Tradition over quality (part 2)

Growing up in Massachusetts, Dunkin’ Donuts was vital to my childhood. I have many memories of waking up in the morning to find that my dad had gone out for coffee and brought donuts back home as well. Usually, it was a Boston Creme for me (my now standard suburban order). Now with all due respect to my roots, Dunkin is not high caliber donuts, but rather something that will do in a pinch. My memories around these donuts aren’t really for their awesome flavors, but the traditions that came with them.

In one of our first posts, Jason talked about tradition over quality when enjoying our favorite treats. Like many others, I travelled to visit family for the holidays and was reminded of this thought once again. Being back in Massachusetts always brings back old memories and the times of my youth and this was reinforced this holiday season. As in the past, I awoke one morning to find that my dad had gone to The Donut Shack in Lowell, MA and returned home with a giant white paper bag full of homemade, old fashioned donuts. Yes, a Boston Creme was included. These yeast donuts were soft, chewy, and full of texture. The glaze was extra sweet, the filling extra ooz-y, and each one was remarkably fresh.

These are not the fancy, artisanal craft donuts that I usually write about when home in New York, but they have an extra sort of charm that makes them special. As Jason said before, “Are they the best-tasting donuts? Nope! But in this case, it’s not about having the best. It’s about the tradition of being together.”

Doughboy

Boca Raton’s Doughboy is a sleek donut shop that specializes in gourmet mini cake donuts with extensive flavors. Their shop is small, but sharp and clean. Exposed bricks are covered in white paint which gives the shop a chic look and each of their donuts are made custom to order. The menu is pretty diverse with over fifteen flavors to choose from and you can order in bulk sets with up to 25 donuts in an order. Naturally, I walked in and said “I’ll have one of everything, please.”

The bite-sized treats are soft and chewy and the flavors really pack a punch. Everything ranging from Fruity Pebbles to Nutella filled to bacon with maple frosting, the variety is extreme and allows for the guests to have a wide sample of tastes. Since each order is custom made, the wait can feel a bit extreme (I was lucky enough to be there on a day when there were no other customers, but I can see the wait time getting a bit intense), but the flavors do more than make up for the lag time it takes to complete an order. In addition to some truly wild and bold flavors which are really great, the presentation is also top-notch. Unfortunately, there is no display case so you can only catch a glimpse of your own orders and there is no eye-candy to salivate over while you wait.

While the location feels a bit odd, it’s located in a strip mall, it does feel a bit like a diamond in the ruff and those lucky enough to come across it are in for a real treat. It’s an unsuspecting little shop filled with giant flavor. For me, no vacation is complete without a search for local donuts and Doughboy really hit the spot.

Morningstar Donuts

Wylie Dufresne’s Du’s Donuts hosted Houston’s Morningstar Donuts on Saturday for a pop-up event with Texan charm and creativity.

The Houston sensation brought their local flavors and specialties to Brooklyn and treated patrons to creative concoctions that matched the vibes of their hometown with classic donut flavors. Blood Orange White Chocolate, Black and White Mochi, Cinnamon Sugar, Pineapple Chili Lime Fritter, Cheesecake and Candied Almond twist, Olive Oil Lemon with Sea Salt (and a BBQ Brisket Kolaches). The variety was impressive and it was too much to resist walking up to the counter and saying “I’ll have one of everything, please.”

Morningstar mastermind David Buehrer was present behind the counter and chatted away as the donuts were served, giving us the background of his buzzing food empire in Houston and how their wonderful donuts came to be. Taking a lot of inspiration from the Cambodian population in his hometown, Buehrer has built Morningstar into a local favorite and was thrilled to be able to give his already stellar donuts a New York twist. Fusing a classic mochi with a New York black and white cookie, taking the southern flavors of pineapple and chili lime and mixing it with an apple fritter, the pastries were wild and fun, with crazy flavors exploding with each bite. The yeast and textures were remarkably fresh, the glazes perfectly sticky, and the fritter was wonderfully crunchy. For a pop-up, Morningstar did a fantastic job bringing a sample of cake, yeast, mochi, fritter, and old fashioned style to prove their skills can cover all forms of donuts. In fact, for such a diverse range of flavors and styles, the consistency was excellent beyond compare.

Craft vs. Classic

Dun-Well Doughnuts in East Williamsburg

On a recent weekend donut trip outside of the city, Jason told a friend of ours that Boston Creme was my “Suburbs order.” In the city, I’m all about the fun, experimental flavors, but when I’m in the Suburbs, there’s nothing better than a classic glaze or filled donut. This got me thinking about my passion for donuts and how they began with my love for a classic (being from Massachusetts, this means a loyalty to Dunkin’ Donuts), but have evolved into a love for craft donuts.

Jason previously wrote about Tradition over quality and that certainly speaks to how I grew up. However, once I moved to New York, that quickly changed. Like many desserts and sweet treat trends, craft donuts have been a recent hit across the city popping up alongside many staples and classics from coffee shops and diners to hole-in-the-wall (pun intended) shops remaining from grittier days of the city’s past. For many, a classic could be anything from Dunkin’ and Krispy Kreme to Donut Delight or landmark city locations like Peter Pan or Donut Pub. Classics entail a deep-fried dough covered in a sweet and sugary glaze or chewy, yeasty donut injected with jelly or cream.

When work brings us downtown, Jason and I often meet up at the Pub for a quick classic to start the day, but we regularly try the flavors of the month from our favorite spot, Doughnut Plant, which falls into the craft category. By now, artisanal, craft food is nothing new to the city and world-class donuts exist around the world, not just in the United States. Still, New York City is home to some of the best variety of craft donuts and going on adventures to try the latest creations was a huge inspiration to starting this blog. Now, craft vs. classic isn’t the same debate as cake vs. yeast (I’ll save that for another post) because in my opinion, there are great opportunities for both options. In the city, it’s hard for me to say no to all of the wild inventions that some of these shops create, but going back to the comment that sparked the idea for this post, there are times when a classic hits the spot. Luckily, I live in a place where both are widely available and I’m not too often forced to make a choice, but more often than not, I’m trying craft selections from my favorite joints across the city. Truth be told, however, Dun-Well Doughnuts might be the best middle ground donut in the city and they’re only a few blocks from my apartment, so really, I’m often consuming the best of both worlds (they’re vegan too)!

So yes, these days my donut consumption is mostly comprised of some of the cities finest, artisan concoctions from the likes of Doughnut Plant, Doughnut Project, and Du’s, but craft donuts help keep the inspiration for the review section alive. Still, while craft might be the top contender now, I will always hold a special place in my heart for something that reminds me of the past. Getting to share both with my friend is truly the best.

Stamford’s Finest: A Spotlight on Donut Delight

Hello donut friends, my name is Dorit and I’m guest posting tonight for my friends Jason and Marc in the #nicepeopledonutclub!

Just under an hour north of NYC, tucked away between Greenwich and Norwalk, you’ll find Stamford, CT, one of Fairfield County’s most bustling cities. Stamford has a pretty pleasant mix of a fun downtown atmosphere with a side of quiet coastal New England, and it’s been home for the past 26 years of my life. In those 26 years, I’ve discovered that my hometown has two big gems:

1. The original Colony Grill

2. Donut Delight

I first became Donut Delight’s #1 fan in high school, when I’d sneak out during lunch with a few friends and drive to the most popular (and first that I knew of) Donut Delight location in Stamford on Hope Street. While Donut Delight is somewhat of a chain, 6 of its 7 locations are in Stamford, so it feels pretty local and one of a kind to me. There’s truly no better Saturday morning than one that starts off with a fresh blueberry glazed donut.

Donut Delight isn’t your super fancy over the top donut shop either. They carry a lot of the classics: cinnamon, powdered sugar, jelly, bavarian cream, honey-dipped, and some frosted donuts too. Basically, think fresh and flavorful without the frills – and awesome customer service too! The convenience of the drive-thru paired with friendly staff takes the Donut Delight experience to a level that your average Dunkin’ just can’t reach. 

All in all, Donut Delight is most definitely a stop to add to your next stroll through Fairfield County. If you’re craving the true Stamford experience, a blueberry glazed donut is the way to go. Stamfordians also appreciate the classic chocolate glazed, or (in season) pumpkin spice glazed. Pair it with an almond-flavored iced coffee and a stroll at Cove Beach and you might just be ready to move to the 203! 

If you happen to check out Donut Delight, let me know what you think @Dorito91 on Twitter! 

Love and Donuts,

Dorit

A Tale of Two Donut Shops

The Donut Pub on 14th and 7th has long been a New York donut institution. Since opening in 1964, this 24/7 establishment has been serving up some of the city’s finest “classic” style donuts. In other words, they’ve been around long before the craft donut craze and their simple treats are still some of the best the city has to offer.

On the inside, the 14th street location has an old-school diner vibe. Racks upon racks of donuts line the fluorescent lit store and counter seats flank the length of the shop giving diners an up close and personal experience with the servers who continuously bring out fresh donuts throughout the day. Everything here is pretty basic from the donuts to the coffee and even the breakfast sandwiches that someone must still order. It’s a bit of a time warp, but that is what gives it its charm. Everything here looks like it’s been this way for decades and while the flavors have stepped up a bit (they offer their own version of the cronut, simply called “croissant donuts”), the shop still has that old New York essence.

Earlier this Summer, however, Donut Pub did something they haven’t done in their fifty-plus years of operation. They opened a second location. Located just off Astor Place, their “downtown” location is almost an exact replica of their classic establishment, but with an apparent upgrade. The layout is the same and so are the donuts, but everything downtown has a whole new shine. The walls are sparkling white and not a faded yellow, the neon glows with classic, bright colors (hitting that sweet spot of nostalgia, but still cool), and the walls are adorned with pleasing visuals. Walls of ceramic donuts line the store giving it a cutting new-edge feel.

The new spot doesn’t have the same character as its older brother and it doesn’t have that same old spirit, but when the donuts are the same and as good as ever, it’s hard to not still feel excited. Having survived for decades on customer loyalty and simple, honest to goodness donuts, it’s nice to have another spot to pick up these wonderful delights and if the new freshness isn’t quite your thing, you can always fall back to the classic, and when you’re there, grab a marble, blueberry, or red velvet glaze. You won’t regret it.

Seeking local donuts

Whenever I travel, I try to find a local donut shop to check out. As I wrote about last time, they can be hard to find. Sometimes that’s because Dunkin’ dominates and there really aren’t local options; other times, it’s because they are tucked away.

I recently visited Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is generally dominated by Dunkin’ and a local chain called Honey Dew. However, I got lucky a few years ago when I discovered Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery, where they make classic donut flavors like cinnamon sugar (below), old fashioned, chocolate-iced and Boston creme. Getting a large iced coffee and a truly fresh, homemade donut, then sitting on the picnic tables outside, is an incredible way to start the day.

Chatham Village Cafe and Bakery

This past weekend, I decided to go on another donut trek, this time about 30 minutes north of where I live, to Peekskill, NY. There, tucked into the ground floor of the Peekskill Brewery, is Peaceful Provisions, a tiny outpost for small-batch donuts. From the outside of the brewery, you would never know there is a donut shop inside. But once there, I loved their small, yet impressive selection of donuts, which were mostly filled creations like their special maple pecan donut filled with cherry compote.

Both of these experiences were so awesome, but I had to seek out these locations and really explore to find them. Local donuts definitely exist, but they are not always obvious or easy to find. These spots may not have big signs, ad campaigns or locations in every rest stop on the highway. But when you track them down, they are pretty special.

Doughnut Plant: Pride Donut

Every month, Doughnut Plant has seasonal specials. In honor of Pride, the flavor of June is a Pride-themed raspberry yeast donut in the shape of a triangle with rainbow stripes.

When Doughnut Plant announced their monthly special for June, Jason sent me a message and said “we should place an order for the team.” If you don’t know, Jason and I work together and back when our company and team was (much) smaller, we’d regularly order a dozen (or two) donuts for the team on Fridays to help boost spirits and camaraderie before the weekend. That’s a little harder for us to do now that our team is over 100 people, but for Pride, we brought the tradition back.

When our company changed our logo to incorporate a rainbow for the month of June, I stopped by Doughnut Plant on the way to work and said “I’ll take all of your Pride donuts, please.” When I got to the office, I sent an email to the team and said “No matter how you identify, I’m happy you’re here and part of the work family so we can all live, love, and work fearlessly together, 24/7.”

Jason posted a photo of the beautiful treats to Instagram with the caption “Being yourself is something we talk about every day on my team, and is even more appropriate during Pride Month.”

I love sharing my passion for donuts with others and seeing smiles across the office as the sweet treats brighten the days of so many people. More importantly, I’m passionate about creating spaces where people can feel welcome and free to true to themselves. Thank you Doughnut Plant for letting me do both. So, grab a donut and be yourself. You’re always welcome here. Happy Pride, everyone!

Donuts in the suburbs

I don’t live in NYC anymore – I am very much in the northern NY suburbs. What that means is my donut home life looks like this:

Bottom line – the options are limited. A few years ago, I felt very lucky to benefit from a deal that Dough did with Whole Foods stores in my area, which meant I could get some of their “beasts of yeast” along with my weekly groceries.

What’s interesting is that the NYC suburbs have proven to “work” for donuts – Boxer Donut in Nyack, NY and Glaze Donuts in New Jersey have shown that. But for some reason, my area lacks independent donut shops, and the big NYC donut brands have resisted moving north outside of those wholesale deals.

Word on the street is that we are getting a Duck Donuts in Mamaroneck, NY soon. Duck is a national franchise chain, so not quite the same as the incredible independent brands we have in NYC, but at least it will mix things up a bit.

Service Wins

When it comes to running a business, brand reputation and overall experience are as important as the product itself. A donut may be a 10/10, but if the service and experience are poor, that can almost be more memorable than the taste.

In the case of our quest, we look beyond the donut itself and towards the experience and service that comes along with each store and location. Earlier this year, I was on a trek through the Eastern Hemisphere and made sure to stop for donuts at every city along the way. When I arrived in Seoul, South Korea, I found a shop called Old Ferry Donuts. Their aesthetics were sharp, clean, and modern and their donuts were large, yeast-filled concoctions of pure bliss (I had a tiramisu and a peanut butter on my visit which you can see at the top of this post). For a token of my travels, I looked to see if the shop had anything for sale that I could take home and when I saw the staff all had on matching shirts, I asked if one was available for purchase. Unfortunately they were sold out so I settled for a tote bag instead. As I was leaving, a woman ran up to me and handed me one of their branded take-away boxes and some of their stickers as a sign of gratitude and as an apology for not having what I actually wanted to buy. It was such a kind gesture that made me feel excited and acknowledged as a customer who had traveled a long way to their store. I followed their Instagram account and still like their photos with a fond memory of their delicious donuts and cheery customer service.

Recently, I saw a post that showed their shirts had once again become available for sale. I messaged them on Instagram and asked if they would be able to mail one to me in New York. They told me that the shirts would be available soon and if I reached back out in a month, I could order one. I thanked them and told them about my visit earlier in the winter and much to my surprise they replied to let me know they remembered me and would let me know when they were ready for shipping. I sent them my name and address and when the shirts were ready, I got a package in the mail. As if that wasn’t enough, the package not only had the shirt, but more stickers, and a hand-held fan with their custom artwork.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot from Jason on how to deliver world class customer support, but a lot of it comes down to his motto of “service wins.” A brand can totally capture and retain loyal customers through effective service with human touches. The odds of me being back in Seoul to visit Old Ferry Donuts any time soon are rather low, but I check their social media frequently and only have the best memories and feelings towards their staff and their business. I’ll be a fan of theirs for life and do my best to replicate this moment and quality interaction in my job for years to come.