Dominique Ansel Bakery, 189 Spring Street, New York City
Dominique Ansel Bakery: Cronut Central
The Cronut. It’s legend is well…legendary. That time the suave French Playboy Mr. Croissant seduced Ms. Donut into the back seat of his Toyota Yaris. She succumbed to his charms and the two made passionate love thus producing the aforementioned ultimate French-American pastry. Behold the Cronut.
I don’t suggest trying to envision the two pastries’ lovemaking, because it has already been done by Dominique Ansel, of Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York.
Mr. Ansel formulated a special dough that offered the flakiness and layers of a croissant with the light chewy sweetness and shape of a donut. However in order to indulge in one you have to go through long lines, and put in a lot of time. The Cronut Craze has created a demand so strong that has people getting up much earlier than the bakery’s 8am opening time to be one of the few that get one. In fact, once I made it inside the bakery, I noticed the “Sold Out” sign was permanently affixed beside the Cronut. Clearly, if you want one, you have to plan ahead and do it for the experience.
The Cronut Experience
5:20am — I wake up, begrudgingly, despite having a sweet tooth, this seems too early. My friend Jesse, whom I’m staying with asked me to knock on his door so he can get up early and go to the gym. Great… it’s 5:20am and I already feel like a total fat-ass.
5:40am — I have made my way down from my friend’s apartment in NoLiTa to the bakery on Spring Street. As luck would have it it’s only a 15 minute walk. So far my plan is working out.
5:45am — I’m not sure why I’m surprised but I am… I’m the 21st person in line. Don’t these people have lives?!?! No wait… I’m lining up for a bastard donut/croissant mash up. I’m only about 50 feet (12 metres) from the front door. It reminds me of that time I lined up for a concert for that band I thought was popular at the time. (Reader’s note: that is something I never did and thought was completely stupid, so I do have mixed feelings about lining up for a pastry.) Just as I take my place, a few more people join the line.
Line up: 24 people.
6:00am — I’ve established my position and the cast of characters that surround me. There is a hippy-ish or is it hipster-ish girl in front of me. She has glasses and I think her entire wardrobe, purse included, is made with fabric or yarn. In front of her is a German couple in front of me that are so in love with each other, I’d want to puke, except I didn’t have any breakfast. They are holding hands, and the guy at some point hugs her to keep her warm. Or to keep him warm. Either way it’s beautiful (I’m a die-hard romantic) but unnecessary for me to witness this early. In front of them are a young Indian woman and a guy who I will call Captain Cronut. I will soon find out the Captain knows everything there is about the Cronut. Behind me is an American girl that is reading a book, behind her is another foreign tourist of either German or French decent (Am I being surrounded by Germans?). He is wearing a blue or grey button down shirt but still looks like he has this “I-don’t-give-a-fuck” attitude so that’s pretty badass. He kind of looks like Dave Grohl of the Fu Fighters. Behind him is an Asian man on his iPad. I wish I had my iPad.
The line has grown to 45 people.
6:15am — I’m not going to lie to you: I’m tired. My legs are okay for now. I make eye contact with German Dave Grohl. We do that “how are your legs doing?” look, impressed that we are both standing while most people are constantly stretching, squatting and even sitting on the New York City sidewalk. Captain Cronut is chatting up his female friend about the last time he got a Cronut. Apparently there is a “flavour of the month” and he’s tried 4 of them. That means he has done this 4 other times. I am starting to hate this guy.
6:30am — Time seems to be moving quickly, and I’m basically ease-dropping into Captain Cronut’s philosophy on life, which apparently revolves around this bakery. I’ve learned so much about all the wonderful baked goods that Dominique Ansel Bakery provides. The DAK, Captain Cronut has assured is actually much better than the Cronut. And they have this Frozen S’mores that everyone in ear-shot must try. Ya, buddy I read the article, I’m aware of the Frozen S’mores. Thanks Captain Cronut! With your powers combined you can go write Cronuts for Dummies. Some part of me wants this dummie to shut up.
More and more people are filing into line and has grown to 75.
6:45am — Captain Cronut is still chatting away to his female companion Innocent Indian woman (that’s her sidekick name, don’t blame me, it’s too early to be too creative.) Fabric Hipster in front of me is reading a book and if I can position myself correctly I can probably read over her shoulder. She is only about 5 foot 5 inches so I tower over her a bit, but I can’t seem to be able to get a consistent view of whatever Fem-Lit book she is reading. I wish I had my iPad. I wonder to myself if I could get into a fight with that Asian man and steal his iPad. This is a bad idea on two fronts: 1) I’m fairly non-violent and it’s very likely I would lose and 2) that would mean I get kicked out of the Cronut Line. There is a security guard in a blue blazer standing out front making sure we are remaining orderly.
Line up: about 120 people.
7:00am — Now I am starting to wonder if this was a good idea at all. It’s a goddam donut for chrissakes! I’ve been standing in the same spot for over an hour and I’m tired, and hungry. I see the park benches by me and I want to sit there, but I’m afraid of losing my spot. I look over at German Dave Grohl and he’s standing in the same spot like a statue. I’m starting to wonder if he’s some kind of robot. I look over his robot-shoulder and see the line has grown exponentially to well over 150 people. Taxis are pulling up and letting out more tourists. I look ahead to the front of the line and make sure no one has jumped the line. By Captain Cronut and Innocent Indian woman are two young women, probably hoping to get a Cronut before going off to work. The tall brunette is wearing a silverish raincoat and high heeled shoes. Not very practical. They both are too well dressed to be lining up for a Cronut. Some parts of me wishes I was in sweatpants and had a fold out chair. The tall brunette has nice legs. Really nice legs.
7:15am — Captain Cronut has been talking non-stop to Innocent Indian woman about Cronuts and I think about what high school he went to and how he didn’t go to University. I’m beginning to think two separate thoughts 1) Is this a first date, and a bad one at that? and 2) How can I get the good ol’ Captain to SHUT THE FUCK UP?!?
7:20am — The line up is over 200 people and it stretches around the corner of the fenced off Basketball court at the corner of Spring and Thompson Street. Out of nowhere, a short bald muscular man wearing what appears to be a “Gold’s Gym” Tshirt starts to chin ups on the scaffolding across the street. I think he’s doing it to impress the ladies in line. I check with the tall brunette with nice legs. Nope, she’s busy chatting with her friend. And the German couple is still very much in love with each other. Fabric Hipster’s eyes haven’t left her book. There are however a gaggle of young women in line giggling at how ridiculous he looks doing that. I think he noticed their “appreciation” and has now made his way over to the park bench by the basketball courts at Spring and Thompson Street. I wonder if he is going to jump the line? Maybe his show of strength was to let people know not to mess with him. I start doing squats to stretch out my legs. If a riot breaks out I want to be limber.
7:30am – Captain Cronut is still talking and Innocent Indian woman looks at her watch and remarks “wow, you’ve talked this whole time, an hour has gone by!” Captain Cronut laughs. I want to destroy Captain Cronut. It’s just amazing how he can talk about Cronuts and only Cronuts. He has amassed a bit of a following. The people in his immediate vicinity are all captivated by his tales of Cronuttiness.
7:35am — A very sweet short black employee of the Bakery has come out to assess the line up. She warmly wishes everyone a good morning and chats with a couple of people at the front of the line. Captain Cronut throws her a hello. She waves back and they chat for a bit. Of course they know each other!?! The employee goes back into the Bakery and soon enough a few other employees come out with free samples of their madeleines. This small cookie represents hope.
Line up: over 250 people
7:45am — It’s the home stretch now. The Bakery opens up at 8am and things are positive. Captain Cronut has stopped yammering about godknowswhat. And frankly I’ve written an entire episode of Law and Order in my head about a murder involving a Cronut as the main piece of evidence, a dead famous French pastry chef, and an overzealous pastry fan nick-named you guessed it “the Captain.” In my head the detectives are interviewing one of the employees. But the employee has 300 Cronuts to fill, so naturally he answers all their questions while still doing his work. What a good employee. (By the way, the employee did it, because the famous French pastry chef had a new idea and the employee thought she could steal it and open up her own bakery. Also, she was sleeping with the pastry chef, so it hurt when he was going to leave her. Cue the music.)
8:00am — The Bakery doors finally open and I’ll have my Cronut in no time. Throughout the morning I wondered if a riot would break out and even if it didn’t what were the chances of me not getting a Cronut by some fluke of nature? I quickly did the math – 300 Cronuts and 20 people in front of me allowed to buy 2 each. That’s 260 Cronuts. But as the doors creaked open and they let the first 15 people inside the bakery, I’m starting to see the finish line.
Line up: Well over 300 people I’m assuming. The line up is so long and down Thompson Street I don’t know where it stops.
8:05am — While many people have walked by the bakery wondering what all the line up was for, a few people can enter into the Bakery if they want anything except a Cronut. This is essential information. A small young Asian woman walks up to the front door and is approached by one of the employees. She is pointing to a white 8X10 piece of paper and the employee nods and asks her to get in line. She wants a Cronut I presume.
8:15am — I’m inside the bakery, with Fabric Hipster and the German Couple. Captain Cronut is already there and waiting for his order. Aside from the Cronuts they have ordered the Frozen S’mores on a stick. As if I didn’t hear enough about that… but watching the pastry chef prepare them was pretty fun to see.
8:20am – I am a few spots away from the display case, which means I am about 20 people away from the front of the line. I see the small young Asian woman in line in front of me. Wait… what? Captain Cronut approaches an employee and tells him that he thinks there is a line jumper.
WE HAVE A JUMPER!!!!
The employee approaches the small young Asian woman and explains to her that she cannot just get in line for a Cronut. She must have entered under the guise of getting something else and decided to sneak into the LINE inside. The small young Asian woman pretends not to understand English. She doesn’t speak English. Riight. It reminded me of something out of World War II, as the employee escorts the small woman out of the Bakery. He remained polite and insisted that if she wanted anything else she could get it. But the Cronuts were for the idiots that lined up all morning. (My words not his.) Part of me believes she was never seen again.
Line up: Who cares I’m inside.
8:25am — I get to see first hand the business behind the counter. As I mentioned before one chef is blowtorching the Frozen S’Mores. Cronuts by the tray are being set up and placed into their golden dome boxes. I get full view of the DAK’s and the madeleines and I’m starting to feel excited.
8:30am — I’m at the front of the line and basically told the woman at the register “This is my first time, so you just tell me what to get and I will say yes.” Obviously 2 Cronuts for sure, but she suggested the DAK’s. Check. The Cannelle’s. Check. The Chocolate Merigue Cookie was voted best in New York. Check. A Frozen S’mores. Check. And a few postcards to mail out to friends who would enjoy the idiocy of my adventure.
About $50 spent, and my bag of baked goods in hand I still have to wait for my Frozen S’mores. I see the German couple and ask them if it was all worth it. They seem happy. I ask them where they are from, and they are indeed from Germany. Man I’m good. They are from Munich, and luckily I recently made a friend from my Masters’ program from there so I tell them I’m familiar a bit. I refrain from making reference to the movie. It’s a heavy topic, and we are in the Bakery waiting for S’mores.
8:35am — I get my S’mores and head to the back to the seating around. I take my photos, and indulge in the Frozen S’mores first. It’s ooey and gooey and you can’t wipe the smile off my face. Once I’m done with the S’mores, I stare at the golden dome containing the Cronuts. I pop it open and pick up one of the Cronuts. A sense of relief and satisfaction wash over me and I bite into the pastry and realize the adventure is over. The Cronut is an incredible treat. I think what brings so much hype and craze over the Cronut is the aspect of going through this journey just to get it. On top of that, the Cronut is flakey, light, sweet and hits that pleasure centre almost immediately. I’ve eaten a fake Cronut from an Israeli bakery and it doesn’t compare. Mind you I ate the original Ansel Cronut as it was baked fresh that morning, while the Israeli doppelganger was purchased much later in the day, I would still say that the original is far superior than any imitation. And there are plenty of imitators in New York City and all over the world.
The Cronut’s Final Verdict
While I believe that there is rarely anything worth lining up for two and a half hours, and the Cronut is probably no exception, what’s life if it’s not filled with unique experiences. The Cronut is really an incredible treat. The specially formulated dough, the flavour of the month was fig, which I’m a fan, and the custard filled pastry brings together an incredible satisfying dessert. It’s a direct shot of sugar to your bloodstream, a fresh punch in the mouth of goodness that makes the whole ordeal worth it.
In an effort to respect the Baker’s suggestion that the Cronut should be eaten within 8 hours, I had offered my friend Paul the second Cronut. It was nearing 3pm and closing in on the 8 hour time frame. We stood in the lobby of his building as he munched on the Cronut, the Golden dome box by his side. A German model entered the building — and I’m assuming she was a model because she was blonde and stunning — and upon eyeing the dome container realized my friend was eating a Cronut. “Oh you got yourself a Cronut, it looks so good.” Being unable to form actual sentences we both just nod. Paul says he was lucky he didn’t have to wait in line, and that’s what having good (albeit idiotic) friends are for. She smiles and heads to the elevators. Paul and I look at each other in disbelief and then he says “you know what, this Cronut’s alright.”
Suggestions for Tourists
In the book “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending” by Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton the main concept is that if money can’t buy you happiness, perhaps spending your money more wisely can bring about more happiness. In the first chapter they say that people can derive more happiness from experiences over material goods. They offer these words:
“You are likely to get the biggest bang for your buck if:
- The experience brings you together with other people, fostering a sense of social connection.
- The experience makes a memorably story that you’ll enjoy retelling for years to come.
- The experience is tightly linked to your sense of who you are or want to be.
- The experience provides a unique opportunity, eluding easy comparison with other available options.”
So was the Cronut worth it? I think so. I think we make an effort to line up and try new things to fill ourselves with the satisfaction of being unique or different. If you have a chance to eat at that famous one of a kind restaurant, or stay overnight in an ice hotel, or line up for 3 hours to get a donut-croissant mash up… wouldn’t you?