06 January 2009
Plant One on Me
I have to take back everything I've ranted about, at least in terms of takeout chai tea. (Everything else is still fair game.)
I've finally found a chai ($2.25) that is creamy, spicy and sweet- and made with decent loose-leaf tea- at the Lower East Side's Doughnut Plant (379 Grand St.).
Make no mistake, this chai is served up sweet. But after that initial insulin-spiking bite of doughnut, it won't seem so at all, and a faint peppery and citrus-rind afterbite offers further balance in the cup.
The tea was even more remarkable to me because I was all ready to finally write the Doughnut Plant off. It just has such a "my doughnuts are more artisinal than yours" New-Yorky vibe, and that's annoying. And at around $2.50 apiece, they're no bargain.
But the eggless, yeasted, secret-family-recipe batter does yield some outstanding doughtnuts. I didn't want to like them, but I just couldn't help it. And I had to get something to go with my tea. The fresh orange had that sunshiny burst, so welcome in winter, of citrus at its peak; the pistachio was studded with crunchy, plump nuts.
But it was the creme brulee doughnut ($2.75) that stole my heart.
You could actually see a worker in the back torching the tops of rows and rows of them, which were bravely weathering it, like troops of an elysian army, for their big chance out on the counter. I managed to wait until I got home to dig into mine, because I had a feeling about this one.
Words escaped me with the first bite: I just felt the crackly, burnt-sugar top and softly yielding dough exterior give way to an unctous, vanilla-bean-flecked pastry cream filling. I couldn't describe it with anything other than a low moan.
It was gone in seconds, but not before it conjured up a treasured childhood treat that I didn't realize I'd been missing so much all these years: little sugar-glazed doughnuts- I have no memory of the name, but they came frozen in a long, flat black box- that my sister and I would inhale whenever we had a babysitter. Then I suddenly remembered the time we came up with the brilliant scheme of just turning the temperature up to 500° on the toaster oven to make them cook faster. At least we weren't as dumb as the babysitter, who opened up the oven door and tossed an entire pitcher of our waiting accompanying limeade on the flaming pastries.
Such a tragic waste.
That's all behind me, however, and now I know where to get a chai and creme brulee doughnut whenever I want to.