Wednesday, September 27, 2006

An American Donut in Paris

With the exception of one overly-gamey piece of chicken, just about everything we ate in Paris was aces. Fresh baguettes. Buttered almond croissants. Nutella crepes. All aces. So why are the Donuts so awful?! Seriously, we thought for sure the culinary center of the world, and the birthplace of the Beignet, would certainly fry up a top-notch Nut. Not so. Many of the Parisian Beignets and Donuts we encountered were nearly inedible and every one of them scores near the bottom of the Blognut 10-point scale. Maybe it's that this overly-sophisticated food Mecca is inherently unable to successfully produce a food as simple as a Nut. In fact, I doubt most Parisians would even consider Donuts a worthy feed for their fattened geese, as even fois gras liver can't detoxify something so vile. This said, France does have a rich, if cloudy, donut history.

The word "Beignet" comes from the early Celtic word "bigne," meaning "to raise." In France, it would later come to mean "fritter," referring essentially to any clump of fried dough. Exactly when the Beignet arose in France is unclear, but what is known is that 18th century French colonists brought the recipe for so called "Beignet Fritters" to New Orleans, Louisiana, where they exploded with popularity and have since become associated with the city. Though there are numerous variations on the Beignet, the base recipe calls for deep-fried dough, usually sprinkled with confectioner's sugar (like so many other International Nuts). Over the years, French culinary tradition has snubbed its fried creation and the modern day French beignet has become a sub-standard, recycled version of the 20th century American donut.

Without further ado, here's a run down of all the crappy donuts I ate in Paris:

Beignet de Framboise (Raspberry-filled Beignet) - sitting in a large, empty glass display case were these two pathetic little donuts. They tasted like stale dinner rolls stuffed with cheap and sugary raspberry jelly.

Here's a picture of me eating a disgusting Beignet de Framboise on the street and washing it down with a Kronenbourg. The only thing worse than a French Donut is a French Beer.

This donut sucked.

More sucky donuts. This time, they were actually called "Donuts."

I've saved the worst for last. This is a Beignet au Miel, or Honey Beignet (pictured above), which we purchased in Montmarte as a pre-dinner snack. It weighed roughly two pounds and had the consistency of a hard, dried-up sponge. It tasted like burnt plastic with a slight honey aftertaste and was hands down the worst thing we ingested the entire trip. We took one bite and threw the rest in la poubelle.

Blognut would like to apologize...

...for any negative health consequences incurred from reading this blog.
Health officials suck.

Plus, Blognut need not be reminded of the cardiovascular consequences of the nearly 2 dozen VooDoo doughnuts we've consumed in the past 4 days (3 of which were nearly the size of my head).

Friday, September 22, 2006

Blognut Goes West

With Parisian Nuts and VooDoo Part 2 slated for next week, Blognut-in-law has decided to step in and fill our pages with a travel tale of her own.

This life-experienced roving researcher, and ancestor of Blognut and Yuk, was given the task of pursuing the best doughnut in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I felt up to this, as the pursuit of doughnuts has been given a high priority in our family.

Jackson is a small town. It is wealthy and western. After a lengthy two hour search, and the questioning of many witnesses, this researcher could not find a single doughnut. I inquired extensively and no one knew where to find doughnuts. Perhaps that is why they don’t call it Doughnut Hole, Wyoming.

I happened to be only one of a dozen other life experienced folks touring Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons. My cohort’s culinary finds consisted of game and ice cream. At any rate, the most promising eatery for something close to a doughnut was “The Bunnery” a bakery and restaurant at Hole in the Wall in Jackson Hole. They offered some delicious looking baked goods and we chose the Sticky bun (Cinnamon roll). It was nice and large.

We brown-bagged it and loaded it into the van. Our first stop was at Lewis Falls....chosen as much for it’s port-a-potty as it’s beauty (although it WAS beautiful). We divvied up the bun into 12 pieces (yes, it was large enough) and tasted, savored and rated. We gave it a 7 because although the crust was nice and flaky, the raisins soft and delicious, we found it a bit on the dry side. It certainly qualified as being sticky. We just have one question! What’s a doughnut junkie to do in Jackson?

Just a few of Blognut-in-law's traveling companions.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Le Rock

Still in Paris. It's definitely the best city I've ever been to - which is saying a lot, because I grew up in Buffalo. While I'm currently working up a Parisian-Nut piece, I just wanted to ask you something: after a night of slurping wine at the brasserie, Mrs. Blognut and I returned to our hotel and for the first time turned on French TV. It seemed really bad, but it was hard to tell for sure because it was all in French. The one show we were able to get in English was Conan, whose guest was The Rock. Out of nowhere The Rock mentions that he loves donuts. Then he says that Dunkin wants to name a Donut after him, at which point Conan says that this is probably the greatest American honor. So does anyone know if this is true?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Blognut Update

So Blognut will be traveling for a week or so. But think of it as a business trip since we'll definitely be downing some fat Beignets in Paris and then, to ensure that we're adequately jet-lagged, dabbling with VooDoo in Portland. In the meantime check these out:

The New Yorker reports on the political role of the Donut...

...and Timeout NY features an international donut roundup (Of which we've only had one!! The orange-infused Indian fritters from Tabla - I guess this means we've got a lot of work to do when we get back).

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Sorry I'm a couple of days late on this one. Just wanted to make sure everyone knew that someone threw a frosted donut at Mayor Bloomberg!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Castro Nut

Not all donuts have to be round. I guess this is a fairly obvious statement considering that most would consider an ├ęclair a form of donut. And a donut stick - of course it’s a donut – it’s called a donut stick. But I think it can be hard to break from the round donut convention. With few exceptions, ask anyone to draw a donut and you’re likely to get the standard Homer Simpson ring-with-either-pink-or-white-frosting. This actually brings up an interesting point, because technically one could just draw a circle, representing a filled donut. But this would never happen. A circle just doesn’t represent the holey donut ideal that’s developed in modern day America over the last century. But Blognut refuses to limit ourselves to such convention. We’ve come up with a simple checklist outlining what qualifies something as a donut (keep in mind that this is our definition of a donut, and that other donut-lovers might take issue with the criteria listed below):

A donut/doughnut must be:

1) Made primarily of fried dough

2) At least partially sweet (Blognut does not abide by the Eastern European philosophy that a donut can be savory – if something has sausage and cheese in it, it’s probably not a donut)

3) Of manageable shape - any manageable shape, round or not (A donut must be palm-able and conducive to eating it on the go. Anything requiring a plate or a fork (ie, funnel cake) is not a donut, a controversial view, I know)

In accordance with the above criteria, the item featured in this post is most definitely a donut.

Friday afternoon: After a produce-infused stroll through the Union Square Farmer’s Market, Blognut heads down 17th Street anxious to cram a Cuban press from Havana Central. And we do just that. Definitely one of the better Cubans we’ve had in NYC, Havana’s Classic Cuban Sandwich consists of smoked ham, roast pork, Swiss cheese, pickles and mustard. It’s not too greasy and comes with just-sweet-enough sweet potato fries. But why, do you ask, is Blognut writing about a Cuban restaurant? The answer lies in a star-shaped stick of fried dough named after the horns on a breed of Spanish sheep.

Churros are elongated, fried pasties that originated in Spain and have become popular in Latin America, the US and much of the Caribbean. They get their star shape by being extruded through a cooking syringe called a churrera. They are often referred to as Mexican Doughnuts and are generally coated in either cinnamon, sugar or both. Many churro-eaters abide by the combination of chocolate con churros, in which the churro is dunked in cup of hot chocolate, but in the US they are often dipped in either melted chocolate or caramel.

Havana Central’s Churros are coated in cinnamon and sugar and come with both chocolate and caramel (dolce de leche) dipping sauces. They really are weird looking. There’s something about the 8-point star shape that seems too unnatural to eat. But one bite and we forgive them for their odd appearance. The good thing about Havana's Nuts, is that while they’re crispy on the outside (as they should be), the center retains a moist, barely-cooked quality that is often lacking in churros (especially the ones sold street-side in NYC). A churro should never be so brittle that is easily cracks in half, it should have some give to it. The flavor is packed with cinnamon and sugar and goes great with the dipping sauces. We found that dipping in both chocolate and caramel provided the best taste experience (and it must be in this order, chocolate first, caramel second). By the end the caramel sweetness becomes so powerful that I’m forced to cut it with a pinch of salt on the tongue. Mrs. CPC finds this practice disgusting.

Definitely one of the best International-Nuts we’ve had – right up there with the Loukoumades from Lefkos Pyrgos in Astoria, Queens – Havana Central’s Churros are worth saving room for. Blognut would also like to commend the churro for being a non-conformist when it comes to Donut-Shape, even if they look somewhat odd.

Donut Score: 8.8

Havana Central
22 East 17th Street
New York, NY 10003