One of my most-adored things about New York is that if there’s a new food to be invented, it’s going to happen here. Where else would the CronutTM have come to be?
This croissant-donut hybrid has been labelled a “masterpiece” and chef Dominique Ansel was dubbed a “culinary Van Gogh” for his sought-after pastry. The city went into a complete frenzy over the tasty invention with people queuing all day to get their hands on one. They were even being sold on the ‘black market’ for $100 (£62) instead of the usual $5 (£3) if you checked Craig’s List. Ansel told me his eponymous Spring Street bakery found the reaction overwhelming.
“I think everyone was surprised by the response,” Ansel said. “It went viral overnight and it was hard going from a nice casual opening with two baristas and myself, to seeing 100 people out the door three hours before we opened in less than one week. It was a struggle to staff up immediately and we tried our best.
“Then we decided we were going to step up and service the line even more. Today, we send out hot chocolates, madeleines, and lemonade for the line, and even arrange for entertainment on special occasions.”
If the in-line service still doesn’t tempt you, the best time to ensure you get your mitts on the delectable danish is to arrive at 7 am, an hour before they open. Or you could make your very own CronutTM.
A few weeks ago, as a taster, the award-winning chef released an at-home version of the recipe and this week his first cook book DOMINIQUE ANSEL: The Secret Recipes is out, featuring many more beautiful creations from the inventive chef.
“We’ve adopted many of the recipes to make them more at-home friendly, using different ingredients and techniques that are more convenient,” Ansel explained. “But the real secret isn’t in the recipes, it’s in the stories of inspiration that I tell. Replicating a recipe is never going to teach [you] how to be a great cook. But practicing creation will!”
I predict the book will be a success, because New Yorkers find testing out hybrids very hard to resist. In 2010, people toyed with the pizza cone; instead of a traditional slice, your pizza could come nicely enveloped in a cone with no fear of oil drips. The ramen burger was an instant sell-out item at food market Smorgasburg, where Brooklynites queued early and went mad for the Japanese-American mash-up. Then there was the ramen pizza, but its popularity didn’t last. In fact, aside from the ramen burger, which is still going strong, the other two trends have somewhat fizzled out.
More legitimately, raw fish restaurants have grown in popularity across the city, as has the emergence of Australian coffee houses. Having lived in Sydney for six years, I can attest to Australia having the world’s best coffee, so this is a very welcome trend to me. And I’m lucky enough to have a Toby’s Estate, a phenomenal small batch coffee roster, six blocks from my apartment.
On the less appealing side of hybrids comes drinkable quinoa and brusselkale, which is threatening to be a thing here. Kale even gets its own National Day on the first Wednesday of October. And if that doesn’t convince you of its growing popularity, last year 262 babies in the US were named after it.
Another flourishing fad is gourmet popcorn, which has become so popular it can be found in most of the city’s supermarkets. But for the real deal experience, Garrett Popcorn Shops on West 34th Street, near Penn Station, is well worth a visit. (Sweet and savoury fans should try the Garrett Mix). The brand is proving so popular that it has already opened numerous stores around the world, with a UK branch said to be coming soon.
One trend that is certainly showing no signs of abating, even as winter approaches, is artisanal ice cream. With flavours that would give Heston Blumenthal a run for his money, Hay Rosie on Sackett Street in Brooklyn is gaining a reputation as craft ice cream makers extraordinaire. Odd offerings like feta tomato (a mix of feta and goat cheese with a tomato caramel swirl) enjoy pride of place next to yummy Chocolate Chai and bizarre Sriracha Popcorn. When sci-fi screenwriter-turned-ice cream maker Brian Smith first opened Ample Hills in Prospect Heights, he had to close after four days, because he couldn’t keep up demand. But, he relaunched the following week and now boasts three locations in Brooklyn. The more the merrier.
It’s hard not to love a city with such dedication to inventive food.