Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Best

The best cookie you'll ever eat will not be one I write about. It won't be from a bakery you read about, or hear about from friends.

The best foods you'll ever taste are surprises.

Two summers ago I was working at Michael's Genuine in Miami. I was leaving one day, around five pm, and passed by the pastry station on my way to the door. The pastry chef had just pulled a tray of cookies from the oven and offered one, "For the drive home!" she said.

I hadn't been working there long, maybe two or three weeks, and wasn't versed in the dessert items. I started walking to the parking lot and took a bite. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I stopped in my tracks.

The cookie was small, maybe the size of two or three quarters. I would later learn it was a Chocolate Chunk Cookie. I call them crack cookies. They are nothing more then a hunk of Scharffen Berger dark chocolate encased in just enough cookie dough to be deemed a cookie, and not simply melted chocolate. Before hitting the oven, the cookies are sprinkled with sea salt.

Fresh out of the oven, the chocolate is gooey, the cookie, tender, and the twang from the salt unbelievably decadent.

I have had Hedy's chocolate chunk cookies many times since then, but none measure up to the first. It was the fact that I didn't know what I was eating that made its deliciousness so much greater.

I have come to enjoy food writing less and less. I'm torn between the pleasure and reward of walking into a random restaurant and discovering its greatness and the way Eater or Grubstreet can tell me where to get the best dim sum in Chinatown. In the end, there's just no way I can wander in to all those restaurants in Chinatown. But something significant is lost when you go somewhere knowing the food will be good. It is good. And you're glad you went. But it is never as fulfilling as if you happened upon the location by chance.

Best Cookie:
The chocolate chip walnut cookies at Levain Bakery on the upper west side are, in my opinion, the most perfect chocolate chip cookies you can get. On the planet. They are six ounces (roughly the size of a hockey puck). They are amazing. The center is purposefully under-baked, so you get a normal chocolate chip cookie near the edges, and a semi-doughy center (for anyone who enjoys eating raw cookie dough, this is the cookie for you).

I mention this cookie because I don't think you would ever happen upon Levain. Unless you are looking for it. It's literally a hole in the ground, tucked under an apartment building. So please, try this cookie. It won't be the best cookie you'll ever have, and I'm glad that it wont. But it is still really, really good.

Best Doughnut:
The square peanut butter doughnut with blackberry jelly from Doughnut Plant is the perfect doughnut. The yeast dough: a ten. The filling: made in house, amazing. The peanut butter glaze (with chunks of peanut): otherworldly.

Again, I write about this because Doughnut Plant is in an area on the Lower East Side that no one would "happen across." So, again, go, please, and try. The best doughnut you'll ever eat will probably be from some mom-n-pop place on the side of the road that you go to stop at while driving cross-country. It will probably be fresh from the fryer, just glazed. You'll probably never eat there again. And that is beautiful.

But, while you're not driving across the country, go to Doughnut Plant.

Levain Bakery
167 W 74 St

Doughnut Plant
379 Grand St


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