By JOHN E. BIALAS
Broadmoor Bureau Chief
I’m sick and tired of reading all the craziness involving New Orleans East Vietnamese bakery Dong Phuong and its fab king cakes.
Back when the 2018 king cake season was calm, my daughter got one at a Dong Phuong off-site in Mandeville a couple of weeks ago and said it’s the best she’s ever had.
I’m happy for her and unhappy for me.
I wanted to get one of my own on Monday so I drove from Gulfport and took scenic Old Highway 90, also known as The Jayne Mansfield Memorial Road, in hopes of getting a cream cheese king cake for $16 at 14207 Chef Menteur Highway.
I arrived at Dong Phuong at 4 p.m., walked through the front door and saw a barren bakery. Nothing. Nada. No king cakes at all. Sold out.
Son of a brioche.
I suffered in silence while taking the back roads home. Old Highway 90 runs through Lake Catherine Island, the home of fishing camps and their creative signage, and I stopped a couple of times to take pictures.
The fish camps are just minutes from Lake Pontchartrain, the Rigolets, Lake Borgne and the Biloxi Marsh, and the waters are loaded with redfish, trout, flounder, drum and sheepshead. I wish they would also be loaded with Dong Phuong cream cheese, cinnamon and pecan king cakes.
When I stopped to take pictures, I didn’t dilly dally because I feared a gator might cross the highway and attack me. I was right in the middle of a swamp or a bayou or what have you and I wanted to be home for dinner.
The next three days, the Dong Phuong sugar hit the fan.
I blame the James Beard Foundation. The bakery was named one of the winners of the James Beard America’s Classic awards on Jan. 18. Since then, the popularity of the Dong Phuong king cakes has skyrocketed to the point that demand has overwhelmed the business this week.
A Dong Phuong Facebook post Tuesday said, “We will no longer be taking online orders. King Cakes are now ONLY available for walk-in purchase at the Bakeshop through Lundi Gras!”
Lundi Gras is the Monday before Mardi Gras on Feb. 13.
I suppose that’s a good thing, because The New Orleans Advocate reported on Wednesday that “the bakery has even heard reports of people buying their king cakes to resell at inflated prices – essentially, king cake scalping.”
A $14 king cake was going for $60. I would like to see where that transaction went down. Venetian Isles? The 24/7 Fort Pike boat launch? Outside Mr. Bubbles on the West Bank?
On Thursday, Dong Phuong suspended deliveries to other retailers, such as the Mandeville business where my daughter bought her king cake.
Dong Phuong said on Tuesday it would stop deliveries and the news led to an entertaining thread on Reddit where 107 comments were posted.
Someone under the name DongPhuongDriver kicked off the thread with a “PSA” that cited “multiple fist fights at locations we deliver to, and King Cake fraud with our pick up orders.”
OK, I’ve had enough.
I’ll take my business to Nonna Randazzo’s, which is just a few minutes from my daughter’s office in Covington.
Randazzo’s has excellent king cakes and tasty Mardi Gras layer cakes as well.
I’ll go there next week and get a Mardi Gras cake.
And I promise I won’t scalp it.