August 12, 2013

Imitation Cronuts at Frances Bakery

In May 2013, a French, Manhattan-based chef named Dominique Ansel introduced to the world, a delicate pastry he dubbed as the "Cronut" (yes, it's trademarked).  This hybrid of a croissant and donut took the former pastry chef of the famous Daniel restaurant ten recipes and over two months of experimenting. There are many rules that come with this cronut, too.  "Please eat Cronuts immediately as they have a short shelf life. And if you do cut, please use a serrated knife, so as not to crush the layers. Never refrigerate these treats as the humidity from the refrigerator will cause them to go stale and soggy. Since Cronuts are filled with cream, we do not recommend serving them warm." More on the Cronuthere.

Despite it's steep sticker price of $5 a pop, people woke, and still wake, up at dawn to make their sleepy ways towards Ansel's bakery in SoHo, only to wait in long lines.  All this for temporary bliss found in what I imagine is a wonderful, but fleeting taste of heaven on earth.  (That's right, I have not yet tried this infamous Cronut™).  As the rest of the world watches in awe and mostly envy, a few cities such as good ol' LA decided Manhattanites shouldn't be the only ones deserving of such a delight.  Hello, knock-offs galore!

Regular Cronut -- $4

The one I sampled comes from a hole-in-the-wall bakery called Frances Bakery in Little Tokyo, LA. It's so small that it doesn't even have its own website.  Once known just for sharing the same plaza as its more famous cousin, Sushi Gen and occasionally for its French macarons, Frances Bakery has now gained widespread attention from Angelenos and perhaps from Mr. Ansel himself. I first learned that they were serving the imitation cronut from a friend in early June.

Because many more people have heard that Frances is serving these delights, I highly recommend you call the bakery in advance to ensure they haven't run out, or even to reserve a few before going in.

THE Cronut
photo courtesy of Dominique Ansel Bakery

The Wannabe

As you can immediately tell, the imposter is readily identifiable.  Still, Frances Bakery's cronut is what I imagine any croissant + donut hybrid would taste: flaky, creamy, and ridiculously fatty in all its fried glory.

So, the question remains:  Is it overrated?  Maybe Ansel's precious creation is worth the hours spent in a block-long line, and maybe folks who rave that it was "totally worth every minute!" really mean it, and aren't saying that to protect their pride.  A part of me believes them, though.  You can't go too wrong with sugar bombs, soaked in butter and dunked in oil.  Every sinful bite is delicious!

Nom, nom, nom.

One day, I shall taste the original Cronut™, but until then, I am perfectly content with LA's version.  After all, sometimes the name brand is better by label alone, and who knows how long this cronut craze will last.  That being said, you should still try it out -- the genuine one or its imitation.

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Frances Bakery on Urbanspoon

cuisine: Bakery
location: Little Tokyo
websites: { yelp }
note: Try to bring cash because there's a $10 minimum purchase for credit cards.
other places in LA serving "cronuts": DK's (SM); Semi-Sweet Bakery (DTLA) & Frances Bakery (Little Tokyo)
other reviews on the real deal: { grab your fork | grubstreet NYC | serious eats NYC }

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