Doughnut Plant

I grew up in a small town in California where teenagers had nothing to do at night.  I wasn’t a hoodlum by any stretch of the imagination and so, my friends and I would, quite often, stay up until ungodly hours of the morning in order to go to the local doughnut shop and get those glorious rounds of fried dough while they were still hot.  This meant going “downtown” at 3 am and sitting at the bolted-to-the floor table waiting for the single dooughnut shop employee to finish the frying.  She got to know us quite well.  Not surprisingly, she was a large woman with a personality to match and, as the bells attached to the door would give their late-night ring, she would come knowingly out from the back with a grin on her face and welcoming words coming from her mouth.  She would make the raised crumb doughnuts first for the occasion when we would come in (we’d often buy a dozen between the three or four of us and take them home with a half gallon of milk).  I can remember the smell of those calorie bombs. I can remember how the glaze, just barely set, would crack when I bit into it.  I can remember how the crumb exterior would stick to my lips as I excitedly bit into the warm dough with my eyes closed.
I have rather fond memories of doughnuts….
I heard about The Doughnut Plant a while ago but only recently was able to try it for myself. Getting rave reviews from the likes of the NY Times and most recently The Boston Globe (June 18, 2008), the local bakery has a cult following and for all the right reasons.  In preparing myself for a flavor explosion, I fasted for the morning before heading over to the far east location through Chinatown on Grand.  I had read about the doughnuts baked on the store’s premises each morning, about the fruit and cream fillings made from local ingredients and from scratch each day, about the luscious combinations of flavors such as their “Blackout” doughnut (a cake doughnut filled with a chocolate pudding, layered with chocolate icing and dipped in brownie pieces), about the churros and cinnamon buns and muffins…I was thoroughly excited.
I took a walk to the location from Broadway and took in the morning grocery scene of Chinatown (a favorite of mine).  The fresh fish markets, the exotic produce, the street corners that could be New York, Beijing or Bangkok if one didn’t know; I can get acupuncture and fresh eel in the same building…I love it.  But the eels must wait, I’m on my way to doughnuts.  
The Doughnut Plant has a small entrance and a corner register from which any of the doughnuts may be purchased.  On the day I came the specials included a lavender yeast doughnut and a blueberry cake doughnut.  I decided upon a sampling of their “classic” doughnuts and, along with the excellent palate of my fiancee, finished off three of them and a cinnamon bun.  We tried the Valrhona chocolate, the coconut creme, the blackout and the cinnamon bun.  
Unfortunately, The Doughnut Plant is short on comfortable seating so we took ours to go and eventually found a decent place to sit down and indulge our tastebuds.  Maybe it was the high expectations or the build-up from the rave reviews, but overall, I was not impressed.  The doughnuts were quite good, don’t get me wrong, but I would prefer a good old-fashioned raised crumb from my local shop growing up to the greasy, coconut-milk-filled square yeast donut I ate from The Doughnut Plant.  Even the cinnamon bun, a weakness of mine and a pastry of which I’m not difficult to please, was sub par by my normal standards.  The valrhona chocolate was tasty, but not a substantial improvement over traditional chocolate glazes.  One caveat I must include is the blackout cake doughnut.  If you are a chocolate lover and have a gallon of milk by your side, you should try this doughnut.  It is by far the most decadent, indulgent and rich doughnut I have ever consumed (in a good way…I think).  
Doughnuts are a food that strike an evolutionary nerve with people: our bodies are adaptively designed to crave fats and sugars (foods that are difficult to attain in a natural setting) and since we can get these crucial ingredients whenever we we want these days, it seems inevitable that the doughnut be created to meet every possible culinary weakness we have.  I am definitely included in that group…but next time, I’ll just go to the doughnut shop down the street.
The Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St.
Far to the east and several blocks north of E. Broadway

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August 2008


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