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

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Donut Quest: Italians can make donuts too!

Om Nomz Hero Note to Self: Apparently I have been getting double espressos all my life and have not realized it.

Bottega Falai Bread

My continuance on finding and tasting the best donuts that the city has to offer has led me to Café/Bottega Falai and to Balthazar bakery. Falai is Italian influenced to the core that and Balthazar is a Francophile’s New York oasis that is like a bouchon plopped in the middle of Soho. Donuts are an American claimed pastry, one that America has forcibly adopted as their own creation, like we tried to adopt Elian Gonzalez, I was curious to see how two great cuisines stacked up in making fried treats. 
First up was Bottega Falai. Bottega Falai is newly opened, like with the past week or so it has opened. It sits next to Café Falai and it is the retail and takeout store of the Falai ever growing empire. Bottega Falai is modeled after a Bodega, but compared to the Bodegas I have been in this was clearly the nicest one and there was no Negro Modelo being sold either. The inside of the store has the ever popular Euro chic meaning it is white, lofty looking and sterile. Although they boast having Italian products and odds and ends of groceries, it was few in selection, maybe about 4-5 shelves worth and about 3-4 baskets of produce. It is mainly a pick me up kind of place, where you can grab a sandwich or something prepared and be out the door. The second I walked in, I was instantly greeted and berated by an over enthusiastic barista/counter person. I walked up to the counter and he was already pressing on what I wanted, I felt like he was interrogating me and given the chance, probably would have taken a car battery and alligator clips and went to town. I already knew what I wanted but dude, give me a minute. I got an espresso, single shot and I picked up two doughnuts, or specifically bombolinis.
Chocolate Bombolini
 Bombolinis are not the round holed doughnuts that you get at a Dunkin Donuts; instead it is round and resembles a beignet. They are filled with crèmes or jams. Here at Falai, the choices were chocolate, coffee, wild berry and a vanilla. I could have easily eaten all of them but with restraint I got a chocolate one and a wild berry one. After being told on how I should be drinking my espresso, in a ceramic cup and not in a takeout container I was finally left alone to have my single shot espresso and donuts. Oh and by the way, I do not even put sugar in my espresso and I was intending to drink it in the damn espresso cup so there!

Jam Bombolini
 The bombolini were made that morning next door at Café Falai. The chocolate was rich and thick. I cannot confirm but I am pretty sure it was filled with a chocolate hazelnut filling, not Nutella, closer to Nocello, I have eaten way to much chocolate hazelnut spreads in my life time and have unfortunately developed a palate in noticing the subtle differences between hazelnut spreads. Not really a skill that I want but oh well. The bombolinis were yeast based donuts which made them light and airy. Compared to other yeast doughnuts that have a doughy and chewy characteristic, this had a crumb structure to it and lightness. It was like comparing a brioche to white bread. The wild berry jam was apparently homemade as well and had the right amount of sweetness to it. All bombolinis are sugar coated and shower eaters with sugar after each bite. Bottega Falai is a neat place that not only has fresh breads and pastries, but also had a chocolate and macaron counter which I will most certainly come back and explore and try…and have a double espresso. 
Chocolate and macarons at Bottega Falai

Next up and within the vicinity, was Balthazar. Balthazar is a classic and old spot were it was doing the whole French bistro style restaurant before it was cool. They are like what hipsters would be seeking out when it first opened, because it was like, “no one else was doing it” coolness when it opened. However, Balthazar is still a bustling place that is filled with tourist and regulars and is rarely ever empty. Next door to the restaurant is the bakery which is a counter that is filled with breads and pastries to a point it is like a fire hazard…but a tasty fire hazard. Here I got one of their donuts as recommended by via SeriousEats the banana walnut cake doughnut and a coffee. I was not told how I should have my coffee, which by the way, either black or a little bit of cream. The banana walnut cake doughnut after first bite is apparent why it is rated as one of the best doughnuts. It also goes to show on why Balthazar bakery/restaurant has people lined up at 9 in the morning because even though they are putting care and great effort into all their food and doing it with quality ingredients.  

The donut was like eating a cake. The only resemblance to a donut was that it was round and handheld. First bite was moist and full of banana goodness but had a delicate crumb structure. It was topped generously with nuts giving a great meaty crunch with every bite and I devoured this thing. I am impressed by both places in producing some good donuts as well as other pastries (I had a canele at Balthazar, you cannot resist those!) and I am optimistic about my donut quest. This part of the donut quest was successful and did not require an outer borough trip. This quest is far from over though and I am craving another bombolini. 
Banana Nut Donut from Balthazar...and my leg

Bottega Falai

267 Lafayette St

New York, NY 10012

80 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

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