Battle of the doughnuts
One of my favorite ways to eat is to exercise before I eat. I won’t bore you with the whole calories in versus calories out, but if you want to read more, you can. So when I read about the bike ride that planned to stop at three doughnut shops I didn't think twice. Even when I found out it would be 90 degrees out, I shrugged my shoulders and thought, No biggie, it’ll be like a Bikram yoga class.
I met the group in McCarren Park, on the border of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Of the fourteen people that had signed up, eight (including me) managed to find our way to the park at noon. My iced coffee was finished, my water bottle was full, and I was ready. On our bikes, a mix of road, single speeds and city bikes (mine was the only one with a basket), we headed west towards the bike lane that runs along the Brooklyn waterfront. Almost immediately we lost two people. I’m not sure what happened but maybe they couldn’t handle the pace (slow) or the heat (intense)?
Our first stop of the day was Dough, located in Bed-Stuy on Franklin Street. We locked up our bikes at a park across the street, and the six of us, along with the heat from the black pavement, slowly jaywalked across the street. One of the best aspects of Dough is its retail location. Small and sweet, the doughnuts are propped on two shelves behind a large plate of glass. Next to that are a few high round stools facing a window that looks into a kitchen. Hannah, our bike leader for the day, asked if anyone wanted to share. I jumped and said, “Yes.” We chose the hibiscus, which was gorgeously hued in a bright cherry pink. Dough doughnuts are big, pillowy and full of air. They’re not easy to slice into with a knife, and if you pull it apart with your fingers they will be coated in sugar, which I'm not saying is a bad thing. I also tried the dulce de leche, a caramel brown slicked doughnut sprinkled liberally with slivered almonds. It was nutty and rich. Overall these doughnuts are good and the location is great.
Next stop: Doughnut Plant, located in downtown Manhattan on Grand Street. When we arrived I was dripping in sweat. We stashed our bikes along a nearby metal railing, and snuck in right before a tour group, which is Doughnut Plants main flaw, that it’s on the tourist radar. The next ding is that the area to mill around in is a complicated sliver of space. The narrow section allotted to the line takes you past a tiny glass case with the days doughnut options. Also, when you’re in front of the case, you’re nowhere near the registers. These complaints are mainly for when the shop is busy, but still. This time we took a divide and conquer approach, ordering a selection of both cake and yeast options. We sat outside on a slim wooden bench, sliced everything up into bites, and shared the assortment. The winners of the bunch were the lime and coconut yeast style, and the carrot cake and lavender flower cake style. Hands down Doughnut Plant pushes the envelope in actual tastebud delivering flavor. When they say lavender is in the mix, it means you can see little lavender buds immersed in a sugar glaze on the top and, when you bite in, you can taste it, even if you have a cold.
For our final stop we rode back over the Williamsburg Bridge and made our way to Peter Pan Donut & Pastry Shop on Metropolitan Boulevard. Located on a busy strip in Greenpoint that was once mostly Polish, the location still feels like you’ve stepped back in time with mint green stools, a laminate curving conter, and women in uniforms. The cost of the donut, a mere dollar, adds to the retro feel. With just three donuts we made our way back to McCarren Park, and hung out on the lawn. It was our first real break of the day. The donuts: whole wheat, chocolate and toasted coconut were all good, in the way that almost no doughnuts can be bad. However, the cake donuts, while they had an excellent taste, they fell apart and were a bit too crumbly. I shouldn't have to hold one hand under the other when I eat to catch the bits. The coconut, the sole yeast style while excellent, dense with a toffee brown coconut topping, sweet and savory at the same time, had a burnt taste, perhaps like it had been fried in oil that had been used one too many days in a row.
I'm sure there are more doughnuts to be had and more miles to ride. Next up? Cronuts.
Special thanks to Hannah, our fearless doughnut leader on our sweltering hot July day.