Saturday, October 28, 2006

Happy Halloween from Blognut

Alright, as promised, Halloween Munchkins from Dunkin. Plus a slew of other holiday-appropriate Donuts.

So after three trips to my local Brooklyn DD, they finally had Halloween Munchkins in stock. And what a let down. I mean, you'd think the biggest Donut-dealer in the universe could come up with something a bit more inventive than a glazed cake covered in orange and yellow sprinkles. Like say for example, this scary-ass Pumpkin-shaped offering from Krispy Kreme, which we scored at the KK down the street from Graceland in Memphis (yes, Blognut somehow ended up in Tennessee and Mississippi over the weekend, resulting in some top-notch Donut-eating).

This Doughnut wasn't all that impressive either. The KK ad campaign for these terrifying creations deemed them "pumpkin shaped"Halloween Doughnuts. And the photo on KK's website shows them as having both prominent stems and well-defined facial features. Not the case. Maybe the Doughnut-maker at this particular Kreme was hungover or something, but mine was a perfectly round, yeast raised Doughnut. Where was the stem Blognut asks?! And what's with the horrific frosting job? It looks like the eyes, nose and mouth were painted on in the backseat of a highspeed cab.

But worst of all, the Doughnut was nearly tasteless. It's pretty hard to mess up frosting, but Krispy Kreme has succeeded. The orange goo topping our "Halloween Doughnut" tasted like kindergarten paste, only blander. Plus it had that bitter bite that comes from using too much food dye. And I apologize for the rant, but it didn't have any filling. What kind of a hole-less Doughnut doesn't have filling?! That's the whole reason the hole was put there in the first place, so we didn't have to waste time with a glob of taste-less dough in the middle.

But wait a minute. Maybe Krispy Kreme has succeeded in their attempt at seasonality. Because afterall, this was one of the most horrifying Doughnuts I've ever seen or tasted.

I also tried KK’s more traditional Halloween-themed Doughnut, the Pumpkin Spice (not shown). And I will say that it partially redeemed the hideous pumpkin head. Soft and spicy innards with a firm exterior made for a solid seasonal Doughnut.

Alright, next up is Starbucks. All fall this mom-and-pop coffee shop has been serving a line of pumpkin-flavored eats and drinks. Mainly because they’re a warm organization. One that knows the importance of small-town America, and the comforts of a warm muffin fresh from the oven and a cup of hot apple cider. Blognut has tried none of said offerings, save the Pumpkin Spice Doughnut.

Now Starbucks’ Doughnuts are generally pretty tasty. But something was afoul with their attempt at capturing autumn in a Nut. The cake was too soft, almost as if it hadn’t been fried long enough. And while it did have loads of fall spice – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves – the flavors felt slightly artificial, sort of like a Duncan Hines spice cake or something. So while OK, it’s certainly not my favorite seasonal Doughnut of the year.

But there’s a twist to the Starbucks tale. While Mrs. Blognut and I were in Portland last month, we noticed that local Bucks were advertising Top Pot Doughnuts, the famed Seattle-based indie Doughnut shop specializing in ostentation (field-correspondent Beta Blognut covered TPD for us back in July and was more than impressed). And it’s too bad this partnership can’t be extended across the country, for Top Pot's Pumpkin Spice is far better than Starbucks'. Their dough is full-bodied and hearty, while the Doughnut-exterior is almost crisp. And the spices take more of a subservient role to the pumpkin which is nice. So here’s to Top Pot, for frying up the first impressive Doughnut of this post.

And I’ve saved the best for last. As usual, the Doughnut Plant has outdone itself. A few weeks ago I stopped in Joe for a coffee and a Doughnut (I was well aware that Joe only stocks Doughnuts from the Plant). Being that it was a crisp fall day, I went with their Pumpkin Glazed Cake variety. And I mean it when I say that this Doughnut is in a class by itself. Complex and spicy dough, heavy on cinnamon and clove, with a pale orange, pumpkin-infused glaze. The dough is just what I’ve come to expect from Mark Israel, soft, moist and spongy – it fights back as I chew, making me work a bit for my reward. This is certainly the best seasonal Doughnut Blognut has ever tasted.

And that’s all. Happy Halloween.

Donut Scores:

Halloween Munchkins -

Krispy Kreme "Pumpkin-shaped" -

Krispy Kreme Pumpkin Spice -

Starbucks' Pumpkin Spice -

Top Pot Pumpkin Spice -

Doughnut Plant Pumpkin Glazed -

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Munchkin Montage

This morning I stopped by Dunkin Donuts in hopes of getting a box of the new Halloween-themed seasonal Munchkins. "We haven't gotten those yet," said the DD employee, "but check back tomorrow." At this point I got embarrassed that I'd made a special trip to Dunkin for their Halloween line, and without thinking said, "I'm getting these for a bunch of kids. I guess they'll be OK with regular Munchkins."

So instead of the post I had originally intended, I'll show a montage of the regular Munchkins I bought out of guilt when I learned they didn't have any seasonals.

Yeast-raised Glazed Munchkin.

Plain-cake Glazed Munchkin with a blurry Friends in the background (this was the one where Joey and Ross get locked on the roof).

Munchkin closeup.

While devoid of any All Hallows Munchkins, Dunkin was able to offer this full-sized Halloween Doughnut.

The only thing that qualifies this Nut as seasonal, is the tiny black-sugar bats, and I guess the purple and green sprinkles. Standard DD yeast-raised issue with tired chocolate frosting, plus a barely noticable attempt at Halloween imagery just doesn't constitute an acceptable Nut. However, the Munchkins were of the consistently great quality we've come to expect from our favorite of all Pop-Nuts. But I think I'll hold off on reviewing them until I score a box of season-appropriate Nut-holes.

And now a final thought on Munchkins:

Donut Score:

Seasonal Halloween Bat Donut -

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Blognut would like to thank Bobby Flay…

…for giving our readership a boost.

You see, Bobby has this show on the Food Network called Throwdown with Bobby Flay. The premise has the red-headed wonder challenging cooks around the country to a “throwdown” involving that particular person’s strong suit. He’s taken on New Jersey’s own Butch in a BBQ competition, Staten Island’s Giorgio Giove in Pizza, and Louisville, Kentucky’s Lynn Winter (owner of Lynn’s Paradise CafĂ©) in breakfast. But last weekend Flay threwdown something a bit closer to Blognut’s stomach, the Doughnut.

Now for Bobby to prove himself a worthy doughnut-maker, there’s really only one person that comes to mind for him to do battle against – the nation’s foremost artisanal Doughnut monger, Mark Isreal, owner and operator of NYC’s Doughnut Plant. And that’s just what he did.

Throwdown is an awkward enterprise for two reasons. One, Bobby’s competitors have no idea that they’re about to be challenged. Basically the Food Network contacts them asking to do a feature. FN execs are like, “Yeah, we just want to follow you around for a week watching you cook. Then we’ll throw a big party and film it, sort of a grand finale for you to showcase your specialty to millions of viewers.” Then the person they've contacted is like, “Count me in. I can’t believe I’m going to be on the Food Network. Rock on.” (I’m paraphrasing here). But what the Network doesn’t tell the competitor, is that just when the party’s about to begin, they plan to send in world-renowned chef Bobby Flay with 2 professional assistants and $50,000 in high-end cooking equipment, to challenge them, and potentially rip away their one source of pride. It’s really pretty messed up. Because it’s not like these people asked to be challenged by one of the most accomplished chefs in the country. And it’s not like they can decline, as this would one, appear cowardly, and two, most likely ruin their chances of ever appearing on the Food Network again.

So the second weird aspect of Throwdown, is that friends and family members of whomever Bobby is battling, are used as judges, so Flay never really has a chance. Now I assume this is to skirt the painful awkwardness of BF actually winning. But on the other hand, it makes for boring, predictable TV. Now I think the Food Network has begun to realize this, because the last two Throwdown episodes I’ve seen (battle-Doughnut included) have used blinded judges. And how hard was it to watch when Bobby actually beats a small-time seafood chowder maker from Williamsburg Brooklyn?! Bobby shows up unannounced, embarrasses the hell out of the guy in front of all his friends, and drives off in his shiny black pickup back to Manhattan. It's just a totally ill-conceived idea for television show.

But back to Doughnuts. To celebrate the Doughnut Plant’s 7th anniversary, Mark Isreal and co are throwing a Doughnut Disco on a West Manhattan pier. As expected, Mark thinks all the cameras are there to film the event for his Food Network profile. Then Bobby Flay shows up.

Mark looks stunned as Bobby explains what’s happening, but agrees to the throwdown (I'm starting to hate this word). As Bobby walks away, Mark’s expression turns agitated. “What is this?! He tricked me into this! I’m not doing it!” (or words to that effect). Then comes a shot of a nervous looking Flay – as if thinking, this has never happened before. Now what? Next we see Isreal’s assistant giving him a pep talk and finally announcing, “We’ll do it. We’ll do it.” The only catch is Mark refuses to make any doughnuts from scratch. He says he doesn’t have the right equipment with him, and that he will only compete if he can use the pre-made Doughnuts he brought with him to the Disco. Flay agrees to the terms.

This whole episode really bothered me. The Doughnut plant is one of my all time favorite doughnut-houses, and witnessing such childish behavior from its founder was upsetting.

Bobby starts by unveiling his ever-so-chefy blackberry and white-chocolate ganache-filled yeast-raised with hazelnuts. Mark counters with his Chocolate Blackout – a chocolate cake doughnut stuffed with chocolate pudding – and a raspberry-glazed (the chunks of fresh fruit in the glaze look amazing). But the competitors can only submit one entry to the judges. So Mark pulls out his secret weapon – his popular Tres Leches Cake Doughnut. Based on the tradiaional Mexican cake recipe, the TL is a cake-doughnut injected with three different types of milk.

Mark released the Tres Leches this past May in honor of Cinco de Mayo. I happened to stop by the day it was released (I used to spend a lot of time at the Plant) and spoke with Mark: “We may have to keep this one on the menu. Everyone seems to love it," he said.

While we know the Tres Leches is top-notch (Blognut gave it a near perfect 9.8), Bobby’s sounds equally spectacular. He busts out a Bourbon Pecan-glazed (which he likens to a Paula Dean creation). Now they try each others. “That’s really good,” Bobby says with a mouthful of doughnut. “Doughy,” says Mark in reaction to Flay’s. Why must this guy be so unlikable?

In walk the judges – two NYPD cops. When asked what they look for in a Doughnut, one of the cops responds, “I want them light and not messy, so I can eat them on the go.” They start with Bobby’s Bourbon Pecan. “It’s too gooey, and the nuts would get all over my uniform. Plus, it’s challenging to chew.” And now Mark’s. “It’s fresh and airy. Just what I look for in a Doughnut. I do like the flavor of the Bourbon Pecan, but it’s not quite there. The Tres Leches wins.”

Mark looks relieved and smirks at the camera. He exchanges a painfully awkward handshake with Bobby, who flashes a toothy faux smile. At the beginning of the show, Flay had praised the Doughnut Plant as being his favorite Doughnut shop, and reported being a regular customer. But I’m pretty sure, that thanks to an awful premise for a television show, and a catty, unreceptive Doughnut Maker named Mark, he’ll never set foot in the Plant again.

But like I said at the beginning of this post, THANK YOU Bobby for throwing down with Mr. Isreal, because thanks to hundreds of people a day Google-ing “Tres Leches Doughnut,” Blognut’s readership has nearly doubled.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Rate My Nut

Blognut would like to introduce our new and improved 5-Nut rating scale. In an effort to cram as many Doughnuts onto our site as possible, we're doing away with the 10 point scale and replacing it with five delicious, miniature plain glazed Nuts. We will be assigning all previously-eaten Doughnuts a new rating in the coming weeks, so bear with us (and yes, we'll be using half-Nuts).

5-Nut Rating Scale:

Don't Eat This Nut -

Better than no Nut -

OK Nut -

Choice Nut -

A Nut among Nuts -