Doughnut Plant: Dark Chocolate Sourdough

Doughnut Plant has spent 2019 celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary with monthly specials ranging from Black Sesame and Yuzu to Pumpkin Seed and Apple Cinnamon. In addition to these seasonal surprises, the local legend has introduced a brand new creation: the sourdough doughnut, aka the sourdoughnut, a six year in the making creation and a cool new addition to their cake and standard yeast offerings.

Flavors of the sourdoughnut range from Orange to Pistachio to Cacio de Pepe to Dark Chocolate, the later being the one I opted for on my first tasting. The sourdough brings to the table a light, airy option that doesn’t carry the intensity of their impeccable cake masterpieces and provides a nice alternative to the standard yeast donuts. The fried, crispy exterior is wonderfully flakey and the natural yeast provides a noice moisture and richness that takes over every bite. There is a subtle taste that is just, well, sour enough to make the flavor linger just a bit longer than your typical donut giving it a unique, fresh finish, perhaps best washed down with some strong coffee. Covered in a bold glaze frosting, the dark chocolate is a bit overpowering and while it’s large in size, it’s not too heavy and a rather satisfying serving. In a scene dominated by two major varieties, it’s cool to see a new direction for donuts and obviously pleasing to see it done from true masters of their craft. While it doesn’t outrank its predecessor and isn’t going to become my new go-to, it’s a fun new addition to some of the best in the game.

Score: 8/10

Federal Donuts: Mississippi Mud

Yes, the blog is Donut Club NYC, but the tagline reads “two dudes on a quest for every donut in NYC (and beyond)” so I’m happy to be writing our first ever non-NYC entry. Federal Donuts is a Philadelphia joint that specializes in Fried Chicken and Donuts (a killer combo) and has a few locations across the city.

On the donut side, they specialize in two things: “Hot Fresh” and “Fancy.” Your “Hot Fresh” donuts are flash fried and then covered in an assortment of sugar. They’re, as you’d expect, hot and incredibly delicious as they’re made to order. The “Fancy” variety is more of your traditional cake donuts with intriguing flavors. On my first visit, I opted for a few, but the Mississippi Mud is the one that will be featured here. It’s a dense cake donut that make your mouth immediately swell with saliva on first bite and it’s covered it rich cookie and peanut crumble giving it even more flavor. The chocolate here is over powering and each bite seems to become more and more sensational, the flavor somehow heightening with each mouthful. There’s an added dark chocolate drizzle underneath the cookie crumble so the chocolate overload on this one is no joke and certainly not for someone looking for a light treat. Still, despite the intensity of the donut, it’s fresh and moist which really helps the texture and is what stops the donut from becoming too much of a good thing.

Score: 8/10

Dun-Well Doughnuts: Salted Caramel Pecan

The Salted Caramel Pecan is a wonderful vegan donut from the masters of Dun-Well Doughnuts in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Falling below the radar of the monstrous Dough donut, Dun-Well has become a low-key player in the yeast donut scene with a second location on St. Mark’s Place in Manhattan as well as distributing to Whole Foods in Williamsburg and other various locations. Their donuts are made up of light, fluffy consistency and they’re not nearly as overwhelming as some of their larger counterparts. So what truly separates them from the rest? Not only are their donuts some of my personal favorites in the city, but they’re vegan too. The Salted Caramel Pecan is a regular on the store’s rotation and it’s an underrated gem on the menu. Covered in a sticky frosted glaze, the caramel is buttery and sweet, melting right into your mouth and it’s topped off perfectly with pecan crumbs that give the treat an added crunch. These are sweet and mighty concoctions, but they’re perfectly sized to be filling, not stuffing. The light, airy dough is wonderfully flakey, chewy, an incredible consistency that still feels small batched and not overproduced. It has a classic-style taste, fresh and delicious and fits the old-school vibes of the shop’s interior and vintage charm.

Score: 9.5/10

Du’s Donuts: Peach Cobbler

As I mentioned in my last post, there is a great debate amongst donut aficionados as to whether cake or yeast donuts are the superior form. I still plan to weigh in on that topic in a future post, but first I’m going to review the latest from Du’s Donuts, a formerly cake exclusive establishment that just released their first yeast creation: Peach Cobbler.

When it comes to yeast donuts, nothing comes close to the mass of a legendary Dough donut, but Du’s is knocking at the door with their latest endeavor. Almost double the size of their original cake styles, their yeast donut is surprisingly dense with hardly any air pockets, a characteristic that feels pretty standard for the yeast variety, making each bite full of chewy goodness. The dough itself is a pretty standard vanilla base that is moist and rich with texture which actually gives it more of a cake-y feel and has much more chew to it than I had expected. The air-y nature of most yeast donuts was nowhere to be found on Du’s version, but nevertheless it was perfectly fresh and the absence of a sticky glaze helped lighten the load. The peach frosting and cobbler crumble on top gave the donut its burst of flavor, the fresh fruit making it a perfect late-summer snack, adding to the refreshing nature of the treat. While Du’s cake donuts are dense and pack a punch in terms of texture and mighty flavors, the yeast donut was a bit of a different affair, one focused mostly on the dough and less on the flavor.

Score: 7/10

Craft vs. Classic

Dun-Well Doughnuts in East Williamsburg

On a recent weekend donut trip outside of the city, Jason told a friend of ours that Boston Creme was my “Suburbs order.” In the city, I’m all about the fun, experimental flavors, but when I’m in the Suburbs, there’s nothing better than a classic glaze or filled donut. This got me thinking about my passion for donuts and how they began with my love for a classic (being from Massachusetts, this means a loyalty to Dunkin’ Donuts), but have evolved into a love for craft donuts.

Jason previously wrote about Tradition over quality and that certainly speaks to how I grew up. However, once I moved to New York, that quickly changed. Like many desserts and sweet treat trends, craft donuts have been a recent hit across the city popping up alongside many staples and classics from coffee shops and diners to hole-in-the-wall (pun intended) shops remaining from grittier days of the city’s past. For many, a classic could be anything from Dunkin’ and Krispy Kreme to Donut Delight or landmark city locations like Peter Pan or Donut Pub. Classics entail a deep-fried dough covered in a sweet and sugary glaze or chewy, yeasty donut injected with jelly or cream.

When work brings us downtown, Jason and I often meet up at the Pub for a quick classic to start the day, but we regularly try the flavors of the month from our favorite spot, Doughnut Plant, which falls into the craft category. By now, artisanal, craft food is nothing new to the city and world-class donuts exist around the world, not just in the United States. Still, New York City is home to some of the best variety of craft donuts and going on adventures to try the latest creations was a huge inspiration to starting this blog. Now, craft vs. classic isn’t the same debate as cake vs. yeast (I’ll save that for another post) because in my opinion, there are great opportunities for both options. In the city, it’s hard for me to say no to all of the wild inventions that some of these shops create, but going back to the comment that sparked the idea for this post, there are times when a classic hits the spot. Luckily, I live in a place where both are widely available and I’m not too often forced to make a choice, but more often than not, I’m trying craft selections from my favorite joints across the city. Truth be told, however, Dun-Well Doughnuts might be the best middle ground donut in the city and they’re only a few blocks from my apartment, so really, I’m often consuming the best of both worlds (they’re vegan too)!

So yes, these days my donut consumption is mostly comprised of some of the cities finest, artisan concoctions from the likes of Doughnut Plant, Doughnut Project, and Du’s, but craft donuts help keep the inspiration for the review section alive. Still, while craft might be the top contender now, I will always hold a special place in my heart for something that reminds me of the past. Getting to share both with my friend is truly the best.

Win Son Bakery: Black Sesame Mochi

Located right on the border of Williamsburg and Bushwick sits Win Son, a Taiwanese-American restaurant that since opening in 2016, has slowly been gaining notoriety as one of the borough’s (and probably the city’s) best new places to eat. Their exquisite selection of home-style cooked food is a must try for brunch and dinner a like and there isn’t a thing on the menu I wouldn’t recommend. So, when it was announced last summer that Win Son would be opening a bakery across the street from their restaurant, my mouth began to salivate. Fast forward to today. The bakery still hasn’t opened (originally it was scheduled for February 2019), but with the summer has come a “soft-opening” on Sunday mornings at 11:00 AM featuring their first samples: sweet potato soft serve and, you guessed it, donuts! Black sesame mochi donuts to be exact. They also have a full espresso bar serving up Variety Coffee.

As you may have gathered from reading this blog so far, mochi and savory donuts aren’t generally the treats that Jason and I tend to eye, but when your favorite neighborhood joint makes a donut, you’ll try it.

Last week, their selection sold out rather fast, so I made sure to get in line just before they opened as to not miss out on these sweet rounds. As the line stretched down the block, I made my way into the shop, which is clearly in its final stages of preparation (brown paper still covers many of the windows and the whole place still had that new smell mystique), and ordered my mochi donut (currently sold for $2). Served hot and fresh out of the oven, it tasted like the best fried dough I’ve ever had. Covered in powdered sugar, the mochi gives it some extra chew and the black sesame is barely present, only adding a slight, subtle flavor that gives the donut just a little boost. Unlike so many other donuts across the city, this was a perfect breakfast treat that still left me with an appetite. Paired perfectly with strong cold brew or some powerful espresso, it’s the perfect snack to pick up on the way to work or to hold you over while you wait for a seat across the street. When they officially open in a few weeks, you better believe I’ll be back in line to see what other magical pastries these chefs can whip-up and if the rest of their menu is anywhere near as good as this donut, they’ll be near impossible to resist.

Score: 8.5/10

A Tale of Two Donut Shops

The Donut Pub on 14th and 7th has long been a New York donut institution. Since opening in 1964, this 24/7 establishment has been serving up some of the city’s finest “classic” style donuts. In other words, they’ve been around long before the craft donut craze and their simple treats are still some of the best the city has to offer.

On the inside, the 14th street location has an old-school diner vibe. Racks upon racks of donuts line the fluorescent lit store and counter seats flank the length of the shop giving diners an up close and personal experience with the servers who continuously bring out fresh donuts throughout the day. Everything here is pretty basic from the donuts to the coffee and even the breakfast sandwiches that someone must still order. It’s a bit of a time warp, but that is what gives it its charm. Everything here looks like it’s been this way for decades and while the flavors have stepped up a bit (they offer their own version of the cronut, simply called “croissant donuts”), the shop still has that old New York essence.

Earlier this Summer, however, Donut Pub did something they haven’t done in their fifty-plus years of operation. They opened a second location. Located just off Astor Place, their “downtown” location is almost an exact replica of their classic establishment, but with an apparent upgrade. The layout is the same and so are the donuts, but everything downtown has a whole new shine. The walls are sparkling white and not a faded yellow, the neon glows with classic, bright colors (hitting that sweet spot of nostalgia, but still cool), and the walls are adorned with pleasing visuals. Walls of ceramic donuts line the store giving it a cutting new-edge feel.

The new spot doesn’t have the same character as its older brother and it doesn’t have that same old spirit, but when the donuts are the same and as good as ever, it’s hard to not still feel excited. Having survived for decades on customer loyalty and simple, honest to goodness donuts, it’s nice to have another spot to pick up these wonderful delights and if the new freshness isn’t quite your thing, you can always fall back to the classic, and when you’re there, grab a marble, blueberry, or red velvet glaze. You won’t regret it.

Doughnut Plant: Pride Donut

Every month, Doughnut Plant has seasonal specials. In honor of Pride, the flavor of June is a Pride-themed raspberry yeast donut in the shape of a triangle with rainbow stripes.

When Doughnut Plant announced their monthly special for June, Jason sent me a message and said “we should place an order for the team.” If you don’t know, Jason and I work together and back when our company and team was (much) smaller, we’d regularly order a dozen (or two) donuts for the team on Fridays to help boost spirits and camaraderie before the weekend. That’s a little harder for us to do now that our team is over 100 people, but for Pride, we brought the tradition back.

When our company changed our logo to incorporate a rainbow for the month of June, I stopped by Doughnut Plant on the way to work and said “I’ll take all of your Pride donuts, please.” When I got to the office, I sent an email to the team and said “No matter how you identify, I’m happy you’re here and part of the work family so we can all live, love, and work fearlessly together, 24/7.”

Jason posted a photo of the beautiful treats to Instagram with the caption “Being yourself is something we talk about every day on my team, and is even more appropriate during Pride Month.”

I love sharing my passion for donuts with others and seeing smiles across the office as the sweet treats brighten the days of so many people. More importantly, I’m passionate about creating spaces where people can feel welcome and free to true to themselves. Thank you Doughnut Plant for letting me do both. So, grab a donut and be yourself. You’re always welcome here. Happy Pride, everyone!

Service Wins

When it comes to running a business, brand reputation and overall experience are as important as the product itself. A donut may be a 10/10, but if the service and experience are poor, that can almost be more memorable than the taste.

In the case of our quest, we look beyond the donut itself and towards the experience and service that comes along with each store and location. Earlier this year, I was on a trek through the Eastern Hemisphere and made sure to stop for donuts at every city along the way. When I arrived in Seoul, South Korea, I found a shop called Old Ferry Donuts. Their aesthetics were sharp, clean, and modern and their donuts were large, yeast-filled concoctions of pure bliss (I had a tiramisu and a peanut butter on my visit which you can see at the top of this post). For a token of my travels, I looked to see if the shop had anything for sale that I could take home and when I saw the staff all had on matching shirts, I asked if one was available for purchase. Unfortunately they were sold out so I settled for a tote bag instead. As I was leaving, a woman ran up to me and handed me one of their branded take-away boxes and some of their stickers as a sign of gratitude and as an apology for not having what I actually wanted to buy. It was such a kind gesture that made me feel excited and acknowledged as a customer who had traveled a long way to their store. I followed their Instagram account and still like their photos with a fond memory of their delicious donuts and cheery customer service.

Recently, I saw a post that showed their shirts had once again become available for sale. I messaged them on Instagram and asked if they would be able to mail one to me in New York. They told me that the shirts would be available soon and if I reached back out in a month, I could order one. I thanked them and told them about my visit earlier in the winter and much to my surprise they replied to let me know they remembered me and would let me know when they were ready for shipping. I sent them my name and address and when the shirts were ready, I got a package in the mail. As if that wasn’t enough, the package not only had the shirt, but more stickers, and a hand-held fan with their custom artwork.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Jason on how to deliver world class customer support, but a lot of it comes down to his motto of “service wins.” A brand can totally capture and retain loyal customers through effective service with human touches. The odds of me being back in Seoul to visit Old Ferry Donuts any time soon are rather low, but I check their social media frequently and only have the best memories and feelings towards their staff and their business. I’ll be a fan of theirs for life and do my best to replicate this moment and quality interaction in my job for years to come.

Peter Pan: Red Velvet

Peter Pan Donuts and Pastry Shop is a Greenpoint, Brooklyn institution known for their classic aesthetics and old-time vibes.

Unlike so many other up and coming artisanal shops that you’ll read about on this blog, Peter Pan sticks with tradition and it’s apparent from the moment you walk in to the shop. Trays of hand-dipped donuts line the trays behind the counter and the entire staff wears matching diner-esque attire. In a shop where tradition is key, I keep things simple and at Peter Pan, that means the red velvet. Deep-fried and hand dipped in delicious glaze, it’s a classic that leaves no room for mistakes. On the inside, the dough is soft and moist, begging to be torn apart to eat in small bites or to be shared amongst friends. The chocolatey goodness is light and never intense, a classic donut in the truest sense of the term. It’s simple, basic, and totally delicious. A staple that should be in ever rotation.

Score: 9/10