Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Halloween at Dunkin Donuts - A Holidaze Tribute

Dunkin Donuts and I go way back.  For as long as I can remember, that logo you see above has been a part of my life in one way or another.  Whether it was my Dad bringing home that retro box of a dozen donuts to my Grandparents or my Mom ordering a large hot coffee, there are many memories and a great deal of nostalgia now associated with the pink and orange.  In particular, Dunkin Donuts will always have a strong connection to Halloween.  So much, in fact, that it's become an annual tradition to indulge as much as possible when this time of year rolls around.  Don't get me wrong, I drink two iced coffees a day, but the spooky season invites us to take our game to the next level and really soak in The Holidaze.

My love for Dunkin Donuts and the personal connection it has with Halloween goes much deeper than a few donuts and some coffee.  Back in 1999, when my Parents, cousin, and I first visited Salem, MA, it was so crowded that we had to park the car very far away from Main Street on a cold, windy, night.  We were unfamiliar with the area and instead of being smart and actually remembering what street we were on, we said "hey, remember we're near the Dunkin Donuts."  Great, right?  So, we go about our time in the greatest Halloween Town on the planet and enjoy ourselves.  When the night came to an end, we knew we had a long walk back to the car.  Luckily we remembered that we parked next to the Dunkin Donuts!

Well, THE Dunkin Donuts was more like A Dunkin Donuts because, little did we realize, the original Dunkin Donuts opened in Quincy, Massachusetts and there seemed to be another store on every block, at every corner.  Now, we're completely lost and have no idea where we're going.  Nothing looked familiar and all I can remember is walking over an ice cold bridge in the dead of night.  In case you're wondering, that was the opposite direction of which we were looking for.  It was a mess and it started to feel like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

We finally came across a Diner and my Dad thought it would be a good idea to stop in and ask for directions.  Directions, where? No clue.. "Hey, can you tell me how to get to Dunkin Donuts?"  I'm sure that would have went over well, but my Dad tried his best to describe the location and which way we walked.  Amazingly, a waitress there knew exactly where we were talking about and drove us to that very Dunkin Donuts and, low and behold, there was my Dad's car.  Whenever I tell that story, I add on to it to make it extra spooky.  I tell people we went back to thank her the next day, but the Diner was closed and abandoned for years.  But believe me, that night was scary enough as it was!

That night, before we headed back to our hotel room, we HAD to stop at that Dunkin Donuts and pick up a dozen donuts.  It was only right that we rewarded ourselves for bracing the elements and, of course, warm coffee and hot chocolate were musts for our shivering bones.  We brought the donuts back to the hotel and laughed over our experience.  We laughed at our epic fail and had no idea that we had just created a memory, and tradition, that would last a lifetime.  That year, and every year since, I've gone out of my way to take advantage of what Dunkin Donuts had to offer during this season.  One year, when I was old enough to drive myself, we traveled to Salem again and attempted to hit a Dunkin Donuts after a night out in the cemetery.  Unfortunately, they turned the lights out just as we rolled up and we missed out.  We didn't get lost, but that was a punch in the gut for a guy like me who loves tradition.

Today, in 2014, the tradition continues.  I just moved into a new apartment and one of the first things I did after receiving me key was drive down to the Dunkin Donuts less than 4 blocks away.  I knew the new Halloween Pumpkin donuts were out and I wanted to bring them home.  Look, I'll be the first to admit that, for as much as Dunkin Donuts embraces Halloween in every way, they still don't do it like they used to.  I'll get into that more in a bit, but that doesn't mean I'm knocking them or their new Halloween Pumpkin donuts because these are amazing!  In addition to the return of their Boston Scream, which is your classic Boston Cream donut dressed to impress for Halloween, the Halloween Pumpkin makes it's debut to an uproar of applause.

Perfectly shaped, colored, and decorated, the Halloween Pumpkin is a welcomed addition to the line of various Dunkin Donuts items.  Now, I've seen these at various locations and - I warn you - do not be fooled!  Some stores are not doing their due diligence and have failed to decorate the Halloween Pumpkin with his Jack-O-Lantern face.  That totally defeats the purpose of celebrating Halloween with a Halloween Pumpkin donut.  In that case, it's simply dough with orange icing.  It's still delicious, but we want to enjoy the total package, the complete Halloween experience!  So, I urge you to make sure your store is decorating the donut appropriately.  We may only have 9 days left before the big day, but the Halloween Pumpkin deserves to smile before it ends!

Well, he at least deserves to smile until you eat that smile away.  I named this guy Shawn Michaels (get it?) and was pleasantly surprised by the flavor.  If you haven't tried this yet, you'd probably expect the Halloween Pumpkin to be another variety of Boston Cream.  Believe it or not, this one is not hiding behind a costume and is flavored differently.  The butter creme is vanilla flavored and tastes exactly like cupcake frosting.  The dough is very light, very soft, and compliments the cream amazingly.  It's much better than expected and will hopefully stick around for years to come.  I'd imagine it's a huge hit for Dunkin Donuts and while everybody is enamored by Krispy Kreme's new Ghostbusters donuts, this one may very well end up stealing the show when all is said and done.

My English professor would hate me for bouncing around from topic to topic, but she doesn't run The Holidaze so I'll allow it.  Going back in time, these orange frosted Halloween cupcakes are what I truly associate with the season.  When I think Dunkin Donuts on October 31st, I think of these very donuts without hesitation.  Nowadays, they're known as "Fall Harvest" donuts and I'm fine with that, but they've grown more scarce this year.  I've only seen them in one location, today, and I took their last six.  I already ate one and will probably kill the box before midnight, but I'll try not to indulge so much that I need a Pepto-Bismol chaser.  But, not gonna lie, these are so good that it's hard to neglect.  They may be nothing more than dyed vanilla donuts, but orange frosting and pumpkin sprinkles make them magically taste that much better.  No matter what Krispy Kreme comes up with, these will always be Halloween's head honcho.

However, like I said, Dunkin Donuts used to do things even bigger, even better, and I'd love to see them go into their vault next year to bring back some of that unbelievable nostalgia.

It's a good thing I'm running the site and not Professor Canada because she would be having a fit, but we're going even further back in time, now!  Do you remember these?  Man, I sure do!!  Halloween Dunkin Donuts' with tiny edible monster heads.  If I remember correctly, they offered Frankenstein, Dracula, The Wolfman, and a Witch.  They added so much to the season and appeal.  When I was a kid, I loved Halloween but obviously didn't go scouring for products the way I do now as an adult.  Whatever I had or saw was either brought to me or seen on TV.  In the case of these donuts, it was both.  After seeing that mesmerizing commercial, enticing me to embrace the spooky side of baking, I asked my Dad to bring them home after work.  One night, after I had forgotten about them, he came walking in with that box and we all enjoyed the coolest Halloween donuts of all-time!  Again, memories are made and that logo becomes synonymous with family and happiness.

To be honest, I have much more vivid recollection of Frankenstein than I do Dracula or The Wolfman, but those blood drops seem vaguely familiar.  I can only hope and imagine that Dracula's face was placed on a strawberry donut to represent the blood he so desperately seeks to suck.  I can't say that I definitely experienced such a moment, but I'm sure many of you did and I'm Frankenstein green with envy.  These are just too cool and I'd love to see them make a return in 2015.  There's no doubt they'd be a hit.  I understand that, especially in today's world, it's all about making the most money without spending a lot to do so.  Profit is the name of the game and we all know sugar-shaped monsters would increase cost, but it's soooo worth it!  If I could one day walk into a Dunkin Donuts and see these babies staring back at me, I guarantee I'd wipe them out at least once a week.  They're that special!

Over the last few years, Dunkin Donuts has offered a similar array of items without very much much change.  Sure, Pumpkin Coffee and Apple Cider have been introduced, but we're talking donuts and, besides the Halloween Pumpkin, it's remained somewhat stagnant.  I appreciate the in-store decorations and spooky offerings, but always wished they'd use fancier designs, more sprinkles, and different colored icing.  Green has always been high on my list, and I always thought it was reserved for St. Patrick's Day, but this old photo depicts otherwise.  I don't remember these Dunkin Donuts minis and assume they were introduced before Munchkins, but they look phenomenal!  Green, orange, brown, yellow, black... all we need is purple and maybe some red and we're all set!  This would be awesome to have back, especially full-sized!  Until then, they remain a thing of the past and symbolize many memories for even more people.

If you stuck with me and read this entire article, then you understand why I love Dunkin Donuts so much, especially during this time of year.  When I look back and think of the countless memories I've created with my loved ones over the years, these simple donuts have managed to become a part of so many.  It's funny to think that something so simple could leave a lasting impact on an entire season, but they're more than just donuts or coffee.  They're treats in which were shared under laughs, conversation, stories, and moments.  Dunkin Donuts, like the memories created, have withstood the test of time and somehow grow stronger as the years go by.  Like all nostalgia, there are aspects in which we wish we could have back.  There are time periods and events that we'd love to relive, if only for a moment.  But that's what's endearing about the past.  For those of us who have learned to cherish and celebrate it, it's as if it never really left.  Today, it ceases to exist, but is somehow alive and well.  Can Dunkin Donuts be that deep?  Maybe not, but the memories you create over anything can certainly be!

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