, but it's not cloying. And it seems to linger.''

Also judging the sticky sweepstakes was Daily News Food Editor Natalie Haughton and business reporter Gregory J. Wilcox, who represented a breed renowned for its love of free junk food - journalists.

For the final two slots - well, what immediately comes to mind when you think doughnuts? OK, besides coffee.

``Being an 11-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department, I can testify as an expert witness on doughnuts,'' joked Deputy Sheriff Jeff Sweet - yes, that's his real name. He was joined by his partner from Los Angeles County's Lost Hills station, David Bennett, a Valley native and 10-year Sheriff's Department veteran.

``I've eaten many doughnuts in that time,'' Bennett said, though neither looked as though they've packed away very many Old Fashioneds.

``This is the '90s, and most cops aren't like that nowadays,'' Sweet said.

Still, why are there so many police cars parked at doughnut shops?

``Think about it - it's the only place that's open late at night. Guys go in probably for a cup of coffee,'' Sweet said, ``. . . and maybe a doughnut.''

In addition to Krispy Kreme's signature glazed, the cruller combatants included entries from Foster's, Earl's Donuts in Northridge, Winchell's Donut House in San Fernando, Blinkie's Donut Emporium in Woodland Hills and Yum Yum Donuts in Van Nuys - which is across the street from where the Krispy Kreme shop will open.

With plates of sliced doughnuts arrayed before them, Sweet and Bennett gobbled with gusto. Lipson on the the other hand, showing the prudence of a man who eats for a living, sniffed and nibbled the morsels.

``This tastes more like a bagel,'' he said of Blinkie's offering.

``Wow, there's a vast difference,'' added Haughton. ``Some of them are so doughy.

``What are these little confetti things? Are those supposed to be on there?'' she said, suspiciously eyeing the sprinkles on the Earl's doughnut.

Sweet critiqued Winchell's for what wasn't missing.

``One of the qualities is appearance,'' he said, marking his scorecard. ``A doughnut is supposed to have . . . a doughnut hole.''

Wilcox rated Foster's doughnut highest - the only tester who didn't give Krispy Kreme the top mark.

``It was a good-sized doughnut. You knew you were eating a doughnut,'' he said, while the Krispy Kreme ``was very small. I was disappointed with the size of it.''

Haughton agreed, but didn't let the Krispy Kreme's size lower its score too much.

``Scrawny, I called it,'' she said. ``I thought it was the lightest, the most tender, the fluffiest. Also, the Krispy Kreme glaze was gorgeous.''

But the Foster's was more in line with her image of what a doughnut should be. ``It was big and beautiful.''

The battle with Krispy Kreme almost ended before it began. The machine in the Van Nuys shop that makes the glazed doughnuts broke down Thursday, the day of the competition, almost leaving a hole in the contest.

But in a journey reminiscent of Marco Polo's trek to China in search of exotic foods and spices, Lipson slogged through rush-hour traffic, 80 miles round-trip, to buy doughnuts at Krispy Kreme's La Habra shop - currently its only location in Southern California.

To be fair, it needs to be stated that Krispy Kreme's competitors were bought up to five hours before Lipson left La Habra. While all of the doughnuts appeared as fresh as the moment they were bought, the extra wait time could have contributed to their lower scores.

Or, at least, that's what the roomful of journalists outside the tasting room said when they learned their beloved Blinkie's didn't win.

No, Krispy Kreme appears to be the new king in town.

The company, founded in Winston-Salem, N.C., does everything it can to be different than a typical doughnut shop, and not just the fact that it uses the Webster's spelling of `doughnut' while all of the other competitors use the quicker-to-read ``donut'' moniker.

No, Krispy Kreme sells coffee mugs, shirts, boxer shorts and caps with logos to help differentiate it for its fans - which even the company describes as almost cult-like.

It has its own Ministry of Culture, which makes sure franchisees keep up the image of the company. And the opening of shops in new areas prompts clamor and media coverage. Like what you're reading now.

But the mystique of Krispy Kreme was lost on Wilcox and Haughton.

``I don't understand it at all,'' Wilcox said. ``It's a doughnut. I don't think a doughnut is something you really go out of your way to eat.''

``I think it's kind of bizarre,'' Haughton added. ``I thought they were excellent. But I would not stand in line for an hour or a half-hour to go to a Krispy Kreme. Why are doughnuts that important to people?''

CAPTION(S):

5 Photos, Box, Map

Photo: (1--Color) Plain, glazed doughnuts were used in our taste test. They were judged on: sweetness, texture, appearance, color and overall taste.

(2--Color) no caption (Doughnuts)

(3--4) Deputy Jeff Sweet, left, and Deputy Dave Bennett try doughnuts.

John McCoy/Staff Photographer

(5) Krispy Kreme doughnuts, shown with their stylish box, won kudos.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

Box: How they stack up

Map: Krispy Kreme, 7249 Van Nuys Blvd.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 26, 1999
Words:1013
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