They're not even a month old, and the backlash to cronuts — those crispy, delicious, near-impossible-to-obtain inbreeds of the food-snob world — is already upon us. Sure, they're a big deal: Pastry chef Dominique Ansel's half-donut/half-croissant creation has turned into full-on "cronut mania," with just 200-250 of the pastries available at his eponymous Soho bakery per day, selling for $5 apiece... or up to eight times that on the black market. But like we saw with the end of fancy cupcakes and Krispy Kreme donuts before them, this period of foodie glee is swiftly ending as the cronut inevitably becomes a non-delicacy of plebeian eaters outside of New York City. Expect the hate to be in full effect come Friday, when National Donut Day arrives and Dunkin' Donuts prepares to unleash the Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich, which consists of fried eggs and bacon served in a split-glazed donut. But the process of procuring a cronut hasn't helped anything either. Let us count the ways to dislike this relatively delicious pastry invention.
The Wait: Early Bird Gets a Cronut
The Atlantic Wire team actually had to work in shifts to procure a few cronuts on Friday morning. At approximately 6:32 a.m., I got off the C Train at Spring Street and walked over to the bakery, where I was the 30th person in line. Dominique Ansel Bakery is more or less mid-block; soon enough, the line began to slink its way toward the corner. By 6:55, when my colleague J.K. Trotter came to take my place in line because I had to go to work, the single-file string of breakfast-food experimentalists was already around the corner and onto Sullivan Street.
Simply put, this is a pastry you have to get up early for — earlier than when your mother used to wake you for church; earlier than an early shift at work; about as early for that terrible-awesome road trip your father took you on. It's all too early for a single breakfast item, really.
The Spectacle: There Will Be Instagram
When you commit to trekking to a bakery before some of the neighborhood's garbage trucks and then line up with more than 50 people somehow doing the same thing, you're going to grab attention. It's sort of like Occupy Wall Street, but with freshly bathed, possibly unemployed individuals in printed pants and Wayfarers, plus a smattering of tourists determined to find the next Magnolia Bakery.
And this is not just any other foodie trend, with pictures of plates proliferating. No, you are the subject of inquiry, an eater turned trend-setter for a thing that has already been a thing for too long, and people in their Soho apartments will Instagram you (that's #cronutmania, if you're keeping up). Your stomach's curiosity will soon make its way to the faceless void of the Internet, condemning said curiosity as a waste of time. Your line mates will take photos, too; there will be live-tweeting. It's not unlike going see a Twilight movie on opening night, except without the dark theater to hide in.
The Small Talk: The End of Men
About 15 minutes into my wait, a man behind me started chatting up the man next to him about cronuts. The conversation was not unlike what you'd hear in that line outside of the nightclub where all the dudes who didn't bring enough women with them are waiting, and talking. "Do you think we'll get in?" one grown fellow asked, only this man was not asking about getting into a nightclub where he would have to pay twice as much, wait twice as long, and probably get taken advantage of once inside. This man was asking about a fancy donut.
The Walk of Shame: An Unavoidable Box of Gluttony
In the off-chance that I get fast-food in New York City, I try and hide it. I've taken cabs home from Popeye's to avoid the judgment — also, buckets of chicken are a handful — and I've hidden McDonald's in my work bag to take home. I also stuffed White Castle into a tote bag one time. Because people in New York City think you're being a lump if you choose McDonald's and its delicious processed potatoes over the plethora of Manhattan's hot food establishments.
And so it is near impossible to hide that you have just spent close to an hour procuring a cronut. You see, cronuts come in a peculiar box that looks likes an elegant satchel that goes with a Burger King crown. Here's our unboxing process:
People on the street will know you have cronuts. The homeless people will know, too. People on the subway will see it. Your co-workers will seethe with rage and/or jealousy. Being inconspicuous is difficult, and the ensuing shame inevitable.
The Elitism: Who's in, Who's Out, Who Wants More
Ansel and his crew of bakers have stuck to their daily limited edition, and so every day people go home cronut-less. Cronuts, like life, are expensive and unfair. And mere seconds could separate the haves from the vanilla-cream-craving have-nots. Here's the line after our team left around 8:20 a.m., just as a bakery staffer announced they has only three cronuts left:
There was a time when you could get six cronuts, but that was a time long ago. (Like a couple weeks.) The maximum cronut purchasing regulation has since been cut in half; it's a three-cronut--per-person limit these days.
So there will be people without cronuts. There will be people who want more cronuts. There will be heartbreak. And pastries should bring smiles, not heartbreak. That's like the first rule of pastries. Meanwhile, in all that hurt and anger, celebrity chef Eric Ripert appears to be gorging himself on an endless supply somewhere:
GO...!!!! twitter.com/ericripert/sta…— Eric Ripert (@ericripert) May 31, 2013
And Ansel doesn't even care about feelings, which is actually sort of admirable:
What I've learned is that it's very difficult to make everybody happy. What I've learned is that it's one thing to make one product, but also people have to see it in a different way. We have so many great items on the menu... We don't only have one product that is special and unique, we have a lot more.
The Cronut Black Market: 40 Bucks for One of These Things?
According to New York's Kevin Roose, things have gotten weird on Craigslist. "The competition for cronuts is so hot that there is now a sizable black market, with people charging as much as 800 percent markups for scalped cronuts," Roose writes. These people are like ticket scalpers, which is to say they are terrible people. And prices are only getting higher.
The Taste: They're Not That Good
Upon our return to the office with a few cronuts, an informal poll of Atlantic Wire staffers found that most of us enjoyed the uber-pastry — no one said it was bad. But a couple of us found it to be too rich, too sweet, and maybe just too much, even for 9 a.m. on a summer Friday. A cronut is sweeter than the donuts from New York's other haute-donut favorite, the Doughnut Plant, and you'd be hard-pressed to eat an entire cronut without something to cut the richness. That sentiment was echoed by Justin Rocket Silverman over at the New York Daily News. "Too sweet! I liked that the pastries were light and fluffy, with a rich, creamy filling. But they didn’t taste much different from a run-of-the-mill éclair," Silverman writes.
How bad for you is New York's favorite cruller on vanilla-flavored steroids? Though there isn't an official calorie count out there yet, but we kind of don't want to think about the calories. Donuts, croissants, and vanilla cream — all components of a cronut — are already high enough in calories on their own. And there are plenty of reasons to dislike the thing already, aren't there? Maybe the hate in the making helps weed out the non-believers from the people who want to ruin this trend before it even starts. And maybe that's the point.