Many thanks to my good friend Richard who came up with quite a list of places to check out while we were visiting NYC. He is a bit a a savant in many areas, especially travel and history. Among the long list of suggestions he made for us was a place called the Donut Plant on Grand on the Lower East Side. Now based on what I told you a couple of posts ago about my typical breakfast table, it might not be a surprise to you that I don’t often indulge in doughnuts. In fact it may have been over a year since I have had even one bite of a doughnut. When people bring a box of doughnuts to work I will indulge myself by sniffing the doughnuts, but I won’t actually take a bite of one. Strange but true I admit. Nonetheless we were “strongly urged” to make and exception and head over to this place that has in some cases been credited for starting the gourmet doughnut craze that has ensued over the last few years. Our trip was well worth the walk from Katz’s Deli to the “plant”. We made the fortunate choice to stroll south down Orchard Street from Houston and along the way passed a super fun art gallery (which I shall write more about in a future post) as well as the Tenement Museum which is a walking tour of the ethnic history of the Lower East Side. We did not plan the museum in advance but will definitely do so on a future visit. The photographs in the museum shop alone are worth the visit, but alas I am wandering from the main topic which is of course fried dough.
The Donut Plant sits on a street next to three other most non-distinct stores: a flower shop, a kosher bakery and someplace called Pizza*Falafel*Ice Cream. Awesome! It is seems to be stuck in a morass between Little Italy and Chinatown. There is only enough room for about 15 people to be inside the lobby at any one time. It’s magical!
This remarkable place is the brainchild of a guy named Mark Israel who took recipes from his grandfather Herman (who started baking in 1913 at age 16) and started making specialty doughnuts in 1994. Over the years he has been credited with a number of doughnut innovations such as using fruits and nuts in glazes and the ingenious jelly filled square doughnut. My favorite of his ideas was the ridiculous Valhrona chocolate glazed doughnut that was the sticky mess that I had hoped it would be. If you have to eat something that you probably shouldn’t, it might as well be this doughnut! We sat in the front window sill on a slab of colored ceramic circles grouted together and savored every last bite of our treats while watching the line ebb and flow.
Oh and while you’re at it why not have a homemade chai that actually needs to be poured through a strainer to pull out the spices and the peppercorns. Christiana opted for the classic glazed yeast doughnut which proved to be a masterpiece in simplicity and deliciousness. The options are diverse and from what I hear, each one of them transcends any imitator or even the eaters expectation. Meyer Lemon, Peanut Butter, Coconut Creme, Creme Brulee, Pistachio and Vanilla Bean Jam just to name a few ideas. My idea is to head back to NYC about every four months and catch the F train to the Lower East Side each morning. I’ll walk right past the wheat tortilla and tuna shop, skip the kosher bakery, flowers, pizza, falafel and ice cream and explore the cutting edge world of masterfully crafted doughnuts. Who ever said that fried dough and sugar isn’t worth more than a buck a pop and they are pretty much all the same hasn’t had one of these puppies. If you’re in the area I’d say stop by and take a sniff, or in this case rather a bite!