Chocolate Chip Cookie Championship: The Wild Card Round!
Moving to the Next Round
Alice's Tea Cup
Blue Ribbon Bakery Market
If you've been following the Chocolate Chip Cookie Championship, you'll know that we've gone uptown, Midtown, downtown, and to Brooklyn in search of New York's best cookie.
But in the spirit of competition, we've introduced a wild-card round. We listened to your nominations, combed back through the comments, and drew up one last round.
The contestants: Desserts by Michael Allen, Subway, Blue Ribbon Bakery Market, Bakeway NYC, Le Pain Quotidien, Luscious Foods, Little Miss Muffin, Alice's Tea Cup, Clinton Street Baking Co., and, well, one real wild card.
The Skinny, Funky Cookies
These super-flat, super-bendy cookies from Luscious Food in Park Slope came commenter-recommended, and enticed several of our tasters: "These looked so promising!" But they didn't end up loving the texture ("more sticky than doughy"; "like chewing a sponge") or flavor ("buttery sheen without a buttery taste").
The Crispy Behemoths
We'd never seen a cookie as big as the one at Le Pain Quotidien. But when it comes to chocolate chip cookies, bigger doesn't appear to be better. "So crispy. All ten inches are crispy. Was this ever dough?" "Strangely dark, like a giant ginger biscuit." "Brittle." "Was the soul baked out of this cookie?"
The Corner Store Cookies
I live just a few doors from Little Miss Muffin in Prospect Heights, and was startled when a commenter suggested they had superior chocolate chip cookies—when I'm in a greasy, satisfying muffin mood, I'll stop in, but not for dessert. These were tasty ("Toll House-ish in a good way"); we appreciated their chew and ample chocolate. In the end, though, not a particularly memorable cookie.
Little Miss Muffin : 174 Park Place, Brooklyn (near Flatbush; map); 718-857-4963
The 'Fine, We'll Try Subway' Cookies
There's a pretty good rule of thumb for chocolate chip cookies, one that applies equally to bagels and pizza—if it's straight out of the oven, it's probably tasty. That would explain why Subway chocolate chip cookies have so many fans. And our tasters gave them points for their buttery, salty flavor. (One described them as "popcorn.") But once they're out of the oven too long, they harden from crunchy-melty to crunchy-crunchy.
For the record, we aren't averse to fast-food cookies in general (in fact, a chain restaurant won our Midtown round.) But these grew too hard to love.
The Chewy-Sweet Cookies
There's plenty that emerges from the Clinton Street Baking Co. kitchen that we adore, and Dessert Buzz recommended these cookies to us. Points for "interesting cinnamon flavor" and "good inside chew," but our tasters, without exception, found this cookie far too sweet. So much that it became "hard to taste the chocolate."
The Tasty, Nutty Cookies
Many thanks to the commenters who suggested Desserts by Michael Allen, a Clinton Hill pastry shop opened by a former United Nations pastry chef. We found his chocolate chip cookies a bit sweet (if more restrained than Clinton Street's) but appreciated the "crispy-chewy contrast" and "ample, awesome chocolate." "I'd eat this again," one taster wrote happily.
The Slim, Skimpy Cookies
We hadn't heard much about Bakeway NYC, another one of our commenter nominations. This was Adam's favorite cookie: "Plenty chewy, but not doughy, with some interesting, almost floral notes." But others balked at the lack of chocolate ("This is a pointless cookie—where are the chips?") and a very strong flavor of "vanilla, maybe fake vanilla."
Bakeway NYC : 2521 Broadway, Long Island City (near 29th Street; map); 718-545-2120
The Real Wild Card Entrant
Friend of Serious Eats (and husband of Alaina) Anil Dash is a multi-talented man—director of Expert Labs, ten-year blogger, and a closet cookie baker. So when he happened to make a batch the night before our tasting, Alaina just had to smuggle a few back to Serious Eats World Headquarters.
What did our tasters think? Though he was roundly condemned as a chocolate miser ("Way to skimp on the chocolate, man..."), most of us liked the "soft, doughy" interior and "homebaked feel." (Our tasters are perceptive.)
Nice and thick, doughy but adequately baked, the cookies from Alice's Tea Cup took second place this week. Ed called them "a better version of Levain"—though we're sure the Levain loyalists would cry foul. Our tasters called them "pleasantly toffee-flavored, with bittersweet, tasty chocolate" and "thick but delicious, with a perfect crunch." More than one decreed them "the best of the bunch."
And in first place this week? Technical difficulties kept us from Blue Ribbon Bakery Market in the Downtown Edition, and we almost gave these little gems a first-round bye. After all, Ed had once said these cookies were "moving up fast on [his] list of great chocolate chip cookies available in New York." But we threw them into the blind test, and sure enough, they fared incredibly well—and at 75 cents each, they're a bargain to boot. "Looked too dark, but were soft and delicious inside." "The first to be salty enough, without tasting salty." "There's a haunting flavor I can't put my finger on. I like it." Ed had the last word: "This is a serious cookie."