Hey there, sweet stuff

Say what you will about Valentine’s Day, but I for one, am a fan. I mean, how could I not be when there are so many sweet things to be had? Yes, kisses, cuddles and hanky panky are fun but I’m talking the real sweet stuff: SUGAR.

Valentine's Day can't be anything BUT happy when it involves this.

Last year, my darling boyfriend got me doughnuts (from my favorite place to get them in the whole wide universe, Doughnut Plant) so this year I decided to take his idea and put an Italian spin on it. I schlepped it uptown to Bomboloni, an Upper West Side bakery specializing in— you guessed it— bomboloni, which for those of you who might not know, are the Italian cousin of the traditional filled doughnut, and came home with a box of six. Bomboloni are more round than American doughnuts, almost perfectly spherical, and back on the Boot, they’re covered in a sparkly dusting of sugar, with usually either cream or chocolate filling.

At Bombolini in the UWS (there’s also one in Rome), the bombolini come in a whole assortment of flavors and only one, which was actually called a bomba and was much bigger than the rest, had the traditional sugar coating. The others varied between caramelized sugar, chocolate glaze, confectioners sugar, crushed nuts and other toppings. In the picture above, the middle one is crème brulee, then starting with the red one and going clockwise: raspberry, banana, chocolate cherry, vanilla cream, and toasted marshmallow cream. We both agreed that our favorite bombolone, with its  bright, thick jammy filling, was the raspberry (even though in Italy I’m a cream girl through and through).

My Italian beau likes to complain that while he can get almost any food in the world here in New York, the Italian pastries, like bomboloni, are not as easy to come by. My box from Bomboloni was a nice way to prove him wrong and get a sugary treat all in one present. Made Valentine’s Day all the sweeter.

Happy human birthday!

Birthdays always call for cakes!

Even though I’m neither Chinese nor due for a birthday for another seven or so months, I celebrated both the Chinese New Year and my birthday yesterday. Well, not technically just my birthday. I celebrated your birthday too. Mine and yours and the rest of humanity’s because yesterday was the Human Birthday, or the seventh day of the first month of the Chinese calendar (Chinese New Year having been last week), when according to Chinese customs, it’s everyone’s birthday!

In case you’re wondering how or why I know all of this, it’s because one of my coworkers is Chinese. When on the Chinese New Year he told us about our upcoming collective birthday, we decided  the only logical thing to do was have an office birthday party, complete with a birthday cake, which one of our other coworkers was so awesome as to get from Momofuku Milk Bar. (My company takes birthdays pretty seriously, but birthday cakes even more so.) Continue reading

“Mmmm doughnuts…”

The other day, while randomly thinking about food (which happens with the same frequency as teenage boys thinking about sex), I was struck by a thought.

I could really go for a doughnut right now. Hey wait a minute! When was the last time I even had a doughnut? I don’t think I’ve had one in months! How did I let this happen?

The simple and classic vanilla glazed doughnut

After a thorough Google search, several dozen online reviews and many happy customer comments, I decided on the place to satisfy my doughnut yearning: the Lower East Side’s Doughnut Plant.

Flaneur and I headed out early Friday night, braving the blustery streets and taking two different subways to get our (my) doughnut fix. With my hands burrowed as deep as they would go into my coat pockets and hair whipping around my face, I was ecstatic when having resurfaced in the LES, I looked across the otherwise dark, somewhat uninviting Grand Street and saw the lit windows of Doughnut Plant.

We pulled the door open and stepped into the warm, humid shop as the sugary smell of glaze and cake circled around us.

“Sorry guys,” said the guy mopping the floor as we walked in. “We’re closed.”

“Whaaaat?!” I blurted it out in terror. “But… but no… I mean, what time is it?”

I yanked my coat sleeve up and twisted my watch around so I could see the face. 7:30

“Sorry, we close at 7,” said the guy, mop still in hand.

Expletives roared in my head as my heart sank and I looked up at Flaneur with the defeated look of “well, shit, now what?”

Carrot cake alla doughnut style

Either the despair in my face was obvious (which I’m sure it was, because it was genuine) or the guy with the mop read my mind (in which case he must think I curse like a sailor) because as we turning to go, ready to venture back into the cold, windy night with no warm, sweet doughnuts in our bellies, he started to say something.

“I’ll tell you what,” he said as I snapped back to attention, “I’ll sell you what I have. I got sunflower, chocolate, carrot cake, vanilla or orange.”

Feeling like a death row inmate given a second shot at life, I spun back around to Flaneur for a speedy powwow on what we should get. I felt the need to move fast before this guy changed his mind or shooed us out so he could keep cleaning.

“We’ll take a carrot cake doughnut and a sunflower!” I squeaked as the guy nodded and slipped back into the kitchen to collect our doughnuts. A few seconds later he was out with a large white paper bag.

“Here you go,” he said. “The vanilla one’s on the house.”

Awesome! The only thing better than doughnuts when you think you’ve missed them is free doughnuts when you think you’ve missed them!

Not wanting to further inconvenience this kind and generous soul, we stepped out of his way and out of the warm shop to enjoy our treats on the small wooden bench outside.

The quirky yet tasty sunflower seed doughnut

The first one to get pulled out was the large vanilla glazed doughnut. One huge bite into it and I was no longer fazed by the chilly gusts of wind hitting my face. This thing was good, soooo good. It was warm and chewy with just enough glaze that it was deliciously sweet but not so much that it had that white sheen of dried glue. The only thing that could have made this particular doughnut any better would’ve been a piping hot cup of joe to dunk it in.

Between the two of us, that doughnut didn’t stand a chance. It was gone in under a minute and I was already digging through the paper bag for the one I had picked out, the carrot cake doughnut.  Unlike the vanilla glazed, this carrot cake version was rounder, like an inner tube blown up to the point its about to burst. The first bite revealed a moist, cakey cinnamon brown inside, with a streak of creamy white frosting running through the middle. The outside was glazed with a generous coating of crushed nuts and carrot bits. Also gone in a just a few exaggerated mouthfuls.

As I polished off that one, Flaneur was getting to work on his sunflower seed selection. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I was a little disappointed when he went for the oddball sunflower choice over the traditional, hard-to-go-wrong-with chocolate, but when we swapped doughnuts to get a taste of each other’s picks, I knew he’d made the right choice. With less of the plump roundness of the carrot cake and more of the flattened out, circular thickness of the vanilla glazed, this doughnut was just as scrumptious as the other two. The inside was warm and soft and the outside had a thick gooey sweet glaze sprinkled with slightly salty, fat, shelled sunflower seeds. Flaneur, who eats more sunflower seeds than a caged parakeet, chomped his way through it happily.

As I licked the last sticky remnants of glaze from my fingers I thought about running back inside and hugging that nice man who gave us a second chance at these delicious treats. “Thank you,” I would have said while squeezing, “thank you for saving my weekend from being off to a doughnut-less bad start. Because of you and the ridiculously good doughnuts you sold (and gave) us I can go back out into the cold night and go merrily on with my weekend.”