You know how I have a blog? That’s called donuts4dinner? Well, until a couple of weekends ago, I had never been to Doughnut Plant.
Dunkin Donuts, where the doughnuts come stale and in ultra-boring flavors and always seem way more delicious in my mind than they actually are? All the time.
Doughnut Plant, where the doughnuts are continuously made fresh while you watch and come in flavors you’ve never seen before and are actually more delicious than you expect? Never.
I won’t tell you all of the things my boyfriend and I had already consumed during our walk around Chinatown and the Lower East Side that day, but suffice it to say that we only needed one doughnut.
After much deliberation–coconut cream? cinnamon bun? tres leches?–
OH, CRAP. I just remembered the most amazing thing that happened while we were waiting in line. It was all quiet in the store, and behind us, I could hear this skinny blonde saying, “Should we get the tres leches?” to her companion. Only she was pronouncing it tray lesh. You guys, she thought it was French or something. Which is hilarious on its own, because what kind of hole are you living in that you’ve never heard of tres leches cake and can’t figure out that it has a Spanish pronunciation?
But MORE IMPORTANTLY, if leche is a word in French–and I’m not even sure it is–it sure doesn’t mean “milk” like it does in Spanish. So what did she think this doughnut tasted like?!
I swear I’m not trying to be elitist here. I’m just so interested in what was going through this girl’s mind and am dying to know if she was visiting from Ohio, because that’s the only place I can imagine tres leches cake still being unknown.
Anyway, we ultimately decided on the peanut butter and banana square doughnut, because
1) the squares are the biggest and most gluttonous,
2) jam filling is too healthy,
3) peanut butter is, like, my favourite thing in the world next to pizza.
It did not disappoint. This thing was fluffy, fresh, crunchy, sweet, nutty, banana-y, and huge. I have to be honest here and say that I don’t even really care about bananas, and I loved the banana cream. I’m not saying marshmallow cream wouldn’t have been better, but still. I also don’t like eating sweet things with nuts in them, because long after the sweet taste has vanished, I’m still finding savory nuts in my teeth, but these nuts were brittle and easily crunched, as if they were caramelized. And when I found them in my teeth later, it was a treat.
220 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011 (map)
I had my first taste of the famous/infamous Sprinkles cupcake last year in their homeland of California when my boyfriend’s sister brought an anniversary cupcake cake to his parents’ party. My cupcake was yellow cake with chocolate frosting and a pink block letter of questionable edibility that seemed to be made of sugar but refused to melt in my mouth.
Hardcore New Yorkers will stand loyally behind their Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, but I prefer the much more elaborate/gluttonous cupcakes from Crumbs Bake Shop and really only go to Magnolia for the banana pudding, so I was completely open to trying Sprinkles. And it was fine. Not life-changing. Not make-me-move-to-California-immediately-ing. But fine.
Well, my friend Kim got a coupon to try four free Sprinkles cupcakes at the first NYC location in the Upper East Side, because she is the princess of New York City, and she invited me to try them with her, knowing that I’d insist on buying a couple more. The employees are very nice, and the store is veeeeery cute, with the trademark Sprinkles dots decorating the outside, bright colors everywhere, and enough low tables with corresponding ottomans that we didn’t feel any pressure to move for the couple of hours we sat there.
The cupcakes were still fine.
My only complaint about Crumbs is that I feel like they spend so much time working on the filling and toppings that they forget to care about the cake; it usually tastes a couple of days old. My complaint about Magnolia is that it’s too simple; I can and have made their cupcakes at home myself. Sprinkles hits a nice balance between quality cake and quality toppings. The cake was fresh and moist, and the frostings and accoutrements were all creative. In the end, though, I missed the way Crumbs fills the cake with a dollop of frosting, and I missed the sheer size of the Crumbs cupcake. Sprinkles is good for people who want to splurge without bursting their bellies, and that ain’t me.
There’s one reason I might choose Sprinkles over Crumbs in the future, though. The drinking chocolate:
It’s bittersweet Belgian chocolate with a vanilla bean marshmallow, so rich and dense you feel like you’re wearing a mouthguard of hot chocolate when you’re finished with it. The marshmallow was so thick that it lasted almost to the end of the cup, making each sip creamy and flavorful.
Bouchon Bakery is part of the Thomas Keller empire of restaurants you can’t afford. You think you can, because from the outside, it appears to be an innocuous bakery, twenty times more casual than Per Se and without the need to make reservations a month in advance. But as soon as you walk in the door of the Rockefeller Center location, you notice the display of peanut butter cups for $3 each. (And those are mini ones; the regular-sized cups are $5+.) The sandwiches are $9, the French macarons $3.25.
What my boyfriend and I ordered was a little hit or miss depending on which one of us you ask. I wish we’d been hungrier so we could’ve sampled more than a sandwich and a cookie apiece (which still set us back a healthy $31), but it gave me a good idea of what I’ll come back for.
The sandwich selections were paltry on a Sunday night, so I went with a classic belly-warmer to see how Keller’s team could transform it. On paper, it sounds pretty incredible: this sandwich, inspired by the traditional French charcuterie, is prepared with Madrange ham, a slow-cooked, delicately flavored ham. The combination of sweet butter and Dijon mustard complements the subtle nutty flavors of Emmenthaler cheese.
In my mouth, it tasted like a pretty standard ham and white cheese. The one thing this sandwich has going for it is that the bread couldn’t be better-suited to it. It was crunchy on the outside but didn’t flake into a million crumbs with every bite. The buttered interior was chewy and light in contrast. I wish the filling had done it justice.
This was quality beef, cooked tender and sliced thin, but there was unfortunately very little of it on the bread. My boyfriend liked the roasted tomato garnish, but I needed more of the acidity to be cooked out of the tomatoes before they could be sweet enough for me. This tasted like a more complete thought than the ham and cheese because of its bright vegetable filling, but I couldn’t help but think of the $7 sandwich we buy on weekends from Tudor Gourmet, piled high with spicy pastrami and crisp arugula and served with a friendly joke instead of a haughty scowl.
After the disappointing sandwiches, I was prepared to roll my eyes at this $7 peanut butter cookie sandwich, but I walked away from it feeling like a little whipped cream and bittersweet chocolate shavings would make it into a plated dessert I’d willingly pay $12 for. I was expecting–and desiring–a soft, gooey cookie, but what I got was this crispy thing that snapped and crumbled apart. And I loved it.
The pastry chefs must be using a stick of butter per cookie, god bless them, because this thing was greasy as a pig in a wrestling contest and twice as delicious. The peanut butter filling, leaden with sugar but then whipped into a fluffy frosting, spilled out the sides of the cookie with each bite. My last mouthful was nothing but the peanut butter left on my hands, and it was perfection.
While out trying to find a decent banh mi the other day, I happened to spot a food truck I’d never seen downtown: Cupcake Crew. Black with a giant pink cupcake on one side, I knew it was going to be my kind of truck.
The menu was small–six cupcake flavors–but that’s great for someone like me who can’t make decisions. I’m usually a vanilla cake/vanilla icing kind of girl, but the cream cheese icing on the red velvet was calling to me with its perfect dollopness and its tiny sugar sprinkles.
It was a really good cupcake. The cake was the right amount of moist, and although my first impression had been that there wasn’t a good icing to cake ratio just because a little of the cake was visible on top, it turned out that the extra-sweet cream cheese was rich enough to satisfy even a sugar freak like me.
I did admittedly miss the filling you see in other popular cupcakes about town, but I got the feeling this was supposed to be the kind of cupcake your mama used to make and bring to your first grade classroom on your birthday.
But the Graceland was the real treat. I wasn’t even supposed to have it, actually; when I mentioned it was my first time at the truck, the friendly Brooklynite manning the counter offered me one of their mini cupcakes (normally $1.25) in another flavor to sample. If I’d had time to think about it, I probably wouldn’t have even chosen the Graceland then, because banana isn’t one of my favourite flavors.
It turns out, though, that this is one of the best cupcakes I’ve ever had. The peanut butter frosting was INSANE in the way only peanut butter mixed with more sugar can be. The chewy chunk of bacon on top added so much depth of flavor with its smoky finish. And even the banana cake was something I’d be happy to eat on its own! (It helped that there were little chunks of bacon mixed in.) I’d be really hard-pressed to think of a cupcake I’d rather eat than this one.
I’m really excited now to try some of their other featured flavors.
(five stars for the Graceland, and three for the red velvet)
I went to Shake Shack twice on Sunday. And not, like, for lunch and dinner, which would be totally acceptable. No, I went for dinner and then for a midnight snack. Except that it wasn’t actually midnight yet; it was more like 10:30. Anyway.
The first time around, I had a cheeseburger with mayo and a vanilla custard with a Doughnut Plant doughnut mixed in. (My friend Sylvan added her fries to the photo to make me look at it later and think about how dumb I was not to have ordered some myself.)
For me, the burger was decidedly less-good than the ones from the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park. It just didn’t seem as juicy nor as flavorful. And at first I was like, “Nah, that’s not possible,” but then I remembered that the Joe’s Shanghai in Midtown is universally declared worse than the Joe’s a couple of miles downtown in Chinatown. It’s still the burger I most want to eat in NYC, though.
And the Concrete with the doughnut mixed in was a treat. Sugary cake doughnut chunks of various sizes were swirled into their thick, sweet vanilla custard. Next time, I’d probably get hot fudge or another sauce added in just to make the doughnut more moist, but it wasn’t necessary by any means.
A couple of hours later, after our bowling match, I came back with Sylvan and our other team member, Chris, and got the Shackenstein, this month’s special Sunday custard flavor. I’d seen so many “what is Shackenstein?” and “I almost want to go into the city on a Sunday sometime just to find out what Shackenstein is” blog posts that I felt like I had to try it.
It’s vanilla custard colored green and mixed with chocolate cake bits and chocolate what-tasted-like-cookie-dough-to-me. And hey, the mix-ins were pretty awesome and all, but when I get green desserts, I expect them to taste like mint or pistachio, and I don’t like to be played for a fool.
I’m coming back for the concord grape or pumpkin pie custard days to make this right.
pink donuts: expensive meals
glazed donuts: inexpensive meals
5 donuts: transcendent experiences
4.5 donuts: extremely awesome meals
3.5 donuts: good eats
2.5 donuts: food I could have made
1 donuts: dinners not fit for the dogs
• Daniel (2)
• Eleven Madison Park
• Eleven Madison Park (2)
• Eleven Madison Park (3)
• Le Bernardin
• Per Se
• Per Se (2) (extended tasting)
• Per Se (3) (vegetarian tasting)
• Per Se (4)