Ready for this jelly?: a lamentation for Payard

Payard jelly doughnut

Payard jelly doughnut

Jelly doughnuts are my favorite doughnuts. But they must be done right. The jelly has to be homemade and so does the doughnut. Doughnuts shouldn’t be too dense nor too light (which cheaply-made doughnuts usually are). I prefer my jelly doughnuts coated with real sugar as opposed to powdered sugar but certainly wouldn’t turn any doughnut down. Since I moved to New York and found Payard, I found what I considered the best doughnut available in New York, a delicious doughnut with raspberry jelly. Prior to that, there was a German bakery, whose name I do not recall, on the East side in the 80s somewhere, that closed in the ’90s, that made what I consider to be the best jelly doughnut I have ever tasted. I have not found one as good since then but consistently enjoyed Payard’s. I don’t remember how I found Payard’s, and every time I looked for it, I forgot exactly which two streets in the 70s it was between. But once I walked through those brown doors, I found a paradise of desserts. I never made it to the chocolates and gelato. The cake case beckoned me. Unfortunately, Payard didn’t allow photos of its pastry creations in the case.

a secret snapshot of the Payard cookie case

a secret snapshot of the Payard cookie case

I have fond memories of Payard. On lunch break, I had a croque monsieur that was out of this world. My waiter was a sweet young man who brought me three wrapped macaroons for free. The raspberry macaroon would become one of my New York favorite items. Yes, there is a raspberry theme here, as I absolutely love the raspberry jelly doughnut. It wasn’t cheap, but it was good. I am not a fan of Krispy Kreme doughnuts at all and do not understand how a New Yorker could buy a Krispy Kreme doughnut when Payard existed. Yes, they are cheaper but I believe you are paying for what you get. I have, however, found a fried sugary sweet berry dough that has quickly become my new love, the bombolone at Caffe Falai. Yes, it comes with custard as well, but why talk about that when the berry one is so divine? You can tell the jelly inside is freshly made and absolutely delicious. One must get here early to ensure that she gets one as they go fast. Caffe Falai is one of those wonderful gems hidden on a part of Lafayette Street that doesn’t get as much foot traffic as others. Inside, it is like a lady’s vanity with white walls and mirrors. (I’m writing about jelly doughnuts but it is worth mentioning that Caffe Falai has excellent food as well.)

Bomboloni from Caffe Falai

Though Payard is closed, I will never forget the joy and comfort it gave me over the years. I won’t forget the dinner with my parents and my best friend Jazmin where I had a delicious duck with cherry sauce.  For dessert, we took a trip to the case to eye which sweet work of art we wanted.  I chose a divine mango souffle with strawberries.  What a lovely memory.  And I must confess that I used to stop into Payard to use its restroom when I was in the neighborhood.  Not once did anyone say anything to me.  I recall another time: I had finished a contract job editing for a magazine, and I got (after writing a letter and asking for it) a two-week unpaid gig shadowing the editor of another popular magazine. After one week, I didn’t meet the editor but did get to shadow someone from each department of the magazine. However, I spent the days mostly licking envelopes and got disgusted when I found out someone got paid a salary to “white out” the freckles and imperfections of the wealthy in charity ball pictures. I didn’t have a place to live, no new job prospect in New York, and this unpaid gig didn’t seem like it was getting me anywhere. My frustration at being yet again unemployed in New York and yet again without a place to live mounted, so I walked out after lunch and didn’t finish the day. I didn’t tell anyone where I was going. No, I walked out and saw the Ed Sullivan theater with David Letterman’s name on the marquee, as I had done each day for the short time I was there. I hung a left and walked across town and up a few blocks to those brown doors under the brown awning, pulled the large gold handle, and walked into my jelly doughnut paradise. I ordered a raspberry jelly doughnut and relinquished all control. I didn’t have a job, I didn’t have a place to live, but I had this moment and this doughnut and I would savor it.  Now that Payard is closed, I am glad I did.