Royal Crown Bakery & Cafe – Nutella Donut

As the pandemic continues to rage on, finding new donut shops has become challenging. It’s not as easy to get across the city and make safe journeys to new shops and try their treats as it once was and this has forced me to explore finding new donuts in unsuspecting locations. Recently, I stopped by a local coffee shop for a large iced coffee and was pleasantly surprised to see donuts in their pastry case. I am not a regular at this shop, but stop by from time to time if I happen to be on the block and this was my first time seeing donuts in the store. I asked the man behind the counter about the selection and he told me that they were from Royal Crown Bakery & Cafe in Staten Island. Naturally, I got one to go.

In the case was a rather basic looking chocolate sprinkled and one that appeared to having some kind of filling as well as some frosting, I was informed it was a Nutella donut and it was just as good as it sounded. Now, to be fair, it’s bit hard to properly judge this donut as I can only assume it was fresh, day-of, as the man behind the counter told me he was actually from Staten Island and picked them up on his way to work rather than getting wholesale delivery. Regardless, the donut was pretty good and it was exciting to actually find something new. On appearance, this was a plump, yeast donut with a slab of Nutella on top along with some powdered confectionary sugar (without the Nutella on top, it’d be easy to think this was a classic jelly donut). The texture itself was rather dry and was not as chewy as I had hoped, but the Nutella filling really brought it up a notch. This was filled to perfection and every bite had the perfect amount of that chocolate-hazelnut goodness that makes Nutella improve almost any dessert it touches. So much so that I had to question as to whether I was really enjoying the donut or if Nutella is just that good. I’m not sure this one was actually as good as it sounded, but it was still a nice surprise and satisfied not just my typical donut craving, but my longing for something new as well.

Doughnut Plant- Christmas Donuts

As with so much else, holiday traditions looked slightly different this year. Typically, I try to get in the festive mood with seasonal treats from around the city, but that was not an easy task in 2020. Although I am still fortunate enough to have many options near me, paying visits to all of my favorite local shops before Christmas was still a challenge and I did not hit my deadline. However, the wonderful people at Doughnut Plant didn’t cut their festivities short based on calendars this year and I was still able to drop by and pick up some of their excellent Christmas-themed treats a few days after the special day.

Since I was already behind schedule, I did miss out on their Hanukkah treasures this year (one day I will finally try their epic Menorah donut and sufganiyot filled pastries) and I opted out of the Coconut Snowman since I’m generally not a fan of that flavor. Even with these exceptions, I was not disappointed and Doughnut Plant came through with a stellar selection. Every year I look forward to the Mint Christmas Tree donut so that was first on my list. Molded perfectly to shape, it has a mint green (in color and taste) outer shell (lined with little sugar-glazed lightbulbs) and is filled with a dark chocolate pudding much like their outstanding Brooklyn Blackout. Doughtnut Plant are masters of their craft when it comes to the interior of their donuts, and perhaps it’s the fact that it’s only available for a short time each year, but I always think this might be their absolute best in both appearance and taste. The year-long wait did not disappoint. Other seasonable favorites included a Cranberry (again, the inside has bits of actual cranberries in the dough) which has an incredible, vibrant glazed color and a Gingerbread which was the perfect replacement to my lack of cookies this year.

Even when everything about 2020 has felt so abnormal, it was great to still have Doughnut Plant serving up their traditional holiday classics to bring a sense of normalcy to the end of the year.

Fall favorites from Peter Pan

When Autumn hits full swing in the North East, I love to take trips out of the city to get a little break from the concrete and steel and enjoy nature. I love to partake in viewing the changing leaves, picking apples, getting lost in corn mazes, and hitting up farm stands for the freshest seasonal treats. It’s been a little more difficult to make casual trips this year, so when my cravings hit, I made my way to Peter Pan in Greenpoint to snag some local, Fall favorites.

I’ve mentioned several times, but Peter Pan’s classic, no frills approach is always part of their charm and when it comes to Fall favorites, this might be where they’re at their best. Classic flavors always line the shelves at the Greenpoint landmark such as Marble Crullers, Red Velvet, Boston Creme, traditional glazed, as well other frosted standards covered in sprinkles. Still, arriving in this time of year and seeing Pumpkin, Apple Cider, and Apple Fritter gives such a sugar rush of excitement.

Pumpkin and Apple Cider are two of their most basic donuts and in appearance, there isn’t anything all that special about them. However, it becomes clear upon first bite just how intoxicating these two creations can be and how flavor can really sum up the season. Apple Fritter isn’t as much a seasonal exclusive, but still fits right in with the overall vibe. The Pumpkin and Apple Cider are traditional cake donuts, deep fried, and covered in a sugary glaze. Each bite is intensely sweet, but not overpowering, and deeply satisfying. The fritter is a bit larger in overall volume with chunks of apples directly in the dough. The cinnamon sugar inside forming a perfectly gooey glob of goodness. As winter looms and global conditions spark concern, donuts are often my go-to distraction. A sweet relief, delicious distraction, and enjoyable escape. A perfect tasting to celebrate the season.

Dunkin’ – Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut

A few weeks ago, Jason sent me a link that Dunkin’ (formerly, and always in my heart Dunkin’ Donuts) was dropping something new for Halloween this year… a spicy ghost pepper donut. I laughed it off as we both found it strange. Somehow in the past week, this treat has become near meme level in its consumption. A friend of ours tweeted at us and asked for a review, my employee sent me a picture of him eating one, and another friend in Massachusetts went to a few Dunks to get his hands on one as well. What I thought was a really dumb marketing gimmick had actually taken off for the fast food chain. So, after spending over an hour in line to vote early in NYC, I grabbed one for myself to finally get a take on this weird, possible disaster of a donut.

I’ve stated before that as a Massachusetts native, there will always be a soft place in my heart for Dunkin’ and how their version of the Boston Creme was a staple of my childhood, but this was really pushing it. Regardless, I did my best to try it with an open mind. If anything, trying this gave me more faith that a regular donut from Dunkin’ isn’t as bad as I remember and doesn’t taste as mass produced as I expected or remembered (I’ll save my thoughts on Krispy Kreme for another day and still have not made my way to their new monstrosity of a store in Manhattan). The donut is a traditional Strawberry frosted yeast donut and that part actually tasted pretty great. It was light and fully, not too greasy, and the frosting didn’t taste like pure sugar. It was a pleasant surprise. The Ghost Pepper that tops the donut in sprinkle form is obviously where it falls apart. To me, this wasn’t spicy, but rather the sprinkles (or whatever they are) had more of a Pop-Rock like sensation that tasted like a heated cinnamon candy, nothing spicy whatsoever. Sure, it gave the donut some extra texture, but either this thing really is lacking heat, or I had a dud. From the beginning, I knew the hype would be hard to live up to and I felt pretty right by the end. Cool in concept, but severely lacking in execution and not worth going out of your way to experience. Stick to the Boston Creme.

Fan-Fan Doughnuts

Last weekend, Fany Gerson opened her new donut shop, Fan-Fan Doughnuts, in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn, in the former site of the original Dough. As one of the founding chefs and long-time partners of the NYC staple, she announced her split from the innovators at the start of the pandemic and had planned to open her new spot in Clinton Hill. However, like practically everything else, COVID put a wrench in her plans, but Gerson powered through and after a few twists and turns, her latest creation opened for weekends only in her old location.

Taking everything she learned via her tenure with Dough, Gerson no longer considers herself a donut novice and has put her experience to the test to create some incredible new concoctions. These yeast donuts have a similar vibe as Dough, albeit smaller and more manageable in size, with a light and airy dough acting as a solid vehicle for some wonderful, advanced flavors that range from classics like Mexican Brown Sugar, Traditional Vanilla, and Belgian Chocolate to stunning creations like Yuzu Meringue, White Coffee (which has an insane espresso cream frosting), and Raspberry Black Currant. There is also a Boston Creme in the style of a Long John (aka a fancy eclair) that is topped with cocoa nibs and a Sea Salt Caramel that if full of gooey goodness. It seems like each week will have slightly different menu line-ups with a few regulars gracing the menu and the plan is to expand their offerings once they sell enough to buy a second fryer.

In just their second weekend, there was already a good amount of hype surrounding the store and line was pretty decent in length for the majority of the morning. For now, it’s take-out only and there is a small counter which displays their daily selections as they rapidly stuff brown cardboard boxes with these delectable treats to get people in and out as quickly as possible (they’re also cash and Venmo only, for now). While the line is not speedy, the wait is definitely worth it and I can’t wait to see how they transform over time with new flavors.

Doughnut Plant – Apple Cinnamon

This weekend saw the return, once again, of Doughnut Plant in New York City. After closing at the start of the pandemic, the iconic local chain reemerged at the start of the summer before having to close down again as they battled to keep their numerous locations open and stocked with delicious goods. As Jason and I have both written about, the virus continues to impact small, local businesses and the restaurant industry has suffered tremendously, which is why we take every opportunity we can to support them through this time.

Earlier this week, Doughnut Plant took to social media to announce a pop-up style return set for this weekend at their flagship spots in Brooklyn and Queens with a reduced, albeit spectacular, menu. In their best efforts to reduce cost and use their resources strategically, this weekend’s menu consisted of a few cake classics (Wild Blueberry and Carrot Cake were there, so my wish had come true) as well as their sensational seasonal favorite, Apple Cinnamon. Maybe it’s the limited availability or the hype that I had built up in my head waiting for this day to come, but it’s quite possible that the batches from this weekend were the best ever. Biting into the Apple Cinnamon was like tasting Autumn in full glory. The decadence was rich, the texture perfect, and it somehow exceeded all expectations. While I wish they could be open every day, I know the logistics in these circumstances must be an absolute nightmare so I will wait patiently and for as long as needed until they can return to their full standards, but I’ll gladly welcome another pop-up as well. Whatever comes next for this institution, I’ll be there ready to give it my full support!

North Fork Doughnut Company – Cereal Killer

Throughout the summer, Long Island’s North Fork Doughnut Company has been partnering with Sail Away Coffee for local deliveries around the area and even into the five boroughs (well, at least to Brooklyn). Pairing six canned coffees with six fresh donuts is a hard combo to pass-up and I usually jump at the chance to place an order for the weekend.

NoFoDoCo specializes in big, craft, artisanal donuts that do a great job of combining classic flavors with fun new inventions. Everything from classic glazed, chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, to things a bit more adventurous like Samoa, Boston Creme, and Black Raspberry Jelly to new extremes like Tiramisu, Brown Sugar Bacon Pecan, and Pop Tart populate their menu, which changes on a weekly basis. The yeast beasts are quite filling and while not as dense as cake donuts, they’re more filling and packed full of flavor.

The Cereal Killer was a real highlight this go around. Covered in a strong vanilla frosting and then topped with a ton of Fruity Pebbles, it had wonderful textures and a perfect amount of sweetness. Despite its size and volume, it wasn’t too overwhelming and managed to leave me feeling perfectly full (I still tried the others). The crunch of the cereal was the perfect added bonus (something that Donut Pub here in NYC also nails exquisitely) and really enriched the entire experience. Each bite had the perfect amount of cereal and the vanilla icing held them nicely in place to prevent a mess with each mouthful. Even with a name like Cereal Killer, this one won’t destroy the roof of your mouth, but leave you wanting more.

Cereal Killer – 9/10

North Fork Doughnut Company

It is currently a challenge to find new donut spots. While I’m so happy to have Dun-Well Doughnuts and Doughnut Plant, my forever go-tos, operating in my neighborhood, the quest for new discoveries has been stalled. So, when I saw that Sail Away Coffee was partnering with a local Long Island shop, North Fork Doughnut Company, for an incredible weekend delivery of six cans of nitro cold brew and six donuts DELIVERED, I couldn’t resist.

While working from home, Jason and I have been hunting for the best canned cold brew options since our afternoon coffee runs were immediately cancelled. Sail Away’s Nitro Cold Brew has been a big hit and it felt like a no-brainer to indulge in this new offering. Delivery options are for weekends only and orders cannot be customized, but an assortment of random donuts is never a bad thing. The six flavors included in my order were: Vanilla OG, Jelly, Salted Caramel, Cookies N Creme, Maple Bacon, White Chocolate Raspberry (although I believe they change it up each weekend).

My order arrived promptly Friday morning with a box of (still cold) canned cold brew and a giant pink box of donuts handed to me by a super friendly delivery driver. You can also track your delivery via an app so you know your ETA and can plan your day around the drop-off time.

The donuts themselves are big, yeast cakes with super sweet toppings that add the perfect balance to the chewy dough and while intense, are not overpowering in flavor. The unsweetened Nitro Cold Brew also cuts the sweetness perfectly with its bitter taste. These feel and taste like classic yeast donuts with an excellent consistency in each bite. They’re dense, but they’re not epic in size so consumption doesn’t leave you in a food coma.

I miss visiting stores and admiring the aesthetics and vibes of donut shops around New York City and beyond. I miss going to them with my friends. However, I’ve been excited to find new ways to discover and enjoy my favorite treats and hope to make more exciting orders in the future.

Moe’s Doughs

As Jason and I have said over the past few weeks, local businesses need our support more than ever and donut shops are no exclusion. While many of our favorites have had to stop operations for the time being, a few spots in the city are still open for business.

Moe’s Doughs, located in Greenpoint, is known by many for their rivalry with neighborhood legend Peter Pan, but their tasty creations are well worth a visit and since many others have struggled to stay open, it felt exciting to support a business that is not part of my usual rotation. I went big for my order and got six specialty donuts delivered to my apartment. Samoa, Salted Caramel, Rainbow Cake, Snickers, Caramel Cheesecake, and Maple Bacon rounded out the order and each was more delectable than the last. Moe’s is a classic-style donut shop with light, fluffy yeast donuts that are perfectly fried and seriously sweet cake donuts that are dense to the core. There are traditional charms here much like Peter Pan and Donut Pub, but Moe’s takes the extravagance up a notch (and the sugar levels as well) making these truly dessert donuts and not so much a breakfast pastry. The Samoa tasted like a perfect replica of the Girl Scout cookie with flakes of coconut hitting the spot, the Salted Caramel exceptionally gooey, and the crispy crunch of the Maple Bacon brought splendid texture to the mix. Every one was wonderfully fresh, sticky, and a much needed sweet relief during such chaotic times.

Scores:
Rainbow: 6/10
Caramel Cheesecake: 7/10
Salted Caramel: 8/10
Snickers: 8/10
Maple Bacon: 8/10
Samoa: 9/10

Doughnut Plant: Meyer Lemon and Poppy Seed

Photo courtesy of Doughnut Plant

As Jason previously noted, the COVID-19 pandemic is seriously impacting our local donut shops. In these times, I’m taking the most extreme cautions while still doing my best to support all my favorite spots and will continue to do so until this crisis is over.

For the time being, Doughnut Plant is still open for pick-up and delivery (no dine-in options) so this week I placed an ordered for my roommate and myself while we continued to work from home. In addition to some of my usual favorites, I added one of this month’s specials to the order; a fantastic Meyer Lemon and Poppy Seed available in both cake and yeast versions. Naturally, I opted for the cake and was wonderfully impressed by the chain’s latest creation. A perfectly tart sensation embodies the cake, without ever being too sweet or overpowering. As is customary with any Doughnut Plant cake donut, they go above and beyond with their batter and include key elements of the flavor throughout the cake itself. Poppy seeds are scattered not just in the glaze outside along some lemon zest, but in the treat itself giving the slightest crunch and a subtle injection of texture. It’s a light, refreshing treat, rich in flavor and satisfyingly moist.

Score: 9/10