Search of Donut Perfection
tour of regional apple orchards, and a survey of their ultimate
prize: cider donuts
some local orchards, like Sara toga Apple in Schuylerville,
you can get them year-round, but we tend to think of apple-cider
donuts as an autumn delight, along with clear days and carved
pumpkins on doorsteps.
Cider donuts are not hard to find in the Capital Region. In
recent years, the wholesale apple business has been difficult
for local growers, with China dominating the world apple market
while Red Delicious and Granny Smith apples from western states
like Washington dominate grocery-store shelf space. As a result,
many local apple orchards have turned to direct marketing
ventures to make ends meet. That means pick-your-own operations
and farm stores, with some orchards offering attractions like
hayrides and birthday parties, live music and corn mazes.
The tastiest cider donuts have a few things in common. They
are fresh and hot, or at least warm, when you pull them out
of the wax paper bag. There’s a slight crispness to their
outer crust, whether dusted with cinnamon or sugar or both.
(There are plain cider donuts to be had, but “plain” and “donut”
have never gone together in my lexicon.) When freshly made,
that outer layer gives way to soft, mouth-melting dough inside.
There may be a hint of the bubbling oil they bathe in, but
good cider donuts should not be so greasy that you notice.
While the best homegrown cider donuts share those qualities,
there are variations in type. I prefer a cider donut that’s
light and fluffy inside, almost airy. But the denser, cake-like
cider donuts have their fans. With either type, the apple
flavor is subtle, more implied than something you can put
your finger on. For an overwhelming apple taste, you best
have a glass of cider instead. Or better yet, use the cider
to wash down the donuts.
To get the most out of cider-donut season, don’t just limit
yourself to one orchard. Take a self-guided donut-tasting
tour instead, visiting as many orchards as you can and making
comparisons based on sweetness, texture, density and the elusive
“cidery-ness.” If you go with a group on your donut-tasting
venture, you’ll find that everyone has their own opinion about
what makes a perfect cider donut. But as Homer (Simpson) would
say, “There is no such thing as a bad donut.”
Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont is a good place to start.
On a clear sunny day recently, the orchard parking lot teemed
with people, and the line for donuts stretched past the farm’s
antique Farmall tractor and around the Native American totem
pole. But a line for donuts means one thing: By the time you
get yours, they will be hot. And while waiting at Indian Ladder,
you can look in through the bakery windows to see the donut-assembly-line
process at work, as donuts mechanically flip into and out
of a vat of hot oil and make their way down the conveyer belt.
The result: a hot donut with just the right amount of crispness
on the outside, and fluffy, almost gooey, inside. Delicious.
has a lot to do with how good a cider donut is,” my friend
says, and Indian Ladder has lots of that. It couldn’t get
much more scenic, with the dramatic Helderberg Escarpment
looming in the background and the pretty shingle-sided barns
with green trim. (I think I saw that color on Martha Stewart’s
summer house in Easthampton.) A highlight at Indian Ladder
is the petting zoo, where the animals are all character, from
Rosie the rust-colored Scottish Highlander cow (“that’s a
‘Whole Lotta Rosie,’ ” my friend said, referencing the AC/DC
song) to the fainting goats and the donkey that made a sly
move for my bottle of cider when I wasn’t looking.
From Indian Ladder we went to the nearby Altamont Orchards,
a more commercial-seeming operation with an adjacent golf
club and the Cider House Restaurant. A witch on break from
the orchard’s haunted-house attraction stood in black hat
and striped knee socks in the parking lot. Here, friends called
the donuts from the bakery more “desserty” and “donuty,” because
of their denser, doughier consistency, though I stood by my
preference for the lighter, fluffier kind of donut. Agree
Next stop: a turn northward toward Saratoga County to visit
Riverview Orchards in western Clifton Park, which couldn’t
be located at a prettier, more peaceful spot along the Mohawk
River. Here the “donut robot” is king, sending the round rings
of deliciousness along a path from batter to oil to conveyer
to sugar bowl. The result: a perfect donut prize, hot but
not greasy, sweet but not too sugar-coated, light but flavorful.
For entertainment, kids climb over a round hay-bale maze,
goats cavort on a climbing apparatus, and the honey house
offers interesting honey-extraction demonstrations.
For the last stop on this particular donut-tasting trip, we
hit the small mom-and-pop operation that is Lindsey’s Idyllwood
Orchard in Rexford. While the larger orchards offer lots of
entertainment value for the cost (that would be a standard
60 to 75 cents per single donut at the places we visited),
there are plenty of smaller places in the area worth visiting
for their local color, low-key charm and smaller crowds. Here
we were greeted with a personal welcome and free cider and
donut samples upon arrival. (The donut leaned toward the “cakey”
variety.) Inside the farm store, we redeemed some of our day’s
nutritional indulgence by tasting apples instead of donuts;
a patient store clerk sliced up apple samples as we tried
obscure and antique apple varieties far more exotic than you’ll
find in any ordinary store.
To plan your donut- or apple-tasting route, visit www.nyapplecountry.com
or www.pickyourown .org/ny to find lists of local orchards
and their attractions.
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
(Thursday, Oct. 19) there will be a cigar soiree
at Park 54 (54 Clifton Country Road, Clifton
Park) in association with Park Lane Tobacconist.
$60 gets you drinks, dinner and cigars. For more
info, phone 688-1548 or check out www.park54restaurant
.com. . . . Tonight sees another cigar dinner,
this one at Carmine’s Restaurant (818 Central
Ave., Albany), where chef Carmine Sprio is designing
a menu to accompany a selection of CAO cigars
(you’ll get five!) Along with drinks and dinner
for $85 (inclusive). Call 690-2222 to see if there
are seats left. . . . The Gateways Inn and
Restaurant (51 Walker Street, Lenox, Mass.)
will host a Macallan Whisky cocktail reception
and four-course dinner at 7 PM Saturday (Oct 21).
Chef Rosemary Chiariello has created a four-course
menu that includes roasted-duck-breast salad,
lobster cappuccino and grilled beef tenderloin
in a peppered wine sauce. It’s $80 per person,
and you can reserve seats by calling (413) 637-2532.
. . . Girl Scouts, Hudson Valley Council, will
hold their fifth annual Cookie Cuisine event
from 6 to 9 PM Tuesday (Oct. 24) at the Italian
American Community Center, Washington Avenue Extension,
Albany. You’ll see Cookie Cuisine honorary chair
Carmine Sprio and a host of talented culinary
teams prepare gourmet entrees and desserts using
all of your favorite Girl Scout cookies, including
a brand new, top-secret cookie. Tickets are $35.
For reservations, call Sharon Smith at 489-8110,
ext. 105 or e-mail ssmith@ girlscouts hvgsc.org.
. . . Remember to pass your scraps to Metroland
(e-mail food@ banilsson.com).
want your feedback
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very much enjoyed eating dinner at Daniel's
at Ogdens. You review described my dining
experience perfectly. This wasn't the case
with Pancho's. I much prefer Garcia's or
Lake View Tavern for Mexican fare. I agree
that a restaurant can have an off night
so I'll give the second unit on Central
Avenue a try.
yes I miss the star ratings, bring it back.
Second, I haven't had a chance to visit
Poncho's yet, but I especially like reading
would travel to Amsterdam to this restaurant
- it's not that far away. People traveled
from all over to eat at Ferrandi's in Amsterdam.
From his background, I'm sure the chef's
sauce is excellent and that is the most
important aspect of an Italian restaurant.
Sometimes your reviewer wastes words on
the negative aspects of a restaurant. I'm
looking forward to trying this restaurant
- I look forward to Metroland every Thursday
especially for the restaurant review. And
by the way Ferrandi's closed its Amsterdam
location and is opening a new bistro on
Saratoga Lake - Should be up and running
in May. It will be called Saratoga Lake
Bistro. It should be great!
comments about the Indian / Pakistani restaurants
being as "standardized as McDonald's"
shows either that you have eaten at only
a few Indian / Pakistani restaurants or
that you have some prejudices to work out.
That the physical appearances are not what
you would consider fancy dancy has no bearing
on the food. And after all, that is what
the main focus of the reviews should be.
Not the physical appearances, which is what
most of your reviews concentrate on.
A restaurant like The Shalimar, down on
Central Avenue, may not look the greatest,
but the food is excellent there. And the
menu has lots of variety - beef, lamb, vegetarian,
chicken, and more..