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Birthday Treat at the Doughnut Plant

26 Jun

The Doughnut Plant is no ordinary bakery. For starters, their hours are “6:30 AM-UNTIL DOUGHNUTS RUN OUT.” Famous for making doughnuts “the new cupcake” in New York, the Doughnut Plant has revitalized the art of homemade doughnuts with their creative, gourmet, and seasonal flavors. Case in point: the Crème Brûlée doughnut, one of the signature delicacies that put DP on the map.  The doughnut is hand-piped full of rich, vanilla cream, then topped with shiny, crackling, sugar that’s toasted with a chef’s blowtorched, just like an individual serving of the doughnut’s namesake dessert.

The famous chalkboard that's chalk full of DP's seasonal offerings.

Besides drawing attention for their immaginative flavors, Doughnut Plant has also earned accolades for their innovative preparation. Specifically, DP makes heavenly, trans-fat free doughnuts, going against the doughnut dogma that hydrogenated oils are absolutely essential to producing a light and airy doughnut.

The Doughnut Tray (all caps required) at the Doughnut Plant's tiny counter.

For my Trusty Sidekick’s birthday, we  ventured down to the Doughnut Plant (located at 379 Grand Street (Essex Street) on the Lower East Side) with a few friends to check out these claims for ourselves. And at $2.75/doughnut, we were able to try lots of flavors for not a lot of dough!

Trusty insisted on ordering the classic glazed doughnut (in order to establish a “baseline”). We also had to try one of DP’s signature square-shaped raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts. A Valrhona Chocolate doughnut and a Blueberry doughnut, two of DP’s current seasonal offerings, rounded out our order.

Blueberry and Glazed

The light, soft texture of each doughnut completely blew me away. It was as though cotton candy and a doughnut got together and had a baby doughnut–each bite literally melted in my mouth. And the taste of the dough itself is perfect–subtly sweet, but not overdone.

The sign of a well made doughnut: a soft and pillowy center.

The jelly-filled doughnut had a generous serving of home-made raspberry jelly, and the filling itself was packed with the sweet, slightly tart flavor of raspberries. The jelly was so intense and dark that Trusty and I wondered if maybe it was a mixture of both red and black raspberries?

The Blueberry was a big hit–the glaze was full of fresh, sweet blueberries that gave the doughnut great flavor.

Valrhona chocolate doughnut

The other doughnut that came out on top was the Valrhona Chocolate. I’ve never tried Valrhona chocolate truffles, but this doughnut made me want to! The flavor of the thick chocolate glaze was rich and intense–this was not your ordinary chocolate-glazed doughnut.

Can’t wait to go back and try more flavors SOON!

A Bold Claim: The Best Chocolate Cake in the World

6 Dec

Being a chocolate connoisseur is a serious calling. Like a sommelier, I’ve been studying and educating myself for just over 25 years. And I made a promise long ago that I’d always use my powers for good.

So, when I read about a bakery in Nolita boldly named The Best Chocolate Cake in the World, I knew what I had to do. I simply had to take a break from writing my final papers for the semester and try this cake. After all, it was my duty.

Outside The Best Chocolate Cake in the World store, at 55A Spring Street

I headed down to Nolita with my Trusty Sidekick in tow. I really liked the interior of the cafe–it’s warm and cozy with soft, low lighting, plush sofas, and lots of mirrors–but because of homework waiting back home, we took our slice to go.


The interior of TBCCITW


Our first disappointment was the price. The Best Chocolate Cake in the World doesn’t come cheap–it’s $6 per sliver of a slice (?!)–so we only tried the milk chocolate (for dark chocolate fans, they also offer a 70% dark chocolate slice).

Just from looking at the slice, you can see the cake has lots of layers of cake and mousse, all topped by a rich, shiny ganache. But, take your first bite and you know right away that the word “cake” just isn’t right for this dessert. It gives you the expectation of a moist, devil’s food cake when the slice really has layers of flourless, crumbly, crunchy chocolate meringue.  With the mousse and ganache, the taste is rich and chocolately, and it has a nice texture–but, well, it’s the texture of meringue–not cake!

So, chocoholates everywhere, be forewarned: this cake is a fake. It’s a delicious chocolate experience, but because it’s really not cake, it just couldn’t be the best chocolate cake in the world.

And so, the search continues…

p.s. Have you had the Best Chocolate Cake in the World? Tell us where to find it!

A Piece of Mississippi Mud Pie at Petsi Makes Term Papers a Piece of Cake

4 Oct

It’s term paper season here in Boston, where I’m a grad student. So, this week I have plans to spend some major one-on-one time with my laptop, in the library, crafting two A+ papers. What can sustain brain function best through these long, solitary hours? A piece of Mississippi Mud Bourbon Chocolate Pecan pie from Petsi Pies.  Luckily there’s a location in Cambridge that’s 5 minutes from my new home away from home.

Location: 31 Putnam Ave., Cambridge, MA

In one word: PIE

Food: While Petsi offers lots of delicious kinds of pie, I always go for the Mississippi Mud Pie, hands down, no contest. I’m only half-joking that it’s brain food…part of me truly believes that the creamy, rich (and antioxidant filled!) chocolate pie and the crunchy, nutty (protein filled!) pecan topping is the best nutrition when it comes to paper writing.

Take your pie to-go, if you like. One piece feeds 1-2 people, or 1 hungry, sleep-deprived person trying to survive mid-terms.

As if the chocolate filling isn’t intense enough, thick chocolatey goodness is drizzled all across the pecan topping.

Check out the texture of this pie. So moist and decadent.

I can’t taste the bourbon in here, so they must cook it off somehow. Does anyone know if the bourbon has a baking/chemistry purpose? Or is it just tradition to include it in the recipe?

Drink: I got a small steamed soy milk with honey to-go (for the cold walk home). Then, at home, paired my pie with a cold glass of…more milk!

Service: The staff is great–very friendly and efficient.

The pie counter at Petsi's.

Scene: You’ll find lots of students at Petsi’s grabbing lunch, a snack, or a coffee while they study. I like going after 2 pm when the lunch crowd has cleared out. The background music is on the quieter, low-key side, and the place is bright and cheerful. All in all, it’s a great place to study, with only one drawback: you have to pay for wi-fi.

Dress: Casual. Very casual. Whatever you’d wear to the library, feel free to wear here.  I find that stretchy pants are often the best option, in order to accommodate multiple servings of soft, beautiful scones (they’re as good as the pie).

The front of Petsi's Pies in Cambridge.

Delivery: Delivery is available throughout Metro-Boston. Advance notice is required and fee is dependent upon distance and time of delivery.

Cost: My small steamed soy milk and large piece of pie only set me back $5.78 with tax. If you ask me, that’s student loan money well spent.

If you like, try: Royal Pastry Shop in Cambridge (Boston), Appleton Bakery in the South End (Boston).

Cupcake Mania at Cocoa and Fig Bakery in Minneapolis

30 Jul

I can’t think of anything that combines my love of food and fashion better than cupcakes. (Maybe aprons, I suppose. But aprons are not little edible presents–cupcakes are.)

Cupcakes are a true “food fashion” trend. Dressed up, dressed down, they are one of the most versatile desserts. Perfect for a mid-morning coffee break or afternoon tea, now they are beginning to replace the traditional three-tier cake at wedding receptions. All across the country, specialty cupcake bakeries are popping up everywhere. What’s behind the spread of cupcake mania? My guess is that it’s because cupcakes are fun. You can indulge, satisfy your sweet tooth, and not feel guilty. When it comes to ingredients, cupcakes are a great way to experiment with gourmet flavor combinations. And decoration-wise they can go fancy, casual, or whimsical.  Really, the creative possibilities are endless, making cupcakes suitable for so many occasions.

Let’s be honest though, no occasion was necessary this afternoon to try Cocoa and Fig, the new cupcake-dedicated bakery in downtown Minneapolis.

In one word: Indulgent

Location: 651 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (Gaviidae Common, Skyway Level–Saks Wing)

Food: Cocoa and Fig has lots of delicious cupcake varieties, plus other fun confection offerings like tartlets, French macarons, sugar cookies, and my favorite–cake lollipops–an adorable, teeny-meeny cupcake on a stick.

Cocoa and Fig's dessert case

Like most cupcake bakeries, Cocoa and Fig has many unusual, mouth-watering flavors. Some offerings the day I visited included Irish Car Bomb, Black Velvet (with black sprinkles), Banana with Cream Cheese frosting, Carrot Cake, Pumpkin spice cupcake with cinnamon frosting, Salted Caramel and more.

I tried a Peanut Butter Parfait cupcake–a chocolate cake with a big dollop of peanut butter frosting underneath a shell of hardened chocolate syrup and salted peanuts. (I’m such a sucker for salty/sweet combinations).

The effect of the frosting underneath the chocolate shell was like eating a chocolate dipped cone at Dairy Queen with peanuts sprinkled on top. The frosting is truly heavenly–silky and creamy, light as whipped butter. According to an interview with City Pages, Cocoa and Fig’s frosting is top-notch because they use an Italian meringue buttercream, rather than the American-style buttercream that most cupcakes are frosted with, meaning that in Cocoa and Fig’s kitchen the sugar for the cupcake frosting is cooked so it fully dissolves and then is added to whipped egg whites and butter. I think I prefer this method. The frosting is absolutely mouth-watering, with a lovely whipped feeling on your tongue. And speaking of which, because the sugar is dissolved you don’t get that gritty, sugary feeling on your tongue and teeth.

Cocoa and Fig's cupcakes are magic. In fact they perform a great disappearing trick. (so cheesy, but I just couldn't resist)

Underneath the frosting is an extremely moist chocolate cake with an oozy, gooey injection of peanut butter at its center. Yes please. It’s a bit on the small side for gourmet cupcakes (I’d say maybe half the size of Magnolia’s, if you’re familiar)–but the upside is that you actually have a chance to fit a bite of frosting and cake in your mouth at once–if you really open up your jaw.

Some may feel that $2.75 for a cupcake is a little steep, but I’d argue that if you’re looking for an indulgent treat, it’s hard to match this kind of taste for your buck.

Check out this funky rock candy wedding cake. And if you look to the left, you can see what the cake lollipops look like.

Drink: Cocoa and Fig offers plain black coffee and various bottled drinks, including a fridge full of Naked Juice. If you’re looking for something else (latte, teas, etc.) there’s a Caribou Coffee conveniently located kitty-corner in the Gaviidae mall.

Service: The counter staff is very friendly and answered all my questions. Not much else to report.

Scene: For a new retail space, the Cocoa and Fig location is well branded and very cute–there are Cocoa and Fig products lined up on shelves against the wall, and the counter space feels vaguely Martha Stewart-y and is clean and bright. There’s no where to sit, which is unfortunate. You have to shove your cupcake in your mouth, or plan to take it to go. If you decide to do the latter, it might be a good excuse to take home multiple cupcakes. If you decide to do the former, I will definitely not judge.

Dress: No dress code really to speak of–the store is more or less a to-go counter, so there’s not really a crowd to impress. I mostly saw business casual or business professional dressed folks coming from and going to work.

Cost: $2.75/cupcake is pretty good in my book. But I tend to look at the glass as half full, especially when I have a scrumptious cupcake in my stomach, half eaten.

If you like, try: Magnolia in NYC, Sugar Bliss in Chicago, Crumbs (across the country), Sweets Bakeshop in St. Paul, MN