Sunday, April 30, 2006
The next morning, now in Lexington, Kentucky, we pull into Magee's Bakery in hopes of finding a Southern-Doughnut to relieve our bourbon woes. We walk in and spot a baking rack behind the counter housing scones, cinnamon rolls, and, to our relief, doughnuts. We order two small coffees, a yeast-raised chocolate-frosted, and a chocolate-frosted cake doughnut.
We were definitely most excited about our frosted cake - this breed of Nut is far more rare than frosted yeast doughnuts. The cake was very dense, similar in consistency to those found at Cupcake Cafe in NYC - perfect for dunking. The yeast-raised chocolate-frosted was slightly denser than the average yeast-raised Nut - somewhere in between the standard glazed consistency and that of a cake doughnut. Both had solid flavor and super-rich, chocolaty frosting. Blognut left Magee's happy.
We were even happier after stopping by the Keeneland horse track that afternoon. In our first-ever bet on a horse race we won $142! The winning horse was named She's Roughin It.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
The Style section of last Sunday's Times ran a feature following Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger of the Brooklyn-based indie group the Fiery Furnaces to Telly's Tavern, a Greek restaurant in Astoria, Queens where they proceeded to eat loukoumades (Greek doughnuts). The feature failed to comment on the quality and taste of the doughnuts so Blognut will have to undertake this appraisal. We have not yet made our way to Telly's but plan to do so in the near future. I hope the doughnuts were better than their 2005 album, Rehearsing My Choir - a review of which can be found here (hi Amanda).
For a review of the New Fiery Furnaces album, Bitter Tea, a much better showing than their previous effort, click here. ...and yet another by our friend Imbidimts.
Blognut would like to thank Rod and Matt for keeping us posted on this breaking doughnut news while we were traveling.
Monday, April 24, 2006
309 Avon Street
In Charlottesville, the only thing more beloved than Dave Matthews (and maybe the University of Virginia) is the Spudnuts doughnut shop . This much-heralded doughnut dealer, located in Charlottesville's Belmont neighborhood, has been a local favorite since it opened in July, 1969. Founded by native Charlottesvillian Richard Wingfield, Spudnuts was originally part of a west-coast chain which only has a few remaining locations. It now sits proudly as the franchise's only east-coast branch.
As their name suggests, Spudnuts are made from another Blognut favorite, the potato. Orignally raised from mashed potatoes, followed by gelatinzed potatoes, and now from potato flour, Spudnuts have been forced to "change with the times," as Richard's daughter Lori puts it. Blognut sat down with Lori Saturday morning after the store had closed to discuss Charlottesville, her father, and doughnuts.
"Everybody loved my father," says Lori, "People didn't just come in for the doughnuts, they also came in to see him - he always knew what people needed." Sadly, Richard passed away last year at age 75, leaving many locals grief-stricken and skeptical about the future of Spudnuts. To the town's relief, and in what may be an unspoken homage to her late father, Lori and her husband plan on keeping Spudnuts going as long as they can - "We've been doing it so long it would be hard to give up," she says. Blognut could not be happier with Lori's decision.
We get the feeling that the Spudnut-Asthetic hasn't changed a bit since it opened 37 years ago. Linoleum floors, vinyl stools, and plenty of neighborhood comfort, Spudnuts exists in its own time and its own dimension. The walls are lined with original paintings by friend-of-Spudnut Dr. Jim Lincoln, a 107 year-old Oregon native who reportedly helped take some the earliest photographs of DNA and once played Chamber music with Albert Einstein. We could have stayed all day.
The Spudnuts menu includes such classics as the plain glazed, chocolate frosted, and cinnamon varieties, while also offering more Progressive-Nuts like blueberry cake, coconut, and cherry cinnamon. Blognut ordered 2 piping hot coffees and half a dozen doughnuts: 2 glazed, 2 cinnamon, and 2 chocolate covered (we wanted to try the coconut and blueberry but by noon on a Saturday the town has pretty much gobbled up all but a handfull of Nuts). We returned Monday morning on our way out of town and were able to snag a cherry cinnamon.
Blognut's taste buds may be clouded by home-town nostalgia, but Spudnuts are the finest doughnuts we've encountered in two and a half decades of Donut-Eating. The plain glazed and cinnamon are just about perfect, with the other varieties close behind. The glazed is just-sweet-enough while the cinnamon relies on a blend of its namesake and granulated sugar. Incredibly soft and moist, and just slighty potatoey, Spudnuts have created the Ideal-Nut. The cherry cinnamon is wonderful update on the more traditional cinnamon bun doughnut.
Blognut hopes that Spudnuts will continue serving as Central Virginia's most magnificent doughnut dealer for many years to come - we're already planning our next trip back.
Glazed - 10.0
Cinnamon - 10.0
Chocolate frosted - 9.3
Cherry cinnamon - 9. 5
Doughnut with Virginia Skyline
Disclaimer: Blognut would like to apologize to Wilco. They had initially been the focus of our trip back to Virginia but have been overlooked in this post due to the over-whelming goodness of Spudnuts. The show was great and Jeff Tweedy was in a really good mood - an unexpected occurrence considering his recent stint in rehab. Their new Sonic Youth-esque noise rock sound is working well.
I hope they made it to Spudnuts before heading back to Chicago.
Friday, April 21, 2006
Thursday, April 20, 2006
After munching on an Amy’s Bread low-fat applesauce doughnut (pictured in the Freewheelin’ Donut), Blognut is still hungry. We decide to finally try the much-anticipated Corner Bistro hamburger.
Cheap beer, lots of meat, and old-school tavern charm makes the Corner Bistro a popular hangout with late-night, drunken burger seekers, so it’s best to go early. At 2:30 on Sunday afternoon we have no problem getting a booth in the back room. Seeing no doughnuts on the short menu, we order a cheeseburger with French fries. We put the fries on the burger (a common Blognut practice).
We eat the burger.
Burger verdict: Thick, messy, and delicious. The only downfall being that it was a bit overcooked (we ordered it medium but probably should have gone medium-rare). Not overly complex, the Bistro burger relies on simple, All-American flavor to please its eater - a definite must-try for any burger-loving New Yorker. The fries were perfectly crisp and good as well.
Burger with French fries.
Burger without French fries.
Burger score: 8.9
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
In our continuing effort to become International-Doughnut-Connoisseurs, Blognut hops on the F- train and rides down to Brighton Beach in search of an authentic Russian Nut.
Called "пончики", ponchiki in Russia, and "пампушки", pampushky in the Ukraine, these former-Soviet-Nuts are somewhat lighter than their American counterparts. They are often filled with jam and are enjoyed primarily during celebrations. There is also a savory form of the Ukrainian pampushky flavored with mashed garlic and olive oil and typically served as an appetizer or as an accompaniment to soup.
With a few hours to kill on Saturday afternoon, and an urge to break from the monotony of the standard NYC-doughnut-offerings, Blognut figures what better place to find a Russian doughnut than Brighton Beach, the heavily Russian Brooklyn neighborhood referred to as “Little Odessa.”
We arrive at Brighton beach around 3:00 PM and make our way down the boardwalk, somewhat in awe of the fact that New York City actually has a real beach – who knew!? Feeling pressured to try the Russian staple, we stop in the Tatiana café and scarf a plate of garlic rosemary potatoes. We then pop over to Brighton Beach Avenue, the main shopping and dining thoroughfare in the neighborhood.
We find out immediately that eating in Brighton Beach can be difficult when you don’t speak Russian (Blognut took French for 3 years in high school and 1 year in college, and definitely has no idea how to order a Nut in Russian). Brighton Beach Ave has countless cafes, food markets, and street-side vendors all selling baked items labeled in Russian, and most of which seem to be variations on the meat-pie.
We’re not sure if Brighton is just not into doughnuts, or if our poor Russian pronunciation prevented us from conveying our orders properly, but Blognut was unable to find ponchikis or pampuskies anywhere. We spent the entire subway ride home wondering what might have been had we found and enjoyed an authentic Russian Nut.
If anyone has any recommendations on how to acquire a ponchiki or a pampusky in the NYC-area, can you please let us know.
Maybe the doughnuts were in here.
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
Frankies 457 Court Street Spuntino
457 Court Street
Spuntino [NOUN] - An informal meal or a snack; also, a casual Italian eatery
Frankies 457 has been a regular stop on Blognut’s dinner circuit for quite some time. This former-speakeasy turned quaint Italian trattoria is nestled deep in the heart of Carroll Gardens and definitely lives up to the recent hype it’s received from the NYC-foodie crowd. Co-owned by 2 Frankies, Frankie Castronovo and Frankie Falcinelli, Frankies 457 quickly became a neighborhood favorite and serves up some of the best Italian food in the area. If you don’t mind waiting for a table, the simple and comforting recipes made with high-quality ingredients make for a warm and delicious dining experience.
After having eaten numerous Super-Good dinners at Frankies, Blognut decides to finally try their brunch.
Saturday morning, 11:30: We arrive at Frankies and join the slew of groggy Brooklynites already enjoying their morning Spuntinos. Surprisingly, we are seated right away.
Blognut orders the French toast with Canadian maple syrup and the prosciutto and pecorino sandwich. The toast was incredible – sliced extremely thick, and battered with cinnamon excellence, it was some of the best we’ve ever had (looking back, this was probably due to the fact that it sort of tasted like a cinnamon/sugar doughnut...mmm). The sandwich was a hit as well – we loved it. Thinly sliced prosciutto and a perfectly dry pecorino on flatbread provided by the Sullivan St. Bakery.
Frankie’s sandwich menu is definitely one of their strong points. Simple combinations such as sopressata and provolo, Faicco's sausage & broccoli rabe, and mozzarella, tomato and arugala, are perfect for savory-seeking brunchers. Other menu highlights include an extensive selection of crostinis, cured meats, and formaggio. For dinner, Blognut would highly recommend the home-made cavatelli with Faicco's hot sausage and browned sage butter.
Food Score: 9.8
Monday, April 17, 2006
Monday morning: As promised, Blognut strolls into Madison Square Park with the intention of acquiring a Warm Heirloom Apple Fritter from Shake Shack. The popular burger/hot dog stand was scheduled to reinstate their breakfast menu this morning but to our disappointment, they’ve decided to hold off on any morning eats.
Blognut walks up to the Shake Shack window and speaks with a Shake Shack-Lady (presumably the manager):
Blognut (perplexed by the lack of patrons): “Hello. I think I’ll try an apple fritter?”
Shake Shack Lady: “I’m sorry, we’re actually not serving breakfast – we’ve decided to postpone the launching of our breakfast menu.”
Blognut (now sad): “Really? …how come?”
Shake Shack Lady: “We’ve decided to start staying open later in the evenings. We close at 6:00 and end up turning people away every night – we’re now going to be open until 9:00 PM. We’re planning on revisiting the idea of serving breakfast though, probably this June.”
Lady with German Shepard walks up (also seeking breakfast).
Lady with German Shepard: “I thought you guys were starting breakfast this morning?”
Shake Shack Lady informs her of the new plan, then offers both of us a donut to compensate for the lack of breakfast (she pulls out 2 large trays of what look like Dunkin Donuts from the kitchen).
Lady with German Shepard: “Sure, I’ll have a glazed.”
Blognut (to Shake Shack Lady): “I’ll have a chocolate glazed”
Blognut (to Lady with German Shepard): “Can he have one?” (referring to dog)
Lady with German Shepard: “He can have part of mine, as long as it’s not chocolate.”
We accept our complimentary Nuts and the 3 of us walk away happy.
Thursday, April 13, 2006
The Hill Diner
231 Court Street
The Hill Diner is plain in every way. The storefront is plain, the tables are plain, and the walls are plain. While Blognut is all for chic, minimalist decor, the Hill Diner is just plain boring. Not bad, and not good.
Thursday evening: Fearing an impending rain shower Blognut stays close to home for dinner. We arrive at the Hill Diner at (sometimes we like to eat early) and sit outback in the newly-opened-for-summer garden. We plan our escape route in case the storm hits. In keeping with the surroundings, the menu is somewhat plain too – essentially diner cuisine with an air of sophistication.
Blognut orders the Chicken Schnitzel with mashed potatoes, fennel, and honey mustard sauce. The waiter is friendly and funny - we joke about the word Schnitzel.
The chicken was mildly flavorful and completely inoffensive, as were the potatoes – the kind of meal you enjoy and never think about again. Blognut highly recommends adding doughnuts to the menu in order to make the Hill Diner-experience more memorable. (Also, when will the criss-crossing lines of sauce, squirted from a squeeze bottle as a means of culinary-finesse, end?)
If you’re looking for a completely normal dining experience, check out the Hill Diner.
Food Score - 7.0
Check back Monday, April 17th for an in depth Fritter-Analysis.
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
The Institute of Culinary Education here in NYC has announced that they will be offering a specialty baking course called Doughnuts, Beignets, and Fritters. There will be 3 sessions offered this spring/summer – May 21st, June 23rd, and September 21st. The course will be taught by former Army sniper-turned-pastry chef Chad Pagano, with each session lasting 5 hours.
Students will learn to make apple fritters, French beignets, old-fashioned buttermilk cake doughnuts, classic doughnuts, jelly-filled doughnuts, and ricotta-yeast doughnuts, among other Nut-relatives. Tuition is $90 and no previous Nut-Experience is required.
Other courses being offered that Blognut recommends include: Best Homemade Pizza, Soul Food and Old School Hip Hop with DJ Q, and Authentic Southern BBQ. For a complete list of courses see the ICE’s Web site.
It’s going to be a great summer.
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
As one of the top contenders in the ongoing NYC-cupcake-battle, the Cupcake café is best know for its ridiculously dense cakes and rich, colorful, buttercream frosting. Sharing a window display with these buttery marvels, it's easy to see how a baked-good as simple and endearingly humble as a doughnut could get overlooked – but the Nuts at Cupcake are just as impressive as their cakes.
Sunday afternoon: Blognut enters the Cupcake café.
Initially blinded by the rows and rows of brightly buttercreamed cupcakes, it takes us a few minutes to notice the bowl of plain doughnuts sitting in the front window. They only have 3 left. The café specializes in old fashioned plain cake donuts with flavors like buttermilk, pumpkin, whole wheat oat, whole wheat orange, chocolate, and lemon.
For the more adventuresome Nut-eater they also offer a raspberry-filled and a sweet potato-glazed. We order a single buttermilk Nut and grab a table in the corner while customers steadily file in and out. While our purchase looks like any other plain cake doughnut, it turns out to be heavier, weight-wise, than most contemporary Nuts.
Blognut eats it. The Nut's simple external appearance gives way to a rich, complex flavor which greatly surpasses our Nut-Expectations. Slightly sweet and unbelievably dense, this is the perfect Nut for dunking (on our next trip to Cupcake we'll certainly be ordering a coffee). This is by far the most interesting plain cake doughnut we have encountered in
Post-Nut, Blognut wanders over to the Hell's Kitchen Flea Market across the street, and digs through bins of records, piles of dishes, and stacks of picture frames. Serendipitously, Blognut emerges with a prize: a perfectly-preserved, vintage Mister Donut coffee mug.
Sunday, April 09, 2006
The Donut Pub
203 W 14th Street
New York, NY
Sunday morning: When Blognut first heard the name The Donut Pub, we couldn't help but imagine a dark, wood paneled dive-bar serving up pints of stout and sugary crullers. We also conjured up images of beer-battered glazed and Pinot Noir-grape jelly-filled Nuts - turns out we were wrong. The Pub's specialty is simply donuts.
While not a pub in the true sense of the word, The Donut Pub is open 24 hours/day, offers diners a friendly, neighborhood hangout, and has been serving up some of the best donuts in NYC since 1964. Patrons can sidle up to the Pub's formica counter (appropriately, there are no tables, just stools) and choose their poison from a mesmerizing and diverse display of Nuts.
Blognut orders coffee, a marble glazed, and a black and white-frosted Boston creme. This is the first marble glazed we've encountered since visiting Old Fashioned Donuts on 86th and Lexington last summer (OFD was a classic Nut-dealer in the Upper East Side -- sadly, Blognut recently learned that it's closed its doors). Promptly deemed the "Black and Tan" of donuts by Blognut, the marble was a perfect blend of chocolate and plain cake dough with just the right amount of glaze rounding out the flavor. The black and white Boston creme puts a new twist on another Blognut favorite, the traditional New York-deli black and white cookie. This soft, delicous Nut is filled with smooth Boston creme and frosted with that instantly recognizable half chocolate, half white pattern.
The Donut Pub definitely has one of the most impressive selection of Nuts in town - Blognut highly recommends it for those seeking a satisfying Manhattan-Nut.
On the subway ride home a scraggly-haired indie kid sits across from Blognut holding a Cinnamon bun encased in a brown paper Starbucks bag - sucker.
Marble glazed - 8.7
Black and white Boston creme - 9.3
Saturday, April 08, 2006
570 Henry Street
For Blognut's first foray into Brooklyn Restaurant Week, we sprint down Henry St. and burst into Crave, only 5 minutes late for our reservation. Hidden away on a heavily brownstoned, residential block in Carroll Gardens, this bistro is tiny and understated - Blognut counted only 10 tables.
We start with a glass of wine and some complimentary rosemary crackers before placing our dinner order. Blognut has the mesclun salad, the spice rubbed pork tenderloin with anjou pear puree and broccoli rabe, and, for dessert, the mango creme brulee with kiwi sorbet and the chocolate-chili cake with caramel ice cream. While the pork went very nicely with the pear puree (and sparked a Blognut-idea for a pear-flavored Nut -- get on that Doughnut Plant!), the meal was awfully small and mostly underwhelming. Even after cleaning our plates, Blognut was still hungry.
Crave might be trying to present their diners with a chic, upscale atmosphere, but the restaurant somehow winds up sacrificing the warmth and friendliness that usually make neighborhood bistros so appealing. While a very fair price at $20.06 a meal (the going rate during Restaurant Week), Blognut would probably not pay full price for the tiny entrees we had.
Later that night after a few Gin and Tonics at Brooklyn Social, Blognut, still unsatiated, wanders over to Schnack with our pal Imbidimts, the self-proclaimed "Joe Piscopo of rock-criticism."
122 Union Street
The "Gateway to Red Hook"
Located on Union St. between Columbia and Hicks in the "Columbia Waterfront" area (what?), Schnack's grease-stained menu is particularly well-suited to desperate late-night schnacking. Blognut orders a giant basket of fries, a Schnack combo (a single Schnackie, or loose-meat slider, with fries and a pint of Schwag beer), another single Schnackie, and a vanilla beer milkshake (two straws).
Schnackies are delicious. Loose ground beef and 1.5 oz of Schnack sauce, with custom-applied french fries, make for a wonderful nightcap. The vanilla beer shake, which the waitress told us tastes like a malted White Russian, is not so much good as it's not-as-bad-as-it-should-be. It actually goes quite well with the main course.
Throughout Restaurant Week, Schnack will be offering a special RC Cola gelato provided by il Laboratorio del Gelato. While Schnack does not offer any donuts, their dessert menu also includes the inticing Harry's Famous Chocolate and Banana Bread Pudding - we'll definitely be returning to try it out.
For more Schnack news, check out their blog, run by co-owner Harry "Hey Chef" Hawk.
Vanilla beer shake with 2 straws.
Crave - 7.1
Schnack - 8.9
Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Blognut would like to congratulate Doughnut Plant for coming in 7th in the NYC dessert category. Nice job! For a more extensive review of the Plant, see our March 19th entry.
Topping the list was Jacques Torres Chocolate, located in the DUMBO district of Brooklyn. Blognut has been craving Jacques' orange flavored iced hot chocolates since our first visit there last summer.
Also making the top ten were Veniero's, Magnolia, and Il Laboratorio del Gelato, none of which, to Blognut's knowledge, serve donuts. The Lower East Side's Sugar Sweet Sunshine bakery, started by Magnolia-defectors in 2003, suprisingly did not make the list. This is a big disappointment to Blognut considering they make the best banana pudding we've ever tasted. Maybe Next year.
For a review of AOL's picks for best NYC-burger, see A Hamburger Today.
Monday, April 03, 2006
347 Van Brunt Street
Red Hook, Brooklyn
Blognut walks down Van Brunt Street through the remote industrial landscapes of Red Hook, Brooklyn. We stop to take a photo of the American Stevedoring Company after which we argue about the exact meaning of stevedoring – was Marlon Brando a stevedore in On the Waterfront?
We make our way down Van Brunt and step into the Hope & Anchor diner for quick breakfast. The retro tables are filled with meticulously unkempt diners, so we grab a swivel stool at the bar. We comment on the large glass jar of pickles behind the bar, which after talking with the waitress, we find out are actually slices of ginger – we never found out what they were planning on doing with the root.
Blognut orders the chorizo hash with scrambled eggs and the banana pancake special. The hash was amazing – perfectly spicy sausage with crispy potato pieces and cilantro – more a chunky concoction than a hash. The banana cakes were equally impressive with their piping hot banana centers and fresh slices resting on top.
Although Blognut could not find a single Nut on the menu, we would highly recommend Hope & Anchor for a delicious, all-American breakfast.
Food score – 9.5
(Hope & Anchor photo courtesy of Forgotten NY)
Saturday, April 01, 2006
269 Pacific Street
La Rosa and Son Pizzeria
98 Smith Street
Saturday morning - Blognut arrives at Pacifico. We sit outside to enjoy the newly-arrived spring weather and a spicy Tex-Mex brunch.
Located at the corner of Smith and Pacific in Boerum Hill, Pacifico exists as part of Jim Marmary's triumvirate of connected restaurants which also includes Gravy and La Rosa and Son Pizzeria. Blognut starts with an order of chorizo and potato skewers. Next, our main course shares its name with that of the establishment - the Pacifico consists of eggs (huevos), cheese, black beans, and scallion corn cakes covered in a delicous salsa verde. With the exception of the potatoes being slightly undercooked, both dishes were great - the corn cakes were the best part.
Remembering that Pacifico is cash-only, we make our way through the back of the restaurant and into La Rosa to use the ATM. As we wait for our withdrawal, we can't help but notice the glass display case next to us which, in addition to the standard NYC-pizza joint accoutrements (rice balls, garlic knots), houses a tray of small, fried wonders. As it turns out, La Rosa sells donuts. Priced at 3 for $1, these Nuts are simple, unsweetened fried cakes, which upon being ordered, are warmed, thrown into a paper bag, and seasoned with a shake of powdered sugar. While they may look like donuts, they're actually closer to funnel cakes or zeppoles in taste and consistency. These Faux-Nuts are best enjoyed fresh, hot, and loaded with sugar - when we asked for an extra dose of sweetness, the cashier actually handed Blognut the powdered sugar and said "go crazy."
Food Score: Pacifico - 9.1
Donut Score - N/A