For those who use the Wilmette train station on Saturday mornings, expect to have your sense of smell tantalized. The aroma of freshly prepared donuts is created courtesy of Sweet Tooth Donuts, a newcomer to the French Market, a Wilmette tradition. The market, with fare like produce and freshly-brewed coffee, already has tempted many to indulge in delights like pretzel rolls and strawberry rhubarb tarts. But if you’re a diehard donut person heck bent on a honey of fried dough, then make a beeline to Sweet Tooth Donuts, run by Patty Pavlis and her husband John Gonzales, residents of Lincolnwood for more than two decades. The couple, assisted May 24 by nephew Yianni Stianos, of Gurnee, witnesses lines queuing shortly after market open. Many of the customers in that early line were children of vendors. With their donut machine, Pavlis and Gonzales choose to make miniature donuts, giving customers a choice of cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar or chocolate drizzle topped with confetti candy. They found the machine, made in the United States, while on a vacation trip. They decided to invest in one so the couple could pursue party bookings and hobby weekend farmers’ market crowds. The 2014 Wilmette French Market opened in the Village Center on April 26 and runs 8 a.m.-1 p.m. every Saturday through November 1. The French Market offers traditional farmers’ market goods like fruits, vegetables, flowers, cheeses, meats and breads from local and regional vendors. Culinary gadgets plus items like tie-dye clothing, handmade pottery, figurines, recycled scarves, jewelry and natural-scented candles give the market color and another dimension. You’ll also see (or smell?) Sweet Tooth Donuts at the Westfield Old Orchard Mall Farmers’ Market (this Skokie market runs into September). Visit the Sweet Tooth Donuts Facebook page to find out where they are appearing.
Meet Patty Pavlis, the weekend donut lady who also works part time at a real estate office.
Q. So Patty, can you describe what you’re doing at the moment?
A. We’ve got a great little machine that produces delicious donuts. We started out on vacation. Saw this machine in Puerto Rico and liked it and wanted to do this. We’ve doing this for about five years but mainly we’re doing festivals around the City of Chicago, Evanston and so forth. Then the kids came into play and we took a break. And now we decided to do farmers’ markets. We seem to have more people fascinated with it. They’re enjoying the smell of it, coming off of the train. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of fun being with people who see the enjoyment that we did when we started this. We do this on a weekend basis. We sell them in a tray. Classic is $6 a dozen. And the signature ones are $8 a dozen. [Half dozens are sold too].
Q. Can you describe the process?
A. The thing with our mix, you just add the water with the mix. You calculate the weight and what you do is you stick it into the hopper and it sits for about 10 minutes before we start it. And once the hopper drops the donut you have different sizes that you can do, but we chose to do mini donuts. They’re more fun. It (the dough) plops down from the hopper and then it just slowly moves. There’s a little wheel that spins it to come through. It slowly just spins it and then it waits. As soon as it cooks on one side, it just flips it over to the next and cooks the other side. When it’s done on the other side, it flips it onto our little basket over here. Lets it drain for the oil to come out. And then we got donuts!
Q. So what’s your taste preference?
A. My favorite is the cinnamon sugar. We have a premix and what we do is mix them with cinnamon sugar. People have a choice to get a fork or have a napkin. Lots of times they don’t even take a fork, they just eat ‘em. I will take a fork. It’s delicious. And the best part of it is, they’re hot. They’re enjoyable because they’re fresh. You know, they melt in your mouth.