Rise Doughnuts – Wilton, CT

Rise box

It’s been just over a year since Rise opened, so it’s about time that I wrote about them! Rise has become nothing short of a phenomenon – opened during the pandemic in a schoolhouse turned restaurant turned donut shop, Rise has captured the attention of both Wilton residents and donut fans all over the Northeast US.

The origin story of Rise is an interesting one – chef Hugh Mangum, along with his partner and children, started and run the business together. Mangum is famous for his other-than-donut culinary work – he’s the founder of Mighty Quinn’s BBQ and has appeared all over Food Network as a Chopped competitor and regular judge on Beat Bobby Flay. Rise began as an at-home experiment with sourdough starter, then transitioned to a Sunday pop-up at Parlor in Wilton, then to a temporary home at The Schoolhouse at Cannondale on weekends, and soon will move to its own dedicated space, still in Wilton.

And the donuts are quite the experience. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Rise three times since they opened, and the 45-minute trek from the NYC suburbs to Wilton has been worth it every time. At the Schoolhouse, Rise has only been open Friday nights and Saturday and Sunday mornings, and only until they sell out. So getting there at open is pretty key, and there is always a line waiting, even when I’ve arrived 10-15 minutes early.

Rise donuts are yeast-based, and just full of flavor. What always catches my attention are the icings, fillings and flavorings because they truly reflect great culinary skill and always pop. Rise also produces an apple fritter, which they sometimes pivot to other fruits like roasted pineapple and peach. I tend to focus on the donuts, I think because I’m spoiled by the apple fritter from MAD Donuts and have trouble accepting others. Donut snob, I know.

These are some of the great donut flavors I’ve tried in my visits to Rise:

Brown butter vanilla bean – A Rise staple, it’s a perfect glazed donut. Light, not too sweet and full of vanilla flavor. You’re fine just getting a bunch of these.

Aztec cinnamon – This is my favorite Rise donut, also a staple of the menu. It’s like a jacked up cinnamon sugar, wildly intense in flavor with crunchy cinnamon bits on top. Others have said the flavor is too strong, but I love it (I learned from this article that they add a touch of cayenne for balance and kick). Definitely at least give it a try.

Dark chocolate sea salt – Maybe the perfect chocolate donut? I am saying perfect a lot, but I think they’ve done it. I usually find chocolate iced donuts way too sweet, and even though I relished them as a kid, I tend to avoid them as an adult. But the mix of dark chocolate and savory sea salt delivers a great balance here. Goes great with cold brew. If you are skeptical about chocolate donuts, give it a try; and if you love them, this should impress.

Boston cream – OK, this is not my jam but everyone I know loves it. Rise takes a unique approach to this classic, using their vanilla whipped cream as the filling instead of the traditional custard. My family adores this donut, and I’ve heard other great feedback about it, so I am a supporter. It takes a lot for me to vouch for a filled donut.

Blood orange – I’m often wary of citrus anything, but I really liked this seasonal menu item. The icing was really bright and flavorful, and cut through the other sweetness. This flavor is not always available, but I really enjoyed it and generally recommend their fruit glazes.

Roasted blackberry – I begged the team at Rise to feature this on a Sunday (when I tend to visit, but the menu is usually more limited compared to Saturdays), and when they did, I made the trip to check it out. I wasn’t disappointed. Like the blood orange, the blackberry was fresh, biting and delicious. I could have gone for a little more intensity in flavor, but I’m still all-in on any of their fruit options.

The “rise” of Rise Doughnuts has been a great story for so many reasons – it’s a business built during the pandemic, a true family business bringing together parents and kids, and proof that craft donuts can be successful outside of big cities. It also has an interesting “cult” following – Rise has no website and for a long time didn’t even appear on Google Maps – it exists almost exclusively on Instagram. In this GMA video, Mangum said, “people want to be the ones that discovered their favorite band.”

I highly recommend checking out Rise if you are in the area or can make the trip. They are currently open Friday nights, Saturdays and Sundays until they sell out, and soon will be moving to their new location at 28 Center Street in the heart of downtown Wilton.

#FritterFriday #RiseTribe

MAD Donuts pop-up last weekend

MAD Donuts

Last Sunday, I was excited to hop in the car and drive up to North Salem, NY for the latest donut pop-up by MAD Donuts, White Plains’ own artisanal donut specialist. We’ve written about MAD Donuts before, and it’s exciting to see owner Matt scheduling these pop-ups.

Matt truly is a special talent – his yeast donuts are always light and airy, and his toppings and fillings well-balanced, flavorful and never too intensely sweet. Also, his apple fritter remains the best I’ve ever had, despite some good competition here in the NYC area.

For this trip, I pre-ordered the pop-up five-pack, which included one each of these donuts – matcha white chocolate, hot chocolate, vanilla bean glazed and Bailey’s filled, plus one apple fritter. It was fun to try each of them and to share them with my family.

Starting with the apple fritter, it continues to impress every time I have one. I’ve realized that a good fruit fritter for me is defined by two factors – whether I primarily taste dough or filling, and the quality of the filling itself. With Matt’s fritter, I always taste apple, not just deep-fried dough, which I like. With some other fritters, I have to fight through bites of dough to finally discover the filling. And the filling itself is always outstanding – intense apple flavor that’s not overwhelmingly sweet and is very clearly homemade.

The rest of the box was also strong – Matt’s vanilla glaze is a study in delicious simplicity, basically a perfect donut. The hot chocolate donut was interesting and balanced – bittersweet chocolate icing studded with mini marshmallows and a dollop of marshmallow fluff that my daughter took care of before I could try it. My wife was excited about the Bailey’s filled donut and I knew it was good when there was only one bite left for me. It delivered with a smooth, flavorful filling and great visual appeal with chocolate curls scattered on top. The only miss for me was the matcha white chocolate, maybe because I’m not a big fan of either flavor. But I admire Matt trying new things.

It was great to have MAD Donuts again and I’m really happy Matt is back after a really tough year. He is great at what he does, and it’s important for us to have local bakers sharing their creativity with others, and especially outside NYC. MAD Donuts has an upcoming schedule of pop-ups – keep an eye on Instagram and their website for the latest dates and locations.

Galloway’s Bakery – Scarsdale, NY

Galloway's banner

I probably should have reviewed Galloway’s a long time ago considering how close it is to where I live in the NYC suburbs of Westchester County. Better late than never I guess, so I headed to Galloway’s this past weekend and had a great experience.

Galloway’s Bakery has a great history, starting in the Westchester town of Bronxville originally as luncheonette, then moving north to Hartsdale to become a bakery only, then finally moving to its current location in Scarsdale, NY. Galloway’s is in its third generation of family ownership, now owned by Shannon Galloway.

Galloway’s is like so many of the small business donut shops we review here – they are doing their best to make things work during the pandemic. Being an SMB is tough enough, then add the need to keep employees, customers, and – in this case – family members safe, and things can get really challenging. The good news is that Galloway’s seems very supported by the community, sometimes with customers waiting outside to get in.

I visited pretty early on a Saturday, so I only had to wait for a minute outside before heading inside, where I was met with shelves and display cases of all kinds of baked goods. I was pretty overwhelmed (in a good way), so when the employee behind the counter asked how she could help, I just blurted out, “Do you have donuts?!” Obviously that’s why I was there, so I started sweating a bit behind my mask. But the employee was super kind and offered to make me a six-donut sampler box, to which I enthusiastically agreed.

Once I saw the hand-tied white cardboard box, I knew I was in good shape. The sampler included an Old Fashioned, Cinnamon Old Fashioned, Cinnamon Sugar, Glazed, Jelly and Powdered Jelly. Galloway’s is known for its jelly donuts and I could see why – the filling is super unique, very balanced and not too sweet. I tried to figure out what’s in it (currants?) but no luck. Cinnamon Sugar and Glazed were my next favorites – both were light and airy, just how I like them. I’m normally not an Old Fashioned superfan, but the cinnamon version was pretty great. I swear I tasted some “fall flavors” other than just cinnamon in the dusting, but my family said I was crazy.

I’m glad I finally tried Galloway’s and really enjoyed my donut box. Next time, I hope to be less of a deer in headlights and see what else might be worth trying. I’ll definitely be getting the donuts again.

Side story – while I was waiting for my donut box, another customer came in and had a specific request – a vanilla cake with chocolate frosting. The employee helping her checked with the baking team and while they had the cake, it wasn’t frosted. They agreed to frost the cake while the customer waited – customer service and kindness that made an impression on me.

Galloway’s Bakery is currently open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and is cash only. You can follow them on Instagram.

The Good Witch x Doughnut Plant

Doughnut Plant

One of my favorite coffee spots in the NYC suburbs is The Good Witch in Hastings-on-Hudson, NY. It has a great location in the Hastings Metro-North train station (although having the MTA as a landlord seems not that fun), nice views of the Hudson River, and in the warmer months, live music on Saturdays. It also offers a spicy egg sandwich (mini frittata, your choice of cheddar or American cheese and hot sauce on a pretzel bun) that is truly out of this world.

So I was thrilled to learn recently that The Good Witch is selling donuts from NYC’s own Doughnut Plant. “The Plant” as I often call it with Marc was a regular stop for me on my pre-pandemic commute (the location in the basement of Grand Central was way too convenient), so being able to get Doughnut Plant donuts again has been really special. The Good Witch has been carrying classic Plant flavors like Brooklyn Blackout, Black & White, Tres Leches and Wile Blueberry.

I’m really grateful for this awesome mashup of some of my favorite spots!

Header image credit: Doughnut Plant Facebook page

An ode to apple cider donuts

Apple cider donuts

Growing up in the Midwest, I never really had apple cider. I suppose we had “fall vibes,” but I never really experienced apple picking and orchard culture until I moved to New York.

After transplanting to NYC, I began the annual trek to the orchards in Westchester County and farther north, during which we filled mesh bags with apples because, well, we drove over an hour and paid to do so. While it was fun, I wasn’t feeling the same joy as my peers.

A few years later, I moved to the northern suburbs of NYC, and as part of the move, became familiar with Stew Leonard’s, a grocery store chain in CT, NY and NJ. There, I experienced apple cider donuts for the first time. At Stew’s, they make their apple cider donuts in the stores and in front of customers, and you used to be able to snag a tasty free sample (a true pre-COVID joy).

Stew’s famously does the apple cider donut to perfection – it’s a classic cinnamon sugar donut using fresh apple cider (that they also make) in the batter. The perfect specimen stays light with strong apple flavor throughout, but it’s a delicate balance – too little cider and you can’t differentiate the output from a cinnamon sugar; too much and the resulting donut is way too wet, and the sugar coating gets clumpy.

While the major chains like Dunkin’ have tried to produce apple cider donuts, they rarely stand out because they’re just not fresh enough. My favorites are local offerings like Stew’s and orchard offerings like those at Outhouse Orchards in North Salem, NY. Most farmers’ markets in the suburbs also feature some local bakery or orchard selling their take on the apple cider donut, usually in a wonderfully greasy paper bag.

Now, many years later, my fall trips to the NY orchards are much more fulfilling. While I still fill the mesh bag with apples, I also hunt down and try each spot’s take on the apple cider donut. Some are great, some are meh, but the fall donut vibes are always worth it.

Cover image: Apple cider donuts from Outhouse Orchards in North Salem, NY

The return of MAD Donuts

MAD Donuts

A couple weeks ago, MAD Donuts in White Plains, which I first wrote about back in November, reopened for the first time since closing because of COVID-19, this time as a pop-up. It was emotional for me to chat with the owner, Matt, and to hear about how the business had changed so dramatically since his grand opening in Westchester Mall.

While it was tough to process the impact of the pandemic on Matt, his family and his staff, it was also great to see him doing what he loves to do, and the results remain spectacular.

I was lucky enough to snag a four-donut sampler (Vanilla Bean Glazed, Chocolate Iced, Piña Colada and an unbelievable Lemon Meringue) and a two-pack of their one-of-a-kind apple fritters, which remain a thing to behold. As big as my face, the fritters are just so good. I always say I am just going to have a bite, and I always eat the whole thing. The tart granny smith apples contrasted with the sweet cinnamon glaze gets me pumped up every time.

As both Marc and I have written here, our local donut spots have gotten hurt so badly by COVID-19. Even NYC stalwarts like Doughnut Plant have struggled to figure out how to open in a way that makes sense. So I got immense joy from seeing Matt, his shop and his amazing donuts again. He just announced that the next MAD Donuts pop-up will be on Saturday, October 10, and I encourage anyone in or near Westchester County to place an order.

More Cape Cod donuts

Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery

Last month, I hit the road to Cape Cod, which is now a bit of a late summer family tradition. While there, I always try to visit the Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery, which to me is the ultimate local, small-town donut destination. This year, it was a little different with social distancing, but I was so glad the bakery was still open. When I walked in, the first thing I saw was an employee walking from the kitchen to the front of the shop with a stack of fresh jelly donuts (“just made this morning”), and I knew it was going to be a great visit.

There’s just something about grabbing a donut (or maybe multiple donuts) and an iced coffee then sitting outside in the sunshine that is so perfect. This year, we even saw a couple (along with their dog and their cat) who we saw last year as well. When my daughter said hello, they mentioned that their dog Whitney whines in the morning until they go to the bakery. Amen, Whitney.

This trip, we also tried a new place called Old King’s Coffeehouse in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. A newcomer founded in 2019, Old King’s is much more than a donut shop, serving tons of breakfast and lunch items. But keep your eyes peeled for the donut case at the front counter, which has a daily selection of classic (Old Fashioned) and more modern (Maple Bacon) flavors.

Old King’s Coffeehouse
Cinnamon Bun and Maple Bacon donuts from Old King’s Coffeehouse

Finding these local spots – especially in an otherwise sea of Dunkin’ Donuts in Massachusetts – is always such a joy. Support your local donut shops, my friends!

Cover image credit: Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery Facebook page

Peaceful Provisions – a break from the madness

Peaceful Provisions

It was one of the first times I had worn a mask in public. I hadn’t really figured it out so it was fogging up my glasses to the point that I couldn’t see that well. The experience was pretty stressful. But when I walked up to the Peekskill Brewery and got my box of donuts and goodies from Peaceful Provisions, I felt better. I felt more normal.

I’ve written about Peaceful Provisions before – it’s a small bakery that sells out of the ground floor of a brewery in Peekskill, NY, which is about an hour north of New York City by car and about 30 minutes north of where I live. They’ve always done small-batch, vegan baking by hand and sold their products primarily on the weekends. During the pandemic, they have continued to do their thing, accepting online pre-orders and curbside pickup.

For me, ordering from Peaceful Provisions and trekking up there has been a wonderful break from the current craziness. And it seems I’m not alone – Peaceful Provisions opens up ordering for each weekend on Mondays at noon, and while it used to be no big deal to get an order in for every weekend, they now sell out quickly. For me, getting donuts on the weekend is a return to normalcy, and I think it’s cool that others agree.

That weekend when I was new to my mask, I got an awesome order that included cinnamon sugar donuts, coffee cinnamon mixed nut donut buns (yeah, that’s a thing!), a dark chocolate brownie and a coffee cake. Cinnamon sugar is one of my favorite donut flavors of all time, and this one didn’t disappoint – it was light and airy and honestly amazing. The coffee cinnamon mixed nut donut bun was one of the most ambitious donuts I’ve ever seen – it was an enormous cinnamon bun-style fried and sugared creation topped with pistachios and almonds, then filled with a coffee pudding (made with Bucci coffee). I’m normally not a big filled donut fan, but it was special.

Peaceful Provisions
Coffee cinnamon mixed nut donut bun from Peaceful Provisions

I’m glad people are finding donuts again, and I’m really glad Peaceful Provisions has stayed open during this challenging time. I now have an alarm set to try to place an order every week, which is a nice break in my day. I can’t wait to try again this week!

Supporting local donuts during the pandemic

Donuts

Most of our local independent donut shops are small businesses. Some have been around for a long time, while others are just getting off the ground. Some had just opened or expanded before the COVID-19 pandemic, and are struggling.

No matter their history, local donut businesses rely on foot traffic for either their whole business or a big part of it, and that is being affected right now. Also, most of these companies employ hourly workers, whose hours or entire employment might be threatened by the decrease in business.

However, most local shops now have online ordering, delivery and even gift cards, which you can use to help them stay afloat during this time. If you’re not comfortable with pickup or delivery, a gift card provides revenue to the business now, and you can use the card later. I put together a collection of links below – if I missed any, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them.

New York City

Westchester, NY

Road trip: Honey Dew Donuts – Mansfield, MA

Honey Dew Donuts

Last weekend, I was traveling for a family event and stopped off at Honey Dew Donuts in Mansfield, MA. I learned that it’s actually a chain (corporate and franchise) localized in New England, with 145 locations from Rhode Island to New Hampshire.

The idea of a “local chain” isn’t that common in the donut world anymore – while we have a few chains in NYC, most donut shops today are either ultra-local (single location) or national (Dunkin’, Krispy Kreme, etc.) – so it was cool to check out Honey Dew.

The Honey Dew experience felt like Dunkin’ with nice upgrades built in – the customer service was ultra-friendly and helpful and the donuts themselves were much higher quality. I wanted to try a bunch of different flavors, so I got a dozen, and I asked the employee helping me for recommendations. She was more than happy to assist, and reminded me that anyone getting a dozen donuts in Massachusetts better not forget a Boston Cream. And when their signature “Mansfield” donut was sold out, she gave us the last three donut hole versions instead.

I tried a bunch of flavors, and my favorites were the Chocolate Honey Dip, Blueberry Cake (I always try blueberry) and Cinnamon powdered. The first two reminded me of the Peter Pan/Donut Pub style (deep fried plus sweet glaze), but on the lighter side, while the Cinnamon was my favorite. It was super light and almost refreshing.

Overall, it was great to support a business like Honey Dew that has been going for so long and has had success with the multi-location regional model. I’ll definitely be back.