Favorite Dishes #55: Underwest Donuts’ Halva

Retail space is limited, and coveted, in New York these days, and some small businesses are so small that they’re opening inside of other businesses. That’s how Underwest Donuts (638 West 47th Street, 212-317-2359) wound up a stone’s throw from the Intrepid Museum, tucked inside a car wash flanking the West Side Highway.

The brainchild of fine-dining veteran Scott Levine, Underwest traffics in superlative, charmingly whimsical cake donuts — the halva variety in particular. Levine loads the batter with tahini and also uses the silky roasted sesame paste in a glaze. Crowned with shredded halva, the treat wears strands of ground sesame seed confection with enough flair for a couture runway show, melting with each bite. It’s surely the nuttiest, moistest donut in the entire city.

The Village Voice is counting down to our Best of New York City issue in October. We’re combing the city every day, one dish at a time, to guide you to the most delicious food in NYC. These are our 100 Favorite Dishes for 2015, in no particular order, save for the top 10. To read about previous dishes, browse our 100 Favorite Dishes page.

Here’s our countdown up to now:
#100: Laminated Blueberry Brioche at Dominique Ansel Kitchen
#99: Egg Shop’s Golden Bucket Fried Chicken
#98: Ramen Lab’s Torigara Shoyu
#97: Cannoli at Ferdinando’s
#96: Breakfast Sandwich at Dimes
#95: Banana Royal at Eddie’s Sweet Shop
#94: Fletcher’s Burnt Ends
#93: Almayass’s Mante
#92: Empellon Taqueria’s Fish Taco
#91: El Rey’s Sardine Tostada
#90: General Tso’s Pig’s Head at the Cannibal
#89: The Vegetarian at Meat Hook Sandwich Shop
#88: The 21 Club’s Creamy Chicken Hash
#87: Deep-Fried Olives at Via Carota
#86: Pougi at Loi Estiatorio
#85: Pearl & Ash’s Smoked Bread with Chicken Butter
#84: Gluten-Free Pizza at Rossopomodoro
#83: Perry St’s Chocolate Pudding With Candied Violets
#82: Whit’s End’s ‘Fuckin’ Bluefish Dip’
#81: Morgenstern’s Salt and Pepper Pine Nut Ice Cream
#80: Levain Bakery’s Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie
#79: Delmar Pizzeria’s Pizza
#78: Cafe Cluny’s Avocado Toast
#77: Brooklyn Star’s Cinnamon Bun
#76: Pork Belly Cotton Candy at Carnem
#75: Ippudo’s Pork Buns
#74: Mission Chinese Food’s Oil-Cured Anchovies
#73: Johnnycakes at LoLo’s Seafood Shack
#72: The Starving Artists Steak at Belle Reve
#71: The Spotted Pig’s Gnudi
#70: Xi’an Famous Foods’ Tiger Vegetable Salad
#69: Crème Brûlée Truffle at Kee’s Chocolates
#68: Pok Pok’s Muu Paa Kham Wong
#67: Cacio e Pepe at Upland
#66: Pulpo at Toro
#65: Junior’s Something Different
#64: Duck Carnitas at Cosme
#63: Banana Miso Ice Cream Sandwich at Neta
#62: Breads Bakery’s Chocolate Babka
#61: Braised Lamb Neck at the Gorbals
#60: Dough’s Passionfruit Doughnut
#59: Uncle Jesse Bao at Baohaus
#58: Patatas Bravas at El Colmado
#57: Lupulo’s Razor Clams
#56: Bar Masa’s Spicy Dancing Shrimp


This Weekend’s Six Best Food and Drink Events – 6/6/2014

Sticking around town for a few days? We’ve got just the thing to make your summer staycation the best choice you’ve made all week. Here are the six best food and drink events in NYC this weekend.

National Donut Day, Madison Square Park, Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street, Friday, 10 a.m.

If there’s a piece of Homer Simpson in you, head to Madison Square Park to celebrate National Donut Day with free coffee and donuts from Entenmann’s. The baker will reveal its new red velvet donut flavor at the event, and you can take selfies with a seven-foot-tall rendering of the sweet.

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party, Madison Square Park, Fifth Avenue at 23rd Street, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m.

Pitmasters from around the country descend on Madison Square Park this weekend to provide pulled pork and brisket to the masses. The line-up includes Daniel Delaney of Briskettown and famed barbecue maestro Ed Mitchell; live bands and cooking demonstrations are also part of the two day affair. Anyone can queue up to purchase barbecue, but you might spring for a VIP ticket package, which will help you avoid the line.

Shaken or Stirred Summer Mixology Classes, The Royalton Hotel, 44 West 44th Street, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.

These classes, which also take place on June 14 and June 21, will cover the basics of cocktailing for beginners and provide tricks of the trade to seasoned party hosts. You’ll be able to taste your handiwork and get immediate feedback on how your cocktail career is shaping up. Tickets are $75 and can be purchased through the hotel’s website.

(RED) Dish Competition, Smorgasburg, Brooklyn Bridge Park, Sunday, 1 p.m.

Smorgasburg is going (RED) all weekend in support of AIDS research, and 30 vendors will prepare a special dish from which proceeds will benefit the cause. On Sunday, those dishes will go head to head in friendly competition judged by Mario Batali and Dominique Ansel. The cook-off starts at 1 p.m.

Butcher Paper Dinner: Pies ‘N Thighs presents COLD FRIED CHICKEN!, Brooklyn Grange, 38-19 Northern Boulevard, Queens, Sunday, 3 p.m.

The ladies from Pies ‘N Thighs will be preparing some cold fried chicken for this rooftop farm dinner, while Queens Brewery will be taking care of drinks. The $80 meal includes southern sides like biscuits, cornbread, and a seasonal salad, with a fruit pie for dessert. A DJ will be on hand to spin tunes, and guests are invited to tour the farm pre-meal.

Dinner with Ruth Riechl, Contrada, 84 East 4th Street, Sunday, 5 p.m.

Have dinner and receive a copy of Ruth Reichl’s new book Delicious!, her first fictional piece, which weaves a story of a food writer with life experiences similar to…Ruth Reichl. The dinner, which is $55 per person, will allow guests the chance to interact with Ruth while they dine on chef Jason Audette’s fluke crudo and sweet corn agnolotti dal plin. The dessert for the evening is inspired by the only recipe in Reichl’s book, a spice cake. Dinner is payable at the end of the event, but reservations should be secured in advance.


What is .art? Financiers and Artists Vie for the Power to Define the Domain Name

The Internet is about to radically change, and hardly anyone knows it.

Think about it like a phone system: The Internet operates on just a handful of top-level domains (TLDs) — like .com and .org — that function like area codes. Right now, the internet needs more of them. And pretty soon it’s going to thousands of them: .law, .house, .gay, .soccer, pretty much anything you can think of. But that’s not the radical part. See, unlike area codes, TLDs need someone to run them — and the saga of .art is a microcosm of what that might mean for the artistic community, and for the Internet itself.

Think about this for a second and experience the sensation of your mind boggling: Who operates the Internet? Like, who runs the servers that run this very website you’re looking at right now? Ever thought about that?

As it happens, the answer is VeriSign, the company that administers .com and .net, among other TLDs. And up until now, you’ve never had a reason to give a shit. That’s because VeriSign maintains a pretty hands-off approach to administering the Internet, particularly in regard to registering domains — basically, if you want it, it’s not taken and you’re willing to pay for it, it’s yours. We call that an open registry, and that’s pretty much how it’s been since the beginning.

This is the Internet right now.
This is the Internet right now.

And open registration may be the case for .art or any number of these new TLDs, too — but it’s likely it won’t. It’ll all depend on ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), the U.S. government-assembled bureaucracy for managing the Internet, which will decide — very soon — who gets to run them. And some of them are hotly contested. No fewer than 10 bidders have thrown in their hats to run .art, making it the third-most contested new TLD proposed, and at an $185,000 pricetag just to apply for the privilege, it’s not hard to imagine the stakes are high.

Some of these companies — like Donuts, a financing group applying for over 300 TLDs, including .art — propose to run open registries much like VeriSign. But the thing is, according to ICANN’s guidelines on how they’ll do the dole, Donuts is not likely to get it — nor are the other seven strictly commercial applicants. That’s because ICANN has pledged to give priority to so-called “community” applicants, organizations by and for members of a specific community, which would in turn be served by its members’ ownership of the TLD in question.

In the case of .art, there are two such applicants: e-flux and deviantART (operating as Dadotart, Inc). Both bring vast networks and experience to the table. Both would run closed registries.

This is the Internet potentially.
This is the Internet potentially.

“How do you decide who’s in or out? That’s a very complicated thing. You’re not going to give to just anybody, right?” So speculates Joshua Wattles, point-man for deviantART, a grassroots online artists’ community of over 26 million users, headquartered in Los Angeles. “But we feel if there’s a community that would respond to this TLD and treat it with respect, deviantART is that.”

Wattles frames Dadotart’s bid in terms of domain integrity — if the domain is .art, then the criteria for using the domain should be that it’s in some way about art. “We’re only interested in selling to people who are interested in art, period,” says Wattles. “We believe that’s what gives the domain value–not that it’s going to point to someplace slogging bedclothes made out of Picasso pictures.”

Unlike deviantART, which provides a user interface to anyone who wants to participate, the New York City-based e-flux serves a professional network of major artists, galleries, and institutions like museums and biennials, compiling and distributing, in cooperation with its membership, a curated news digest with “information on some of the world’s most important contemporary art exhibitions, publications and symposia.”

“I am going to use the term elitist,” Wattles says in regard to e-flux, “but the arts are known for elitism.”

For his part, e-flux CEO Anton Vidokle doesn’t necessarily deny that claim. “We’re involved in a very particular part of the art community that has more to do with what society deems art as presented publicly by public institutions. But I do believe that art made by people for their own enjoyment is also very important. We represent a different part of the community.” But, Vidokle says, e-flux doesn’t intend to run .art that way.

In fact, the visions of Dadotart and e-Flux are strikingly similar. Both envision a rollout period designed to reserve the names of recognized artists and art institutions (for example, would be reserved for the Louvre) and invite those institutions to participate. After that, both would open up registration for anyone who wants to participate, provided they intend to do so as artists. How they’ll make that determination is less definitive.

“If you want to call yourself an artist, that’s great, and we should enable that,” says Wattles. “On the other hand, if you’re going to call yourself an artist, then you should be an artist. We have a higher interest in the TLD being accurate.”

Vidokle echoes that sentiment: “We want it to be focused on art. We want it to be art-related, and we would like to keep completely extraneous commercial concerns out of it. If you want to call yourself an artist there is no way for me to verify that you are not. That’s the beauty of art. But if you’re using this space to sell secondhand cars, then we may contact you and have a talk with you. What’s important is a reliable and trustworthy source of information.”

And while both are focused on integrity, both acknowledge that the question of exactly how you maintain integrity is a difficult one. “We’re not going to be art police running around and shit,” says Wattles, “but we’re going to ask you to make a declaration that you’re going to present art or show art, and then we’ll take your word for it.” But Wattles also says that, like deviantART, Dadotart might advance, say, an anti-pornography policy. Which would take into account that art often deals with mature images, language and themes, but (if deviantART’s current etiquette policy is any indication) would largely leave the definitional criteria to a governing committee, albeit a governing committee made up of presumably open and sympathetic members of the art community. And e-flux has concerns of its own, says Vidokle, such as who should get ownership of generic-term second-level domains like, say,

The more important issue, both communities argue, is that that determination be left to actual artist communities. In fact, for all their differences, both Wattles and Vidokle emphasize that that both communities would much rather see the other one get it than any of the other eight for-profit applicants. That, they both say, would be the real tragedy.

Nevertheless, while neither organization seems to have particular interest in deciding what is and is not art as it relates to things purported to be art, even the concept of a set of standards to govern what gets in and what doesn’t raises interesting questions the internet hasn’t had to deal with thus far — questions that get to the heart of the very nature of the internet.

“We recognize some applicants seek to address harms by constraining access to the registration of second-level names. However, we believe attempts to limit abuse by limiting registrant eligibility is unnecessarily restrictive and harms users by denying access to many legitimate registrants,” Donuts remarks in its own application.

“In a way it’s categorically different from the way names are administered up until now,” Vidokle admits. “It’s a more reliable, more rational, more organized Internet.”

In other words, it’s a brave new world.


Honey Dip Donut from Peter Pan Bakery, Dish #39

Welcome to 100 Dishes to Eat Now, the tasty countdown leading up to our “Best of 2012” issue. Tune in each day (weekends too!) for a new dish from the Fork in the Road team.

Honey Dip Donut: 80 cents

Tiny Fey once said that Peter Pan’s donuts were so good that “if [she] had a penis, [she] would put it in this doughnut.” We agree with her assessment. The Polish bakery has always been a neighborhood standard in Greenpoint, but its popularity has exploded in the past couple years. The sweet, soft, fluffy honey dip is a classic, and Peter Pan does it so well that you wonder if they own the original recipe.


10 Best Doughnuts in New York, 2012

See More 10 Bests: Gelatos | Pastry Shops

Doughnuts may just be bits of dough, dropped into hot oil, but a fine piece of fried dough can be a truly beautiful thing. From classic cake doughnuts and glorious yeasted beasts, to creamy stuffed buns, here are our 10 favorites in NYC right now.

Don’t see your favorite here? Tell us all about it in the comments.

10. Dun-Well
It’s Christmas in July right now at Christopher Hollowell and Daniel Dunbar’s Williamsburg shop, which means the staff saunters about in velvet Santa gear, celebrating with dense, chocolate-peppermint doughnuts. We like Dun-Well’s fun, laid-back approach to vegan baking. And this glazed wreath, dusted with cinnamon sugar, is a nice sweet puff of holiday cheer. 222 Montrose Avenue, Brooklyn

9. The Donut Pub
This narrow, tiled shop on 14th Street has been slinging its simple, classic doughnuts since the early 1960s. The next time you’re looking for something affordable and celebratory, keep in mind that a dozen chocolate dippers–the Pub’s chocolate cake doughnut with a chocolate glaze–will make a suitable, if somewhat trashy substitute, for an actual cake. 203 West 14th Street

8. Orwasher’s
Keith Cohen updated the original Orwasher’s, an Upper East Side bakery founded in 1916, when he bought it in 2007. He also decided to revive and continue some of the bakery’s old traditions, like the jelly doughnuts. The super-light yeast buns are fried off site, then filled to-order with extremely tasty jams from Beth’s Farm Kitchen. The strawberry, pictured, is delightful. 308 East 78th Street

7. DuMont Doughnuts
Dalia Jurgensen oversees the doughnut set-up at Dumont’s little counter on Bedford Avenue, which fries the beignet-like puffs to order. A donut robot sends squirts of batter through a conveyor belt of oil until, finally, they reach the end as dark, often-deformed, delicious crisps with creamy-but-cooked centers. The sweet heat of the ginger-sugar is terrific, and plain ones with a side of extra-thick dulce de leche are fun to share. 314 Bedford Avenue Brooklyn

6. Pies ‘n’ Thighs
These big, soft, sticky confections are available at the counter in fun flavors like ginger-grapefuit or pecan (which trumps the classic cinnamon-sugar). The fancier filled doughnuts collapse like dense stars and will require careful transportation along with a serious appetite. Go for the lemon-curd-filled pistachio or rhubarb jelly. 166 South 4th Street Brooklyn

5. Bottega Falai
Iacopo Falai’s classic, Italian-style doughnuts are our favorite things to grab on the go from this SoHo shop. The elegant, airy bomboloni are dredged in sugar and filled with fruity jam, pastry cream perfumed with vanilla, or lightly sweetened whipped cream. It cuts like a fine, feathery cake, which makes it easy to share, and it’s full of actual flavor, not just sugar. 267 Lafayette Street

4. 606 R&D
Ilene Rosen and Sara Dima, formerly of City Bakery, run this bright, charming Prospect Heights restaurant with a pastry counter up front. In January, they raised $10,000 via Kickstarter to train staff at Donut University (yes, seriously), purchase a mixer, and invest in a donut-making machine. This means you can pop in almost anytime for 606’s wee cake doughnuts, dredged in cinnamon sugar. It’s so nice to be reminded that a hunk of deep-fried dough can be a tender, delicate affair. 606 Vanderbilt Avenue, Brooklyn

3. Peter Pan Donut and Pastry Shop
Husband-and-wife duo Christos and Donna Siafakas met while working at a doughnut shop, then took over this old bakery in Greenpoint together. Peter Pan gets just about everything right–the adorable green and pink uniforms, the colorful displays of sprinkled rings and cream-filled buns, the boxes that get expertly tied up with hanging reels of string, and of course, the doughnuts. During rush hour on the weekends, the lines can be ridiculously long, but these beauties really are worth the wait. I love the classic, soft cake doughnut, cratered all over with crispy nooks and crannies, and washed with a very thin layer of glaze. 727 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn

2. Doughnut Plant
Mark Israel started in the ’90s, baking doughnuts by night then hopping on his bicycle in the morning to deliver them to various New York cafes. Now he has shops around the world, and his consistently excellent confections have earned him a very passionate fan base. Stop in for a visit and you’ll get why: The lovely cake rings, the crisp churros, and genius jelly-filled squares are always right on point. The chocolate-glazed and Blackouts are immensely popular, but I always gravitate toward the fruity selections, and right now, the blueberry-glazed yeasted doughnuts are killer. 379 Grand Street

1. Dough
Fany Gerson took months to tweak the yeasted dough recipe and frying technique for this lovely Bed-Stuy shop, and it shows. Dough pushes gorgeously light, plus-size doughnuts with soft, sighing middles. And they’re dressed up in some of the most exciting, delicious glazes in town, from blood orange with candied orange slices, to cheesecake dusted with buttery Graham crumbs. Doughnuts are rolled, stamped, fried, and hand-dipped throughout the day, in a glass-encased kitchen you can swoon over while you eat. Note: the dulce de leche, topped with slivers of toasted almonds, is something of a masterpiece. 305 Franklin Avenue, Brooklyn


Mike Bloomberg Doesn’t Find “Big Gulp” March Very Funny (Even Though It Is)

New Yorkers opposed to Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s proposed ban on big-boy sodas marched in front of City Hall yesterday in what’s been dubbed the “Million Big-Gulp March.”

The title, obviously, is a play on the 1995 “Million Man March” on Washington D.C., and is a pretty funny idea considering the less-than-dire issue at hand: freedom to drink soda.

Leave it to Bloomberg, however, to piss on the parade — the mayor didn’t find the march funny in the slightest because of the “tragic” consequences of soda abuse.

“In New York City alone, we’re going to spend $4 billion of your money
to treat obesity-related diseases,” the mayor told reporters yesterday. “It’s $100 billion-plus across the
country and skyrocketing. We just have to do something
about it, and if somebody wants to have a march, I suppose it’s funny
but it is so tragic what is happening I have to say, the humor kind of
escapes me.”

And “do something about it” he has…

In addition to his proposed ban on serving “sugary drinks” in
containers larger than 16 ounces — and banning food donations to
homeless shelters because he can’t monitor the sodium content of the
donated grub (further reading: 10 out of 10 homeless New Yorkers polled
are more concerned with eating in general than they are with how much
salt is in their diet.
Imagine that…) — the mayor has taken some other interesting steps in his attempt to trim the waistlines of Gotham residents.

For example, just days after announcing his proposed ban on soda being served in big-boy cups, Bloomberg celebrated “National Donut Day” by honoring the 75th anniversary of a day that celebrates a food that has
more fat and calories than the sugary beverages he wants to
(he claims the proposed ban is to “force people to understand”
the dangers of sugar). The mayor signed off on his proclamation as
“Donut Day” was celebrated in Madison Square Park, where Brooklyn-based
Entenmann’s handed out free donuts from the “largest box of
Entenmann’s donuts ever created.”

And lest we forget last week, when the mayor presided over the
ceremonial weigh-in for the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.
The winner.
Joey Chestnut, ate 68 hotdogs in 10 minutes. At 309 calories a piece,
Chestnut put down a total of 21,012 calories — and
the mayor was just fine with that.

Turning New York into a food-police-state is bad enough. Being a hypocrite about it just flat-out sucks.


In Honor of National Donut Day, A Glimpse of Tokyo’s Doughnut Plant

While New York City has only two Doughnut Plant locations, including the original on Grand Street, Tokyo can boast 14 locations, with the New York origin loudly proclaimed, and a pastry menu similar to the original. The Tokyo versions often provide outdoor and indoor seating, something lacking in our Grand Street location. The menu of donuts — many of them featuring novel fruit frostings — is similar in both cities.


10 Funniest Food Hats

It’s a tired old meme: 10 best lists centered on funny pictures. But Fork in the Road has stumbled on plenty of them in our search for usable free Internet images. So here goes …

9. Mom, this is making my head itch.
9. Mom, this is making my head itch.
8. Will this go with my steampunk outfit?
8. Will this go with my steampunk outfit?
7. Who doesn't like pizza?
7. Who doesn’t like pizza?
6. A perfect disguise for the lactose intolerant
6. A perfect disguise for the lactose intolerant
5. If I get hungry during the game, I'm all set.
5. If I get hungry during the game, I’m all set.
4. How to become prey to a passing vegan hawk
4. How to become prey to a passing vegan hawk
3. Does this french-fry hat make me look fat?
3. Does this french-fry hat make me look fat?
2. The easiest way to eat stinky cheese all the time without anyone noticing
2. The easiest way to eat stinky cheese all the time without anyone noticing
1. Not only a snack, but an entire motivational system. And you can make it yourself, if you buy a big enough box of donuts.
1. Not only a snack, but an entire motivational system. And you can make it yourself, if you buy a big enough box of donuts.



This Week’s Specials: Booze, Brains, and Balls

And now, a look back at what was on the menu here at Fork in the Road this week.

Use your noggin.
Use your noggin.

Robert Sietsema slurps stews in this week’s 10 Best Soups in NYC. From borscht to matzo balls, he offers up the city’s tastiest picks.

Lauren Shockey tells you what kind of booze to buy in her holiday gift guide. Check out Shockey’s extensive list — and learn what to buy the alcoholics in your life.

Sparkletinis taste like a Four Loko-champagne mash-up. Spoiler: $8 faux bubbly is as bad as it sounds.

Lauren Bloomberg savors sufganiyot, a Hanukkah jelly donut of sorts, at Mile End.

Fork in the Road’s bloggers list their favorite New York dim sum spots, in Shockey’s weekly Tuesday Toasts feature.

Bad brains? Sietsema snacks on a beefy gray-matter sandwich in Bay Ridge.

Balls taste great — when made of pork!