Gastronomically speaking, the current answer to the question "What will they think of next?" is Cronuts.
What are they, you wonder? Avian private parts?
No, they are the love child of croissants and donuts, brought into the world in New York City in May 2013 by chef Dominique Ansel and shown off in his bakery in SoHo. And they are rapidly becoming an international sensation.
You can find Cronuts in Sao Paolo, Brazil, Taiwan, the Netherlands, South Korea, London and Malaysia. Here is a short description: multilayered circles of puff pastry with a hole in the center that are deep-fried and then filled and glazed.
Lines start as early as 6 a.m. on the sidewalk outside Ansel's shop in New York. You may preorder Cronuts on Mondays, but there is a limit of six per person. Bigger orders must be placed one month in advance. They sell for $5 apiece.
A man placed an ad on Craigslist that said he would trade his Cronut for sexual favors. At a charity auction in New York, a dozen freshly baked Cronuts went for $14,000! Scalpers are buying them and delivering them for as much as $100 each.
So what exactly are Cronuts? On the bakery's website, Dominique describes them as "made with laminated dough which has been likened to a croissant (but using a proprietary recipe), the Cronut is first proofed and then fried in grapeseed oil at a specific temperature. Once cooked, each Cronut is flavored three ways: 1. Rolled in sugar; 2. Filled with cream; and 3. Topped with glaze. The entire process takes up to three days."
He only does one cream flavor a day, but they all sound wonderful: salted dulce de leche, fig mascarpone, lemon, maple and rose vanilla, to name a few.
Of course, anything this popular invites imitation, and variations are out there in droves. Since the name is trademarked, imitators go by dosants, doughsants, dornuts, kronutz and the prosaic "croissant donut." Whatever it's called, a Cronut by any other name tastes as sweet.
Orange County has at least 16 places where the treats are sold, and more are surely on the way. I felt that it was my duty to give some of them a try. It's a hard job, but someone must do it. I found that they do vary greatly in quality.
Since I have not tasted the original, I can only compare the local varieties. I noticed that many seem to be made with prepackaged, frozen puff pastry, which is not quite the same as the freshly made kind. Also, the originals are filled with custard cream, but I found that whipped cream is used instead for some of the varieties out there. Also, the oil in which some were fried left an unpleasant greasy aftertaste. Bakers are continually improvising on the original, including creating one topped with maple glaze and bacon bits.
In my opinion, Pandor, at 1126 Irvine Ave. in Newport Beach, has the best and most authentic ones, which the restaurant calls dornuts (as in Pandornuts). Pandor is the closest thing we have to a real French patisserie in Orange County. It makes its puff pastry fresh from scratch every day and offers three flavors of dornuts: vanilla, chocolate and cinnamon sugar. The dornuts go for $3.95 and sell out quickly every morning.
You do have to eat them quickly to prevent them from getting soggy, and they don't keep well in the refrigerator for the same reason. If you want to share them with a friend, you should use a serrated knife so they don't get all squashed, but it is unlikely that you will do any of these things because you will want to consume them all by yourself post-haste.
Caveat emptor! These are addictive and may be hazardous to your waistline.
TERRY MARKOWITZ was in the gourmet food and catering business for 20 years. She can be reached for comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.