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.
Apple Cider -
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.