Take the Donuts, Leave the Cannoli
A few commentators recently made statements along similar lines.
“You’ll probably always leave your heart in the Bay Area.”
“The other thing is that we sometimes, when relocating, tend to see the flaws and the shortcomings in our new place.”
Mr. Dave said:
“You are going to need to stop expecting culinary sophistication and start enjoying our post industrial, New England-esque, culinary stubbornness as bleak as it may be.”
And it made me realize something important. In my drive to improve the standards of food around the Albany area, I may have been using too much stick and not enough carrot.
Before I get to today’s post, I would like to briefly address the above comments.* Leaving one’s heart away from one’s body is never a path to happiness. I look back fondly on my time in the Bay Area and am grateful for the experience. But now I hope to take what I learned while I was there and bore all of you with it. You who continue to read this infernal thing. And hopefully you will then impose it upon others.
It may not be so clearly apparent, but I am keeping an open mind about the area. And I think I am doing a pretty good job. There are certainly things out here that I enjoy, and that I have mentioned on this site. Three things come readily to mind: diners, the Vodka Farm, and the Honest Weight Food Co-op “Food for Thought” film series.
So taking some guidance from Mr. Dave (who appears to be back from his sabbatical), let me tell you about something else I love to eat around these parts that has nothing to do with culinary sophistication: Donuts.
When Mrs. Fussy and I moved out here, we knew in our heart of hearts there had to be a place that made good donuts. It just felt right. And ultimately we found it, in what we thought was the most unlikely of places, an Italian bakery. Specifically, Bella Napoli in Troy.
It was especially unlikely given that we had visited the Troy Bella Napoli early on, looking for a good weekend spot for our Saturday morning pastry and coffee ritual. And our initial visit was unimpressive. Yes, we saw the donut case. But we were in an Italian bakery, so we naturally assumed we should be getting the Italian pastries.
Who knew that would be exactly the wrong answer.
After doing some research online, Mrs. Fussy found that people liked the donuts at Bella Napoli and Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet. One Saturday morning, she suggested that we go to both places. Hit the Bella Napoli in Latham (their other location) and swing by Schuyler on the way back to Albany. I married the right woman.
The Bella Napoli donuts won the day, but there was something a bit off. A few of the donuts were a bit cold. Which was just odd and left us scratching our heads.
It wasn’t until a few months later, while I was having some amazing world class Belgian beer with some Yelpers at Mahar’s, that I learned the answer. Apparently someone in the party used to work for Bella Napoli. He told me that the reason we had chilly donuts is that they are made at the Troy store and trucked over to Latham.
So it was back to Troy for our fussy little family. We got the donuts from the source. Sadly there is no seating, but we took them to the Troy Winter Market and ate them in the atrium. And these were indeed the donuts we were looking for.
Now when people visit from near or far, the donuts at Bella Napoli in Troy are a regular stop on the eating tour. And it’s all good. From the yeast raised, to the cake, to the jelly. There are no losers.
The yeast raised are nice and puffy, so when you bite into them it is like biting into a soft, squishy cloud of donuty goodness. The cake donuts have the crispiest crust of any cake donuts I have eaten, with a touch of sweet spice in the fine-crumb interiors. The jelly donuts come in several flavors and exteriors, so you can get powdered sugar or granulated sugar and choose between blueberry, strawberry, and raspberry. There is also a lemon curd (which is not officially jelly) and the best Boston cream in the area.
And on top of it all, they are significantly cheaper than the crap they serve at that ubiquitous mass donut chain that litters our landscape.
And here is a claim for all you Doubting Thomases: The donuts at Bella Napoli in Troy are better than the donuts at King Pin in Berkeley.
But seriously, skip the cannoli.
*My old rabbi would love that sentence. He would always say with a hint of a smile in his thick Hungarian accent, “Before I start speaking, I would like to say a few words.”