NEW YORK – How does a recent college grad find herself perched on a SoHo sidewalk at 6 a.m. on a Wednesday, waiting two hours to pay $5 for a dessert that most of the world has never heard of?
Journalism, of course.
I’m here in everyone’s favorite concrete jungle for the national Asian American Journalists Association convention. First and foremost, I’m in New York to attend some amazing workshops, learn new skills and connect with fellow journalists from around the country.
But one of the most important parts of journalism is understanding the trends that take root in the place you’re covering. And what better way to do that in New York than with some cronuts?
Plus, it means I got an awesome sugar rush right before a daylong workshop.
For those of you who have been living in pastry oblivion for the last three months, a cronut is a croissant-doughnut hybrid, developed by New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel. There is only one flavor per month, and each customer is only allowed to buy two cronuts. This month’s flavor is coconut.
I started my cronut quest back home in Los Angeles, where cronut knockoffs, so to speak, have been popping up around the city. Ansel’s “cronut” is trademarked, but that hasn’t stopped L.A. eateries from trying their hand at the flaky pastry.
The first stop was DK’s Donuts and Bakery in Santa Monica. They get around the trademark by calling their fried delights “O-Nuts.”
The small, brother-sister joint has upwards of 20 “O-Nut” choices, including O-Nut sundaes and double-decker O-Nuts, with a filling sandwiched between two layers of the fried treat.
I visited on a Thursday afternoon with some friends, and we sampled a glazed O-Nut and a double-decker banana nutella O-Nut. The glazed was warm out of the oven, and, as promised, the inside was much flakier and more layered than the inside of a regular glazed doughnut.
The next stop on my cross-country cronut tour was Frances Bakery, tucked into Little Tokyo in Downtown L.A. Their version has been dubbed the “Frances Donut.”
But alas, disappointment greeted me. My sister and I stopped by around 4:20 p.m. on Monday — rookie mistake. The desserts had sold out by 2 p.m. that day.
The chef makes about 100 every day, and they usually sell out between noon and 2 p.m., said Napat Shintadani, whose husband owns the bakery.
At Ansel’s bakery in SoHo, cronuts usually sell out by about 10 a.m., and the first person lines up around 4:45 a.m.
It was surprisingly easy to enlist some friends and fellow AAJA-ers to join me in waking up far too early and sitting in line for three hours. We had been warned that there is no guarantee that a cronut will be procured, even after the long wait, but getting there by 6 a.m. gave us a good shot.
It’s the middle of the week, I thought. Don’t people have work to get ready for? They don’t have time to stand in line for a made-up dessert.
I was wrong.
There were about 80 people ahead of us in line. Quite a few brought blankets and chairs, leaving me to feel quite unprepared.
Finally, after we’d been corralled to the inner edge of the sidewalk for three hours and tided over with mini Madeleine cookies courtesy of the bakery, we walked through the door.
The chef himself greeted us, we joined a last, tantalizingly short line, and I finally saw them. There was a tray of cronuts sitting there — round, taller than a normal doughnut, with a strip of glazed frosting around the top.
At about 9:24 a.m., I bit into my cronut.
And the verdict was…
It didn’t taste much different from the ones in L.A. Fried goodness? Definitely. Worth the wait? Debatable. It did have the flakiness of a croissant, melded into a doughnut’s round, fried body, and the textures were fascinating together, especially with the cream filling adding a third layer that was much more subtle than the loud (but delicious) nutella in Santa Monica.
But my advice would be to try any of the other incredible desserts that Ansel has created – you don’t have to wait three hours for those, and you can visit some of our very own L.A. spots to get delicious, cronut-style doughnuts that taste pretty similar and don’t take as much time. Plus, there are more options in L.A. than just one flavor a month, in case coconut isn’t for you.
But if you want a fun, tourist-y New York experience with friends, and you’re an early riser, go cronut crazy.