A Tale of Two Doughnuts

For most people cold, rainy mornings evoke fantasies of luxurious hours spent in bed sipping a hot beverage of choice, however on damp New York days, I find there’s nothing more comforting than dancing to show tunes with a brunch of men in tights.

I know this sounds like a horrible cliché, but it’s true. When our instructor said we’d be doing a scene from “West Side Story” the look of sheer joy on their faces was contagious.

The main reason I come to New York is to dance, to follow my childhood dream (to the best of my ability at 45) of becoming a Broadway dancer, if only for a month. Please, don’t misunderstand me, I’m not starring in any theater productions, I’m just a student practicing her (much declined) skills in a room of people waiting for their next audition. They still have a shot at Broadway; I do not.

It’s a hard realization to know it will never happen, but I focus on the positive. When the other students break for a meager lunch of salad or an apple, I get to follow my other dream…discovering the best food the world has to offer. I don’t need to worry about fitting into skimpy costumes anymore, so the restrictions are lifted–I can, and will, indulge in cake, pie, cookies and doughnuts with a talent respected by many.

Assorted Voodoo Doughnuts

I just returned from a culinary conference in Portland where I enthusiastically took part in a five-day food extravaganza. Even though I ate with top chefs and sampled their exquisite creations, my favorite experience was a doughnut orgy at the city’s famous Voodoo Doughnuts. This wasn’t a planned event, but one I arranged with a few fellow participants. The best part about the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) is that the members all think alike when it comes to food. I’ve never been part of the “Oh, I think I’ll just have a salad” crowd. And neither have they.

Maple Bacon Bar

To further our culinary education we selected a wide assortment of the best Voodoo Doughnuts had to offer. We stuck to the tried and true, the flavors recommended by Food & Wine, the New York Times and National Geographic. I was hesitant to try the maple bacon bar. The double strip of crispy bacon stuck on top of the maple-frosted rectangular yeast doughnut put me off, but after one bite I realized the creators were absolutely brilliant—think pancakes with maple syrup and bacon. The apple fritter was the best of my life, with ample chucks of fruit and dough fried to golden brown perfection. The voodoo doughnut, shaped like a voodoo doll, was light and fluffy with not-too-sweet, dense chocolate frosting. Unfortunately, the Nyquil-glazed and Pepto-Bismol variations we had read about had been taken off the shelf, thanks to the FDA. They heard about the bizarre combinations and reminded the owners that medicine cannot be used in food.


Creme Brulee Doughnut

Returning to New York, after experiencing doughnut heaven, I decided to visit the city’s equally famous Doughnut Plant on the Lower East Side. Their claim to creative fame is the crème brulee doughnut, as well as the peanut butter with homemade blackberry jelly. Both were quite tasty, light and airy. I haven’t eaten a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in over 30 years, and this doughnut was a bite of my childhood. The tres leches creation was incredible, not like most cake doughnuts, which are always too dry, but identical to a moist slice of the famed Latin American dessert.

Tres Leches Doughnuts

While sampling my large selection of goodies with a friend, a man came over and we started talking. I told him about Voodoo and my taste-testing project. He seemed very interested in my conclusions. I truthfully said, “the cake doughnuts are the best I’d ever eaten, but I prefer Voodoo’s yeast version.” He hounded me for a better, more detailed explanation. When the man stepped away to answer his phone I looked up and saw a picture of him on a magazine cover plastered to the wall. It was Mark Israel, the owner…and I had just offended his doughnut making ability. I quickly backtracked with stories of flavor being subjective and focusing instead of the superior cake doughnut, but he wanted to talk yeast, and only yeast.


Mark Israel (on right) w/ his loyal counter man

The culinary world is treacherous, especially when one, such as myself, has a propensity for putting her foot in her mouth. Luckily tomorrow I’ll be back with the boys gliding across the floor to music from “Hair” and “Gypsy”. They will be one step closer to Broadway. I will be one pound heavier, but with no regrets.

Homemade Glazed Doughnuts

My doughnut making days are over, so I have no recipe to share with you, but try this one from the pioneer woman blog:


<a href=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/3/26357/restaurant/Lower-East-Side/Doughnut-Plant-New-York”><img alt=”Doughnut Plant on Urbanspoon” src=”http://www.urbanspoon.com/b/logo/26357/minilogo.gif” style=”border:none;width:104px;height:15px” /></a>

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