I’ve never been a big fan of doughnuts. It doesn’t matter whether doughnuts are cake or yeast I just don’t stop for doughnuts or buy them in the grocery store. Now that’s a much different story when it comes to my husband who could eat doughnuts regularly. I do have to admit I used to have fruit filled doughnuts every once in a while when I was growing up and sometimes when we were “down the shore” (for anyone from NJ that statement definitely tells you I’m from New Jersey) there was a little store on the main drag that had a doughnut machine that plopped fresh balls of dough into hot oil and made delicious warm doughnuts. Oh and the first place I stop at if I am in New Orleans is Café du Monde for a basket of beignets (fried squares of dough) with a café au lait. But other than those few indiscretions I am not a doughnut fan.
Well I can say that was the case until last March when my husband and I were in NYC and were turned onto the most phenomenal doughnuts. A foodie friend, Mitchell Davis from the James Beard Foundation, told us about Doughnut Plant . I had never heard of the place before yet the facility had been featured on the Food Network, Bon Appétit and many other foodie media. Perhaps I never paid attention to the media articles because I wasn’t a fan of doughnuts.
The facility, baking operations in the back and retail in the front, is located on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan, a section of the city that is definitely seedier than other sections of town. One, that as a kid, I was warned not to go to. But our foodie informant told us it was safe to venture to the plant during the day. Our trip was during Chinese New Year and after having seen what seemed like a thousand dragons dancing through the streets of Chinatown we decided to venture east and find the Doughnut Plant. It was a good thing that part of town was crowded with revelers celebrating the Chinese New Year so we felt we could walk outside our comfort zone into a neighborhood that we didn’t know.
As we approached the address, we noticed a long line of people standing outside a store front. It was a weekend morning and the line for freshly made doughnuts was out onto the sidewalk. We had arrived…and quickly took our place in line with the dozens of other folks.
I was surprised at how small the facility is…a very small storefront with the bakery operations in the back…which explained the long line outside. A very small display case of doughnuts, which was frequently filled with fresh doughnuts coming from the plant in the backroom, displayed the entire inventory available. Each shelf of the display had a small piece of cardboard with a description of the doughnuts on that shelf. One person stood behind the small counter handing out doughnuts, taking the money and replacing the doughnuts at the little window from the back room.
The doughnuts were heavenly. I had a peanut butter and jelly doughnut that was a square doughnut with the round hole in the middle filled with delicious homemade jam and the outside was glazed in peanut butter. The jam is throughout the doughnut so every bite provided a nice sampling of jam. I’m not sure how this is accomplished …getting the jam throughout the inside of a square with a hole in the middle. As a big fan of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches having this combination in a doughnut certainly worked for me.
I was recently in NYC celebrating my daughter’s 21st birthday and our trip was quite the culinary extravaganza. Of course the Doughnut Plant was on our list of places to stop especially since Allison had never tried their doughnuts. I had timed our visit to get fresh doughnuts to take as a “Thank You” gift to Mitchell who originally told us about the Doughnut Plant and to thank him for spending time with Allison giving her a private tour of the James Beard House and talking with her about his experiences in the food industry. So Allison and I headed out of mid-town on a subway that got us to Chinatown and we walked the rest of the way as I had done the previous year. This time there weren’t any long lines outside the store, just the poster board of flavors of the day. The flavors of the day were just as delicious as the last time I was there. I couldn’t resist getting the peanut butter and jelly doughnut again and then I ventured to uncharted territory and bought the Valrhona chocolate delight for my second. Allison also bought the peanut butter and jelly and a Tres Leche for her second. I remembered Mitchell telling me his favorite was the Crème Brulee and luckily some had just come out of the plant…so we bought our “Thank You” doughnut. We had already walked several miles that morning and were getting cold; a cup of coffee or hot chocolate was in order. But the store doesn’t have a coffee machine so we opted for the Chai…which we were told is homemade every day. That was the best Chai I have ever had ….and it is another reason to go to the plant.
Allison and I sat on the window sill (there aren’t any tables or seats in the plant) and ate one of our doughnuts and warmed up sipping our Chai. After we were done we walked a few blocks to catch the subway over to Greenwich Village for our appointment with Mitchell at the James Beard House. He was very happy with his gift… a gift from the heart for sure from one foodie to another!
I’ll be posting about the James Beard House soon.