I’ve followed Nature’s Health Store – figuratively and on Instagram – since the beginning of the school year, waiting for the perfect week to indulge in their special donuts. Every Thursday, they make a batch of gluten-free, vegan donuts, and I eagerly anticipate what flavor they’re going to be that week. They’ve rolled out some mouth-watering unique and seasonal selections like chocolate mocha crumble, spiced chocolate with pumpkin crumble, brown sugar maple pecan glaze and even a blueberry vanilla one to raise money for HuskyTHON. My lack of a car last semester and laziness this semester have barred me from actually purchasing one thus far. However, the glorious 60 degree weather, a crampy second day of my period and the announcement of a cinnamon bun flavor this week kicked me into high gear.
With my roommates in tow, similarly enticed by the sound of a luscious, cinnamony treat, we trekked down to the neighborhood health grocery and bakery just a mile off campus. Needless to say, we weren’t disappointed, picking up a half dozen for ourselves and our friends who we were going to see later that day.
The cinnamon bun donut wasn’t of your typical airy raised donut — it was more akin to a cake donut, and I kept in mind that it was gluten-free and vegan. I welcomed the difference in texture, tasting hints of coconut (maybe from coconut flour), brown sugar, cinnamon and spices. The cream cheese icing was heavenly, adding a decadent tang to the nutmeg and clove of the pastry.
“I really liked the texture of the donuts!” Maggie Hausman, a sixth-semester NEAG student and one of my roommates, said. “Sometimes I’m not that into cake donuts, but these were moist without being too dense, even hours later.”
My other roommate similarly enjoyed the texture and icing.
“The donuts were thick but in the best way possible,” Ashley Kane, a sixth-semester actuarial science major, said. “I loved the cream cheese frosting!”
I also happened to cap off the weekend with another Storrs favorite, Spring Hill Cafe, so think of this as a continuation of my Storrs’ staples piece earlier this semester. (Our brunch columnists also reviewed it in 2019!) Similarly nature-sounding, the bakery and cafe is tucked next to a landscape shop, allowing visitors to explore the plants and wares while they wait for their order. My friend, Shreya Sreenivas, and I were looking to enjoy a nice Sunday brunch, and it was the perfect opportunity to introduce her to Spring Hill Cafe.
It serves up breakfast, lunch, special drinks and desserts. I first visited the cafe last semester with Hausman, Kane and another friend, and were charmed by the cozy atmosphere, expansive menu and quality food. I was pleasantly surprised by my Bravo Avocado grilled cheese last time with cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato and honey mustard on sourdough. I paired it with the five cheese mac and cheese, which was fairly lacking in flavor – I could barely taste at least one cheese – so I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it, but the grilled cheese was scrumptious.
However, what caught my eye for next time was what one of my other friends ordered: the Green Goddess grilled cheese. (I really do love my grilled cheese.) I got half of one – fresh mozzarella, boursin, avocado, spinach and basil on sourdough – and a slice of spinach and feta quiche as part of their “pick two” lunch combo for $11. The quiche was fluffy and creamy, but not as flavorful as I would have liked. I’ll keep an eye out for one of their other flavors though, as I love quiche but never have the energy to make it. But the Green Goddess – it was even better than what I had gotten last time! The cheeses and basil tasted fresh, and the butteriness and toastiness of the bread was comforting on the windy morning.
“The ambience at Spring Hill was really fresh and peaceful,” Sreenivas, a sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology and computer science major, said. She also got a slice of the spinach and feta quiche, along with a side of hash browns ($2 for two patties), cinnamon maple French toast ($9.25) and an iced snickerdoodle coffee. The spinach and feta quiche was incredible and was so soft and silky with a light buttery crust that wasn’t too overwhelming. I also really enjoyed that they used sourdough for their French toast. It was a perfect balance of sweetness and the natural sour tang of the sourdough which was absolutely delicious.
I really enjoyed the French toast she let me try: it was fluffy and flavorful. I’ll be getting it next time. Sreenivas and her roommates also had a lot to say about the chocolate croissants she bought at the end of our visit to bring home.
“Their chocolate croissants are literally incredible and [are] the perfect snack when warmed up!” Sreenivas said. “Get it with almonds on top. You won’t regret it.”
Sruthi Takillapati, one of Sreenivas’ roommates, is a lover of all things sweet, especially pastries.
“I’ve eaten a lot of croissants in my life, particularly chocolate croissants,” Takillapati, sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology major, said. She mentioned Price Chopper, Panera and Paris itself in the list of places she has tried croissants from. “These croissants with the almonds and melted chocolate on top, with the perfect ratio of chocolate to buttery layers of flour: not too sweet, not too oily, it was just right. It was so good I couldn’t resist eating the other croissant saved for my roommate – but don’t worry, I left about 70 percent.”
Sabaa Fayazi, the third roommate and perhaps the third wheel in the croissant situation, still managed to get a taste of the elusive chocolate croissant.
“It was so good that my friend ate part of my croissant,” Fayazi, a sixth-semester physiology and neurobiology major, said.