The Cronut Line: Worth It?


The question everyone asks: Is the cronut actually worth lining up at 7am for?

Answer: yes, and no.

Cronut - Sold Out

Question: What is a cronut?

The cronut, as you probably know, is the NYC craze that started at Dominique Ansel bakery in SoHo. It’s a doughnut-shaped croissant, fried, encrusted with sugar, with a flavor-of-the-month jam for both filling and icing. It’s inspired numerous knock-off “croughnuts”, but the trademarked original still draws a long line. Dominique Ansel bakery’s website advises that you will probably get a cronut if you line up at 7 a.m. (the bakery opens at 8). You can also preorder them two weeks in advance by logging on Mondays at 11 a.m. ET sharp, but again, the website advises that they will probably sell out before you can refresh the page.

As a skeptic of anything that requires lining up in advance — I tell you, it only tastes better because you are HUNGRIER — I tried to preoder cronuts on a Monday at 8 a.m. PT. As predicted, I was unable to get through the checkout process quickly enough because traffic to the page kept breaking it.


I flew into NYC on a redeye, which landed me at JFK airport on a Thursday morning at 5.30 a.m. I figured, #YOLO, so I woke up bleary-eyed and hopped on the subway straight for the cronut line. By the time I got there at 6.55 a.m., it was already 30 people deep! I was incredulous. Also, it was cold.

The thing is, the cronut itself is obviously not worth a two-hour wait. So why does the hype live on?

Because it’s about the cronut line, not the cronut itself. I was quite impressed with the production this bakery puts on for the line that wraps around the block. A little past 7 a.m., an employee comes out to greet everyone, thank them for coming, and promise that samples of hot chocolate and madeleines are on their way. At 7.30, as promised, they bring out trays with two sips of hot chocolate in a miniature paper mug, teeny handle and all, and piping-hot, perfectly-flavored madeleines dusted with confectioner’s sugar.


When, at 8 a.m., they finally let people into the bakery 15 people at a time, the last person in line is required to hold a baguette as a marker. This was the moment when I really rolled my eyes. “Has to hold a baguette”? How much more obvious can it be that the cronut line is a curated experience? It’s basically the rustic bakery version of making people line up outside an empty nightclub.



But these guys know what they’re doing. Gotta give it to them — the whole experience, the gorgeous packaging that opens up like a tulip, the beautiful garden patio.

As for the cronut itself: yes, it was good, but honestly not THAT good. Definitely not worth waiting two hours for. It was a bit sickeningly sweet, and the flavor of the month when I went was passionfruit. It wasn’t my favorite, as I’m a bit of a purist and prefer pastries plain or with chocolate. Also, the texture wasn’t actually that croissant-like. In terms of texture and flavor, it was exactly like a kouign amman, but bigger, shaped like a donut, loaded with sugar, and stuffed with passionfruit jam. I’d rather just have a kouign amman and be done with it.

Frankly, the madeleines tasted better — the texture was light and airy, the flavor perfectly subtle. The madeleines were delightful, and I ended up buying 20 to take to my hosts as gifts! I have a hunch that other things on the Dominique Ansel menu are actually better than the cronuts — and you can walk right in and buy them without lining up!


All of these creations, for example, looked absolutely heavenly. Such creativity in terms of the combination of flavors, and the beautiful presentation. But, it’s the cronuts that keep people coming in through that door, and so the bakery works that production line for all it’s worth.


The final word on the cronut is, it’s worth it if you have time to kill. It’s a classic New York experience: that there are people who put time, thought and craft into creating what is basically a glorified way to pass the time. It’s how they earn their keep, and how New York makes good on its promise that you will never have a dull moment. You can always lose a little more sleep to wake up early, stand in line and partake in something that uncannily brings you together with strangers and tourists for just a sliver of shared life, shared experience. I spent two delightful hours in that line wondering about stories: where everyone came from, where they would take the cronuts they’d waited so long to purchase, to whom they would be delivered.

And that’s the thing. Regardless of whether or not the cronut is everything you ever hoped for — NYC never disappoints. It’s not the thing in itself; it’s always the city and all it encompasses.


Bay Area Livin’: We Hike So We Can Eat

The Bay area lifestyle is known to be outdoorsy. Weekend hikes are the norm, bike rides over to Sausalito, skiing in Tahoe, or trekking up Half Dome.

You’re probably imagining San Franciscans as being all fit and caffeinated and not an ounce of body fat on them. There are those types, yes. But then there’s the rest of us, who work out only so as to burn off all some of the calories we take in. Because the eating here–it is gooood.

There are few points on which I’ll concede that NYC > SF, but here’s one: I don’t get quite the same frequency of visitors here as I did when I lived in New York. I do still get some visitors, but fewer and farther between.

But lucky me!!! Last week, everyone came to town. A lot of incredible eating happened. K and I sat at the bar at Nopa for three hours, eating nonstop. We were there so long and ate so much, the bartender told us dessert was on him. So we had dessert too. Nopa was really one of the best eating experiences I’ve had so far in SF. Not to add to the hype (we were at the bar because there were no Open Table reservations until mid-September!). It really just is that good.

My bro and sister-in-law-to-be were also in town, and I spent the day with them on Saturday. Our itinerary was literally a short hike bookended by all-day feasting. We barely even had enough time to work up an appetite between brunch and dinner, but the food was so good, we ate it all anyway.

Brunch at Zazie’s. The waitress highly recommended the gingerbread pancakes. We each got eggs, plus an order of pancakes to share. I had an egg benedict with crab, green onions, and other amazingly delicious things. Also, the gingerbread pancakes were amazing. Also, we were sitting out in the garden patio and it was sunny. It really doesn’t get much better than that!
After brunch, we headed to the Marin Headlands for a hike. We walked along the beach, watched some wakeboarders, and continued along the Coastal Trail for a while.
Absolutely gorgeous.
On the way back, we stopped at a lookout point for views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city beyond.
We had dinner at Esperpento, a Spanish restaurant. We ordered so many tapas, and everything was delicious. And then we had seafood paella. I’d joked with the owner that we were going to order everything. When he came to our table and saw everything we’d ordered, he acknowledged that I wasn’t kidding around! Hehehe.

There was, I’ll admit, an ulterior motive behind planning out this amazing and delicious day: to get M+K to move here next year!

‘Cause ya know, visitors are nice and all, but I actually want everyone to move here! All my friends and family! Having you here would truly make this the best place to live.

Gelato is a Food Group

Given that today’s a national holiday, it’s hot, and there’s pie and ice cream and lots of eating…

Yeah, it’s a pretty weak segue. Really, it’s just an excuse to relive the gelato experience!

This ranking is sort of inadequate, because ALL the gelato in Italy was so good. So, for example, the fact that much-loved Giolitti comes in 7th doesn’t mean that it was bad… it just means that everything else was even better. Mmmm.

#1. Grom, Florence. Grom has branches open in NYC, so perhaps it would make the experience seem less special. But no. This was outstanding: albicocca, raspberry, yogurt flavors blended so beautifully together. Light, refreshing, natural; like eating the fruits themselves, but in delectable icy form. The texture was a perfect balance of icy and creamy, and the mix of flavors were the perfect complement. Sigh. I’m in love.

#2. Gelateria dei Gracchi, Rome. We walked right past this gelateria, even while looking for it on the map! It looks like a humble little hole in the wall, but it has inventive flavors that are truly delicious. Crates full of fruit line the back wall of the kitchen, and these flavors explode with natural ingredients.

Pictured here: ricotta pear, strawberry, toasted almond orange. Every bit of the strawberry flavor was chock full of little strawberry seeds.

Side note: there is nothing more delightful than seeing a full-grown man in a suit licking an ice cream cone with abandon. With gelato this good, anyone could stay a kid at heart forever.

#3. Gelateria Stalin, Cinque Terre. Okay okay, so this gelateria has since given itself a new name that I forgot, because I prefer the original. Yes, the owner’s name was really Stalin.

As you can tell, I gravitated towards fruity flavors because the days were so hot, I wanted something fresh over a nutty nocciola or rich chocolate, which sits heavier on the palate. Here, I got strawberry and bacio–can never go wrong with those two! Also, there’s nothing like having just hiked for five hours to make an ice cream taste extra delicious.

Roma Tre Scalini

#4. Tre Scalini, Rome. Nothing but pure chocolate in that cup. It was pretty awesome.

Corniglia Gelateria Artisanale

#5. Gelateria Artisanale, Cinque Terre. Hmm, I can’t quite remember which flavors these were. I’m guessing coffee and pistachio? What I do remember is sitting in Corniglia’s teeny tiny town square and loving every bite. Also it was one of the best-value servings of gelato–cheaper but no less delicious–which makes it a steal!

Firenze Gelato

#6. Unnamed gelateria, Florence. This was basically the first thing I did when I landed in Italy. Went to the nearest little sidewalk gelateria and got myself a giant scoop of pistachio on a cone. And it was delicious. They do say Florence has the best gelato, and this is proof that you can’t go wrong!


#7. Giolitti, Rome. My friend says Giolitti is his favorite in Rome, and as you can tell from all the empty vats, it’s certainly a popular spot. Maybe I ordered the wrong flavors here, but I wasn’t so impressed. The texture was icier than creamy, and by that time we’d had so much gelato, we preferred the others.

Firenze Gelateria Carrozze

#8. Gelateria Carrozze, Florence. I think this early lesson steered me towards fruitier flavors for the rest of the trip. The gelato at Carrozze was delicious — I got hazelnut that had a chunky, nutty texture, and a bittersweet chocolate — but it was way too rich. With the heat, the sun, the dehydration, I actually couldn’t finish this serving of gelato. It was very sad.

Rome Magnum Pistachio

#9. Magnum Pistachio, Rome. This comes last only because it came out of a package, but it was pretty darn good too! You have to get a Magnum in every country, and try to find the best flavor in each. Of all the ones I’ve had so far, this ranks on top.

And special mention to some non-gelato desserts:


Granita di caffe con panna from Tazza d’Oro, Rome. We discovered this heavenly concoction on our last day in Rome. This is a mixed blessing because on the one hand, I’m so mad I only got to have this once. On the other, I ate so much on this trip, it’s probably a mercy that I didn’t have this more than once. An intense shot of iced espresso mixed in with thick cream, with whipped cream on top–the best iced coffee frappe you’ll ever have.


Dessert at my friend’s wedding in Seville: Vanilla bean ice cream, caramel sauce, and some kind of iced chocolate mousse. This was actually pretty incredible. I ate it all.

Paris Panna Cotta

Earl grey panna cotta infused with orange, Comptoir de la Gastronomie, Paris. I already wrote about this in a prior post, but this was also amazing. Possibly the best panna cotta I’ll have for a long while.

Happy 4th! May your day be full of sweets.

Weekend Getaway: Sunny Los Angeles

Even with 80-degree weather in January, Los Angeles remains a place I don’t want to live. But it’s an easy weekend getaway: San Francisco to Los Angeles is a relatively painless trip, only 50 minutes by plane. And more often than not there are Jet Blue or Virgin America flights for $60 one way.

Santa Monica Beach / Pier:

There really is something incredibly surreal about being on the beach, plasticky-perfect people running around and working out. I guess this really does happen.

Followed by a hike with J up to the Griffiths Observatory, with views of the Hollywood sign, downtown LA and the ocean.

The hike was great, but not nearly strenuous enough to excuse what I ate this weekend:

Black sesame shaved ice with lychee at Blockheads on Sawtelle. So much deliciousness for $4.

Chicken chop salad at True Food Kitchen, a very lifestyle-friendly restaurant in Santa Monica. (Read: they are very sensitive to dietary restrictions. And there are lots of babies and pregnant ladies.)

Clearly, I have to work on improving my food photography now that I’m not using the automatic macro settings on my point-and-shoot, so I apologize that my photography does not do justice to Umami. Mouth-wateringly flavorful Truffle Burger.

Manly Fries: crisp fries drowned in cheese, fatty chunks of bacon and I think onion crisps? I don’t even know. But it was so good.

Umami Burger. Not my fave, actually. Lots of flavors in combination (which I believe is what the “umami” taste is supposed to be about), but I preferred the savory simplicity of the Truffle Burger.

Ice cream sandwich. I chose mint chocolate chip ice cream flavor to refresh my oil-doused palate. So what if it’s sandwiched by double-chocolate chip cookies?

The London Review Cake Shop

I have a confession.

To start, let me explain that a primary reason I enjoy blogging is because I am a maven, according to The Tipping Point‘s classification. Which is not to say that I’m an expert in any particular field, but more that I dash about like an eager little squirrel looking for the choicest bits of information on what to see, or where to get tomorrow’s meal. And I love to share those acorns with anyone who’s interested.

London Review Cake Shop

But I’ve been a furtive, selfish squirrel when it comes to the London Review Cake Shop, my absolute favorite cafe in London. I didn’t even take proper photos of it because I fully intended to not share this information.

Why? you may ask.

London Review Cake Shop

Because it is small. And so special. And the masses should not come to crowd its five tables or drain its supply of fluffy baked goods and delightful teas.

Because I spent so many afternoons there with a pot of tea to help me conquer a stack of reading, or to make catching up with a friend the more cozy.

Because they never rush you out, no matter how long you’ve been there or how long others may wait.

Because it’s attached to a bookshop!

Because it was my special place, with an intangible ambience that made it mine to many, yet entirely mine.

Because it is London’s best kept secret–and now you, too, are bound to secrecy!

{ For better photos and a lovely review, see Mondomulia’s post }

Bay Area Wayfaring: Oakland

It’s been chilly lately–which of course is the perfect time to bring out the cozy sweaters and comfort foods. Neither of which I have a lot of, given that my winter clothes are (still!!) in storage, and I haven’t been stocking the fridge because I keep moving from place to place.

But my upcoming move this weekend will hopefully, for the time being, be my last. It’s been 19 weeks since I came out here, with 11 moves in that time frame.

I’m not gonna lie, it’s been stressful. Had I known coming into this just how challenging it would be (and how hard some others have it), I might have braced myself and been more anxious about the transition. But the optimism that brought me over here in the first place kept me pummeling forward despite all, and I’ve been incredibly fortunate. Hopping all over the Bay area meant that I got to pick up lots of new friends along the way, and of course, get a sampling of all the great food the different neighborhoods have to offer!

Which brings me to today’s topic, Oakland. Last month, I found myself shacking up temporarily with A, N and J in a cute little house in Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood. I can’t remember the last time I lived in an actual house–with a driveway, basketball court, dining room, kitchen, study and den–what! Coming home to that much space every day was ridiculous.

Oakland has very much a community vibe, and a community of food-lovers in particular. I was so happy to find myself in a house full of people with hearty appetites! Our inaugural roommate dinner was a Korean food feast of galbi, bibimbap and eggplant. N is an amazing cook, and my mouth is watering just remembering how delicious everything was. (A keen eye will notice above the telltale signs of store-bought bibimbap ingredients, but everything else was homemade.)

We lived a mere two blocks from the Oakland location of Burma Superstar, which–don’t shoot the messenger–I thought was overrated. It was good, very flavorful, but for the price? Could be better.

We also lived but a matter of blocks from Homeroom510, which serves the most delightful varieties of mac and cheese baked full of cheesy flavor and topped with breadcrumbs. I got the Gilroy Garlic with bacon (in the background, above), and actually managed to eat it all in one sitting because it was THAT good. The Professor, a shandy-like mix of light beer and limeade, was a perfect accompaniment.

And yes, Oakland is hipster central. Disclaimer: I have to say, despite the fact that it’s apparent from this blog that I take a lot of pictures of food, I do it for the blog, and not because I am a hipster. I do not own anything in plaid or Warby Parker glasses, nor do I have any facial hair (thank goodness for that). Friends have started making fun of me because of all these Asians/hipsters taking pictures of food memes, but they can judge all they want! I actually have a readership on this blog (or so I tell myself).

In case you missed it, Hipster Thanksgiving:

When in Los Angeles…

Hello, Los Angeles! 

Alright, let me break it down for you. There are three things to do in L.A. Eat, shop and go to the beach. Yep, that’s it. And in this post, I do them all!

1. The only exercise I got was stomach stretches

D, K and I hit the road at 6.30 a.m. to beat the Thanksgiving day traffic down to L.A. They dropped me off on the West side of L.A. by about 1 p.m., so we made good time. I still had to drive down to Irvine from there, but I made it to the Bs’ place with plenty of time to spare.

The house was remarkably serene when I arrived; the Bs had been prepping the Thanksgiving meal since days before, making the day itself a matter of heating everything up. Such a smart way to do it. Such succulent turkey. Stuffing. Cranberry sauce. Green bean casserole. Sweet potatoes. So much yummy. And yes, a lone shrimp.

The pre-meal ritual now officially includes prayer and photography. Everyone actually waited for me to get my camera and take my shots before we chowed down!

There’s a reason that I missed this holiday so much while abroad last year. I still remember how isolated I felt while writing my Thanksgiving-away-from-home post; I wasn’t unhappy or lonely per se, and I had a great evening getting to know new friends over Korean BBQ and frozen yogurt. But I could envision my family and friends gathered around the table like this, and I missed it. The effort that goes into it, appreciation as you eat it, warmth of hearty food and friendship. There’s nothing quite like it.

The marathon weekend of stomach stretching continued with dinner the next evening, at Madangse, an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ. Sorry to knock your go-to place, M, but I thought this place was subpar. Granted, it was $10 for all-you-can-eat beef brisket, bulgogi, chicken, samgyupsal (pork belly) and more, and you trading off quality for quantity is part of the deal. But to be honest, I thought the best dish on the table was the kimchi.

So fun to catch up with grad school friends though, and listen to them carry on about education. (And I’m not being ironic!)

Another Asian eatery I tried was Class 302, a Taiwanese place popular for shaved snow. As J yelled into my ear, shaved snow is in the form of “RIBBONS!” The consistency is neither as icy as bingsu (Korean shaved ice) nor as creamy as ice cream, but something in between. It was yummy. I liked it. Good thing too, because there was tons of it!

2. Shop til the employees drop

I went Black Friday-outlet-shopping, which sounds like a recipe for disaster. But thankfully it was not the crazy kind where you line up for hours and break down doors and all that. A and I met at the Citadel Outlets at 10.30 a.m. on Friday, well after the craziness had subsided. But telltale signs of rabid deal hunting were evident in the heaps of clothes strewn across stores, and in the bags under the eyes of those poor retailers who’d been working the tills since 8pm the night before. One particularly gaunt-looking girl told me to have a nice day in the saddest, tiredest little voice ever.

Such madness! American consumerism at is best … and worst.

3. ¡Vamos a la playa!

The Bs, with whom I was staying, live not far from Corona del Mar. So A, N, E and I made a quick stop here one misty afternoon.

From afar, I saw what looked like a lawn on the hillside leading down to the beach. I loved the inventiveness of planting a whole lawn full of succulents instead of grass. So clever!

*Copious thanks to the B family for such a lovely Thanksgiving!
Shoutout to J for letting me borrow his sweet ride for the weekend! Unmarked overnight packaging aside, that was so clutch. 


Strawberry-Boysenberry Sorbet and Earl Grey Cherry. Oh my.

From my time in New York, I’ve developed an allergic reaction to hype. There are two camps: those who believe that waiting in line for an hour makes it all worth it, and those who know that it really doesn’t make the food taste better… you were just hungrier because you waited an hour.

So I wasn’t that enthused about trying Ici, where the line extends down the block for two or more storefront lengths. That is the opposite of exciting.

But then! People scouted it first and came back with the report that it is really worth the wait. So it had to be tried.

The best part is, we didn’t even have to wait because we went on a weekday at 4.30. And I think I can honestly say, it might be the best ice cream I’ve tried yet. Truly original flavors, excellent texture, a home-made hand-rolled sugar cone. Perfection for $4.75.

So glad that V got to try this while in town!

On Sunday, I met (another) V at MyMy Coffee Shop in Nob Hill, where he goes so regularly that the staff know his order. If he’s that devoted to his “usual,” I figured I should try it too. The Frisco omelette. Oh yum. Yum yum yum.

And just look at that enticing, luscious avocado. Yum.

So many friends in town for weddings this week! October is certainly a nice time of year in California, but it’s really amazing how many weddings there have been, even just last weekend alone.

So I brought R and J to HRD, an inconspicuous deli-looking joint in SOMA. They were skeptical, they later admitted. But then we were served food that looked as amazing as above, smelled even better and tasted divine. For $8.

Hallo, another NYC friend in town! P and I caught up over ginormous bowls of ramen at Katana-ya near Powell. There is fried chicken and fried dumplings in my soup. It was a tad too salty, but that fried goodness made it savory-smooth. Pretty good, and very generous portion size. But SF has yet to unseat NYC in the ramen category.

San Francisco By Train and Couch

Couch + computer + phone = the microcosm of life.

I might not be traveling as much as I was while in Europe, but my life is certainly more nomadic now.

I’ve “moved” to San Francisco, but all I brought with me was a suitcase. When I came out here I had just the bare bones of a plan: 1) Find a couch. Sleep on it. 2) Find a job. Do it.


But time flies, and here I am in week eight of couchsurfing my way around the San Francisco Bay area. First finding: it’s actually much more spread out than I realized.

I started out in the Mission, which is in the southern part of the city. (Some terminology: “The city” = San Francisco, “the peninsula” = South Bay, and as far as I can tell, “East Bay” = Oakland, Berkeley and beyond.) San Francisco feels like a small city, but it drives me nuts because everything is so spread out and all the BART lines make the same stops. Does that even make sense? It’s as though in New York, the 123, 456, NRW, BDF and ACE lines all coursed up and down Broadway and that’s it.

And don’t even talk to me about the MUNI. The MUNI fails me. Every. Time. How many times have I been late to interviews and meetings because of the MUNI? Let’s call it like it is and rename it the NEMESIS. Cuz really. *Shakes fist*

After five days in the Mission, I went down to Palo Alto on the Caltrain to housesit for a few weeks. The Caltrain isn’t so bad. Except for the fact that it doesn’t connect to the BART anywhere in the city. You have to transfer at Millbrae, near the airport. To make a New York City comparison again: this is as if the NJ Transit/Metro-North didn’t have hubs at Penn Station and Grand Central, and instead you had to make connections at Jamaica Station in Queens. To complete the analogy, this is stupid.

Seriously. When I meet people from L.A. who rave about the public transportation in the Bay area, I just want to catapult them out of California and over to New York City.

The last Caltrain stop is in SOMA, which is in the northeastern part of the city. Lucky for me, I was staying with friends just a few blocks from the Caltrain when I came back into the city. But to add another caveat here, walking three blocks in San Francisco can take 10, 15 minutes.

After SOMA, I spent a week in Berkeley, which is another hour northeastward across the bay, and so much consistently sunnier than San Francisco. Then another week back in SOMA. Today, back to the East Bay to stay in Oakland for a week.

On the bright side:

  • My friends have comfy couches.
  • I don’t have to pay rent just yet, a huge boon since housing in SF is pricier than I expected.
  • I can explore different areas around the Bay before deciding where I want to live.
  • The food is good everywhere you go!
Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley’s “gourmet ghetto”. Nom nom nom.