The 20th Anniversary of the Donut Plant is this month September 2014 the openly Hare Krsna affiliated confectioner which has pushed the limits of what a Donut can be. It can be seasonal coming in true flavors to match the bounty of the year. Marzipan for the Holidays,Meyer Lemon in the Summer, Rose and Chocolate for Valentine’s Day, Pumpkin for Autumn, three kinds of peanut interpretations Salted Peanut,Peanut Butter Glaze with Blackberry Jelly, Peanut Butter with Banana Cream. Who can decide on just ONE? So generally I don’t and just get everything my heart fancies.They are organic.They are blessed and no one can seem to resist going here. When I met Mark in Union Square 20 years ago at the fledging Green Market he told me with a smile and a dreamy look on his face that he was going to open up a doughnut shop using his grandfather recipe. I smiled but was secretly thinking he must be mad. WHO would want to eat donuts other than the NYPD? Ha! Shows I knew nothing and so much nothing that I soon became a HUGE fan going out of my way to get to the only store location down near Pitt Street and Grand. Back in the 90’s scooping up the last of the banana pecan and newly minted chocolate valrhona glaze donuts I served them as cake at my 35th Birthday Party they were so good.Thanks to the Donut Plant I had dessert for the attendees at The Hit Factory debut for the video release of my song “La Raihna” produced by director Kurt Ritta. More than generous to me,folks were taking donuts home in whatever container they could find right Randy Jones?
The Life Cafe
Wearing a stetson hat my dad Daniel Chamberlin had softened his stance on me being a vegetarian. By now it was 1988 and he had come to accept it which was in marked contrast to him turning red in the face with rage when I took him to Chinatown to eat at Dim Sum house that was Buddhist serving mock meat dishes. (They say eating meat makes you angry lol). So much for trying to be thoughtful for a place that could accommodate both of us. I mean the food at this spot was really good and if nobody told you you wouldn’t know as they had skills based on a long tradition of Buddhist eats. I had become aware of this approach due to an article I had read by the famous George Lang, the owner of Cafe Des Artistes located off the swank Central Park West. Lang had discovered these dishes on an extended trip to Japan. I figured if it could fool Lang it would be acceptable to Dan. He didn’t care and the attempt at father daughter closeness ended in disaster.
“Come on. I am going to take you to this hippie restaurant on 10th Street”.
This was a new frontier and I had now been baptized a hippie by Dad! This was an improvement in our relationship! Off he strode on the darkened streets to the East Village an area I had never been to up until that time. I was an Upper West Side girl living on 108th Street and Central Park West with a fiancee I never married. The Upper West had it’s own issues but still I was a bit scared wondering if we’d be okay getting to Avenue B and back in what was still the notorious Alphabet City. I drew the line at Fifth Avenue. I was amazed that Dad was taking me to this mysterious spot. When we arrived we found little tables outdoors with red candles providing only dim light in the pitch dark and ours kept blowing out. “Want to sit outside?” he asked me in his baritone voice and so we did. While I tried to read the menu Dad said,”So what are you going to get? The veggie burger?” I complied with a side of sweet potato fries. He ordered a coke with his vegetarian chile. We ate our meal in the darkness. Asking me what I thought I said it was good while he strode back with me following along back to Greenwich Village before I’d catch the C train uptown. Dad had brought me to the location which would serve as inspiration for the play RENT. In subsequent years Life Cafe hosted annual RENT reunions for fans of the show. They even had a book folks could sign to show they had been there. Photographer Shell Sheddy had her post retrospective after party there having shown scads of her photos next door at The Tompkins Square Library in the early 2000’s. These memories surfaced last night listening to David Life give a retrospective slide show of the
30 Years of JivaMukti Yoga School he co – founded with Sharon Gannon. Life is just so funny. That my path and destiny would criss cross and find a home of sorts at the school after they moved to their fourth or perhaps 5th location at 841 Broadway is something I could have never imagined. Their first big home was the gargantuan location on LaFayette near Houston where Crunch Fitness later took over. I remember they had a little juice bar there and that in and of itself was novel then. I mean it was weird! David’s slideshow was full of humor and sprinkled with luminaries during the evolution of the school. Cultural trendsetters like Bill Laswell,Sting and the late Cheb i Sabbah coming to celebrate. A big deal. Like who cared about yoga really? Apparently enough people did to stand in line two blocks long to sign up for a class that wouldn’t happen till later that same day. I remember Simeon telling me about this and me just shaking my head. The system has improved since then but if New York meant lines, then lines meant yoga. Whenever Sharon see’s me she says “Don’t stop singing!” and I always promise her I won’t stop although she must know that sometimes I think I just will. I should make mention here that Sharon has a new cook book out called Simple Recipes for Joy. I scanned it and SIMPLE is the operative word.
The soups are many using a very spartan – the – ingredients – are- everything approach. Fresh. If you are intimidated by seasonings you won’t find anything complex here as Sharon uses some herbs, salt and pepper to season. It’s Vegan but do note that if you are gluten intolerant you will need to look elsewhere for entrees as wheat gluten is used a lot. The soups look delicious with the very red tomato soup on my list to try. The book is a kind of compilation of recipes that have been served in Sharon’s JivaMukTEA Cafe over the years as she contributes to the conversation on non violence to the animal kingdom. The glimpse of their All Species Parade with an absent minded interview by Alan Steinfeld was an evening highlight. This happening conceived by the duo was a kind of Mermaid Parade meets Howl! processional was just too much fun to watch. It’s sincerity and just straight up East Village kookiness is a reminder that the East Village grows things. It’s where I grew.