Donut Farm – Oakland, CA

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to start traveling again and visit new places after spending most of the past two years hunkered down in Brooklyn. Recently, I headed to Northern California and was able to make a stop at Donut Farm in Oakland, the East Bay’s premiere vegan donut shop.

Founded in 2006 by Josh Levine (a local legend known for founding the iconic punk venue 924 Gilman Street), the shop has grown over the past decade and a half from a daily wholesale business serving local eateries and coffee shops to a few brick and mortar locations of their own. The first official retail location opened in the SF Ferry Building in 2010 and a few years later they opened a spot in Oakland which has become the home of their Organic Vegan Donuts. There is also now a store in LA as well.

Arriving at the Oakland location, the giant sign out front gave off the feel of the stores punk ethos and roots (the font, in particular, reminded me of Sebadoh) and inside, you’re greeted with a DIY vibe. With racks, trays, and kitchen supplies galore, there is no hiding the magic and energy that goes into creating these treats. The store is very much down to business and wastes no time with fancy designs or decor.

My assortment

Traditionally, Donut Farm is a vegan cake shop, but dabbles in yeast treats on the weekend. On my visit, I loaded up on a dozen selections ranging in flavors like Chocolate Cookie, Matcha Green Tea, Philz Coffee, BLM Blackberry, Maple, Salted Caramel, and Cinnamon Sugar. The round, petite, vegan options were bold and buzzing with flavor. The hardened frosting gave each bite a marvelous crunch and elevated the extreme, vibrant flavors to a new level. Each one packed a hefty punch that left you satisfied to the fullest extent. Perfectly chewy and moist, it was hard to pick a favorite, so instead I marveled at all that was in front of me.

It’s always hard to rank such vast varieties, but it does feel safe to say these are the best vegan donuts I’ve ever come across and my only disappointment was that I wasn’t able to try even more options.

Boxer Donut (new location) – Nyack, NY

Boxer Donuts sign

This past weekend, I finally visited the new location of Boxer Donut in Nyack, NY, just across the Hudson River. Boxer is a great story of suburban SMB donut success. It previously was known as Gypsy Donut, then about five years ago, employee Eric Brown acquired the business and gave it the current name. Then this past December, Boxer moved into a new, larger location across the street. Oh and in between, they also launched a donut bus!

Upon arriving on Franklin St. in Nyack, the first thing I noticed was an old Gypsy Donut sign still on a wall at the corner. It was a great reminder of the history of the business (the boxer dog evolved into the current human boxer logo) and how far it has come. Part of me hopes it stays there forever. I was excited to walk up to the new shop and see a line down the street – it was a signal that the business is doing well.

Old Gypsy Donut sign (now Boxer Donut)

Inside, there is much more seating than in the old location, including a counter with stools, some small tables and a couch area. The buildout of the new space looks great, and it was encouraging to see a full kitchen in the back. In fact, the Boxer team has been adding some savory additions to the menu, including biscuits and sausage gravy when I visited and cornbread donuts with a queso glaze this past Super Bowl Sunday.

New Boxer Donut location at 17 N. Franklin St., Nyack, NY

I had ordered their Valentine’s Day special box (a steal for $20), which included a number of flavors like vanilla, strawberry and chocolate frosted with sprinkles, strawberry jam filed and passion fruit curd filled donuts. It was a great specialty box and all the flavors were enjoyable. My favorite was the strawberry jam filled (the vanilla “O” in “Love”).

Valentine’s Day box from Boxer Donut

Overall, I am so excited to see the success and recent move of Boxer Donut, and it was great to check out the new spot. It’s a frequent pit stop for large bike groups, so just keep that in mind when visiting. Definitely worth a visit and even a special trip – try the marbled old fashioned donut (my favorite) if you go!

You can follow Boxer Donut on Facebook and Instagram, or check out their website.

Super Nice Coffee and Bakery

In a city like New York, there are an unlimited number of places to grab coffee and a pastry. Whether it’s a local bodega, neighborhood roaster, city staples, or a massive chain like Starbucks, the city has no shortage of caffeine and sweets waiting for you around every corner.

One such place exists up in Harlem right off Lexington Ave tucked away on a casual side street. On East 117th, you’ll find Super Nice Coffee and Bakery, a spot that truly lives up to its name. Opened by Danny Macaroons, the shop is stocked with a wide variety of pastries and other sweet treats as well as a robust coffee menu.

Their current set up is only window service for now, but there is still a full menu and when I dropped by on a Sunday afternoon, I had full range of options including cake, yeast, and vegan donuts. While not known exclusively for donuts, that was obviously the point of my trip and still I was enticed by almost every other food item in the display case.

I opted for a Maple Pecan and a Fruity Pebble for the my yeast choices, a Cider Glazed Apple cake and a Mexican Chocolate old fashioned. The yeast were delightful, each one light and chewy with a perfect airy quality that tasted incredibly fresh. The frosting was evenly spread, and not over done and the pecans and cereal bits were applied with balance and composure. The Cider Glazed Apple perhaps seems most appropriate in the fall, but it was still delicious as a New Year treat. Again, the glaze wasn’t too thick and really complimented the moist and perfectly spiced interior. The Mexican Chocolate was rich in flavor and packed more of a punch than Dunkin’s Ghost Pepper Donut, but was a bit too crunchy and well-done. The flavors were still top-notch and luckily compensated for the overall texture and it’d be worth giving it a second shot given the quality of the others.

New York has some of the best speciality, artisanal donut shops in the country (maybe the world), but there are also places that will have a special treat on the menu as their sweet treat amongst other savory options, and then there are spots like Super Nice, a spot that has a little of it all.

Kane’s Donuts – Boston, MA

When we seek out new donut shops to visit, support, dine at, and eventually write about, chains don’t usually make the cut. Personally, I love to find local small businesses at home in New York City or when I’m out on vacation that satisfy my cravings. Usually, there is a Dunkin Donuts, a Krispy Kreme, a Tim Horton’s or other massive chain that is sure to sell donuts no matter where you are in the country. Usually, these places aren’t very good and the idea of visiting a chain can spoil the appetite.

Jason has mentioned it before, but there is, however, a rare gem in existence that fits somewhere between the fast food donut options and the local hot spot. In Massachusetts, these tend to be a bit more common and on a recent trip, I checked out Kane’s Donuts to satisfy a craving. Established in 1955, Kane’s has three locations (two in Saugus, MA and one in downtown Boston) today and a great back story. Always family-owned, the mom and pop shop always had fresh donuts ready to serve throughout the day in addition to cups of coffee for the hard working New England town. Current owners, Peter and Kay Delios bought the original shop decades ago and opened the new locations all while keep the family affair in order.

Now, the small chain is one of Massachusetts’ most prominent donut retailers and their impressive menu keeps lines forming at all locations. On a Sunday morning, I headed to the Route 1 location in Saugus which doubles as their main kitchen for their wide variety of yeast donuts (the gluten-free kitchen is at the original spot). “Donuts are love” was the phrase plastered all over the walls and there was a joy and excitement in the air the moment I walked in.

For the occasion, I ordered a dozen donuts from across the menu. Highlights included: Boston Creme, Double Apple Cider, Lemon Poppy, Strawberry Frosted, Maine Blueberry, Maple Bacon, Chocolate Glazed, Creme Brulée, and Maple Pumpkin. Each one seemed to be better than the next. The insides were moist and full of flavor and the outer glazes and frostings were applied perfectly, never excessive and always distributed with near perfection.

The seasonal flavors hit the hardest and the Maple Pumpkin in particular still lingers on my tastebuds. The interior a wonderful blend of pumpkin spices with a dense chewy bit coated with a delicious maple glaze. The two flavors together were an out of this world experience. The Double Apple Cider was another strong contender and the Maine Blueberry was delectable, light, airy, and bursting with flavor.

It’s always fun to find new small business to support and even better when they sell your favorite goods. Seeing a shop be able to navigate the complexities of not only running multiple locations, but keeping the product in peak form as well is almost more rewarding. As I paid for my order and carried the giant box out the door, I heard the person behind the register great the customer behind me. A little boy and his mom were there to grab an order and the employee immediately recognized the family as regulars and brought the small, local charm to the front and center of the experience. The perfect icing, or in this case perhaps… frosting on the cake.

Edith’s – Baharat Spiced Apple Cider

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.

Score:
9/10

Glazed Over Donuts – Beacon, NY

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.

Glazed Over Donuts

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.

Score:

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.

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.

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.