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Armed with opinions and an appetite, Alex Schwartz has a cinnamon-sugar-dusted dream: to taste and revisit every fresh apple cider donut he can get his hands on.

Schwartz has cataloged his travels and his reviews on an Instagram page where he calls himself “Cider Donutor”. He calls it his “lifelong mission to try every cider donut.”

He has compiled a map that so far lists over 200 places where aficionados can indulge their taste buds on classic cider delicacies. Schwartz tasted and ranked several on the list, and also took suggestions from passionate Reddit users to create the searchable map.

He started the Cider Donut Odyssey last year and has resumed the quest for the 2021 season.

Apple cider donuts are a fall institution in many parts of the Northeast, but Schwartz argues they’re not all the same. It reviews the freshness of a donut, the texture of the crumb, the sugar level and, of course, the taste.

Yes, it’s almost 70 degrees in much of New England right now. But the quick arrival of seasonal foods has become a modern tradition (we’re looking at you, spiced pumpkin lattes in August). And what’s the downside of starting early when there are so many delicious donuts to discover?

Trying every apple cider donut is a lofty dream, however. If Schwartz is to succeed, he will need his determination to be as strong as his hunger.

He told Boston Magazine that he had already eaten six apple cider donuts from six different places in one day. “My stomach wasn’t very excited about it,” Schwartz said. “But, you know, I was doing it for the cause.”

Tips for your own tasting experience

No Family Secrets Here: Schwartz is happy to share these tips for getting the most out of your own donut tasting expedition:

  • Always look for hot and fresh cider donuts that are prepared in front of you. Nothing compares to the experience of opening the bag on a cool fall day with a hot donut. If steam comes out of the bag when you open it, you know you’re falling.
  • In my mind, the perfect cider donut should be a delicate balance between a number of factors: sweetness, lightness, humidity, crispy and spongy fry.
  • Take a single bite and take a break. Close your eyes. If you feel like removing the rest of the donut, that’s a good sign, but enjoy it if you can. Note the taste.
  • Make sure to optimize the experience. Take at most one photo of the moment and be there for the rest. Are you standing in the parking lot, sitting in your car and eating the donuts? Or are you heading to the well-placed bench overlooking the rolling hills of the orchard? Is it a cool day? If so, a hot apple cider in hand really does the trick. No need to soak – rather think of it as a very tasty hand warmer.
  • I try not to take notes while eating the donut. I experience the farm and donuts, then write my thoughts down afterwards. It helps me stay present for the real experience.
  • If the farm offers it, try their plain, sugar-free version in addition to the cinnamon sugar version. You’ll be surprised at how some people are able to make an apple cider donut with a subtle sweetness in the donut itself without the extra sugar on top of doing the heavy lifting.

This story originally published in the Morning edition live blog.

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