Megan Baxter’s series, “12 Last Meals in Greenville,” documents the food lover’s farewell to our city. Check back each week for the next installment.
By Megan Baxter
Meal No. 2 — Swamp Fox Donuts
Seven flavors: Fruit-Preserve Bullseye, Vanilla Stick, Strawberry Frosting With Sprinkles, Chocolate Ganache Filled, Chocolate Dipped, Cinnamon Sugar, Apple Fritter
I first encountered Swamp Fox Donuts on a cool early morning at the Taylors Mill. I stood on the porch shivering as Fox 34 interviewed me about the vegetables I would be selling at the Taylors Farmers Market. I’d set up a mock display for the camera of bright pink radishes, crisp romaine, and cute potted basil plants on a table shared with two other farmers market vendors – a candle maker and Swamp Fox Donuts. No amount of camera work could make my lettuce and radishes stand out against the strawberry-and-whipped-cream or apple-fritter creations. And while the potted basil smelled fresh, it couldn’t match the aroma of sugar glaze.
After the filming wrapped up, the vendors offered each other our goods, as is customary. The candle maker gave me a small candle to sample. I passed out vegetables. Tim Freitag, the donut man, let me sample his small-batch creations made that morning in his Greenville kitchen. I picked the yeast donut, sliced down the middle and filled with local strawberries and thick whipped cream.
Over the course of several years, I hunted Swamp Fox Donuts through farmers markets, pop-ups, and special orders. A few dozen of their donuts crowned my bridal shower table. I stalked them on Instagram, where I followed a post to Birds Fly South Ale Project on a hazy Saturday afternoon, hoping to catch them one last time before I moved on. Daniel and I stalked the busy grounds of Hampton Station, sidestepping children playing on the patio, until we found the stand being hastily assembled inside the brewery. The pop-up was simple – a tray on top of a counter displayed all the available flavors for the day. We asked for one of everything, and Tim slipped them into a white cardboard pastry box. Seven donuts for two people. Grabbing two plates, napkins, and a set of plastic knives, we set up an informal donut taste-test station on a picnic table outside.
We began with the Fruit-Preserve Bullseye because it was bleeding preserves all over the other donuts. I carefully cut it in two, and we forked the halves into our mouths, chewing with the serious expression of wine experts. Then I felled the Vanilla Stick, a thin churro-shaped donut that had been fried golden brown and saturated with vanilla syrup. Daniel peered into the honeycombed donut dough to admire its air bubbles and the circle of syrup seeping in from all angles. We split the traditional strawberry-frosting-with-rainbow-sprinkles and the chocolate-dipped this way, too. Finally, he devoured the chocolate-ganache-filled and I the apple fritter. We finished with half of the cinnamon sugar, a simple flavor that reminded me of the cider donuts apple orchards serve up hot at harvest time.
Our fingers were sticky. The box sat open and empty, stained with preserves and chocolate and flecked with the odd sprinkle. What’s remarkable about small-batch products like the donuts at Swamp Fox Donuts is their individuality. The dough of all seven donuts seemed unique to us, whether that was the result of recipe, rise, shape, or bake time. Each donut was its own little masterpiece.