It’s popular to say chefs are the new rock stars.
Does that make the Cronut the new Woodstock ticket?
If you can’t keep up with the latest food trend, let me help: The Cronut is the hottest thing to hit New York since the everything bagel.
In May, pastry chef Dominique Ansel, of the SoHo bakery Dominique Ansel, released a trademark pastry, a cross between a fried doughnut and a croissant, with filling between the layers and an icing on top. Since it’s almost impossible to imagine what that would taste like, lines quickly formed at Ansel’s bakery on Spring Street, helped in no small measure by breathless postings on social media.
Pretty soon, predictable things happened: Cronuts sold faster than Ansel’s staff could fry, fill and ice them, leading to a two-cronut-per-customer limit. Cronuts still sold out almost as soon as the bakery opened at 8 a.m., leading to even more legendary lines. Then Cronut imitators popped up, with lawsuit-dodging names – cro-nots, doughssants, kronutz. Charlotte’s own homage, the Kronut, showed up with the opening of 4th Ward Bread Co. on North Graham Street ( fourthwardbreadco.com).
Cut to last Tuesday, when I found myself in New York with a free morning before an afternoon flight. After four months of Cro-mania, I reasoned, a Tuesday morning should be relatively quiet. Still, to be safe, I hailed a cab by 6:25.
As it happens, I had been to Dominique Ansel before. A couple of years ago, I wandered in looking for a French pastry, Cannelle de Bordeaux, to top off a sandwich from Faicco’s Pork Store on Bleecker Street.
In the years before the fried-pastry fuss, it was a tiny bakery with elegant offerings like freshly baked madelines. Tasty, but no hint of future fan mania.
On Tuesday, I had time to think about that. At 6:45 a.m., the line was down the street and around the corner. The people at the front had gotten there at 5 a.m.
There was a chef from Hong Kong behind me and a vacationing waiter from L.A. in front of me. In front of him, there was a group from Australia. A French TV crew turned up to cover the line.
Like all communal experiences, from people who pitch tents before the opening of IKEAs to the semi-annual waits for iPhone releases, it was less about acquisition than bonding. The L.A. waiter and I swapped restaurant advice: I now know about Pinky’s hot dogs in Southern California and he wants to come to North Carolina for Skylight Inn barbecue.
We both laughed at the disdainful glares we got from the SoHo locals as they stomped past on their way to work, most of them with Starbucks cups in hand.
After 2 hours and 15 minutes in line, I found out that the Cronut is a tasty little mouthful – buttery with shattering-crisp layers. I now know that they use pastry bags to squirt in fillings between layers after it’s fried. I ate one and brought the other back so Helen Schwab and I could taste it alongside Charlotte’s Kronut.
You know what I really enjoyed, though? Taking the time to hang around with other people and enjoy the anticipation. That part actually was worth the wait.
Join the food conversation at Kathleen Purvis’ blog I’ll Bite, at obsbite.blogspot.com, or follow her on Twitter, @kathleenpurvis.
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