I hate people who are not serious about their meals. -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Donut Quest: Part I

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Donuts take up a lot of space in a backpack

 Donuts at Donut Pub

EDIT** Apparently the Mr. Wells of the New York Times beat me to the doughnut tour part. DAMN YOU WELLS!! its okay, I missed some places (Make more doughnuts Brindle Room!) and he missed some and this is only the being of Donut Quest.For the New York Times write up, click  Here

I do not get it, how the hell do you spell donuts? Is is D-O-N-U-T or D-O-U-G-H-N-U-T? I am not that bright and this confuses me. I need an adult to guide me.

Donuts are America’s pastry. Historical origins suggests that it was brought to America by Dutch settlers, this fried sugar rush goodness is an All-American treat. Parts of the American dream with the white picket fence and all that jazz is waking up on the weekend, getting the paper, making a pot of coffee and having a box of a dozen fresh donuts. That is the picturesque American Sunday morning. I remember that donuts were a treat that we got rarely in my house. But one thing was for sure was that on your birthday, not only did you get cake, but you also got donuts to bring to school and share with your classmates. I do not know where this tradition comes from, bringing donuts in on your birthday but I was not complaining. Actually, now that I think about it, it’s my birthday, why the hell am I bringing in the donuts? Shouldn’t everyone else be bringing me donuts? This is a broken system. Whatever.
In a city that is filled with donut shops and commercial chains like Dunkin Donuts and the Canadian donut chain Tim Horton’s immigrated to the United States, finding a good donut place is becoming difficult. On my epic eating quest and my on going food quests, I decided that I will go and seek out the best and unfortunately some of the worst donuts of New York City. Start off with the classic, the new and the alternative option. 

The Donut Pub: Open 24 hours

You cannot start off a doughnut tour without going to traditional standby, the Donut Pub. Opening in 1964 this is indisputably a New York establishment that is a go to spot for any doughnut craving, 24/7. There are no tables here, it is all counter space and this is the kind of place where you order coffee. No soy milk chai lattes here, you get your coffee, you drink it black and you will like it. This nostalgic establishment is famous for being extraordinarily ordinary. The donuts do not challenge your plate or trying to enhance your dining experience, they are cranking out fresh comfort. I go with three standby donuts that I think are classic donuts, the Honey Glazed, the French Cruller and the Boston Crème.

They don't do party of 4

The donuts here did not disappoint, the Honey Glazed left you satisfied and slightly sticky fingers. Light and airy, the honey glaze left your fingers slightly sticky in a good way. The French Cruller was light and the Boston Crème had a thick chocolate coat on top and the crème was smooth vanilla. This was a great way to start off a doughnut adventure and I could have easily bought a dozen and went home and watched cartoons. 

Boston Creme Doughnut

Honey Glazed

 The French Cruller

Conveniently, down the street is one of favorites, the Doughnut Plant which recently, as in Valentines Day, opened up their second location in the Chelsea Hotel. The Doughnut Plant founder Mark Isreal is the representation of the new guard in doughnut making. There is no French crullers, bear claws or Boston crèmes, but you will be finding crème brulee donuts, carrot cake doughnuts and his ever so famous tres leche donuts. The donuts are surprisingly egg free and uses the best and fresh ingredients for his doughnuts. I have been to the original location multiple times (pretty much anytime I am near it, I go and get a donut regardless of cravings) on Grand St. but I wanted to check out his new storefront and see how the quality stacks up to the original place.

So sleek and shiny

            The original location was a strict takeout place, you grab your goods and you are out the door. Here at the Chelsea hotel, the space was refined and had some tables so it was actually possible to sit down, get a coffee and enjoy your donut and was more like a café. In introduction of the new location introduced some new doughnuts like oatmeal and a chocolate chip. Sadly, they were still working out some kinks that any new place and those donuts were not ready. However I was able to try their new donut, the Candied Rose Petal yeast doughnut and the seasonal Crystallized Ginger and ended with a Pistachio cake doughnut.

I don't care about stacks of green, I like stacks of doughnuts better

Unlike the Grand Street location, the Chelsea location works on a different system in which you place your order and give them your name and they call you when your order is ready. I suspect this system is most likely to combat the midtown morning rushes and insane amount of tourists. Nonetheless, it all went down smoothly and I liked the fact I did not have to gobble the donuts outside like a fat kid and grab a table and eat them like a civilized person.

Candied Rose Petal- totally manly

            The first one I tried was the Candied Rose Petal which was a yeast doughnut that was glazed and had rose petals plastered on top. This doughnut, the colorful petals has easily made the list of emasculating looking sweets and nothing screams out, “I am a tough guy” more than eating a doughnut with rose petals on it. The donut tasted great. The doughnut was slightly chewy and pillow texture made me want to sleep on it. The doughnut has a lingering floral essence that does not assault your taste buds and the rose petals were pleasantly sweet.

Crystallized Ginger
The Crystallized ginger is a seasonal doughnut inspired by Chinese New Year earlier this month. Another yeast doughnut the texture was great and the crystallized ginger was pleasantly sweet and balanced the sharp zesty, tingle of ginger.

Pistachio Cake Doughnut

The Pistachio cake doughnut was moist with a light crumb structure that delicately broke apart in your mouth. Chock full of pistachio flavor the doughnut captured the nutty meatiness and lightness in flavor.

If it says "Bakery" on the outside, I am pretty much there

            There are moments on my food quest where I am left with a retarded look on my face and saying, “WTF”? One of these moments was reading New York Magazine’s endorsement of the best vegan treat from BabyCakes NYC in the Lower East Side and not only that, said that they actually make a good donut and I will give it to them, they made me a believer. Usually when someone starts to describe their food as being refined sugar-free, gluten-free, wheat-free, soy-free, egg-free and they are not talking about free money, I stopped listening and lost interest after the first ______ -free thing. Yet, I kept an open mind and tired out their donuts and after you get past the list of what is not in their bake goods, they do make a quality product that holds its own and is better than most food (special diet needs and regular food). The girls there are especially nice and have the whole 1950s retro theme going on adding to the alternative side of baking.

Since I was on a doughnut adventure I got two donuts to sample and for the hell of it, decided to try their version of a chocolate chip cookie. Their donuts was small and pricey, not small like everything in America is too big and this is normal size that kind of small, like size of a dollar bill, kiddie play food small. However, what they lack in size they make up with flavor (and apparently price, with everything that it does not have in the donut, it most certainly costs more!). I went with the salted caramel and the chocolate chip crunch doughnuts. Both were very good, and with everything that it is free of and also everything was baked, it was guilt free as well.

  Chocolate Chip Crunch Donut

The first up was the chocolate chip crunch donut. The outside had a nice crisp but the donut was light and crumbly. It was not overtly sweet with specks of chocolate sprinkled on top.

Salted Caramel Donut
The salted caramel is a very good tasting donut. The salted is not only light and crumbly but the caramel soaked donut gets caramelized leaving a great crisp on the outside. The combination of both salt and sweet makes this a great donut and I wish it was bigger.
Their chocolate chip cookie intrigued me and while on my donut adventure, I was able to do my on going quest for the best chocolate chip cookie.

A very sad Chocolate Chip Cookie

Unfortunately the chocolate chip cookie was the least favorite of all their offerings. The cookie, was chewy, however it did not offer any type of flavor or complexity to it. As my friend Kyle described it best, “It is like eating Cookie Crisp cereal”. The cookie was bland and neutral and the chocolate was just sweet but that was all that was going on. I am a bit harsh on them but Babycakes is a good bakery and for those that truly have legit dietary concerns, it is a haven for quality sweets. 

This was only part of the Manhattan part of the donut adventure and there is so much more that I was unable to stomach (physically). Other will include the Brindle Room (way to run out!), Bouchon (Doughnuts on a T. Keller Level) and Bombolini (Italian for Donuts)

Next up: Alpha Donuts in Queens and Peter Pan Bakery in Crooklyn!.

The Donut Pub
203 W 14th St
New York, NY 10011

The Doughnut Plant
(Chelsea Location)
222 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002

Babycakes NYC
248 Broome Street
New York, NY 10002

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