By now you know that cronuts, the biggest phenomenon in crossbreeding since ligers, have become a viral phenomenon to rival even our most venerated online institutions, like Ryan Gosling Vs. a Puppy, or Grumpy Cat.
As a fledgling web operation, Bedford + Bowery is in need of just such a morsel of clickbait, and since our “Game of Thrones” birthday cake doesn’t seem to have gone viral (yet!), we were more than a little excited to see that a new pastry shop had opened on St. Marks Place. Might the next cronut be right under our nose?
When we stepped into Iris Cafe — the East Village outpost of a Taiwanese-Japanese spot in Flushing — we weren’t all that optimistic that the future of dessert was lying in wait for us: the store manager, Misia Ren, told us that she had never heard of the cronut, a bad omen for a fledgling bakery seeking to compete in the cutthroat world of novelty dessert sales.
But as we looked around the gleaming, balloon-filled space, it became readily apparent that Iris had a whole world of rare and exotic treats in store for us. It turns out Taiwanese bakers have a knack for combining incongruous ingredients — as evidenced by a robust sphere of Mexican cheese and chocolate.
Then there are taro puffs, which Ms. Ren described as tasting like a sweet potato, and even the compellingly titled “golden crumbly fork floss,” a sweet and crispy pastry filled with (we’re assuming) some sort of farm-animal dental product. In the bakery-mashup contest, these guys were definitely bringing their A game. But were any of them really cronut material?
And then suddenly, we saw it. There it stood, encased in glass: a thick beige cube of what looked like a bread loaf topped high with fruit, sauce, and ice cream. We were filled with fear and awe. Why on earth would you put a sundae on top of a loaf of bread? The cube cost $18, and unlike the more portable treats, it was only available to dine-in (they were pretty insistent about this).
Ren explained with pride that this was “honey toast,” a popular Japanese and Taiwanese treat that couldn’t be found anywhere else in the city (a cursory Google search revealed that it is indeed hard to come by).
And so we tried it. And it was amazing: thick slices of homemade toast built into a sort of box that contained (among other things) fluffy, crispy honey-dipped, oven-toasted bread cubes. We ordered it topped with homemade chocolate ice cream, fruit and bananas, but you can also get it in: caramel-apple, strawberry-custard and green tea and red bean.
Clearly, we had hit the cronut jackpot. Honey toast has all the markings of a viral sensation: the combination of two dissonant food products, an exclusivity factor, a high price point, and enough carbohydrates to kill a small child. Katrina Wu, the salesperson, says she sold at least 5 or 6 on the store’s opening day, “because people want to try it and know what it tastes like.”
No kidding they do. But can’t they give it a more viral name than honey toast? hoast? toasney? Dammit.
Iris Cafe, 33 St. Marks Pl., nr. Second Ave.