Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Aloha Nut

Blognut is off to Hawaii until August 4th so posts will be light for a bit. We hope to devour a ridiculous number of malassadas while on the islands and should have plenty to report when we get back.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Ex-Pat Nut

Sunday afternoon. A dragging Blognut steps into Joe for an iced coffee and an Amy Sedaris cupcake. While the actress/comedian regularly peddles her famous cakes at Joe, there is no telling when she'll actually bring some by – "None today," says the girl behind the counter. She operates on her own baking schedule. But atop the counter we notice something far more desirable than any celebrity-made edible – a plate of Mark Israel's unmistakable yeast doughnuts.

Israel's renowned Lower East Side Nut factory, The Doughnut Plant, has been covered extensively on the pages of Blognut, and is most certainly one of our local favorites. However, there is something extraordinary about accidentally happening upon a Doughnut Plant offering that is beyond description – a feeling of ecstatic surprise with only one conclusion – the immediate purchase and consumption of a Nut. We go for the lavender glazed.

Just like all of the Plant's yeast-raised doughnuts, this one is of perfect consistency - light, airy, and slightly chewy, as if the offspring of a standard yeast Nut and a freshly-boiled bagel. The glaze is accented by scattered lavender pedals imparting both external beauty and a slight floral taste which at no point is too flowery (initially, we feared a gustatory repeat of the time we once downed a fistful of mom's potpourri as a child). We happily finish our Nut and wash it down with a refreshing Joe iced tea, once again satisfied by the fruits of the Doughnut Plant.

Joe the Art of Coffee
9 East 13th Street
New York, NY 10002
141 Waverly Place
New York, NY 10014

The Doughnut Plant
379 Grand Street
New York, NY 10002

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Led zeppole

This past Saturday, Blognut had the pleasure of attending Verplanck, New York's Italian Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. Essentially a county fair with more gold chains and no farm animals, the Feast brings together thousands of Italian Americans to ride Ferris wheels, carouse with friends and family, and drink Budweisers two at a time out of plastic cups. While we did find ourselves enjoying all that the Feast had to offer ($15 and 8 out of 9 popped balloons won us a stuffed, yellow cat made out of a radioactive plastic material), our true intentions were clear – we must find a zeppola (plural: zeppole).

Wikipedia defines Zeppole (also called St. Joseph's Day Cakes) as "a form of light, deep-fried doughnuts in Neapolitan Italian cuisine – slightly larger than doughnut holes, and topped with powdered sugar or filled with custard, jelly, or cannoli filling, traditionally served on St. Joseph's Day (March 19). Blognut defines zeppole as "fried balls of dough."

Soon after arriving, we found ourselves in line at Gu-Ma's Zeppoles (Mrs. Blognut, a longtime attendee of the Feast, said they were the best). Gu-Ma's consisted of a tiny trailer housing three apathetic teenagers and a gigantic vat of boiling oil. We ordered an overpriced bag of zeppole (eight for $5) which were scooped fresh out of said oil, shoved into a paper bag and doused with what must have been 2 full cups of powdered sugar. And rightly so, because just like their tangled brethren the funnel cake, zeppole can taste pretty bland on their own. But even mass-amounts of sugar couldn't save these Nuts from falling victim to overwhelming mediocrity. Offering nothing more than plain fried-dough taste highlighted by the moderate sweetness of sticky, clumpy powdered sugar (half of which ended up on our shirt), Gu-Ma's zeppole helped Blognut once again come to the conclusion that international Nuts just don't stand up to their ever-so-delicious North American counterparts. Not to mention they burned the roof of our mouth.

For a photo recap of the Italian Feast check out Clean Plate Club.

And lastly an aside: Blognut would like to propose to all free-thinking doughnut makers (Voodoo and Doughnut Plant, this means you) a new variety of Italian doughnut called "Led Zeppole," that are elongated in shape, frosted with a Union Jack and rock harder than traditional zeppole.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Farm-nuts revisited

And still more farm-raised, apple cider Nuts. The first one comes to us courtesy of Treelicious Orchards of Port Murray, New Jersey.

These donuts are most Treelicious. While caked in cinnamon and sugar, the dough comes through as the most interesting flavor component. A very simple fried dough taste, the sort usually reserved for funnel cake, is somehow not overshadowed by its sweet surroundings. And in what I assume is a result of the ridiculous amount of oil contained in dough, once structurally comprimised with a hearty bite, the remainder of the Nut wobbles about like Jello.

Visit Treelicious Fridays at the Union Square Farmer's Market and Saturdays at the Grand Army Plaze Farmer's Market in Park Slope, Brooklyn.

Our second offering is fried up by the kind people at the Just Rugelach Bakery in Kearney, New Jersey, who bill themselves as Not Just Rugelach at the Borough Hall Farmer's Market, so as to not dissuade variety seekers. While loads of cinnamon and sugar makes for a tasty experience, we should warn potential eaters that NJR's donuts are extremely hard. Initially we thought perhaps we had a stale Nut on our hands, but after closer examination, the fresh flavor led us to conclude that they were just super-dense. While certainly not the best apple cider Nut we've tasted, they are a nice change from organic vegetables and other such healthy crap offered at most farmer's markets.

I almost forgot, if you find yourself at the Union Square Farmer's Market enjoyng a Nut, make sure you wash it down with a bottle of Red Jacket Orchard's delicious Fuji apple juice.

Donut Scores:

Treelicious - 8.4
Just Rugelach - 6.6

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Upstate Nuts

Our first guest-blogger spot by The Beta Blognut was so successful, we've decided to once again pass over the keys - please say hello to Friend of Blognut.

Saratoga Apple
1174 Rt. 29
Schuylerville, NY
(Near Saratoga Springs)

Friends of Blognut travels to Upstate New York to investigate the well-hidden Nut scene so Blognut doesn't have to. Saratoga Springs is a lovely, classy, horseracing town, with all that implies. The restaurant-and-wine-shop-to-resident ratio is ridiculously high, gambling is incredibly important, and (as follows naturally from the former conditions) the living is good. Potato chips, one of the foods most dear to FOB's heart, were invented here. These people know fried carbs, FOB thought.

FOB was wrong. Really wrong. Alarmingly, there seemed to be no doughnut offerings in Saratoga. In fact, she had to leave town to find some non-Pop-Nuts to try. Luckily, a Saratogian FOB remembered Saratoga Apple, a nearby orchard that cooks up apple cider doughnuts. On a drizzly late morning, FOB went to check it out. The short drive out to the orchard goes by the Saratoga battlefield and monument, where the British wisely laid down their arms and surrendered to the feisty, pissed off Americans in the Revolutionary War. History, schmistory.

We knew we were in good eating parts when we saw the oddly imperative sign at the orchard FRUIT OUR OWN PORK. What could it mean? Was that something we were meant to do? No matter: How would the Nuts compare to the cider doughnuts at Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville, VA, some of FOB's favorites? The stakes suddenly seemed high. In the small orchard store were apples, honey, cherries, beeswax products, and a tray of apple cider Nuts resting in a pack under a gauze sheet. We bought half a dozen; fewer would have seemed risky.

These cider nuts are classic in style: smallish (by today's Gluttonous American Size standards), reddish golden-brown, coated with a sandy layer of sugar crystals. The first bite is barely, ever-so-slighly crisp. The sugar layer gives way to the creamy, yellowish cake center. Moist, sweet-but-not-too, cider-y, essential, pretty close to perfect. Saratogian FOB lets out a little cry/yelp of pleasure, pacing the room to try to contain himself. The only thing they lacked that Carter Mountain's Nuts (sometimes) have is warmth. These had been cooked earlier in the morning; had they been hot, they might have given their Southern brethren a run for their money. But a cool doughnut has its own pleasures. They were worth the trip up here.

Doughnut score:
Apple cider donut-9.3

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Nutting With the Devil

On days when Blognut is unable to enjoy the slurp of our favorite morning pick-me-up, Gorilla Coffee, we often turn happily to Dunkin Donuts. Their medium-bodied roast has consistently good flavor and is always perfectly satisfying (plus, if we must support such a powerful corporate juggernaut, why not at least pick one that makes great donuts?).

And now a confession: As regular readers know, with the exception of the aforementioned Dunkin coffee, Blognut's stomach is generally in favor of the mom and pop establishment. This said, we would like to reveal that in those instances when neither Gorilla nor DD are available, we sometimes must resort to – yes – STARBUCKS! Many of you probably thought you would never see such words on the pages of Blognut, and we assure you that said occurrences are, at most, merely occasional. But one morning last month, during one such visit to the dreaded Seattle-based roastery, our eyes were met with a colorful and summery looking little ring labeled "Pina Colada Doughnut." We ordered a small iced coffee (fine, Tall!) and, full from the morning's bagel, knew we must return once more.

As the most discreet member of Starbucks' current summer line of tropical food and drink, the Pina Colada Doughnut has not enjoyed the heavy promotional push the other offerings have received. Unphased by the many wall hangings advertising the Pomegranate Frappacino, or the decadent Banana Passion Coffee Cake, this beautiful baked good sits quietly in a glass case, listening happily to Jimmy Buffet on its IPod and swigging Bacardi 151 straight from the bottle.

Monday morning: Blognut guiltily enters our neighborhood Starbucks – we order a Pina Colada Nut ($.95) and a cup of water. Though not a huge fan of the Colada itself (both rum and coconut must be delivered in small amounts for us to enjoy them), we are pleasantly surprised with the doughnut. Basically a glazed-cake topped with toasted coconut and pineapple drizzle, the fruit flavors have just the right intensity and are perfectly balanced by the thick, moist dough. And kudos to the Starbucks marketing team, as one bite has us sitting ocean-side sipping a frozen Colada by the light of a tiki torch. Our only knock is against the bartender, for we cannot taste any rum.

With expectations shattered, and psyche racked with guilt over so thoroughly enjoying a Starbucks Nut, like so many others we concede victory to the evil empire (at least for today). We order a Vente iced coffee and leave with our head down and our coffee in hand.

Doughnut Score: 8.4

Sunday, July 09, 2006

pacific nutwest - part 2

VooDoo Doughnut
22 SW 3rd Avenue
Portland, OR

This is the second in a two-part series on doughnuts of the Pacific Northwest by guest blogger and field correspondant, The Beta Blognut.

Walking towards this most-hallowed of doughnuteries, on a record-breaking hot day in Portland (the Portland mercury (not the weekly paper) will top out at 102 degrees before the day is done), the Beta Blognut feels that, in the midst of such heat, he is in fact on a pilgrimage of sorts, towards the Mecca of all Doughnuts, certain that he is about to obtain the godhead that can only occur in a perfectly deep-fried glob of dough. Surely, VooDoo Doughnut is that locale, the center of the doughnut universe.

For the past month, he has studied the VooDoo Doughnut website, fortifying his blood sugar and fantasizing about which doughnut he will imbibe first. The most surprising aspect of VooDoo when he finally espies it in the distance is how low-key the storefront is in real-life. Inside, counter space is compact, with only about six seats for 'nutters in the entire joint. But what is physical reality when the sign outside proclaims that the magic is within the hole itself, enlightenment radiating outwards from the void?

To prove that things never go as planned, he is crestfallen to learn that his most-anticipated treat, the Robitussin Doughnut, has been temporarily suspended by the FDA. What's worse, they are all out of maple bars as well, that captivating treat that encapsulates that beatific breakfast moment all Southerners know and love: when the maple syrup hits the cooked pork on their plate. That conjoining of sweet and savory in its earthly 'nut shape, in the form of a maple bar with a strip of bacon cooked on top is not available, and the Beta Blognut scrambles for Plan B.

He is helped by taking in all of the scenery: a giant doughnut hangs as if some sort of cathedral crucifix, a top shelf revealing skulls and skeletons. And while the picture here shows a glow-in-the-dark Satan cup, VooDoo Doughnut is balanced between godliness and devilishness in the most delicious way. You can even get married here, Beta Blognut is informed, and the shop holds about four ceremonies a month.

Most mesmerizing is the Lazy Susan that spins each and every concoction of the day before his eyes. The more compact cake doughnuts are on the lowest tier, while the colorful, puffy specialties whir in the middle. The top shelf is reserved for tokens, geegaws, and magical totems, their power evident as he stares deeper into the display case. Somehow able to be aroused from his transfixed state, he embraces the paradox that is reality and invokes the No Name Doughnut by name, proceeding from there.

Starting the day off healthy, he partakes in the Vegan Chic-O-Stik. That most-neglected of Halloween candies, its flaky, B-list of Butterfinger-guts gets reclaimed and elevated back to its proper place in the candy pantheon. Raised up on high by a dairy-free cruelty-free cake that draws on a batter of bananas and vanilla for its flavor, just the 'nut is a delight in and of itself. The texture of crumpled Chic-O-Stiks on top and a smooth white frosting brings the three textures into a combined sensation somehow distinct from their separate identities. Maybe in the middle of the doughnut is where it all meets. Beta Blognut knows that he will never laugh at either Chic-O-Stiks or the idea of a vegan doughnut ever again. He has seen the light and it tastes divine.

"Surely not every VooDoo Doughnut can be perfect," Beta Blognut says out loud, his body trembling as double-shot Americanos from Stumptown whiz through his bloodstream along with body-shivering amounts of sugar. Yes, VooDoo Doughnut is just about as awesome as San Dimas High Football (which rules, in case you haven't seen Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure), awesome enough to name this 'nut after said flick. Another compact cake, this deceives the Beta Blognut for a second, as rather than being a chocolate on top of chocolate on top of chocolate, the cake itself is actually yellow. As a foundational sort of 'nut, it's exquisite, yet its simplicity after such tasty tongue fireworks makes it feel slightly out of context. Ever so gently, he is brought back down to terra firma.

The memory of the Chic-O-Stik still fresh on his palette, he reverts back to his country's tradition of Butterfingers and patriotic doughnut batter created by hard-working Americans and the bodies of cows and chickens. The quick glimpse of a baker sans shirt behind the counter (his sweaty Adonis belt on display) is not enough to dissuade him from partaking in yet another 'nut. To his delight, the Butterfinger is a chocolate cake with white icing, every available surface crammed with shards of Butterfingery goodness. Not too moist, the combo melts perfectly in his mouth. What from the outside seems to be overkill by combining 'nut with candy bar is in fact perfection.

And so he tackles the mystery of the unnameable head-on, as if he were about to approach either JHVH (whose name is unpronounceable), or Allah, who has a thousand names, none of which can be remembered in the throws of such soaring sugar levels. This is the only non-cake doughnut he orders at VooDoo, and the body of the nut is fluffy, almost cotton candy-esque. One of VooDoo's cereal-topped specialties (he also spies Cocoa Puffs, Captain Crunch, and Fruit Loops on a few others), this sprinkles crispy rice on top of a chocolate icing, the entire thing then drizzled with a creamy peanut butter. The temptation for a common 'nut maker would be to make the PB the equal of the chocolate, so that it evokes that balance in a Reese's cup. And from the success of the Butterfinger concoction above, it'd be easy for VooDoo to stay that route, alchemically creating doughnuts out of classic candy bars. Here, the PB merely hints at its presence, an undercurrent to the delirious mix of airy, ethereal crispiness and the earthly pleasures of a good 'nut. As the I Ching says, when heaven and earth are in balance, it makes for a fantastic 'nut.

Doughnut Scores:

Vegan Chic-O-Stik 10.0
San Dimas 9.1
Butterfinger Ring 10.0
No Name 10.0

Thursday, July 06, 2006

In the News...

This week in Cleveland, Ohio, a burglar broke into a Donut Connection only to be foiled by an uncrackable safe. Though he left without any cash, he was able to snag something much more valuable – a crème-filled éclair.

Watch the video here:

Video: Thief gets doughnut but no dough

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Pacific Nutwest - Part 1

Blognut would like to turn over the keyboard to donut field-correspondant the Beta Blognut, in what is our first ever guest post. Enjoy.

Top Pot Coffee
2124 5th Avenue
Seattle, Washington 98121

While the Beta Blognut swore to not make a trip out to the Pacific Northwest into a working vacation, he has a hard time turning down either friends or palindromes (note: this also includes requests from people named Bob or Anna or Emily Lime) and so he found himself outside the clean and classic lines of Seattle's Top Pot Coffee Shop, scoping out doughnuts for The Blognut (original version). He would've stopped just because of the bucking bronco neon sign that caps the sign, but the spot is renowned for a fine cup and a nice glass case of doughnuts.

Beta Blognut wonders how 'nice' they might actually be though. Sure, Top Pot is spacious, with streams of sunlight coursing through the front windows. Such natural light draws the eye to the sleek and orderly 1920s interior design and the walls of thirty-foot high bookshelves (Beta doesn't have enough time to even crack a book, as there's back issues of OK! Weekly to be read), but the hi-fi is bumping the new Dixie Chicks, and he wonders if the counter help is ready to play nice.

Fairly certain that he will enjoy the creamy icing of the Chai Nut (which the handmade sign even pronounces as 'Yum!'), it's the only certainty of his order. He therefore asks for some help with the remainder of his order, being pointed towards the Pink Feather Boa and Double Trouble Cake Nut.

(No picture available - Beta Blognut may have eaten the Chai Nut before he was able to snap a photo.)

He admits they all look fairly fantastic on plates, their respective glazes catching the sun just so, the grease illuminated in such light. Since the Chai is sure to please, he starts in on it. The yellow cake is a tad greasy, but it feels weightless on the palette, each bite growing more supple as he chews. Delicious as the cake is, it overtakes the delicate chai icing. Isolated, the pink icing betrays not a hint of chai's inherent spiciness. Wait a second? Pink? Beta Blognut fears he may have just been duped as an out-of-towner and given something other than the Chai 'Yum!' Nut, which makes him worry that the counter advice may not have been ready to play nice, intending to dupe this pigeon that takes portraits of his 'nut in public. The doughnut is not shabby, but the weight of expectations is difficult to overcome.

With some trepidation, he bites into the Feather Boa. Fear not, for here, the taste is FABULOUS. Far more robust even though the cake itself is nearly the same as the pink 'nut, and yet the tangle of shaved coconut that crowns the cake makes all the difference. Creamy and coconutty, it offers a crucial counter-texture to the butteryness of the cake nut, a perfect balance struck as each bite moves around in his mouth, the supple bolus mingling with the dried curls of coconut. It encapsulates the confusion that now runs through his mind, sweet yet sharp, the counter help not ready to make nice yet making an excellent suggestion.

Picked over the eye-catching Chocolate Sandcastle (dusted with what looks like beach sand) at the bequest of the doughnut pusher, this is about as much chocolate as Beta Blognut can possibly handle (unless it's that time of the month and he's feeling cranky and unloved). The chocolate cake is slightly drier than the yellow, yet the chocolate icing covers the difference. Each bite mingles, melting not in the hand, but in the mouth. The cake and icing turn into velvet on the tongue, so smooth and rich, a fine chocolate taste experience. How could he have ever doubted the advice of the Doughnut Man?, he wonders now, as he floats off into both chocolate Nirvana and insulin shock simultaneously.

Donut Scores:

Chai: 6.9
Pink Feather Boa: 9.0
Double Trouble Cake: 9.3

Monday, July 03, 2006

Farm-raised donuts

There is a simple theorem for understanding why Blognut so thoroughly enjoys a good farmer’s market:

1) A decent farmer’s market is most likely to have at least one booth run by a local apple orchard.
2) Apple orchards generally produce apple cider.
3) Apple cider can be combined with flour, sugar and egg and fashioned into a delicious donut.
4) Many apple orchards offer apple cider donuts.


Saturday Morning, Union Square – While most New Yorkers navigate the Union Square Farmer’s Market in search of locally-grown produce, Blognut arrives with one thing on our mind – donuts.

After passing countless booths peddling unfried edibles like organic berries and vine-rippened tomatos, we finally encounter our dealer of choice - Breezy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill out of Straatsburg, NY. While Breezy Hill is best known for their extensive collection of freshly-picked apples, they also happen to fry one of the best cider donuts in the area. Blognut orders a bag of three.

Our natural response to any orchard-born, apple cider donut is to immediately compare it to those brought to life high above Charlottesville, Virginia at Carter Mountain Orchard. Carter Mountain donuts are, without a doubt, some of our all-time favorite Nuts. Freshly-made all day, these bite-sized donuts emerge from the fryer soft, warm and delicious. They are then doused with a ton of cinnamon and sugar and stuffed into a paper bag which quickly becomes saturated with oil. (Sorry, I'm getting carried away, I forgot this post is about Breezy Hill). Breezy's donuts are much more subtle than the Carter variety. With no external frills, these dry cake rings rely on just slightly sweet, cinnamon/cider dough to please their eater. Overall, the flavor is mild, but pleasingly fresh, light and outdoorsy - a perfect compliment to a bushell of fresh vegetables.

The Union Square Farmer's Market is open year round and operates Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m..