Note: First Looks give previews of new dishes, drinks, and menus we're curious about. Since they are arranged photo shoots and interviews with restaurants, we do not make critical evaluations or recommendations.
The bakery business is in Evan Feldman's blood, or at least in the blood of the family he married into. For years, his wife's family ran a bakery, and some of Feldman's fondest memories are of holidays spent pitching in to help manage the busy season, when Feldman (a former finance guy), his wife (a therapist), his brother-in-law (a consultant) and his father-in-law (a lawyer) would take some time off from their day jobs to push up their sleeves and help Feldman's mother-in-law with all aspects of the bakery, from boxing and selling to chatting with customers.
"It was a real departure for me," Feldman told me recently as we chatted at a table in front of his new business, Doughnuttery, which opened in Chelsea Market last December. "It was so much fun. And it made me think, what kind of food would I want to sell?"
"I always wanted to have some kind of food business," Feldman continued. At the "tail end of the cupcake craze," he said he settled on doughnuts as another sweet, portable comfort food, but one that hadn't been explored in New York as much as he thought it could be.
"I saw a hole in the doughnut market," he said. "I thought there was an opportunity there for someone to do something fun with doughnuts in this city."
Last November, Feldman took the plunge when an opportunity to move into a stall at foodie haven and popular tourist attraction Chelsea Market opened up to him.
The catch? It was a tiny space. In response, Feldman altered his original idea from large filled doughnuts and settled on Doughnuttery's menu of mini, 1.5 inch doughnuts. Since the fritters were too small to be filled, Feldman thought about what else he could do to flavor the classic cake doughnuts, which are fried right in front of customers in a Donut Robot similar to the one at 606 R&D in Brooklyn.
He settled on flavored sugars as an ideal method for distinguishing the doughnuts. "Since the doughnuts are coming out of the machine fresh and hot, they really absorb the sugars well," Feldman said.
But these aren't your ordinary sugars—at least, for the most part they're not. The Doughnuttery's menu offers four "Classic" sugars—cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar, vanilla glaze, and rainbow sprinkles. Feldman says those flavors are the most popular with customers because they remind them of their childhood.
"People will say to us, 'Oh, I ate this at the fair as a kid,' or 'Wow, my grandmother used to make doughnuts just like that,'" he said.
But more adventurous doughnut-eaters have plenty to choose from in the "Specialty Sugars" part of the menu, with flavors such as "Cacaoboy" (cacao nibs, chocolate cookies and mesquite); "Purple Pig" (maple, bacon and purple potatoes); and "Paris Time" (lavender, pistachio and vanilla).
In May, Doughnuttery moved into a slightly larger space into the market, and the increase in real estate has got Feldman thinking about ways to expand the menu.
"I'd like to start offering egg creams," he said. "And we definitely have a doughnut dog in the works."
Click through the slideshow to see more of Doughnuttery's flavored sugared donuts.