Santa Barbara’s Hook & Press Realizing Donut Dreams - The Santa Barbara Independent

2022-06-15 13:49:55 By : Mr. Ryan Jiang

John Burnett and Denisse Salinas Open Larger Café in La Arcada Plaza

Four years ago, when John Burnett and Denisse Salinas opened Hook & Press in the shared Mosaic Locale space on State Street, they were constantly selling out of their gourmet donuts due to high demand and a tiny kitchen. The demand persists, but now they’re now able to satisfy even more fans, having moved in April to a much larger location in La Arcada Plaza on East Figueroa Street. Formerly home to Jeannine’s, this new home for Hook & Press is helping the owners realize their sugar-laden dreams, with 3,000 square feet of space that includes a full kitchen, a merchandise department, and espresso bar.

Walking into the whimsical space, decorated with pastel colors and rainbow murals, flowers on each table, high ceilings, and that unmistakable scent of fresh, buttery, beautiful donuts, it feels as if the gates of heaven have opened. And for Burnett and Salinas, in many ways they have. The couple is expanding their operation in bold ways, offering wine and beer, and a full menu of savory breakfast sandwiches, tartines, and more. Although the aesthetic is carefully curated for Instagram-worthy shots, there’s nothing superficial about their truly delicious menu. 

“It’s taking what a typical donut shop would do and elevating it,” explained Burnett, a former mortgage broker turned brioche baker who prides himself on doing things the old-fashioned way. While many donut shops are purchasing a mass-produced mix and just adding water and yeast, Hook & Press uses an overnight brioche dough made with European-style butter, eggs, whole milk, sugar, and salt.

“I want this to just be honest food,” he said. “No tricks or shortcuts; we just make it the old-school way.” 

Their new “To Eat” menu is loaded with savory items to complement the sweet. There are plans for gluten-conscious offerings such as a savory potato waffle and a potato bun that can be substituted on any breakfast sandwich. The donut and specials menu changes seasonally, and Burnett’s already dreaming up a grilled-cheese donut with tomato soup and the perfect hot chocolate for winter.

“This is just the beginning for us,” he pledged. “We’ve got some recipes, and we want to expand this thing.”

The team continues to rotate about seven of the donut flavors every two months, but here are a few current can’t-miss items from this adult Candyland. 

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Old-Fashioned Cake Donut:  The key ingredient in their extra-moist and perfectly balanced old-fashioned cake donut? Sour cream. This secret weapon is swirled together with eggs, organic flour, and a dash of brown nutmeg and made fresh every morning. “It is tender and crispy, and not too sweet, so it’s a good one for those who are looking for a donut but don’t want too much sugar,” Burnett explained. “And it’s excellent dipped in a cappuccino.”

Cookie Monster:  This bright-blue beacon of tastiness is sure to transform any customer into its dessert-gobbling Sesame Street namesake. A brioche donut is glazed with blue sweet cream and topped with homemade cookies and buttercream. With one bite of the semi-soft salted brown butter dark-chocolate-chip cookie topper, I couldn’t believe that this was just a garnish — it’s truly one of the best cookies I’ve had in my life. “We bake them fresh every morning,” Burnett said of the addictive treats concocted by baker Seamus Herrell. 

Breakfast Sandwich with Sausage:  One of four breakfast sandwich options currently on the menu, this one satisfies on all accounts. A buttermilk biscuit is filled with a fried egg patty, a house-made Mary’s turkey sausage patty, Jack cheese, and herby avocado mayo. Each ingredient is meticulously prepared, especially the biscuit, which went through many iterations to get that buttery yet fluffy texture. “It’s all about the folding and creating layers of the dough,” Burnett explained. 

Seasonal Jam Tartine:  This showstopper is one of three tartine offerings, and it stands out from the many others around town. House-made brioche bread is first topped with a whipped goat cheese. “We fold unsweetened whipped cream into it to give it an airy texture, and then we change up the jam,” Burnett explained. It’s layered with Salinas’s house-made jam, created from whatever fruits are in season. The recent combination of tangy Ojai Pixie marmalade with the rich goat cheese was transportive. Start preparing your taste buds for summer, when the tartine will feature a strawberry and elderflower jam.

15 E. Figueroa St.; (805) 869-6635;

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