Recently, Andrew and I traveled to Napa to photograph some landscapes for the forthcoming Who’s Hungry? digital magazine (more on that exciting project here). While in wine country, we stayed at the Carneros Inn, a charming collection of small cottages sprinkled through the Napa hillside. Early one morning, Andrew and I stopped for a quick breakfast at Boon Fly Café, a rustic, comforting restaurant on the grounds of the inn.
A red, barn-like building houses the café, which was named for a Carneros pioneer who planted orchards and vineyards in the area in the mid 19th century. Now, it’s a warm and friendly spot where locals and guests of the inn meet up for a quick bite. In the mornings, that quick bite usually starts with some fresh juice or coffee, and the specialty of the house: old-fashioned doughnuts.
In Chicago, doughnuts have become something of a craze, with restaurateurs like Scott Harris and Brendan Sodikoff opening fancy doughnut bakeries. But the ones at Boon Fly are old-school: simple, classic dough fried to a deep brown, then served warm with sugar on top. That and a cup of coffee are the start of a really stellar breakfast menu, which also includes eggs Benedict, griddle cakes, “eggs in a hole,” and more.
What’s best about these miniature doughnuts is their texture. They’re light and fluffy, almost melting in your mouth. Granulated sugar adds a little crunch, and coffee mellows out the sweetness. It was still cool in the mornings when Andrew and I visited Napa, and these doughnuts were a comforting, warm way to start a day of shooting outdoors. Serving them in a real tin pail is a whimsical touch, too.
For the recreation, I wanted to simplify the presentation to just focus on the doughnuts themselves. I wanted to bring in someone who really knew how to properly fry a doughnut, so we were lucky enough to have Celeste Campise, pastry chef at Spiaggia, help us out. At first, some of the doughnuts she fried looked completely perfect when they came out of the oil. The food stylists and I chose the ones that were less regularly shaped to capture the handmade look that Boon Fly’s had. Then, we topped them with tons of sugar to simulate the granules that fall off when you bite into them. Lastly, I kept the background and the lighting just a bit hazy to mimic the early morning feeling that Andrew and I had as we ate at the inn. Even though we weren’t 100 percent awake yet, we knew these doughnuts were some of the best we’d tasted.