Across the country, temperatures are falling and Autumn truly feels all around us. In the Northeast, the new season brings us tons of changes to our local food menus and as you can probably guess from our coverage here, apple is the main agenda item. While pumpkin has become over-consumed and used to flavor way too many products in recent years, apples remain a constant favorite and one that has not been played out.
As someone who grew up in the region (ok, technically New England and Massachusetts in particular), the cooler temperatures and crisp air always bring me back to apple orchards and their delectable desserts. Apple cider donuts, however, have become a recent holy grail. Typically, I prefer my apple cider donuts to be direct from the farm stand, but living in the city makes that more of a challenge. Luckily for me, the best donut shops in the city usually make a pretty excellent version that I can pick up and eat within the concrete jungle (vs a picturesque orchard).
Much to my enjoyment, The Doughnut Project has partnered with The Raw Sugar Company this year to elevate their apple cider donut to a new level. Coated in a sparkle of sugar, the doughnut has a subtle crunch with each bite until you hit the soft chewy inside. The raw sugar is also a nice contrast to the usual powder or glaze that you’re most likely to find with other shops and local farms. The dough is perfectly fried and there is a lovely crispness too which adds to the excellent texture of the yeast dough. Inside, however, is where the surprise lies. Each donut contains thin slices of apples as well. The sweetness of the fruit and extra crunch are stunning additions to the treat that give it an added feature which elevates the whole experience. The small slivers give a little extra texture to every bite and reinforce the distinct taste. The contrast of the apple skins and the dough make for a wide variety of pleasures and for some stunning flavors.
The collaboration between The Doughnut Project and The Raw Sugar Company continues through November and is one of Manhattan’s best options for the seasonal sensation.
In the pandemic, Edith’s , an Israeli deli/grocer opened a permanent location on Lorimer Street in Williamsburg. Offering a variety of breakfast and lunch sandwiches, pastries, and a smattering of other delicious goods, the tiny shop is a bustling weekend destination that constantly has crowds pouring outside its doors. After earning a great reputation as a neighborhood hot spot, when I saw that they’d be serving apple cider donuts this weekend, I couldn’t wait to try them!
Fresh for the day, the donuts were served warm and it was advised to get there early to pick them up before they ran out. I got my bag and immediately felt the warmth of the dough and hurried back home as quickly as possible to enjoy them before they cooled. A slight sugar glaze coated the entire treat in an incredibly thin layer that never fully hardened to the point where it would break off on each bite, a problem for many other glazed donuts. These were so soft and chewy and the addition of baharat, a Middle Eastern spice blend that can consist of black pepper, cardamom, cloves, cumin, nutmeg, coriander and paprika, gave it an extra bit of flavor to separate it from so many other local varieties. I also really appreciated the glaze vs a powdered sugar, another nice differentiator on Edith’s part. The donuts were plump, dense, and incredibly satisfying. Each bite an intense burst of flavor that perfectly executed the assignment.
Announced in partnership with a neighbor, the donuts are benefiting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and 20% of the weekend’s proceeds will go to the cause. Hopefully these, or other donuts, can start to become a staple at Edith’s as a sweet offering in addition to their excellent savory sandwiches.
Despite our love and passion for finding new, exciting donuts in and around New York City, it’s not often that we get to find and explore new opportunities together. This was a bit easier when we worked together, but ever since the pandemic hit and work changed, we mostly keep each other posted via texts. However, on a lovely Sunday afternoon in August, we were able to schedule a trip up to Beacon, NY to try Glazed Over Donuts, a place consistently ranked as one of the best in the Hudson Valley.
Situated along the bustling Main Street in Downtown Beacon, Glazed Over is a pretty popular spot (or at least it was on this particular Sunday) and it’s setup is pretty unique. Instead of being greeted with a usual menu or display case of options and flavors, Glazed Over does something pretty different.
Upon entering, you’re greeted by a bin of clipboards and pens so you can select your order and hand it over to the cashier when you’re ready to order and pay. It seems simple, but it’s a bit overwhelming, especially if it’s your first visit and you’re not prepared (a rookie mistake on our part).
With the exception of the “Donut of the Day,” everything from Glazed Over is made custom to order. On each clipboard, there is an order form to complete and select your options. Everything starts as a “naked donut” (which essentially means a plain vanilla cake donut) and you select a glaze, a topping and a drizzle.
Marc: I felt pretty unprepared here and the growing line behind us made me choose quickly, but I went for a chocolate glaze with pretzel toppings and a salted choc-caramel drizzle for one and a maple glaze with a graham cracker topping and no drizzle for my second. Jason, what about you?
Jason: Yes, I felt a lot of stress upon entering, and the order form didn’t help! It felt like we were about to play Yahtzee or Clue or something. And it took me a minute to see the “Donut of the Day” board, at which point I felt relieved! I also had my partner and child with me, and we eventually figured out that one family order form was better than three. We ended up with two “Donuts of the Day” plus a chocolate donut with Oreo topping and raspberry glaze.
Marc: We both generally favor the actual quality of the donut vs its general appearance. Overall – how’d you feel about the taste?
Jason: I was really into them, honestly. Being made to order adds a freshness that I’m not used to, and I thought they tasted great – a light donut with really high-quality toppings. I didn’t realize that they are smaller donuts though – not really “minis” but not full-size either – or I would have ordered more. Did you know they were on the smaller side?
Marc: I was also unaware, but luckily ordered two for just myself and felt ok. I think if the line hadn’t started to grow, I would’ve put a little more thought into mine, but for a first visit, I felt pretty satisfied. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go back now that we know the process.
Jason – 9/10, definitely worth a visit but maybe do a little pre-work or don’t be ashamed to step out of line to check the “Donut of the Day” and work on your order. Marc – 8/10, I got pretzels on my chocolate caramel donut and they were a little stale, but the freshness of the dough really made up for it.
As the great Bauhaus architect Mies van der Rohe once said, “less is more.” Now, while he was talking about minimal approach to artistic design, his logic can also be applied to donuts. Doughnut Project, the all women-run and owned shop located in the West Village, makes some of the best donuts in the city and they range from simple classics to stunning collaborations with other brands that result in eye-catching creations of the most unique varieties.
While these collaborations and other novelty donuts are indeed excellent, I think Doughnut Project best succeeds in their most simple creations. Their take on a Boston Creme, aptly called a Manhattan Creme, is glorious, the Maple Bacon bar is also nearly perfect, but to me, nothing can beat their Maple Crueler. Everything from the appearance to the taste is about as good as it gets and one of the best takes on such a classic as I have ever tasted.
The outside is exceptionally flakey with a perfect crunch to reveal an incredibly soft and chewy interior where the flavor bursts with each bite. The crispiness is absolutely ideal and rich with freshness that can only be topped by the magnificent flavor the fills your mouth as soon as you bite into the treat. It’s a perfect, twisted ring that is drizzled with sugar to such a high-level degree that it looks as if every single donut is made to be Instagram-worthy. However, while so many of their other donuts are a bit overboard in appearance (luckily they’re never overboard with taste and execution), this one is picture perfect in its simplicity.
It’s easy to gawk at the latest creation that feels more like it was made to be photographed rather than consumed as a meal, and while those creations are sure to get a lot of likes (online and otherwise), the Maple Crueler is almost better just by being so delicious and unassuming. It’s the kind of reassurance that gives Doughnut Project the added confidence to go above and beyond with some of their more out-there options. They can take risks with more adventurous concoctions since they’ve already perfected their standards. The Maple Crueler is a masterpiece.
Yes, you read that title correctly. For better or worse (verdict at the end, of course), I tried Doughnut Plant’s new Cacio E Pepe donut. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, “but why?” and you’re not wrong to ask that question. I too was not initially intrigued by this donut, but after several friends DM’d me posts about it on Instagram, I told them all I’d try it out and report back.
Well, I’m here to say that as different and as unlike a donut as it tastes, it was much better than expected. However the key factor is that you can’t think of it as a donut. Instead, it’s an extremely savory and satisfying pastry (perhaps like a croissant) which serves a different function than a sweet treat. I’m not sure it’s something I’ll ever crave regularly, but it’s a fun and unique way to enjoy one of my favorite foods.
To start, this is one of Doughnut Plant’s sourdough donuts, which means it’s a giant yeast pastry with an extra crispy-ness to it that gives it a nice, subtle crunch upon each bite. The sourness of the dough is an incredible match for the savoriness of the cheese that is crumbled on top and, like so many of their other exceptional donuts, this one has ingredients (in this case, pepper) mixed right into the dough which gives each bite a heightened sensation. The flavors on this one are perfect and you’d almost think you’re eating a lovely appetizer from a hip Italian restaurant rather than a donut shop. When you get right down to it, it’s a soft, flakey pastry that’s super fresh and perfectly topped with grated cheese – you’d almost want a dab of olive oil to really take it to a new level. It’s not something that I’d necessarily pair with my afternoon coffee or look towards as a sugar-rush pick-me-up (there is no trace of sweetness), but it’s a satisfying snack that really finds its own groove.
A wonderful novelty donut and something different and exciting, a nice differentiator from the Plant’s typically sweet line-up, the Cacio E Pepe can spice up a spread and add some funkiness to platter of otherwise sugary treats. While I don’t plan to order it on a regular basis, I can say that it opened my mind towards the thought that donuts can be served beyond a breakfast or dessert offering, and that gourmet, savory donuts as a new kind of treat would be a welcome addition to my future snacking habits.
Over the past year, I’ve been pretty confined to New York City so branching out for new donuts has been a challenge. Jason has been great about getting out to places in the suburbs and neighboring towns in Connecticut, but I’ve stuck to mostly local places in Brooklyn. As the summer progresses and it feels a bit safer to travel, I’ve been lucky to spend a few weeks out of the city and explore new donut options in my home state of Massachusetts.
Top Donut (based in Lowell, MA) has a few locations in the surrounding area and is a wonderful, old school local brand that is full of minimal charm. This isn’t a craft-style shop, but one that feels more similar to the grab and go fashion of Dunkin. The flavors aren’t fancy, but rooted in classics. Wonderful glazed, powdered, and frosted options filled the shelves and the classic diner-style vibe of the shop made it feel very home-run and basic (in a good way). While I love the excitement and variety of my New York stores, the minimal and effortless vibes of Top Donut were a pleasant change of pace.
I opted for my classic suburbs order of a Boston Creme (a no-brainer in Massachusetts) and a chocolate cake donut with a butter-crunch coat. The Boston Creme was perfectly crispy and the cream was smooth and rich, but not too thick. The frosting was perfect and not over-powering as well making for the perfect balance of chocolate and custard. A top tier choice and one of the best I’ve had. The Chocolate Butter-Crunch was also stellar and perfectly proportioned. The cake donut itself was rich, moist, and full of flavor that was only enhanced by the nutty crunch on the outside. I also detected a hint of cinnamon which amplified the flavor. These two were a stellar combination that satisfied a craving and made for an overall excellent experience.
Score: Boston Creme: 8/10 Chocolate Butter-Crunch: 8/10
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.
After closing their doors before the pandemic hit, OG donut joint Dough finally re-opened in their hometown borough. Just a few blocks from their original location (now the home of Fan-Fan), the new location is a cute spot that has some old school charm with modern twists. Of course it’s hard to get the full picture of just what they envision for this location as COVID precautions still force them to only offer take away service for now, but the interior is still warm and inviting with a killer spot on Vanderbilt Ave. full of heavy foot traffic (especially with it blocked off to cars).
Along with the brand new storefront, they’ve introduced a special new donut to mark the occasion. The Brooklyn Blackout is a chocolate explosion and an absolute monster of a donut. Their traditional massive treat is made with chocolate dough and filled with a chocolate mousse that is ultra sweet and creamy. Think a jelly or Boston Creme, but pure chocolate overload. On top is a smooth chocolate frosting and chocolate crumbs to top it off. An overpowering and overwhelming sensation that is almost impossible to eat with just your bare hands.
However what’s most striking about the donut isn’t just its size and excessive features, but the direct comparison to another donut from longtime competitor Doughnut Plant.
For years, Dough and Doughnut Plant have been the reigning champs of the New York City donut scene. They seem to not only have the most consistent hold on locations throughout the city, but they also dominate the coffee shop and fine food scenes as well. For those who read this blog regularly, you should know that our devotion to the original blackout from Doughnut Plant has been a longtime favorite here, but there is a special history to Dough and the legacy of both these chains that make this saga feel extra compelling.
It seems a bit out of character to see Dough make a direct replica of Doughnut Plant’s long-term favorite. Everything down to the name itself is a direct copy. Dough’s donuts have always felt a bit intense for me, personally, and they’re always best split amongst friends or family as to get a variety of flavors vs one massive donut, so I appreciate and really value Doughnut Plant’s size and proportions.
Dough’s yeast version, while exciting, is probably best in small portions that can be shared vs the smaller, traditional option from their rival. For me, Doughnut Plant takes the cake on this one.
Rising sensation Fan-Fan Doughnuts in Bed-Stuy has been getting some very well deserved attention since opening this past fall and this week, they launched what they’ve billed is their first chocolate doughnut festival. Exclusively using Guittard Chocolate, the city’s best new donut shop crafted eighteen (18!) different donuts inspired from different countries and cuisines from around the world. Naturally, I couldn’t miss it. I even used a vacation day from work to be sure I could attend on the first day!
Fan-Fan always has some of the best artisanal flavors you’re sure to find in New York and their beasts of yeast are some of the best of their kind and they’re always topped with sensational toppings and flavors. Of course, the chocolate festival was no exception and perhaps spawned some of the best ones yet!
The line was already tens of people deep by the time I arrived around noon on Tuesday and anticipation was mounting. The shop is still take-out and delivery only and the majority of the space is reserved for making the donuts so capacity is extremely limited and given the insane variety of donuts, ordering was not speedy. However, the staff was sharp, patient, and more than willing to make suggestions on what to order all while providing a safe experience for those inside.
With such an overwhelming selection, I tried to slim down my order as much as possible, but was nevertheless blown away with my choices. France (chocolate eclair), Spain (churros and chocolate), Brazil (brigadeiro), United Kingdom (sticky toffee), and Argentina (alfajor) were all phenomenal and unique. The aroma upon opening the lid of the box was rich in cocoa and sweetness and it wafted with freshness. Everything was also still warm as I exited the shop. It’s a bit of a sensory overload to devour so much chocolate, but the spectrum of flavor was actually remarkable. While the presentation is stunning, perhaps the best in the city in my opinion, the taste is also out of this world. The vanilla dough was a perfect vessel for the toppings and they’re ever so slightly smaller than their Dough counterparts making the size just about perfect. Every bite was finger licking good as the chocolate melted onto my hands with each sticky, delicious bite.
Fan-Fan is the new shop on the block and pandemic story for the ages. To support a new, small business during such a difficult time is always exciting, but Fan-Fan makes the dream come true.
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.