Mar 2, 2014
The Cray L.A. Cronut Line at Barney's New York, The Grove. Dominque Ansel Brings the REAL Cronut to the Land of Fakes aka Hollywood.
Dominique Ansel, the Creator of Cronut. Let there be Cronut!
Rumors of Dominique Ansel and real Cronuts —the insanely popular and delicately delicious donut-croissant hybrid— touching down in Los Angeles have been brewing for months. This past Saturday, those rumors transformed into Cronut reality, making a multitude of Cronutjobs joyous beyond belief. It was like Christmas all over again but with Cronuts. That's actually not too bad an analogy, if I do say so myself, because the line that snaked back on itself over and over again, more resembled a line at Walmart's Black Friday in Porter Ranch than a queue for Cronuts.
I got a sample, and it was awesome — flaky, airy, and sublime. However, I likely wouldn't wait up to 4 hours for a taste but, hey, this L.A. Cronut pop-up at Barney's New York, The Grove was entirely for charity. Every penny of the proceeds went to Heart of Los Angeles, so that alone justifies the wait.
I've been asked repeatedly whether I think it's worth the hours long wait. My simple opinion is that Dominique Ansel has created an exceptional pastry that is worth waiting for but exactly how long is up to you. I know Ansel himself never in his wildest dreams believed his Cronut would be such a sensation but now it is, turning him and his deluxe donut into rockstars.
It's been less than a year since the Cronut was unleashed onto the unsuspecting public back in May 10, 2013. And it's still a very big deal. How else can you get Angelenos to come out in monsoon conditions on a Saturday, wait in line for hours, super early in the morning, at The Grove, just for a donut? When it's a Cronut personally brought to you by Dominique Ansel himself, that's how.
If you weren't there Saturday, this is how Cronut's first visit to L.A. went down. And it didn't act like a tourist, more like a superstar.
Feb 26, 2014
PreGel booth at the Winter Fancy Food Show 2013 in San Francisco.
Dominique Ansel's Cronut has captured the imagination of foodies and pastry chefs all over the globe. If you've been living in Gitmo and didn't know, the Cronut is the delicately delicious croissant and donut fusion that commands lines of up to 4 hours long. It's also ignited a sometimes ridiculous frenzy to invent the next mash-up food fad like the Ramen Burger or the Crogel (croissant and bagel hybrid). About a couple of weeks ago, yet another melded munchie has emerged from the culinary world. It's called Milky Bun, and it comes from Afters Ice Cream located in the bedroom burb of Fountain Valley in the OC.
PreGel representative demoing the Panini Gelato press.
Milky Bun's concept is this: take two halves of a donut, plop ice cream in the center, and seal them together. Voilà! Milky Bun! The sensual beauty of the Milky Bun are the contrasting temperatures from the warm donut and the cold ice cream as well as the textural differences of spongy and creamy from its respective components. I know this about the Milky Bun and yet I've never eaten one. I probably won't try one any time soon especially with that massive hours long line. (The line for the Ramen Burger when it hit LA was insane enough.) I know what Milky Bun is like because I pretty much tasted one almost exactly a year ago at a trade show called Fancy Food Show.
The specific show I attended was the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco at the Moscone Center. I remember wandering around the convention hall and being overwhelmed by the vastness of the place and the sheer multitude of exhibitors. However, through all the clutter of cheese wheels and candy dispensers, I honed in on a booth occupied by PreGel, a specialty dessert ingredient manufacturer and distributor. What PreGel was sampling drew large crowds. And as people got their sweet sample, they walked away excitedly chirping about it. I shuffled up to get mine and, when I got it, I knew instantly this was a great concept.
The PreGel Panini Gelato.
The PreGel Panini Gelato is a system that creates a dessert "panini" filled with gelato. But more precisely, it's a donut filled with ice cream or whatever frozen dessert. PreGel either sells or leases the Panini Gelato Machine and supplies the dessert's components: Sweet Panini Bun, PreGel gelato or frozen yogurt flavor, and toppings. So basically, the Panini Gelato is a Milky Bun.
Although I can't be completely positive that Afters Ice Cream is utilizing the PreGel system, the technique is pretty much the same. The Milky Bun is not nearly as time intensive to construct or skillfully made as the Cronut (even a bonobo can make a Milky Bun) but that doesn't mean Milky Bun is not as good or even better than a Cronut. That's up to the taster.
I remember enthusiastically telling my friends and family that I saw one of the greatest dessert makers ever invented at the Fancy Food Show. I remember saying that this thing will be big. I even considered investing in one and somehow selling the pastries. I went as far as naming my fantasy food the "Fro-nut" short for frozen donut. I know, I know, super clever! But as with anything in life, action speaks louder than words, and real Milky Buns will always taste better than my imaginary Fro-nuts.
I can always dream...
Afters Handcrafted Ice Cream, 18030 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, CA 92708
Feb 14, 2014
Deep End Decade: I'm Your Number One Fan! You Betta Recognize! Happy Valentine's Day! Horse Thief BBQ. Downtown L.A.
Me n' Anthony Chin of Horse Thief BBQ.
Funny things happen when you least expect them. Back in 2007, I was having lunch with my ex-wife Diane at one of my favorite restaurants, the IKEA cafeteria. (You know you love it.) The Swedish meatballs were moist and delicious as usual, but I recall having some kind of argument with Diane, probably about which shade of Expedit to buy or, worse, who was going to assemble those shelves. Anyway, while we were passionately debating the shelves, I noticed a guy walk by and give me a look of recognition. He then walked back to our table, asked if I was Eddie Lin, apologized for interrupting, and introduced himself. At first I thought I knew him from somewhere but then I realized I didn't. He spoke in a sort of gushing manner, not much unlike a basketball fan who happened to spot Magic Johnson. Not that I'm the Magic Johnson of the food blogging world, but his reaction was, as he even described it, "starstruck." He went on to say that, "He couldn't wait to tell the guys back at the office that he met me." I have to thank him because he was responsible for cooling me and Diane down, ending our tiff.
When I started Deep End Dining in the summer of 2004, I simply wanted to continue my passion for writing in a subject I enjoyed, which I eventually narrowed down to exotic foods. Originally, the intention was for my blog to be about food and travel since I was jet-setting more in those days. But never did I once think that a blog of any kind would turn me into any sort of "celebrity". In fact, I worked in film and television in various behind-the-scenes roles prior to my food blogging "career" change. So I'm very familiar with what real celebrity-dom is about. Getting into the Sky Bar with my entourage without acknowledging the doorman as he unhooked the velvet rope for us was not a perk in food blogging.
I now call that guy I met at IKEA my "number one fan" because he knows quite a bit about me and my writing and even videos. His name is Anthony Chin. And the reason why I go into detail about him is that I ran into him again this week. Yes, roughly six years or more later, I am reunited with my number one fan. And the way we crossed paths again was weirdly similar. I was co-hosting a media event at downtown L.A.'s Grand Central Market with my fellow Los Angeles Magazine staffers and contributors. I was yucking it up with guests when I noticed a guy from my peripheral smiling and looking at me. I assumed he knew me since I was one of the featured guests at the event. Later on he approached me while I was waiting in line for some Central Texas style BBQ from a food stall called Horse Thief BBQ (love the name!). The first thing he said to me was, "I met you at IKEA a while ago." I instantly remembered him because I've told that story many, many times since that encounter. This time I learned his full name, Anthony Chin. He reminded me that he works in the music industry. He also explained that he is a partner of Horse Thief BBQ. My number one fan had become a restaurateur! That is excellent! My reaction to reuniting with him was very enthusiastic, as if I was now the fan boy. (A fan boy for my number one fan. That's sort of weird in a meta way.)
Horse Thief BBQ at Grand Central Market.
Anthony shared with me his favorite posts from Deep End Dining. He recollected his favorite video of me cooking and selling bacon-wrapped hot dogs in front of my house at a yard sale. He even mentioned how I've been kind of slacking on Deep End Dining since I teamed up with Los Angeles Magazine. (Thanks, Anthony for the kick in the pants. Gonna start posting more!)
And now Anthony and his partners are smoking real deal Central Texas style BBQ using oak wood and lovingly coddling the beef brisket for 12 to 15 hours at a time, which results in deep smoky deliciousness. The pulled pork is just as incredible. I need to try the ribs soon!
Deep End Dining has been an amazing ride: TV appearances, radio, books, magazines, newspapers, and all the glitzy parties and events that come along with the now high profile food world. But, truly, the thing that has the most meaning is still what mattered when I first began my blog — connecting with people. Painting a picture in their minds and on their palates, helping my readers taste through my words and sentences because, as you may know, not everyone wants to eat what I eat! Ultimately, telling stories through food is an act of nourishment, love, and giving. And it does all come back to you. Thanks, Anthony for reminding me of that. And to all my "number one fans" out there. I'm a big fan of you too! Happy Valentine's Day.
Horse Thief BBQ's sammies!
Horse Thief BBQ
324 S. Hill St.
Los Angeles, CA 90013