In many ways, Orange County is still the rube-filled paradise it's always been. This is the place, after all, that gets mesmerized every night when the Disneyland fireworks go boom, never mind the inconvenient smoke that drifts around Anaheim's barrios afterward. Orange County is where The Orange County Register's fast-food coverage gets more accolades than its hole-in-the-wall reporting, where people still prefer to order Cadillac margaritas instead of mezcal. And so it makes sense that nearly three years after the rest of the country got over a doughnut craze, OC restaurateurs continue to ride the tired trend to its sweet, sweet end.
We only started a couple of years ago, when Anaheim's M & M Donuts made a blueberry version that provoked lines at 3 in the morning, and we still want more and more dougnuts. Much has been said recently of Friendly Donuts' ube (or purple yam) take, and Sidecar's gourmet emphasis continues to rightfully obsess Costa Mesa. Now comes Afters Ice Cream, a group of Vietnamese kids who've transformed a once-tired Fountain Valley shopping plaza into the stage for OC's must-eat treat of the season. It seems downright novel: ice cream stuffed inside a doughnut, with your choice of traditional sundae toppings mixed in. The results are called a Milky Bun, and the process is far easier than you'd think: they get a glazed doughnut, scoop out the inside, stuff it with the homemade ice cream flavor of your choice, then seal the results in with more batter. And the results are far better than a cynic like me could imagine. Think of the best ice cream sandwich of your life except sweeter, yeastier. The doughnut maintains its structural integrity even though the ice cream inside is aching to ooze out; despite the heat of the just-fried doughnut, the ice cream remains chilly. This combination of heat and cold is so quintessentially Southern Californian that I'm surprised no one has done it before; if the Afters kids get the concept right, they might've found our new date shake.
And the people running this are kids; the ice cream flavors can be inconsistent or run out quick, the wait can be overwhelming, as much as it's worth it. There's still no phone number listed on their website, and I'd like to see more from them (how about slushies? Some bomb-ass sinh to?) But kudos to Afters for making a tired trend new. Now, can the rest of OC chefs move on to pies? Because the rest of America is getting over their pie craze, you know. . . .