Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Friends+Doughnuts+Long Weekend=Greatness

This past weekend, the Hubband and I headed north to New York to spend the long weekend with some good friends. As a new blogger, I debated how to refer to them. Should I call them by their given names? Just use initials in respect for their privacy? I asked them, but of course we just dissolved into laughter at the thought that I could post that I 'headed north for some T. & A.' Ultimately the issue was unresolved, but I think I will call them T. & A., because it still brings a smile to my face. I have a refined and sophisticated sense of humor, as you can tell. 
On our first night there, we grabbed dinner at a busy little place called George Martin's Grillfire. It was tasty, comforting food. My burger was juicy and cooked just as I had requested, and the crispy onions topping it were just that, crispy. That sounds obvious, but a 'crispy' onion doesn't stay that way for too long, and I was quite pleased to detect not even a hint of sogginess. (I'm sure we'll delve deeper into my long-standing horror of sogginess at a later date.)
 The real standout, however, was just to the left of my burger: sweet potato fries. They were delicious, just the right thickness, sprinkled with a hint of cinnamon. Warm and fragrant, I had a hard time tearing myself away from them to try the burger. They came with an herb dipping sauce on the side, which I eyed suspiciously. After all, it's hard to improve an already-excellent sweet potato fry. This sauce, however, complemented them very well. It was pleasantly herby and creamy, but not at all overpowering. The slight tang was a great playmate for the sweet fry. 
The next day we met up with another old friend, S., on the Lower East Side. We had two objectives in mind. Objective number one had an hour and a half wait, so we put our name in and headed a few blocks down to objective number two, The Doughnut Plant. Hubband and I have seen Mark Israel, the proprietor of The Doughnut Plant, several times on television, including the much-discussed (among doughnut-loving bloggers) meltdown on Bobby Flay's Throwdown. We asked S., T., & A. if they had ever sampled his wares, and when we found out that they hadn't, we decided to make it a part of our trip. T. stayed home to try to sleep off a cold given to her by some generous elementary-schoolers, but we vowed to bring her many flavors to try. And we did. 
Arriving at The Doughnut Plant around 12:45, we found a line of doughnut devotees snaking out the door. That makes it sound much longer than it really was though, because 95% of the space is devoted to baking, and just a tiny front room deals with the cash-only sales. The line was about 9 people long when we queued up. The smell alone was divine, and perhaps intoxicating, because when we got to the counter, we just started ordering willy-nilly. Vanilla-glazed, PB&J, Sunflower Seed, Mango, Vanilla-glazed strawberry jam-filled, Valrhona, Tres Leches, Blackout, Coconut Cream, and a lone Cinnamon Roll. The line behind us began to get restive...the Plant typically sells out of doughnuts, and we were fairly late in the day. I think that they worried we were going to clean them out. Eventually we felt we had enough samples for our scientific testing, and we left. S. managed to eat his coconut cream doughnut in just 4 bites and half a block, which was both impressive and a little scary because these are very generously sized pastries. He quickly pronounced it excellent. A., Hubband and I agreed to split a Vanilla-glazed jam-filled when we dropped off the lovelies at the car; after all, we still had objective number one to go back to! We tore the doughnut into three pieces and took our first bites...into one of the best doughnuts any of us had ever tried. The dough itself was airy and light, but still had a satisfying bite to it. I dislike the lighter-than-air but still somehow greasy fare of Krispy Kreme, because I feel like their dough dissolves into nothing but sugar on my tongue. This doughnut was ever-so-slightly chewy, but not at all tough. The jam filling is made at their store, and had good strawberry flavor without being cloyingly sweet. The glaze had a lovely taste of real vanilla. We smiled, sighed, and looked longingly at the boxes as we walked away from the car, toward lunch. 
Lunch was at objective number one, the Clinton Street Baking Co. & Restaurant. This tiny place (maybe 15 tables that were mostly 2 person) was frantically busy the entire time we were there, and still had a 45 minute wait when we left after 2pm. The brunch menu was varied, with offerings ranging from a pulled pork plate to award-winning pancakes to a lobster BLT. Hubband and S. both went for the Spanish Scramble plate, consisting of a frittata of chorizo, vegetables, and cheese, hash browns, and some sourdough toast, served with homemade preserves. A. opted for the huevos rancheros, and I wavered between the lobster BLT and vanilla buttermilk waffle. Eventually I opted for the waffle, as Hubband was also interested in trying it. The waffle was delicious, light, with a crisp exterior and moist chewy interior. The vanilla flavor was prevalent and went very well with the fresh raspberries, passionfruit curd, pistachios, and mint that topped the waffle. I desperately wish I had remembered my camera as this was without doubt the prettiest waffle I have ever encountered. It was really the passionfruit curd and pistachios that had caught my attention on the menu, and they didn't disappoint. The waffle came with a little pot of very interesting syrup...Hubband is convinced it was maple syrup mixed with melted butter, and it may well have been. It was almost the color and definitely the flavor of pure maple candy, the solidified granular stuff that my sister loves. It was slightly thicker than regular maple syrup, and cloudy, not the translucent dark amber I'm used to seeing. Whatever it was, it was tasty. The unanimous decision was that this was a great place, with delicious food, and worth the wait. I was happy to have suggested a place that the New Yorkers would like to go to again in the future. (Also, if you happen to be in the Clinton St. area, check out the awesome mural featuring garden gnomes just down the street from the Baking Co. Yet another reason I wish I had remembered the camera.)
Once back at the house, I restrained myself from eating long enough to take a couple of photos. 
This is the lovely Blackout doughnut. It's a chocolate cake-style doughnut with a chocolate pudding filling, chocolate frosting, and chocolate crumbles on top. I was a little nervous about the pudding filling, but it's just enough to moisten and be noticeable, not an overwhelming amount that will sploosh out when you take a bite. This was (obviously) full of real chocolate flavor, but not overly sweet. A very good balance. 

This was actually my favorite doughnut of the bunch, the coconut cream. A light, yeasty dough with a healthy amount of delicious custard filling. The glaze has flakes of coconut added, and both the glaze and custard taste of real, fresh, coconut, not icky overly sweet candied junk. I found it to be addictive. The vanilla-glazed and jam filled was my second favorite, followed by the Blackout at third. 
More coming soon about our wonderful weekend, including easy salad recipes.

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