In a monthly series, menu trend analyst Nancy Kruse and NRN senior food editor Bret Thorn debate current trends in the restaurant industry. For this installment, they discuss consumers’ recent enthusiasm for New York pastry chef Dominique Ansel’s doughnut-croissant hybrid.

A puzzling phenomenon

NRN senior food editor Bret Thorn wonders what’s behind the latest food phenomenon.

Nancy, do you watch the hit vampire-themed HBO series True Blood? The show touches on some interesting and highly relevant food themes from time to time.

Three years ago a vampire king’s boyfriend was serving a sort of heirloom blood, voluntarily provided by a human who had been eating nothing but tangerines for a week — a clever reference both to premium products and to the growing interest in understanding the story behind our food.

In the series premiere this past Sunday, Lafayette, the chef at apparently the only restaurant in town asks a grief-stricken young werewolf girl, “You want something deep fried, dipped in sugar, and fried all over again?”

That reminded me of the latest food phenomenon, the Cronut.

New York City-based pastry chef Dominique Ansel developed and trademarked the doughnut-croissant hybrid at his eponymous SoHo bakery last month, where he sells them for $5 apiece, and the food-hipster world lost what it has of a collective mind.

Two-hour lines almost instantly became the norm, and now there’s talk of people showing up to wait outside Dominique Ansel Bakery at 5 a.m., even though it doesn’t open until 8 a.m. A six-Cronut-per-person limit was reduced to three and then two as reports of scalping the desserts spread (This story in Time reports the pastries selling for $100 or more on the black market).

There’s talk of pâtissiers as far away as Australia making knock-off versions of the treat, and Pillsbury has come up with a mass-market do-it-yourself version of it.

My colleagues at Restaurant Hospitality recommended, fairly enough, that its readers jump on this trend while the jumpin’s good.

But Nancy, it’s a doughnut. Or possibly more like a cream-filled turnover — I’m not sure really, because it’s beneath my dignity to stand in line for two hours for a pastry.

What do you think is behind all of this hoopla, and how do you think our readers might be able to capitalize on it?