Look, I’m a skinny kid-turned-fat kid-turned-manageable weight kid. I’ve never been one to watch what I eat, mostly because food is too good and life is too short. And though I’ve become smarter about the provenance of the foods I put in my mouth, I will always think diets are the work of the Devil. ‘Til my dying days, I’ll probably always crave donuts/doughnuts.
Luckily, there is no shortage of gourmand-quality versions of the pastry in New York. While doughnuts are the latest foodstuff to enter the “trendy food” game (hellooooo cupcakes), it’s a development I won’t even pretend to dislike, because come on!
I don’t know about you, but when I think of the sweet, hole-y breakfast cake, I think of my Sundays at church, impatiently waiting for mass to get out so we could wait in line for the maple longjohns being doled out by the Knights of Columbus. Or those running-late weekday mornings when Mom would swing by the Vietnamese shop across the street from home so we can stuff our faces with gooey, cornstarchy jelly pillows, which probably had three times the recommended daily value of sugar and fat. We didn’t care. They were rewards for Mom and Dad sleeping in.
No, the doughnut holds a special place in my heart, and no amount of cajoling from Atkins, South Beach or Dr. Oz can convince me otherwise. That said, tastes do change though hearts remain steadfast, and these days, I only want those treats that give me exciting flavors to enjoy. Enter my favorite doughnut slingers in this city. Yeah, I could have a bagel, but they aren’t nearly as fun:
Doughnut Plant: With storefronts on both the LES and in Chelsea, Mark Isreal is the big daddy of the doughnut movement. Making and frying doughnuts since 1994–first from basements before expanding to storefronts and even Japan–his doughnuts are. Where. It’s. At. Thanks to proximity, this LES institution is also fast becoming my equivalent of a crack dealer: I was hooked the first time. It all started with Isreal’s ingenious square-shaped jelly donut (invented and trademarked in ’04). Oh, fool he is not: by shaping the donut in the simple square, injecting jelly into each perpendicular angle, the enjoyer of said donut would experience a burst of housemade strawberry or raspberry jam, or even banana creme, with each bite. And don’t think it stops there. Oh no, friends, DP does you one better. Yes, the simple vanilla bean glaze is tasty, dare I say transcendent, but if you truly want to LIVE, you have to try the peanut butter glazed jelly-filled doughnut, because DUH. Chunky with nuts and lightly sweet with a passing nostalgia for JIF PB, it will seemingly set your sugar tooth on fire. Trust: your life will be better for knowing this exists.
Also try: The carrot cake doughnut, because you’d be a fucking idiot not to.
Dunwell Doughnuts: If you told me there was a gluten-free, vegan doughnut that existed that didn’t taste of rabbit pellets and the soles of Payless sneakers, I’d probably force you onto the third rail of the MTA for telling such a brazen lie. But believe me when I say that such a thing exists, Internet, and it’s at Dunwell in Bushwick. When Christopher Hollowell and Dan Dunbar (figure it out, you clever folks) went into business, they saw a need. And blessed be us all, that need was met: delicious vegan doughnut treats. Basically the chupacabra of sweet, carbo loaded treats, the goodies at this twee shop are not only creative but also stunning. Take, for instance, the freshness of the earl grey doughnut. The glaze is light and citrusy, softly cascading over a can’t-believe-it’s vegan cake donut that zings with sugar, lemon and bergamot. Or, if you’re feeling nostalgic for Thanksgiving, opt for the flaky sweet potato pie donut, featuring maple glaze and marshmallows. The flavors rotate daily and always feature local, fresh ingredients. What more, they also offer old-school sodas and malts! What the what?!
Also try: Craving something, shall we say, extravagant? The doughnut sundae should calm down that sweet devil on your shoulder.
Dough: Doughnut traditionalists are probably all “why ruin a good thing?” by now. Well, #gfy, because good things can be made better. Like, um, skyscrapers vs. houses, or, I don’t know, other stuff. The point is, there is nothing wrong with improving and experimenting with flavors and pastries. That’s exactly what Dough strives for. Where Doughnut Plant excels with their jelly-filled and cake doughnuts, Dough is the go-to place for the light, whimsical yeast variety. It should be no surprise, but I love pairing wines with foods. I was given the opportunity to pair something with the blood orange doughnut and I could only think, “why the fuck not?” The result? That spicy-meets-sweet photo you see at the top of this post. Yep: I paired a dry, medium-bodied French Malbec Rose by Georges Vigouroux with a blood orange doughnut. Wipe your mouth; your drool ain’t cute. The Malbec’s round and slightly-oaked spice was a great foil to the doughnut’s bright citrus and sweet glaze. The wine also wasn’t too heavy against the cloud-like pastry. Overall, were I the type to drink wine at breakfast (*AHEM*), this would be a pairing I require. Require, I say!
Also try: The lemon poppyseed doughnut is a light, simple and classic combo. Eat it now, damn it!