Main Course

Mutant Donnolis Take Manhattan

We have covered a few 'fusion foods' on the show before. Remember cronuts or sushiritos? The newest nom-able neologism in town is 'donnoli,' an eclair-like doughnut-cannoli combo. Brendan paid a visit to old-school Italian bakery DeRoberti's Pasticceria to try this modern confection, and brought along Yahoo! Food editor Julia Bainbridge to talk about what food mash-up could possibly come next.

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Brendan Francis Newnam: OK, so we are looking at donnolis. What do you think so far?

Julia Bainbridge: I mean, it looks basically like a profiterole that has been chocolate-dipped.

Brendan Francis Newnam: That shows how sophisticated you are. I thought, it looks like a Boston cream doughnut to me.

Julia Bainbridge: You’re right. It does.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Let’s talk about this, a donnoli. You know, when you see something like this, what are your thoughts, as a food editor?

Julia Bainbridge: I think, because we see so many of these mash-ups, I immediately kind of roll my eyes and think this is just a marketing ploy. But if you remove that and think about the people creating the food, you know, somebody had a creative idea.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It has to start somewhere, right? Because some great inventions are mash-ups.

Julia Bainbridge: Some great mash-ups come from happy mistakes. Like dipping a bit of your bacon into the syrup, and then that is sort of what provided the foundation for things like the waffle taco and these sweet and salty mash-ups. That’s a good flavor combination.

Brendan Francis Newnam: The waffle taco! So we should be open to these things. But, yet, I see them, and I think, do I really need to talk about the origin? It’s not like, “Oh, my great-grandfather smuggled in this recipe.” It’s like, “No, we were thinking about how the Cronut is successful and now we need some kind of shiny object.”

Julia Bainbridge: I’m down with shiny objects. I mean, as long as they’re good.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright, well, let’s try this shiny object. So, first of all, it’s heavy. Wow. Pretty good, but part of the charm of the cannoli is the crunch.

Julia Bainbridge: The crunch! This is basically a Boston cream doughnut.

Brendan Francis Newnam: It is also missing the chocolate chips at the end of the cannoli. But, you know, this is a noble try. And this is a beautiful old shop we are in and they have other wonderful goodies. Maybe this will bring people. Maybe it is OK to have this as a lure.

Julia Bainbridge: Right. You can’t have this conversation without talking about Dominique Ansel, who invented the Cronut and the cookie shot and, it seems like, every season he is coming up with more of these things, because it has been a successful business model. These are his sort of billboard items, but that gets people in the door, and then you discover or maybe you are reminded that Dominique Ansel is this classically-trained chef who is making beautiful palmier and macaron and all of those classic things. So, sure, if it takes a little razzle-dazzle to get you in the door, you know, great. But if you are someone like Ansel who has a bunch of other things to offer, then there you have a successful business and a reason to keep going back.

Brendan Francis Newnam: There are some other things that happened this summer that are mash-ups, and you have covered a few of them at your website. So tell me about the rice burger.

Julia Bainbridge: I think it’s kind of a great idea. The bun is a rice patty.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Not like a rice cake. Like a sticky rice.

Julia Bainbridge: Yeah, sticky rice, but pressed fine, and then fried or griddled until the outside gets really crunchy. Alex Van Buren, my colleague, got a cab and frantically drove over there the minute she heard they were happening.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And what was her take?

Julia Bainbridge: She thought… that she doesn’t want her burger and sushi together, basically. I am more open to the idea, because I think, if you do go to Japan, you do see hot foods and rice together and you see, in the kind of portable sushi [onigiri], these little triangular things that are wrapped in nori, this almost burrito-sushi, made with not necessarily raw fish, is everywhere. This is not a new thing. Maybe a new thing to us, but not to the Japanese.

Brendan Francis Newnam: My question would be the integrity of the rice bun. I mean, if you’re having a really good, juicy burger, how does the rice stay bun-y?

Julia Bainbridge: That is, I think, where she found the flaw. That’s where they need some work.

Brendan Francis Newnam: Rice bun integrity?

Julia Bainbridge: Yes. I mean, the ramen burger, too. There is a bun that would seem to me even harder, for those noodles to stay together. Rice, you release all that starch and so each little granule holds on to each other, but noodles, I mean, how does that work, exactly, except for a bunch of fat holding together each noodle?

Brendan Francis Newnam: So, you brought up the ramen burger. That is another thing that’s been happening in this kind of world. People know of ramen burgers; it’s a tenacious food meme, a frankenfood that’s still around. They’re also introducing ramen fries. They look like potato wedges – made of ramen.

Julia Bainbridge: I think it could work. I mean, this is drinking food, right? So, great, all you want is salt, crunch, and carb.

Brendan Francis Newnam: And it’s a gimmick, so people will keep spending money.

Julia Bainbridge: Right! Where mash-ups are good, in general, is, I think, in opening people’s minds. Right? Like, I’m all about more people cooking at home. If mash-ups inspire people to try combinations they didn’t before or inspires people to kind of off-road from recipes, sort of de-formalize this whole process, great! And if it gets them having a playful attitude towards cooking, that this can be fun, then I’m all for it.

  • Greg WHITTEN

    I work at a university in Hong Kong. The cantine menu is printed in Chinese and (questionably-translated) English. A dish that appeared on today’s menu bore the Chinese title of 拿破崙炒螺絲粉. It’s English translation? “Pan Fried Fusilli Napoleon,” which if it were truly what it proclaimed to be, would have to be the stunt food to end all stunt foods.

    I am curious, though, if one should construct the Napoleon from fusilli, then pan-fry it, or pan-fry the fusilli first, then make a Napoleon out of it?

    Through the 21st of September, check it out yourself here: http://www.ln.edu.hk/ssc/campuslife/catering/menu/bistro.pdf