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.

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!

The return of MAD Donuts

MAD Donuts

A couple weeks ago, MAD Donuts in White Plains, which I first wrote about back in November, reopened for the first time since closing because of COVID-19, this time as a pop-up. It was emotional for me to chat with the owner, Matt, and to hear about how the business had changed so dramatically since his grand opening in Westchester Mall.

While it was tough to process the impact of the pandemic on Matt, his family and his staff, it was also great to see him doing what he loves to do, and the results remain spectacular.

I was lucky enough to snag a four-donut sampler (Vanilla Bean Glazed, Chocolate Iced, Piña Colada and an unbelievable Lemon Meringue) and a two-pack of their one-of-a-kind apple fritters, which remain a thing to behold. As big as my face, the fritters are just so good. I always say I am just going to have a bite, and I always eat the whole thing. The tart granny smith apples contrasted with the sweet cinnamon glaze gets me pumped up every time.

As both Marc and I have written here, our local donut spots have gotten hurt so badly by COVID-19. Even NYC stalwarts like Doughnut Plant have struggled to figure out how to open in a way that makes sense. So I got immense joy from seeing Matt, his shop and his amazing donuts again. He just announced that the next MAD Donuts pop-up will be on Saturday, October 10, and I encourage anyone in or near Westchester County to place an order.

More Cape Cod donuts

Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery

Last month, I hit the road to Cape Cod, which is now a bit of a late summer family tradition. While there, I always try to visit the Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery, which to me is the ultimate local, small-town donut destination. This year, it was a little different with social distancing, but I was so glad the bakery was still open. When I walked in, the first thing I saw was an employee walking from the kitchen to the front of the shop with a stack of fresh jelly donuts (“just made this morning”), and I knew it was going to be a great visit.

There’s just something about grabbing a donut (or maybe multiple donuts) and an iced coffee then sitting outside in the sunshine that is so perfect. This year, we even saw a couple (along with their dog and their cat) who we saw last year as well. When my daughter said hello, they mentioned that their dog Whitney whines in the morning until they go to the bakery. Amen, Whitney.

This trip, we also tried a new place called Old King’s Coffeehouse in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts. A newcomer founded in 2019, Old King’s is much more than a donut shop, serving tons of breakfast and lunch items. But keep your eyes peeled for the donut case at the front counter, which has a daily selection of classic (Old Fashioned) and more modern (Maple Bacon) flavors.

Old King’s Coffeehouse
Cinnamon Bun and Maple Bacon donuts from Old King’s Coffeehouse

Finding these local spots – especially in an otherwise sea of Dunkin’ Donuts in Massachusetts – is always such a joy. Support your local donut shops, my friends!

Cover image credit: Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery Facebook page

Save our donut shops!

There’s no doubt that this pandemic has brought unforeseeable changes to so many aspects of our daily lives. Seemingly overnight, our world was turned upside down. Restaurants in particular have really felt the hit brought on by shuttered doors and operating on delivery alone is proving to be not only a health risk, but virtually unsustainable.

In early Spring, the beloved Doughnut Plant closed in order to better understand how to operate safely in our new climate and in May, they slowly began to reopen their stores for delivery and pick-up. Sadly, they’ve now announced that they’ve closed once again, and now through at least August.

Owner Mark Israel took to Instagram to write a lengthy post on the difficult decision to wind down operations and the future of their stores.

“Small businesses need help and more support. Restaurants have lost more revenue and jobs than any other industry. Fixed expenses have remained the same but as we all know, business is down. NYC in particular has been hit hard: people have left and people are staying home (including tourists).  Doughnut Plant doesn’t want to be part of the problem — landlords and property management companies are also bearing the brunt of the pandemic. By temporarily suspending operations our goal is to have a long-term solution with our property managers, not be another “number” shuttering its doors. Later this month Congress will consider their final coronavirus response bill for 2020. We know that the federal government is in the position to provide bakeries, cafes and restaurants the support necessary to help countless businesses survive. Time is running out. Your support these past months has helped, but there is more that needs to be done. Tell Congress to support your local coffee shops, cafes, bakeries, restaurants and employees. Tell Congress to pass the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival.”

We stay away from politics in the Donut Club, but helping our favorite stores stay in business is beyond politics and a critical duty as connoisseurs. Learn more about the Blueprint for Restaurant Revival and, if possible, please do what you can to support these crucial businesses and jobs for countless people.

Save our donut shops!

Peaceful Provisions – a break from the madness

Peaceful Provisions

It was one of the first times I had worn a mask in public. I hadn’t really figured it out so it was fogging up my glasses to the point that I couldn’t see that well. The experience was pretty stressful. But when I walked up to the Peekskill Brewery and got my box of donuts and goodies from Peaceful Provisions, I felt better. I felt more normal.

I’ve written about Peaceful Provisions before – it’s a small bakery that sells out of the ground floor of a brewery in Peekskill, NY, which is about an hour north of New York City by car and about 30 minutes north of where I live. They’ve always done small-batch, vegan baking by hand and sold their products primarily on the weekends. During the pandemic, they have continued to do their thing, accepting online pre-orders and curbside pickup.

For me, ordering from Peaceful Provisions and trekking up there has been a wonderful break from the current craziness. And it seems I’m not alone – Peaceful Provisions opens up ordering for each weekend on Mondays at noon, and while it used to be no big deal to get an order in for every weekend, they now sell out quickly. For me, getting donuts on the weekend is a return to normalcy, and I think it’s cool that others agree.

That weekend when I was new to my mask, I got an awesome order that included cinnamon sugar donuts, coffee cinnamon mixed nut donut buns (yeah, that’s a thing!), a dark chocolate brownie and a coffee cake. Cinnamon sugar is one of my favorite donut flavors of all time, and this one didn’t disappoint – it was light and airy and honestly amazing. The coffee cinnamon mixed nut donut bun was one of the most ambitious donuts I’ve ever seen – it was an enormous cinnamon bun-style fried and sugared creation topped with pistachios and almonds, then filled with a coffee pudding (made with Bucci coffee). I’m normally not a big filled donut fan, but it was special.

Peaceful Provisions
Coffee cinnamon mixed nut donut bun from Peaceful Provisions

I’m glad people are finding donuts again, and I’m really glad Peaceful Provisions has stayed open during this challenging time. I now have an alarm set to try to place an order every week, which is a nice break in my day. I can’t wait to try again this week!

Doughnut Plant Reopens!

Memorial Day Weekend: The official start of summer time in New York City and this year, the reopening of three Doughnut Plant locations across the city! The long-time heroes, and an originator of the artisanal donut trend around town, closed down their shops back in April after operating for a few weeks under strict conditions in evolving times. Mark Israel recently told Gothamist that closing was due to the safety of their staff and customers and the time off has allowed the empire to rethink their strategies and determine new modes of operation. This includes increased sanitary precautions, new uniforms for the staff, and laundry on location to ensure they’re washed daily. Now, the legends are set to resume their position as champions of the game.

This weekend, Doughnut Plant reopened for curbside pickup and delivery only, with all ordering taking place online. A limited menu still offers tremendous variety and I’m sure that over time, they’ll change things up to bring us more classics and new creations.

On Sunday, I made the bold decision to walk from Williamsburg to the Downtown Brooklyn location so I could enjoy my favorite donuts in the city on a gorgeous day in Prospect Park. The limited cake menu consisted of Tres Leche, Wild Blueberry, Black and White, and Brooklyn Blackout. Naturally, I ordered one of each. Plus a Crème Brulee.

My order was ready by the time my roommate and I arrived so we grabbed the to-go bag and made our way to Prospect Park to socially distance and eat under a tree in full bloom. Each donut was as perfect as expected, as if no time had passed and they’d been fully operational this entire time. The Blueberry was tangy and sweet, the Tres Leches smooth, the Black and White inspiring, and the Blackout down right sensational, a wonderful representation of the borough and all its glory. Being able to enjoy them safely in an outdoor setting really was the icing on the cake.

For now, Doughnut Plant is open for business Wednesday – Sunday at their Lower East Side, Downtown Brooklyn, and Long Island City locations. I’m thrilled to have them back and excited to become a regular once again!