Monday, June 23, 2008

Eating around NY, part 1

I flew into JFK late Saturday afternoon, met my Dad who was picking me up at the airport, and we drove into Manhattan where he works & lives. Since 1994, he's been the building manager of an upper-east side 5th avenue apartment building that overlooks Central Park. A huge perk -- and, at the same time, problem -- of the job is that he and my mom live in the building; so while they live rent free in one of the nicest building in NY, my dad is always on call for any big (or ridiculously small) problem.

There are stories. Many, many stories -- which I will not divulge here.

In any event, we had pizza from Little Vincent's on Saturday night. Little Vincent's will never be a pizza mecca but LV's is the type of pizza I ate growing up on Long Island, and it's still pretty good. We ordered half-regular, half-meatball and the meatball was just as I like it: round, thin slices about 2-inches in diameter polka-dotting the surface of the pie.

On Sunday, I headed to Brooklyn to visit my cousin Matt, his wife Catherine, and their 18 month old daughter, Fiona, who were such gracious hosts and completely indulged my foodie wants! We hung out at their apartment a bit, sipping bloody marys and noshing on prosciutto, figs, and local strawberries (tough life, huh?) before venturing out into the Smith Street Fest.



It was pleasantly crowded, with lots of local eateries setting up shop on the street and selling their wares.


This meringue was too pretty not to buy, but I can’t say they packed with flavor.


Matt was much smarter and bought grilled lamb sausage with a thin smear of mustard, all on a good hunk of baguette. It was fabulous: the lamb’s flavor shone through, enhanced by char from the grill. It was a bit oily --but in a good way -- and the juices trickled into the bread.

We wandered past the fair and around the corner to check out several other places. The first stop was F. Monteleone & Cammareri Bros. bakery. The shop was packed with Italian pastries (and smelled like the Italian (-American) bakery by which I judge all others, La Guli) but Matt recommended the chocolate chip. I can see the appeal, but their not my favorite. They’re dry and sandy (made with shortening? And definitely only white sugar) but are studded with discs of dark chocolate.

We also stopped in next door at D’amico Coffee Roasters , rated the number one coffee roasters in NY by the Zagat Survey (watch WNBC story here ). Not surprisingly, D’amico smells divine. Matt bought me a pound of the Jamaican Blue Mountain and I’m looking forward to trying it when I get back home.


Next stop was Sweet Melissa’s Patisserie . My goal was to get their butterscotch pudding, of which Ed Levine says is “the best butterscotch pudding [he's] ever had in New York City."

Butterscotch pudding always strikes me as sickly sweet, but if Levine was raving about it, it had to be good.


The verdict: it tastes nothing like butterscotch but like caramel, one with burnt sugar notes. And it’s creamier yet firmer than a pudding. I’m not saying it’s bad – I had no trouble polishing it off – but I don’t think it’s a must taste.

Our final stop was One Girl Cookies . It’s a very pretty space, and the cookies are daintily displayed behind a glass case in a fashion similar to the way fine chocolates might be shown off. By this point, however, I was too full for cookies.



I did have a few spoonfuls of the gelato Matt purchased there: a scoop of chocolate and a scoop of banana which I think came Il Laboratorio de Gelato. If so, the every good thing said about Il Laboratorio de Gelato is completely justified. The chocolate gelato tasted like a rich, decadent chocolate truffle and the banana (a greatly underused flavor in ice creams and gelatos, if you ask me!) was fresh yet lush.


Catherine, Matt, Fiona and I strolled back towards the street festival, and ambled through a little bit, stopping to look at a confectionery oddity Catherine spotted: gummy bacon. I should have checked to see if it tasted like bacon, or was just shaped like it.


I headed back into the city around 3:30pm (Matt and Catherine decided to take Fiona to the park and, maybe the heat – or the vodka-spiked bloody mary I’d drank earlier on an empty stomach, the one which I’d suggested needed *more* vodka -- was getting to me, but I wasn’t feeling so hot). I hopped on the F train and enjoyed the coolness of the air condition. A few stops later, I was at the Delancey St. station and, though I was still feeling kind of ill, the insistent foodie in me made me get up off the train and walk a couple of blocks to (wait for it) the Doughnut Plant.
A low slung building with a small public space on Grand St., the Doughnut Plant was bustling with customers. Still, I only had a short wait to place my order, and I took home a sampling of what was in stock. At Matt’s earlier recommendation (“get whatever they’re brewing in the jug”), I also grabbed a strawberry lemonade, handed over $22 (it’s $1.75 to $2.00 per donut; the guys next to me bought three boxes, and paid the cashier a crisp $100 bill but, yes, they got change back) and made my way back to the subway station.

At this point, I was pretty hot, tired and sore (why I thought wearing cork wedge sandals around town would be a good idea is beyond me, though, they’re the only shoes I brought that matched my dress).
I'm pretty cranky at this point. But the strawberry lemonade – oh, delicious strawberry lemonade – was the perfect refresher.

It took me a while to get back to the apartment and I crashed for a long while before even thinking about the doughnuts. And then I descended upon them.

Unfortunately, these were not the doughnut nirvana I was hoping they’d be. The flavors -- tres leches (cake), blackout (cake), raspberry glazed (cake), key lime glazed (cake), coconut glazed, coconut cream (yeast), peanut butter glazed, strawberry jelly (yeast), vanilla bean glazed, strawberry jelly, and Valhrona chocolate – are by all means inventive, use quality ingredients, and taste really great.

But the doughnuts themselves – the cake and yeast doughnut bases – are meh. With the exception of the blackout doughnut (definitely the best cake doughnut) each basic doughnut appears repurposed for different flavors; i.e., the difference between a raspberry and key lime doughnut is only the glaze you top it with. These could have been *so much better* if the fruit flavors were incorporated into the batter.

As for the yeast doughnuts, they’re chewier and more hearty than a traditional version. Are they made with whole wheat flour? It doesn’t work for me as a dessert (though it was kind of effective in the peanut butter and jelly version as the doughnut recalls bread).

I do really like the coconut doughnut’s glaze, but thought the coconut cream filling could have been, well, more coconutty – and then there’s that issue again with the texture.



My mom basically thought they were evil (“I hope you debunk the myth on these”) but my dad was quietly kinder: a few doughnuts that were in the box last night had disappeared by this morning.

Verdict on the Doughnut Plant: like Matt said, grab a glass of whatever they’re brewing in the glass jug, pick up a doughnut if you must, but don’t blow any significant cash on their stuff.

Next up: Pinkberry vs. Red Mango.

2 comments:

breadchick said...

Well shoot! Now I have to strike Doughnut Plant off my list...

Hopefully we can do better than that on Friday night!

Glad you made it to NYC safe and sound.

Laura Rebecca said...

Given your progressive dinner plan, I can't see how we can go wrong! (Knock on wood...)