Wednesday, May 31, 2006

My big fat greek donut

Having had our fill of chicken schnitzel, koblihys, and full-bodied Pilsner at the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden, we hit the streets of Astoria in search of another local delicacy – the loukoumas (plural = loukoumades). Loukoumades are sweet, ball-shaped fritters made from yeast dough and dipped in warm honey. They are considered the Greek equivalent of a donut.

Loukoumades recently gained recognition (and a hefty helping of indie-cred) after a New York Times piece followed Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger of Brooklyn duo The Fiery Furnaces to Telly’s Tavern in Astoria, where they dined on loukoumades. After leaving the Beer Garden, Blognut heads over to Telly’s to see what all the fuss is about. Now comes the bad news - the hostess informs us that they don’t serve our desired dish on Saturdays. Not willing to except rejection, we make our way down the street to Lefkos Pyrgos, who thankfully are ready to meet our donut-needs.

We order a plate of loukoumades ($5) and 2 black coffees. They arrive swimming in a shallow pool of glistening honey resembling a school of drowning Muchkins. Compared with the Czech donuts we had earlier in the day, these were packed with flavor and loaded with sweetness – a perfect blend of cinnamon and honey goodness not so dissimilar from the Mexican variation on the fried dough and honey combo, the sopapilla. But be careful, their bite-size stature makes it easy to overindulge – Blognut was left feeling rather defeated.

With the exception of being slightly over ambitious with our honey application (which, at times, led to nearly unbearable sweetness), this was our favorite international donut-experience to date.

As an aside - apparently there is a derogatory Greek expression based on the loukoumas used to imply that someone is stupid. Eisai megalos loukoumas! literally translates as “You are a big donut!”

Donut Score - 9.5

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Bohemian Donuts

Feeling the need to stay in touch with our Czech heritage, Blognut makes the long subway ride to the Bohemian Hall & Beer Garden in Astoria, Queens for the 24th Annual Czech and Slovak Festival (or, as it's called on the Garden's Web site, The 24nd Annual Czech and Slovak Festival).

We arrive in the early afternoon to beat the crowds and score a seat immediately. We share a table with an old Czech man that resembles my grandfather. He makes a joke about how he plans to steal our camera while we're at the bar - everyone laughs.

We start our day with 2 pints of Czechvar and more than enough traditional Bohemian folk dancing. With our stomachs adequately primed on delicious Czech froth, we make our way to the food tables where, as we had hoped, we encounter a women selling authentic Czech donuts (known as Koblihys).

Before moving foward with any Donut-Commentary, we feel some clarificat
ion is in order:

Many people are under the impression that the traditional Czech donut is the Kolache (also known as Kolach or Kolacky). While this may be splitting hairs, the general Czech-Consensus is that Kolaches are more akin to pastries then they are to typical American/European donuts, with filling resting in a small depression on the top surface. Koblihys, on the other hand, resemble jelly donuts. They are large and round, with their filling completely encased in dough. Both Kolaches and Koblihys are typically filled with cheese, cream, poppy seeds, or fruit. Savory, meat-filled Kolaches have become popular with Czech populations in the United States, with cities such as Montgomery, Minnesota and Caldwell, Texas holding annual Kolache festivals. But I digress.

After speaking with the Czech-Donut-Lady, and confirming that her offerings were in fact Koblihys, we order two - one filled with prune and one filled with cream. The thin layer of powdered sugar on the prune-filled was unable to redeem its lack of taste. As was the case with the Polish pączek we dined on a few weeks back, this Koblihy reminded us of a semi-stale dinner roll. However, once again, due to vastly different cultural expectations, we don't fault the Koblihy for not meeting our sugary, American-Donut-Needs. The cream-filled, on the other hand, was delicious. Stuffed with smooth, Boston-y creme and covered in a rich chocolate frosting, this Koblihy left us with a satisfied stomach and chocolate-covered fingers - definitely worth "Czeching" out. We washed down our donut with a pint of Staropramen and the sweet sounds of the Pilsner Brass Band.


Dancing Czech men.

Thanks to Dad for speaking with us on behalf of his grandmother's homemade Kolaches and to our friend Slim for accompanying us to the Beer Garden.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Cupcake Cafe (Flatiron location)
18 West 18th Street
New York, NY

Blognut's last visit to The Cupcake Cafe (Hell's Kitchen location) was met with a limited, yet satisfying selection - the only donuts they had left were the Buttermilk Plain Cakes. We return today in hopes of trying some of their more eclectic flavors, in particular, their monstrous Sweet Potato Glazed.

6:15 PM - Blognut steps into The Cupcake Cafe taking refuge from the dusty, construction-laden mess that is 18th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues. The scene brings immediate disappoinment - the glass cake plate normally housing the Sweet Potato donuts sits empty. We confirm with the Donut/Cupcake Man that he isn't hiding any in the back - "Sorry sir, we didn't make any today," he says, with what I think is a Scottish accent. Despite the bad news, this trip to the Cafe is still a success. We score two old fashioned cake donuts - a pumpkin spice and a chocolate. As we leave, we get a hearty "Cheers" from the Scottish Donut Man.

The best part about The Cupcake Cafe's donuts is their subtleness. These dense, great-for-dunking cake creations have only a hint of sweetness, which can come as quite a shock to sugar-seeking donut eaters. The Pumpkin Spice tasted more like a scone than a donut while the chocolate resembled cocoa powder in flavor (this is a good thing - we promise). In this era of overly sweetened Pop-Nuts drowned in glistening glaze, both of our donuts were a refreshing change.

Blognut ate only half of each donut, setting aside the rest for tomorrow morning's dunking.

Donut Scores: non-dunked/dunked

Pumpkin Spice - 7.5/8.0
Chocolate - 7.5/8.0

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

More Pop-Nuts on Smith?

A Brooklyn Life reports today on their suspicion that a new Dunkin Donuts may be opening soon on the corner of Bergen and Smith in Boerum Hill.

Blognut is fairly certain that this may be the next step in Donut-Entrepreneur Peter Ungaro's quest to eliminate what little mom-and-pop donut influence Brooklyn has left.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Donuts From the North Country

Saturday morning – In Toronto, and, after a long discussion with our cab driver about the Buffalo Sabres and the future of hockey in America, I arrive at my hotel and immediately hit the streets in search of a donut.

While the Toronto metropolitan area has over 500 donut shops to choose from (see previous post), the downtown location where I'm staying is dominated by Tim Horton’s – there were 6 within a few blocks of the hotel, further proving that Canadians love donuts.

I stop in the first Tim Horton’s I see and order their newly-released Carrot Cake Donut and a small black coffee. The counterman looks at my $20 bill graced with Andrew Jackson's head and says, “Where do you think you are?" – then he turns to his co-worker to share a laugh. I leave to look for an ATM, all the while questioning the cab driver’s assertion that every place in downtown Toronto takes American dollars. Luckily this Horton’s is attached to a bank – I withdraw $40 Canadian and return for our donut.With our order in hand, I hit the streets looking for another donut shop – all I find is another Tim Horton’s. This time a Canadian Maple frosted is in order. I withdraw the Carrot Cake from the first TH and set it next to the Canadian maple. A Horton's employee walks by, commenting, “Didn’t you only order one donut?” “Yes,” I respond – “This one is from the Tim Horton’s down the street.” He looks perplexed but returns to his station behind the counter while I eat.

The Canadian Maple is the perfect welcome to Canada – not only a great tasting donut, but a symbolic representation of the nation’s most widely recognized icon, the maple leaf. It was filled with a Boston-esque crème and frosted with Maple Intensity – far more potent than its Dunkin Donuts counter part here in America. The Carrot Cake tasts almost exactly like its namesake, but due to its fried exterior and the inherit perfect-ness of the donut’s ring shape, it's more suited to be eaten with hands than its wedged cousin. While Tim Horton’s may be a major chain, it was a nice diversion from the pop-donut monotony in the States.

While going through US customs prior to my flight home, I'm asked to declare any purchases made in Canada – I declared two donuts at a total cost of $1.50.

Donut Scores:

Carrot Cake - 7.5
Canadian Maple - 8.8

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hockey, Beer, and Apparently, Donuts

So Blognut's going away this weekend to Toronto. In planning our trip we naturally investigated the donut shops in the area - we came to the conclusion that Canadians must love donuts.

A search on for "donuts" turns up a whopping 514 results in and around Toronto! Now we know what you're thinking - most of the hits must be Pop-Nuts, right? Nope. While the most common findings on the list are, as expected, the three major donut chains in Ontario - Coffee Time, Country Style, and Tim Horton's (the Dunkin Donuts of Canada, named after the famed Toronto Maple Leaf) - nearly half the listings are independents. Blognut was left feeling a little overwhelmed. Unsure of where to even begin - but reassured of our decision to focus Blognut's coverage on US-based donuts - we've decided not to plan on hitting any specific Donut-Locations. Odds are we'll find some.

Back on Monday.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Saveur All Up In Blognut's Business

This month's edition of the international food rag Saveur has a piece by food writer John T. Edge reviewing 7 US-doughnut shops worth visiting. We were happy to see our local favorite The Doughnut Plant on the list, and even happier when Edge referred to Plant-founder Mark Isreal as a "doughnut Don Quixote."
Also on the list:

Butler's Colonial Donut House
- Westport, Massachusetts
Started by a former Dunkin employee and his wife, Butler's is best known for its Long Johns - yeast-raised rectangles filled with black raspberry jelly and covered in real whipped cream.

The Donut Man - Glendora, California
This roadside stand run by Donut Man Jim Nakano churns out raspberry and peach varieties made with freshly picked fruit.

Shipley Do-Nuts - Oxford, Mississippi (although a Texas-based chain)
Simple yeast-raised doughnuts which Edge feels have the consistency of Wonderbread - Blognut visited their store in downtown San Antonio last year.

Tex Drive-In - Honokaa, Big Island, Hawaii
Hawaiian drive-in specializing in malasadas - holeless Portuguese doughnuts.

Top Pot Doughnuts - Seattle, Washington
Started by two Seattle brothers who have acquired trademark rights to the classic Doughnut Corporation of America, Top Pot serves glamorous doughnuts like the Valley Girl (lemon-filled with lemon icing) and the Pink Feather Boa (rose-colored, vanilla-iced with flaked coconut).

Zingerman's Roadshow - Ann Arbor, Michigan
This trailer-based operation serves lemon zest and nutmeg-spiced doughnuts based on a traditional Dutch recipe.

John T. Edge's book Donuts: An American Passion comes out this month (published by Putnam) as part of a 4-part series "celebrating American food icons." Blognut can't wait.

Thanks to Dr. Rod for letting us know about the Donut piece in Saveur.

The Donut Man

Netflix movie recommendation from our friend Vogelish:

Donut Man: On Tour/Resurrection Celebration

Join that crazy Donut Man (Rob Evans) on tour for a sing-along adventure. Donut Man, Duncan the talking donut and the kids from the Donut Repair Club travel around fixing donut holes, teaching kids about God's love and performing songs ("King of Kings," "Praise Him") from the Integrity Music Just-For-Kids series. In Resurrection Celebration, Donut Man and the kids help a friend deal with a tragedy while they rehearse for an Easter play.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Min's Donuts

Min's Donuts
337 9th Street
Brooklyn, NY

Saturday morning: Feeling as though we’ve been neglecting the numerous doughnut offerings right here in Brooklyn, Blognut heads deep into Park Slope for our inaugural visit to Min's.

Anticipating the friendly, donut-munching patrons and formica counter tops we now expect from local Brooklyn donut shops, Blognut was disappointed to find Min's Donuts a cold, unwelcoming establishment. With not even a hint of neighborhood charm, Min's definitely has the “we were at one time a Dunkin Donuts” feel (although we were unable to confirm our suspicion with the Donut Lady).

As is the case with many Dunkin-wannabees (see HoneyDip Donuts and the Donut Connection), the donuts at Min's taste like watered-down versions of their Pop-Nut predecessor's.

Blognut orders a plain glazed (the true test of a Nut-Purveyor) and a chocolate glazed cake. The plain glazed was a little on the dry side, falling far short of its Dunkin rival in both flavor and consistency. The chocolate however, was moist and relatively flavorful – a much better DD rip-off.

Next time we’re craving a donut on 9th Street in Park Slope, Blognut will probably just hit the Dunkin Donuts down the street.

Lame donuts.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Pączki and Dinner Rolls

Having failed at our recent attempt to locate authentic Russian/Ukrainian doughnuts (ponchikis and pampushkys, respectively) in Brighton Beach, Blognut resumes our International-Doughnut-Search and hits the East Village looking for the Polish version of our circular friend - the pączek (plural = Pączki).

Pączki are round, jam-filled doughnuts traditionally made in Polish homes to use up extra lard, fruit and sugar before Lent, during which these ingredients are forbidden. They are most commonly enjoyed on Fat Thursday (the last Thursday before Lent). They are often topped with powdered sugar, icing or orange zest and are traditionally filled with marmalade made from fried rose buds (although prunes, lemons, strawberries, raspberries, and Bavarian creme are also commonly used).

While walking up First Avenue, Blognut spots a Polish Deli between 7th and 8th Streets which, if memory serves us correctly, was just called "Polish Delicatessen." We're excited to see a window full of pączki. Self-conscious of our Polish pronounciation, we step inside and order a "doughnut." On our way out we try and get a photo of the store front but are interupted by a talkative Polish man asking us for a dollar - he doesn't appear happy that we're taking photos. We give him a dollar and walk away.

Later in evening we unwrap our pączek and begin our feast - it looks, feels and tastes like a dinner roll. The thin band of strawberry jam in the center doesn't provide enough flavor to overcome the bland dough-ness of the rest of the pączki. Blognut does not want to jump to critical conclusions - we realize that the considerable cultural divide between Blognut and pączki most likely plays heavy in our dissatisfaciton. This dough-heavy creation can not meet the sugary expectations that come from growing up in the glazed-hungry United States.

Doughnut Score - NA

Monday, May 08, 2006

Doughnut with David Blaine

The Doughnut Plant Redux

Saturday morning:
Now back in NYC, Blognut returns to The Doughnut Plant. We arrive at 10:30 seeking an Avant-Doughnut.

Unlike our last visit to the Plant, their racks were well stocked with an eclectic assortment of Doughnut Plant creations which, no matter how many times we go, continue to impress and surprise us. Groggy and tired, Blognut craves the manageable compactness and structural integrity of cake doughnuts. We order a Strawberry, a Cashew, and the brand new Cinco de Mayo special – the Tres Leches.

Based on the traditional Mexican recipe, the Tres Leches is made by soaking butter cake in three different types of milk – evaporated, condensed, and whole milk or cream. The most fascinating thing about the Tres Leches doughnut was its consistency - the cake at the perimeter was perfectly soft and moist giving way to a creamy center without a distinct border between cream and cake – almost as if the cake had been undercooked. Mark Isreal, who started the Doughnut Plant back in 1994, assured us that our Tres Leches was prepared correctly and that the center was simply a “traditional Mexican crème.” With our Raw-Egg-Concerns put to rest, Blognut was now able to properly focus on the doughnut. It was outstanding!! – definitely the best doughnut we’ve had at the Plant. The sweet, creamy taste was the perfect union of authentic tres leches flavor and standard glazed-cake satisfaction. According to Isreal, the Tres Leches was intended for limited production – to be offered only over Cinco De Mayo weekend. However, due to overwhelming customer requests, it may garner a regular spot on the Doughnut Plant roster. Blognut is responsible for one such request.

Our other acquisitions were good as well. Although a little too sweet for Blognut’s taste, and somewhat reminiscent of Frankenberry cereal, the Strawberry was enjoyable. Its sweet, pink glaze, and moist cake dough make it a perfect choice for doughnut-lovers looking for a little extra sugar. Despite not being the least bit nutty in flavor, the Cashew was also good – it tasted far more like a maple syrup/butterscotch mixture than the oblong legume from which it gets its name.

Due primarily to the deliciousness of the Tres Leches, this trip to The Doughnut Plant ranks up there as one of Blognut’s favorite Doughnut-Experiences. We sincerely hope they continue producing this magnificent feat of baking excellence.

Donut scores:

Tres Leches - 10.0
Strawberry - 8.4
Cashew - 8.0

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More Donuts in the Old Dominion

Lady on a horse: "Not much happens here in Abington - and that's how we like it."

In what will be the last leg of our Southern Donut Adventure, Blognut heads east to the small, former spa town of Abington, Virginia. After a long day of driving and sampling the local fare (corn nuggets and deliciously smoky Tennessee mountain-style BBQ) we arrive in Abington - a local points us in the direction of the best donut in town.

The Dunk & Deli Company sits about a mile outside of downtown Abington at 924 East Main Street. The simple diner-style decor and pleasantly Southern donut purveyors behind the counter make Dunk & Deli a great place to absorb the laid back Abington atmosphere. Two well stocked racks house an impressive collection of donuts. While offering standard donut-fare, Dunk's most interesting creation is what they call their "Crumb Donut," a glazed cake donut rolled in peanuts, coconut, and crumbled Heath Bar...mmm! Blognut orders a Crumb and a vanilla/caramel frosted.

The Crumb is like no other donut we've ever tasted. The peanut/coconut/Heath combination makes for a complex, multi-textural Donut-Experience. The saltiness of the peanuts compliments the Heath sweetness leaving the overall taste perfectly balanced. Not only is this donut delicious, it is also appropriately named - after eating it our table was covered in crumbs. The vanilla/caramel was also excellent but definitely overshadowed by its progressive competition.

After enjoying our donuts Blognut hits the row of antique shops in historic downtown Abington where we find our new favorite coffee mug.

A poem on the back of the mug reads:

As you go thru life brother
Whatever be your goal
Keep your eye on the donut
And not on the hole


Corn nugget.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Donut Fact

The only states without a Krispy Kreme:

New Hampshire

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Honeydip Donuts
207 West New Circle R.
Lexington, KY

As we drive out of Lexington, listening to Kentucky native Will Oldham, we stop by Honeydip for what will be the last Bluegrass-Donut of our Southern-getaway.

Honeydip Donuts is a lesser-known Pop-Nut franchise that we think is headquartered in Wisconsin (could not confirm this). They seem to be slowly filling the void left as Dunkin Donuts withdraws what little influence it had across the mid-South (DD has traditionally had trouble in this region due to Krispy Kreme’s stronghold on the Pop-nut market here).

This Honeydip was previously a DD and shares its store space with a Blimpie Subs and Salads – a concept that Blognut finds bothersome. Both the décor and the donuts have a vestigial Dunkin feel. We asked the Donut-Lady about the origins of the Honeydip franchise and she answered with “I don’t know nothing bout this place.”

Blognut orders a caramel-frosted and 9 donut-holes (3 glazed, 3 chocolate cake, and 3 blueberry). The caramel was decent – the frosting was smooth and the yeast-raised dough was fresh and Dunkin-y. The holes on the other hand were miserable. The chocolate was dry and tasted artificial, the blueberry tasted like a grape popsicle, and the glazed were just OK.

We finish our Nuts and begin our long drive through the Appalachian Mountains on our way back to Virginia. If we find ourselves at a Honeydip again, we’ll definitely be avoiding the donut holes.

Donut Scores:

Caramel Frosted - 7.5
Glazed Donut Hole - 6.5
Chocolate Cake - 4.5
Blueberry Cake - 1.5