$10 a person
Dominique Ansel’s Cronut has become quite the dream, like a unicorn, or a snow day in April. I mean, who has the time or energy to wake up at 5:30, get on line for four hours and deal with crazed, sleep deprived foodies. I’m a little embarrassed to say that my family and I totally have that kind of time.
Dominique Ansel’s bakery, a narrow shop in SoHo with a garden in the back, was the best thing that I could discover to NYC when I got back from France last Spring. After a week in Paris, hunting down the best bakeries, taking pastry classes, learning everything down to the percentage of fat for butter and standing in the cold to get into an impossible to get into restaurant, Frenchie, hours before it opened (yes, I also went to museums) I was dreading coming back to New York. However, one day when we were back, my mom went in to Dominique Ansel to get some pastries. I got a text from her of a picture of a Kouign Amann (under the name of DKA), which is possibly the most amazing pastry I’d had on my trip (it tastes like a doughier version of an elephant ear cookie and is caramelized on the top and buttery on the inside and just basically a perfect dream come true for someone who loves pastries as much as I do).
At Dominique Ansel, the Kouign Amann and the canele, a cakier crème brûlée like dome with a caramelized, almost crispy coating, are worth waiting for at 6 AM, but there is a separate, shorter line for those unbelievable pastries! You also don’t have to wait in the Cronut line for the frozen s’mores made of smoky vanilla ice cream with crunchy, melt-y graham cracker chocolate bits and a warm, toasted honey marshmallow coating, torched in front of your eyes. The only thing you have to wait in the insufferable line for is the Cronut, and I have to say it; I just don’t understand the craze.
Now I’m not saying that a flaky, cream-filled, sugar coated fried croissant isn’t fantastic (it was delicious obviously), I just wonder why that’s the thing that is so hyped up when the same baker is capable of making a Kouign Amann that can trump anybody’s willpower. The intense line and social media food-porn craze set the bar so high it’s impossible to achieve. The people around us in line were all excited, but skeptical. There is so much scheming around the process of obtaining a cronut that it was like 90% of the experience. A man from the bakery brought out warm mini madeleines and said, “thank you for being patient.” Everybody booed Steve, the man whose wife had him skip the line, as he walked sheepishly past 300 hungry, tired foodies. There are the two men who live in the park around the corner, who reserve the two front spots in the line at 4:00 AM and sell them for $30 a piece. Two police cars showed up at one point and Dominique Ansel himself walked out of the bakery to deal with the situation. I wonder if there were no line and no expectations, what the Cronut would taste like.
However one thing I am wildly impressed by at Dominique Ansel (contradicting all stereotypes about French bakeries) is the friendly attitude of everyone in the bakery. They are there at the crack of dawn (if you think waking up for the line is early) baking, only to get pushed around and overcrowded, yet everyone in there kept a smile on their face.
This is in great contrast to PB Boulangerie, a small bakery and bistro in South Wellfleet, which has lines out the door until closing time and sells out of almond croissants seconds after opening (wahhhhhh!). At PB, where I believe has the best croissant, if you misname a pastry, or confuse the angry line in the slightest way, they will go out of their way to get you stale pastries from the back, smash your things into a box way too small and grunt at you. At Dominique Ansel, after I’m sure the thousandth time of the morning, when asked to smile for a picture, the man blowtorching a frozen s’more did just that.
Overall, I really hope that you have a chance to go to Dominique Ansel. When you do, go for the short line and get some warm Kouign Amann and cannelle to eat in the garden with coffee. You can’t get a Cronut this way, so if you’re up for the adventure, brave the line, but if not, I think that eating Kouign Amann in the garden is a lovely way to spend the morning. Maybe try a frozen s’more, a macron or a mousse too (I know I would)!