Sunday, January 28, 2007

Doughnut Plant on Court Street!

No longer must us Brooklynites bear the clamorous, piss-soaked ride on the F-train to fulfill our Sunday morning Doughnut Plant cravings. Thanks to Cobblestone Foods we can now land a freshly-made Mark Israel creation right here in Carroll Gardens.

Previously Tuller Premium Foods, CF was taken over and renamed by Jeremy Wachalter, former sous-chef at The Modern (the MOMA's restaurant). Wachalter has revamped the menu to include prepared gourmet foods, Gorilla Coffee, home-cured deli meats and the focus of this post, Doughnut Plant Doughnuts.

"Basically, we're all about providing customers with high quality foods at a reasonable price," says Cobblestone employee Jason. Then he tells me about some sitcom pilot he wrote years ago in San Francisco, the premise of which was he and his friend going into Doughnut shops late night and interviewing mostly-foreign bakers. So the guy definitely knows his Doughnuts. That said, the one item the shop can't discount are the Doughnuts ($3 a pop), as even getting them directly from the Plant runs pretty steep. But trust me, they're well worth it.

Now I know Doughnut Plant proprietor Mark Israel's reputation has been somewhat tarnished by his catty and completely juvenile performance on a recent episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay (a topic which has ignited much debate right here on the pages of Blognut). But his Doughnuts are so ridiculously good that I've tried to look past his sour behavior, and instead appreciate his craft. Today I go for a Coconut Cream and a Valrhona Chocolate.

The coconut is tops. I know I've spoken at length about the marvelous consistency of Doughnut Plant's yeast-raised dough, but I'll say it again – it's the best dough around. This cinnamon-tinged, airy substance compresses with each bite, slowly returning to its original shape over a period of minutes – like some sort of Serta Perfect Sleeper memory foam. It's the perfect vehicle for a thick and ski-mogul-y layer of sweet glaze crawling with shredded coconut. And while a ringed Doughnut, Mark manages once again to stuff his loop, this time with not-too-coconutty coconut cream. This filled-ring Doughnut phenomenon has been covered extensively in previous Doughnut Plant posts so I won't go in to it – but click here for more coverage of this marvelous feat of ingenuity.

While not as impressive as the coconut, the Valrhona Chocolate is a satisfying second course. It's made of the same complex yeast dough, only this time smothered on all sides with rich, dark Valrhona Chocolate. The only shortcoming is the lack of filling. Given Mark's tendency to push Doughnut boundaries, I thought for sure my first bite would reveal a molten gush of chocolate - instead, all dough. A white frosting "V" lays across the top advertising the French chocolate maker for whom the Doughnut is named. It's a must-try for anyone who likes loads of cacao, but hopefully Mark will come to his senses and stuff it with even more.

But more important than the Doughnuts themselves, is the fact that right now, at this very minute there's a tray of Doughnut Plant Doughnuts resting a mere two blocks from my apartment.

Cobblestone Foods
199 Court Street
Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn

Doughnut Scores:

Coconut Cream -

Valrhona Chocolate-

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Extra Extra!

In a breaking story out of Durham, North Carolina, scientists have developed a CAFFEINATED DONUT!

Molecular biologists Dr. Robert Bohannon has developed a way to mask the bitter taste of caffeine so that the uplifting compound can be added to pastry products without altering their flavor. Thus far he has marketed Buzz Donuts and Buzz Bagels (not sure how to make a superscript Trademarked symbol on Blogger, but both products should probably have one) each of which contians the caffeine equivalent of roughly two cups of coffee per pastry item. Bohannon has approached Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme and Starbucks in hopes of mass-marketing his invention and says it's just a matter of time before someone takes him up on it.

In Blognut's opinion, the whole thing seems like a strange and unappetizing idea. And considering the number of Donuts I eat in the average week, somewhat dangerous too.

For more on the story click here.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Tim Horton's Has Real Tableware

I don't want to get anybody in trouble here – so I'll keep things vague. Let's just say the following story took place at a Tim Horton's Donut Shop somewhere between Brooklyn and Brattleboro, Vermont, where I spent last weekend.

It's 8:00 PM and Mrs. Blognut and I are barreling down a major New England highway to the crackling croon of Will Oldham. Some particularly enticing signage appears flashing orange and purple - not surprising in the Dunkin-heavy North-East - but also a Tim Horton's. Two Donut possibilities in one exit!

Dining at Tim Horton's is a rare occasion for Blognut - reserved for my infrequent stints north of the border, where the chain was founded, or for journeys upstate to see my Buffalonian Grandma. So there is no question which mega-chain we'll be supporting tonight. A few minutes later we step into Tim Horton's.

This is when things get exciting. I greet the cashier-Donut-lady and order TH's new Chocolate Raspberry. It arrives on an actual plate adorned with Tim's logo – a touch of class foreign to most American Donut franchises who prefer shoving your Nuts into flimsy, white paper bags.

"Woah - a Tim Horton's plate," I say to the Donut-lady, "can I buy one?"

"No, unfortunately we don't sell plates, we're a Donut shop. But I tell you what," she says, "If it happens to go with you when you leave, I won't tell anybody."

So we sit down and I inhale the Donut. It's not one of Timmy's strongest selections. The chocolate cake dough is decent enough but the snake of bright red raspberry icing tastes like a melted cough drop – there's a definite medicinal bitterness to it.

Now comes the task of sneaking the plate into Mrs. Blognut's purse, which is a lot harder to do than it sounds. Every move draws an accusatory stare from this old lady in the corner. Seriously, at least five attempts thwarted by my grey-haired nemesis. Finally I just say "Screw it," and shove the plate in Mrs. B's bag. I throw a thankful nod to the cashier and power walk past the old lady and out to the car where it's on to Brattleboro.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Blognut goes paper

If you're not yet sick of Doughnuts from reading this stupid blog, check out my "Indie Do(ough)-nut Roundup" in the Winter Issue of food rag Edible Brooklyn. The print edition hit Brooklyn last week and the online version goes up in March for all you non-locals. For a complete list of EB carriers click here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


And still more artisanal Donuts.

There's really nothing quite as exciting to Blognut as a happenstance Donut-encounter. It's like finding a $50 bill in the parking lot of Target, only better, because the reward is a Donut. And I know what you're thinking. This Blognut's an idiot. Because finding an unexpected $50 is more desirable than stumbling across a Donut, because imagine how many Donuts you could buy with 50 bucks. Well it's not the same. It's the accidental face-to-face interaction with the Donut that makes the experience so magical, so let's leave money out of it.

That said, you can imagine my excitement when after a recent meal at the celebrity-infused Soho Brasserie, Balthazar, I peak into their bakery and notice a small plate of Donuts behind the counter. I confirm with the cashier that what I'm seeing are in fact Donuts:

Balthazar Cashier: "You got it. We've got Double Chocolate and Banana Pecan. You like Donuts?"

Blognut: "If you only knew. I'll take one of each."

I'll start with the Double Chocolate.

First off, it's on the tiny side. Smaller in diameter than an orange, but larger than say, a clementine. My first bite reveals a very subtle, high-end, non-artificial chocolate flavor, as if the dough was lightly-infused with Ghiradelli, Jacques Torres or Maison du Chocolat, rather than Hershey's. The cake-dough is of perfect density – suitable to be used as a paperweight, but not so dense that I feel miserable and oily afterwards. Lastly, the smooth chocolate frosting provides an extra kick of much-enjoyed dark cacao.

The Banana Pecan is even better. The same density and micro-stature as the Chocolate only this time with a subtle nanner flavor. Which is good, because over-bananafying often has disgusting results. Loads of crushed pecans reside in a sweet and creamy glaze coating the top surface. Collectively, the flavors add up to the best banana bread you've ever had.

And thanks to their manageable size, the two Donuts don't leave me overly-full, even after the hearty Duck Pot Pie that preceded them as my main course.

80 Spring St
New York, NY

Donut Scores:

Double Chocolate -

Banana Pecan -

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

churros make blognut go "bleh"

Blognut loves Mexican food. I love tacos, burritos, enchiladas, flautas and just about any other shape our neighbors to the South can mold meat, beans, cheese and tortillas into. But no matter how hard I try, I just can't get behind Mexican Donuts. And by Mexican Donuts I mean Churros.

To this day, the only Churro I've had that was moderately enjoyable was that from Havana Central. But having been tipped off to the Churros at Soho's Dos Caminos by Donut-Scholar John T. Edge, I thought for sure this was my chance to finally land a top-notch Churro. The place is known for stuffing high-end Tex Mex into the mouths of people like Ashlee Simpson so chances are the prices are high and the d├ęcor chic - but does the pastry chef know his/her way around a Donut?

But before we get to Donuts, I'll start by saying that the taco chef certainly knows his/her way around a taco. The fiery slow-cooked pork carnitas are among the tastiest and freshest I've ever had. And probably the hottest too. One bite of this simple union of pulled pork, green chili salsa and aged cotija and I'm harkened back to the time I bit into my first habanero pepper in the middle of a Kroger Supermarket thinking it was a baby bell. I had to drink six smoothies and a jug of bottled water before I could speak again – I'm lucky I didn't have a hyponatremic seizure right there in the middle of the produce section. I convince my dinner party to wait for nearly an hour before ordering dessert while my taste buds rebound from the pain.

In order to experience the Dos Caminos Churro, one has to order a whole bunch of other useless crap. Along with brownies, bananas and passion fruit marshmallows, the Churros are served merely as dipping vehicles for the White & Dark Oaxacan Chocolate Fondue. And me being a white chocolate hater, of course my pot has a white to dark chocolate ratio of around 4:1.

I think my problem with Churros comes from the fact that I don't like crispy desserts unless there's an element of soft to balance the consistency. I don't like Chip's Ahoy, I like Soft Batch. I don't like ginger snaps, I like malleable gingerbread men/women. The softer the better. So when I get one of those foot and a half long Churros from the street vendors it feels like I'm eating a rod of stale cinnamon toast. And while much smaller, Dos Caminos' Churros have the exact same effect on me. Crunchy, hard and really not all that flavorful unless slathered in chocolate fondue, half of which I can't even eat due to the inherent vile-ness of white chocolate.

So while I commend DC for their superb savory fare - most definitely some of the best Tex-Mex in the city - their Churros have only helped solidify my view that Mexican Donuts generally suck. But I'm keeping an open mind because somewhere out there, maybe Mexico, perhaps SoCal, there has to be delicious soft-centered Churro waiting for a visit from Blognut.

Dos Caminos Churro -

Dos Caminos Soho
475 W. Broadway,
New York, NY

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Donuts beside the fire: blognut dines at hearth

While Blognut knows there's a ton of artisanal, over-chefed and over-priced Donuts floating around this great city, none of which I assure you are nearly as satisfying as a Peter Pan glazed or a Tres Leches from the Doughnut Plant, I still find myself fascinated by these feeble attempts to gentrify the most common of all foods. For some reason chefs seem to take great pleasure in placing a working class ring of fried dough on their dessert menu alongside limoncello gelati and goat milk panna cotta with huckleberry compote while managing to please a room full of snooty gourmands.

There's Tabla, the high-end Indian joint nestled in the bowels of the Met Life Tower known for its orange blossom fritters with a triad of dipping sauces: vanilla rum, caramel and berry jam spiked with Thai chili. Then there's the pricey A Voce, serving Bombolini, tennis ball-sized Italian Donuts filled with rich vanilla cream that rest on a shallow pool of apricot marmalade. Now I've tried both of these – unfortunately, on both occasions I found myself without a camera and was therefore unable to properly review them on the pages of Blognut – and while delicious and innovative, they just weren't quite worth the exorbitant prices - $8 and $10 per order, respectively. There's also Riingo, a fancy sushi hole in Midtown serving Green Tea Doughnuts with green tea ice cream, sabayon and a slaw of Asian pears and apples. I haven't tried these yet so I can't comment.

And then there's Hearth, a sleek yet warm spot in the East Village specializing in American Nouveau cuisine. A while back my friends C and E, who swear by this place, informed me that Hearth's dessert menu included apple cider Donuts, and it's been on my must-try list ever since. So how lucky am I when two weeks ago Mrs. Blognut surprises me with an early Christmas present – dinner, and more importantly dessert for two at Hearth.

I won't bore you Donut aficionados babbling about appetizers and entrees, but let's just say everything was great, from the grilled quail with tomato preserves to the roasted sturgeon with black olive and garlic. So with our main courses behind us, I anxiously await the waiter's return with my dessert order already decided. He arrives at our table and starts reciting the evening's offerings – this is when things get more complicated. "Our special tonight is Sufganiyah," says the watier, "an Israeli Donut traditionally served on Hanukah. It's basically a small, sugar-coated Donut filled with homemade raspberry jelly." Rather than reveal my gluttonous ways to the garcon by ordering both, I manage to sway Mrs. Blognut away from the sorbet sampler and convince her that what she really wants are the apple cider Donuts, while I get the special.

The cider Donuts come with sides of apple compote and maple cream and are drizzled with a thick layer of moist glaze. Together the flavors are fresh, sweet and fruity and bring to mind fall days, newly tapped Vermont maples and leaky cow utters. Hearth manages to incorporate slightly more complex flavors while still maintaining the simplicity of an old-fashioned apple cider Donut. All in all they taste like a really good version of the dime a dozen Donuts fried at apple orchards all across the country. The only problem is that my Donuts are over-cooked to the point where their exterior is dark, burnt brown in color, and have the consistency of a piece of toast. It's really too bad given the solid flavor.

The Sufganiyah are a different story – these are good all the way around. Roughly the size of a Titleist, each Sufganiyah is made with airy and perfectly-cooked yeast-raised dough with a slight external crispiness. They're coated with granulated sugar and filled with a sweet and viscous raspberry jelly. I eat all five before Mrs. Blognut is able to try one.

So while I remain somewhat philosophically opposed to overly gourmet-ifying my favorite edible, I will say that Hearth's Donuts manage to walk the line perfectly, likely able to please blubbery NYPD Dunkin' munchers and wine guzzling foodies alike. Plus, if I'm going to pay $11 for two apple cider Donuts and a pile of cream, I at least want them to taste cheap.

Donut Scores:

Apple Cider -

Sufganiyah -

Oh yeah, and sorry about the crappy photos. With a dimly lit room and me not wanting to annoy a room full of fine diners with flash photography, this was the best I could do.