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.

Four Horsemen – Maple Glaze

A few weeks ago, Jason sent me a DM on Instagram asking if I’d tried the donuts from a local restaurant’s post. To my surprise, not only had I not had these donuts from my own neighborhood, but I didn’t know the restaurant was serving them (this is a new addition to the menu post-COVID). Not only that, but the restaurant in question was Four Horsemen, a restaurant and wine bar that was opened by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem while his band was on hiatus. It’s a place I’ve loved for a few years, but as a chic restaurant, not a donut spot.

I was immediately intrigued and made it my mission to try them the following weekend. Since donuts aren’t the main focus, the options are limited. There was only one flavor, a classic maple glazed, and they’re sold in packs of two or six.

While I still prefer cake donuts, these made-to-order yeast concoctions are no joke and the incredible freshness really separates them from the crowd. You can tell from the first bite that these are some of the freshest around and if you’re lucky to enjoy them while they’re still warm, it’s a bit of a game changer. They’re light and fluffy, with a very subtle crunch, and the maple glaze is perfectly balanced giving it a classic taste and flavor. Each donut has a pinch of sea salt on top to offset the sweetness of the maple and not let it become over powering. It’s a wonderful surprise and although it caught me a bit off guard on the first bite, it was soon the perfect match to the sugary goodness of the glaze.

It’s fun to find donuts in unsuspecting places and even better when one of your favorite bands is tied into the story. As fun as it is to hit up local donut spots and see their array of flavors, it is also a great surprise to see a donut as a dessert option on a menu or offered as a homemade treat at a coffee or espresso bar. Sometimes finding a donut when you least expect it has an even better reward. I was excited to learn about this glammed-up take on an old school classic and I look forward to the next time a donut appears by surprise.

Maple Glaze: 9/10

Uncle Leo’s Not Just Coffee and Donuts – Wilton, CT

Uncle Leo's

Alert! Alert! Donut Club has officially been taken over by an amateur donut reviewer. Hi everyone! My name is Diane and I’m a big fan of Marc & Jason’s work here. I recently visited Uncle Leo’s Not Just Coffee and Donuts in Wilton, CT and wanted to share a quick review.

Uncle Leo’s has two locations in CT – one in Redding and one in Wilton. Since the one in Wilton was closer to me, I took a quick trip over to see if this was a hidden donut gem. It was quick and easy to get to from Stamford, CT – my hometown. Given their name, I should’ve realized Uncle Leo’s would offer far more than just donuts. I’d classify it more as a traditional deli that just so happens to also sell donuts versus a donut shop that offers other items. After reviewing the menu and since I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, I decided to order a bacon, egg, and (swiss) cheese on a toasted english muffin, with a coffee, and of course, 1/2 dozen donuts.

Uncle Leo’s offers both cake and yeast donuts. As a cake donut lover, I got a few more cake donuts than yeast. Of the cake variety, I opted for a traditional chocolate glazed, a red velvet glazed, a red velvet glazed with cream cheese frosting, and a traditional blueberry glazed. From the yeast variety, I ordered a traditional glazed and a black raspberry jelly. My eyes also landed on a coffee crumb cake in their glass case, which I had to have too!

Here’s how I’d break things down:

  • BEC & Coffee – Solid 9/10
  • Coffee Cake – 5/10
  • Chocolate Glazed Cake – 5/10
  • Blueberry Glazed Cake – 7/10
  • Red Velvet Glazed Cake – 5.5/10
  • Red Velvet Glazed with frosting Cake – 6/10
  • Black Raspberry Jelly Yeast – 8/10
  • Classic Glazed Yeast – 8.8/10

Overall, I think Uncle Leo’s is a better deli than it is a donut shop. Some might argue it’s hard to mess up a BEC, but I’ve had some bad ones, and I appreciate it when it’s made exactly as I ordered it (well done bacon, well toasted, well done egg). I’m also a bit finicky when it comes to other people putting half & half in my coffee because it’s rare for somebody to make it exactly as I would – but Uncle Leo’s did not disappoint! It was perfect.

I’m not sure if the cake donuts were made that day, but I rated them lower because they were pretty dry inside. Good glaze, but pretty dry nonetheless. That being said, the yeast donuts really surprised me! They were light and fluffy and simply delicious. I couldn’t get enough. I’m also not a big jelly lover, but the black raspberry jam was bomb. The coffee cake also seemed a bit dry and let me down.

Overall, if you’re ever in the area, I definitely suggest popping in for breakfast or lunch, with a side of some delicious yeast donuts! The staff working in Uncle Leo’s were also very accommodating and lovely to talk to.

Well, that’s all folks! Thank you for letting me jump in and share my first official donut review. Until next time – D4 is out!

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.

Royal Crown Bakery & Cafe – Nutella Donut

Royal Crown Bakery

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

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!