The Grand Cookie Crawl: Bouchon Bakery

2014-05-19 19.03.12

I have to apologize. I’ve been so busy filling my time and stomach with nachos and ice cream, I’ve neglected one of my most important missions — to wade through the endless morass of New York’s chocolate chip cookies for your edification and sanity. After far too long a hiatus, I bring you another entry in the annals of the Grand Cookie Crawl (and as a bonus, this one features pretender to the Oreo throne)!

In the waning days of freedom of my inter-job NYC staycation, I had the fortune of going to a taping of the Daily Show with (who else) Jacob, and so after an exhausting 90 minutes of sitting and laughing loudly, we obviously were in dire need of sustenance … made completely of sugar. So we trekked up Broadway to Columbus Circle, to sample the wares at Bouchon Bakery.

Bouchon Bakery is famed chef Thomas Keller’s ode to French boulangeries. Keller is the chef/owner behind 8 restaurants in the US, including renowned California restaurants The French Laundry and Ad Hoc, and NY hot spot Per Se (located next to Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center). Not impressed enough? Keller has seven Michelin Stars, and according to his bio is the only American-born chef to hold multiple 3-star ratings by the Michelin Guide. I’ve yet to be able to visit one of his restaurants, but with Bouchon Bakery much more within reach, I was determined to try whatever of Keller’s output I could get access to.

 

 

First Impressions

 

The soft white and pastel paint of Bouchon Bakery are a nice break from the mall's metal and glass architecture.

The soft white and pastel paint of Bouchon Bakery are a nice break from the mall’s metal and glass architecture.

Located in the “Shops at Columbus Circle” (aka the Time Warner Center) just down the hall from Per Se, this location of Bouchon Bakery (there’s another in 30 Rock) is, well, kind of just a fancy mall bakery. When you get down to brass tax, the Time Warner Center is just a glitzy, glass and metal version of many of the upscale malls you can find in America. It’s anchored by the pedigree of high-caliber restaurants like Per Se and priciest-meal-in-NYC sushi heaven Masa, but look past them and you’ll find plenty of familiar faces, from Sephora and Williams Sonoma to Swarovski and even the Art of Shaving. So you can’t really fault Bouchon Bakery for fitting into this mold, restrained in both its physical and aesthetic footprints.

 

 

The large selection of baked goods helps, too.

The large selection of baked goods helps, too. That’s right, those macarons come in regular and SUPER-SIZED.

The space is fairly generic at first glance — a counter with refrigerated cases facing out towards a cluster of metal tables and chairs. Small touches evoke a French influence, from the delicate palette of pastel greens and pinks in the Bouchon Bakery logo and menus (not to mention the literally French quotes on the wall), to the chalkboard menus, to the retro light fixtures hanging above the baked goods. Speaking of, there were still a good amount of options at 7:30pm, including a wide variety of macarons (small and giant-sized), cookies, and traditional pastries. Bouchon Bakery also offers a small selection of savory items with sample versions displayed, leaving me vaguely disgusted by a bowl of soup that had to be on the verge of entirely congealed. When you get close to dinner, I’d suggest skipping the Bakery counter in favor of the recently opened cafe, which has a more robust menu, and probably doesn’t leave its soup out for hours.

Undeterred by sludgy soups, Jacob and I went for a selection of the Bouchon Bakery classics — a Chocolate Chip Cookie, a TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo, chosen for obvious reasons), and the eponymous Bouchon (which Jacob makes everyone try).

 

 

The Cookies:

 

The eponymous Bouchon, an elegantly cork-shaped ... fancy fudge cake.

The eponymous Bouchon, an elegantly cork-shaped … fancy fudge cake.

We’ll start with Bouchon Bakery’s namesake, the Bouchon. The word means “cork” in French, which explains its shape, but belies its heft. This is no crumbly, air-filled confection — it’s basically a dense, fudgy chocolate chocolate cake, made out of such a dark cocoa powder it’s nearly black (suggesting dutch-, or even ultra-dutch-processed cocoa). The taste was reminiscent of a box brownie mix, and I mean that in the best way possible — chewy and rich rather than cakey, the outside made of a crisp, thin skin giving way to a moist interior crumb. I certainly enjoyed the Bouchon, but found it almost too much even at such a small size. I’d love to pair it with a scoop of ice cream to vary up the texture a bit.

 

 

The TKO, for the discerning eater who doesn't claim Oreos as her kryptonite (aka, not me).

The TKO, for the discerning eater who doesn’t claim Oreos as her kryptonite (aka, not me).

Now as we know I’m a skeptic when it comes to Oreo-imitators. I’ll use Joe-Joes in baked goods in the place of Oreos, but if I’m chowing down on just the cookies, get those Newman-o’s away from my face. However, a simple Google search of “Bouchon TKO” will yield endless blog posts naming the cookie as “to die for,” “amazing” and a “more sophisticated” take on an Oreo. Occasionally I like to pretend I’m more than a 5-year with her hand in the cookie-jar when it comes to dessert, so I stuffed down my trepidation and made the ultimate sacrifice of eating an artisanal cookie.

Sadly, my friends, Nabisco’s dodgy ingredient list still wins the day. I found myself perplexingly disappointed by how, well, fresh the TKO was. The scalloped wafer cookies were made with the same uber-dark cocoa powder as employed in the Bouchon, which was evocative of Oreos, at least in appearance. The flavor of the cookies, however, was too intensely chocolatey, and there was a strange smoky/salty aftertaste that left Jacob semi-convinced Keller uses bacon in his cookies. The filling was a white chocolate buttercream, far too soft to stand up again the rigid wafers, so that with each bite I found the cream squeezing out the sides and into my hands. Again, the definitive white chocolate flavor was a step away from the unmistakable but somewhat anonymously sweet taste of Oreo creme. As so often happens, this was really a case of subverted expectations. Had I been given a TKO without knowing its name or inspiration, I probably would have happily dug in — to Keller’s credit, it’s a visually appealing cookie, well-made with high quality ingredients. But with the weight of Oreo reverence already tipping the scales, it’s no surprise that personally, the TKO didn’t stand a chance.

 

 

Bouchon Bakery's Chocolate Chip Cookie, simple, staid, classic, and pretty damn tasty.

Bouchon Bakery‘s Chocolate Chip Cookie, simple, staid, classic, and pretty damn tasty.

The reverse situation happened to me while eating the Chocolate Chip Cookie. It had mostly been an afterthought — an obligation for covering the Grand Cookie Crawl, and nowhere near as exciting as the new, shiny, unfamiliar Bouchon and TKO. But of course, it’s the underdog that steals first place. Bouchon’s Chocolate Chip Cookie is roughly the same size and shape as the ones at City Bakery and Jacques Torres — wide, thin, golden brown in hue. Bouchon uses semi-sweet chocolate chunks, and through the mystery of cookie chemistry, these chunks maintain a semi-solid state well after cooling (these cookies were sitting under heat lamps in a case, rather than warmed like JT’s). As you split the cookie, these pockets of gooey chocolate ripped open and oozed outward (although not quite the deluge of Levain‘s entry). I’ve come to the conclusion that the quality of the chocolate chips is not a huge priority for me when it comes to these cookies. Nestle semi-sweet or Guittard 80%, I’ll take either if given a properly executed dough. And Bouchon delivers exactly that — a cookie base with a crispy exterior but chewy inside, and strong notes of caramelized brown sugar and vanilla. To me, a good chocolate chip cookie baker isn’t afraid of his eaters encountering the stray chip-less bite, because the dough can stand on its own (sometimes I search through my mother’s batches for a chip-free runt of the litter, because her recipe is that good).

 

 

Final Verdict:

 

I’m still waiting for the cookie that can unseat Levain, and I’m not sure I’ll find it in NY. Anyone who thinks their favorite can topple those UWS behemoth baked goods, please let me know. I’m very much game for the challenge. However, I would slide Bouchon’s Chocolate Chip Cookie in above City Bakery’s (and Jacques Torres), because it had the killer combo of texture and flavor. Certainly I’d recommend Bouchon’s drop cookies over the TKO, although I’ll allow that others may be able to look beyond the paragon of packaged cookies and appreciate the subtlety of Keller’s ode to the childhood classic. I do want to try his take on a Nutter Butter, since I’m much more open-minded when it comes to peanut butter-based desserts. I’d also like to return for more items in the vein of the Bouchon, to see how Keller does with his takes on more traditional French pastries and cakes (those eclairs were calling out to me).

Considering its surroundings and pedigree, Bouchon Bakery is relatively unpretentious, and worth a visit if only for the variety of its menu, and the lovely view out onto Columbus Circle. Does it have the local, down-home vibe of a place like Levain? Of course not, it’s in a mall, after all. But if you can look beyond the brand, Bouchon Bakery does offer more than one spoonful of sugar to make your post-shopping credit card bill just a little bit easier to swallow.

 

Bouchon Bakery

Ten Columbus Circle, Third Floor

New York, NY 10019

http://bouchonbakery.com/

Snackshots Providence: Off the Beaten Path

That’s right, we’re on the road again! This past weekend I hightailed it up to Providence, RI, to visit my college roommate Megan, who is currently attending Brown for grad school. Jacob split the cost of gas with me in order to visit his friend Sophie, a student at the Brown/Trinity Rep MFA program and see her in a show.

Shockingly, most of the trip was spent making home-cooked food, but I thought I’d share some roadtrip highlights and the culinary efforts of Megan’s cohort. I suppose the lesson to be learned from all of this is that regardless of the amount of restaurants or shops I go to, I still measure my life in terms of the edible punctuation that pepper my days.

I usually take the bus when traveling, but my parents were generous enough to let me borrow the car for this trip north. Halfway up our portion of 95, hunger pangs called, and seeking to avoid Denny’s or McDonalds, we stumbled upon a local gem in Westbrook, CT — Cristy’s Family Restaurant.

2013-11-01 19.38.40

Living in Manhattan, it’s easy to forget that these kinds of places exist — the simple, American diner-style fare, kept alive by a steady stream of regulars. The restaurant was unassuming, with a small cafe area out front (featuring a new espresso/coffee counter), and the bar and dining room  to the right, adorned with dark wood and red pleather booths.

Old-fashioned aesthetic with a classic menu to boot.

Old-fashioned aesthetic with a classic menu to boot.

The menu featured your usual diner fare, from all-day breakfast to deli sandwiches and entrees of the hearty American meatloaf genre. But it was clear that Cristy’s is proud of their pancake-skills, with a fully separate menu touting 40 different varieties. We half-heartedly made an attempt at a healthy dinner by splitting a mushroom, avocado and cheddar omelet, but Jacob and I quickly decided that we needed to check these legendary pancakes out. On the recommendation of our waitress we ordered the seasonal Pumpkin-Apple pancake and the Banana Crunch pancake.

Our hefty omelet, literally smothered in a slice of cheese.

Our hefty omelet, literally smothered in a slice of cheese.

Our omelet was fairly standard, if nothing revelatory. The truth is that I’ll eat mushrooms and avocado under most circumstances, so I was perfectly satisfied. The only thing that was strange was the extra slice of American cheese the cook placed on top of the omelet. The cheese wasn’t of good enough quality (yes, I’m a cheese snob) to add anything to the dish except textural density. There was already cheese inside of the omelet, so the extraneous slice ended up just weighing the fluffy eggs down.

The Pumpkin-Apple Pancake -- pumpkin batter with a molten apple core.

The Pumpkin-Apple Pancake — pumpkin batter with a molten apple core.

The Banana Crunch pancake dwarfed Jacob's fist.

The Banana Crunch pancake dwarfed Jacob’s fist.

But enough chit-chat — let’s talk pancakes. When our plates arrived it was clear that these were not your average short stack. These bad boys were massive, nearly the size of a dinner plate and generously coated with powdered sugar. I was surprised by the construction of the Pumpkin-Apple, which was composed of a pumpkin batter and sliced apple filling. When ordering I had pictured a traditional pancake speckled with apple chunks and pockets of pumpkin puree, but this pancake was surprisingly apple-forward. I found that the pumpkin was very mild, almost lost among the sweetness of the apple interior. Perhaps if pumpkin puree had been incorporated into the filling as well as in the batter, it would have been more noticeable. Not to say I didn’t enjoy the dish — both pancakes were expertly cooked, without any burnt or overly dry spots. Between the two, I preferred the Banana Crunch, which was filled with sliced bananas and a (shockingly) crunchy granola. I really liked the interaction between the brown sugar of the granola and the banana, even if I had to admit I was basically having bananas foster masquerading as a breakfast food.

All told, our bill came to less than $15, another eye-opening shocker for NYC natives, and another strong reason for my recommendation. If you’re traveling through Connecticut on I-95, I’d definitely suggest foregoing the endless Dunkin Donuts and instead taking a walk in some Westbrookian shoes at Cristy’s. The staff was friendly, the prices were stellar, and the pancakes were out of this world.

Eventually we made it up to Providence, and Saturday morning Megan took me over to one of her new favorite brunch spots, Olga’s Cup and Saucer.

Inside Olga's, which has a bakery/coffee bar area as well as indoor and outdoor dining.

Inside Olga’s, which has a bakery/coffee bar area as well as indoor and outdoor dining.

Olga’s was absolutely adorable, the kind of brightly painted and happily staffed coffee bar and restaurant that you know is going to make for a good brunch experience. It actually reminded me a lot of Macrina Bakery in Seattle, with slightly more emphasis on a full restaurant menu. The weather was surprisingly mild and dry for Providence in the fall, so we scored a seat on the outdoor patio. Following Megan’s lead, I opted for the Tostada (which was a layered take on Huevos Rancheros, as far I could tell).

The Tostada at Olga's Cup and Saucer, a layered breakfast lasagna of tortilla, salsa and beans.

The Tostada at Olga’s Cup and Saucer, a layered breakfast lasagna of tortilla, eggs, salsa and beans.

The Tostada was composed of eggs, stewed black beans, and fresh pico de gallo layered between toasted tortillas, and came with breakfast sweet and normal potatoes. I asked for my eggs to be cooked over easy, and they arrived with yolks still soft and loose, spilling out and intermingling with the beans and juices from the salsa. The Tostada had all of the Latin flavors I love in Huevos Rancheros, with crispness from the shredded lettuce and a sprinkling of cilantro. I was also impressed by the dish Megan’s friend David ordered — Poached Eggs on Homemade Scallion-Cheddar Scones. The “scones” were basically biscuits, and the small taste I had made me regret not snagging some of the baked goods on display near the front door of Olga’s.

Finally got to have my Baingan Bhartha, after trying a new eggplant curry at Tamarind.

Finally got to have my Baingan Bhartha, after trying a new eggplant curry at Tamarind.

Garlic-onion Naan -- deadly for your breath, delightful for your stomach.

Garlic-onion Naan — deadly for your breath, delightful for your stomach.

We spent most of the weekend shuttling from Megan’s apartment to her friends’ around the corner, who happen to live above an Indian restaurant called Taste of India. It didn’t take much effort to convince me to have Indian for dinner on Saturday night, and I finally got to have the Baingan Bhartha that I was craving during my dinner at Tamarind. The food was pretty tasty, although I’ll admit that I’ve been slightly ruined by the experience I had at Tamarind. I think it’ll be a few more regular Indian meals before I forget how wonderful the curries and lamb chops were. However, the proprietors of Taste of India score points for taking care of their tenants — we got free vegetable pakoras for being part of the in-crowd (aka, for Megan’s friends paying rent on time).

The reason we were so centrally located for the weekend (aside from the ease of geography), was because Megan’s friend Justin was celebrating his birthday. His girlfriend Lauren had organized a game night on Saturday and breakfast brunch the next day, so the remaining food adventures of my trip are based around Justin’s apartment. First off, Megan and I baked a red velvet cake for the game night. Back in our halcyon college days, Megan and I had attempted to make a red velvet cake, which ended up measuring only about an inch in height (though it did taste quite good). Thankfully, our baking skills have come a ways since then, and Justin’s cake was significantly more respectable in dimension.

The naked red velvet cake.

The naked red velvet cake.

Festively frosted for Justin.

Festively frosted for Justin.

Along with organizing and cooking most of brunch, Lauren had also bought a number of craft beers to accompany our vigorous board-gaming (ain’t no birthday like a board game birthday). First up was the Brooklyn Brewery Silver Anniversary Lager, celebrating the brewery’s 25 years in business. I’m usually somewhat lukewarm on Brooklyn Brewery, but I actually really enjoyed this lager. My beer palate is fairly inexperienced, but I tasted some citrus notes, some woodsy hoppiness, and a little toasted quality.

Brooklyn Brewery Silver Anniversary lager.

Brooklyn Brewery Silver Anniversary lager.

Brunch on Sunday was pretty impressive, incorporating lots of bacon, eggs, french toast (with a berry compote and creme fraiche), fruit salad and the obligatory mimosas.

Damn, Lauren, way to bring the brunch.

Damn, Lauren, way to bring the brunch.

I manned the french toast station and succeeded in not burning the challah to pieces, but Lauren’s egg-bake was pretty much the highlight the meal, featuring eggs, bacon, peppers, onions, and a whole mess of cheese. To top it all off, she even got all the brunchees to wear plaid shirts in Justin’s honor (aka to make fun of him for his mono-patterned wardrobe of plaid and jeans).  By the end of the weekend, I had come to the conclusion that Lauren needs to plan everyone’s birthdays. Or at least just mine. Clearly Megan’s friends know how to do birthdays right.

It was a great roadtrip, slightly more homestyle than I initially anticipated, but I actually appreciated the break from the NY food scene. It was nice to cook a meal with friends, to try some out of the way spots, and visit Megan’s favorite local restaurants. I spend so much time running around New York trying to check off items on my endless lists, I found it really refreshing to have the sort of wake up call that there is some stellar food happening outside the Five Boroughs, from roadside diners to personal kitchens. It makes me want to bust out a map and take this show on the road on a national eating tour, but until I have the time and the money for that, I guess I’ll concentrate on the northern third of the I-95 corridor. After all, Jacob hasn’t been to Friendly’s yet, and what kind of sad excuse of a life is one without the beauty of Fribbles?

America: One Nation, Overstufed — Megastuf Oreos

I’ve been thinking recently how the contents of this blog might imply that I lead quite the cosmopolitan lifestyle, my weeks practically overflowing with visits to lauded bakeries and trendy restaurants. Perhaps I should just let this impression continue, since the reality is far less exciting — think Trader Joe’s frozen dinners and Progresso Soups — but tempting as that may be, when I started Experimental Gastronomy, the goal was to provide an outlet for the pent up trivia and fascinations with food that I find taking up far too much space in my brain. So fortunately, this week brings me back to the origins of the blog. Let’s take a break from fancy dinners and get back to my roots — that’s right, we’re talking Oreos.

Last week began with a literal “stop the presses” moment. During my routine morning Google Reader catch-up, I stumbled upon this post from the Impulsive Buy. My mouth fell open. Megastuf Oreos? Could it be? Had Nabisco somehow heard my prayers and broken the double-stuf-creme barrier? I literally said out loud (to no one in particular) — “I need to find these.”

As I declared in my first post about Oreos, I am firmly in the “creme” camp of the “cookie vs. creme” debate (which Nabisco has now made the core(o) of their new ad campaign), so the idea of adding even more filling to an Oreo cookie sandwich was irresistible to me. However, Nabisco is far from first to think of this — Oreo hacksters have been posting pictures of triple, quadruple, or even dodecastuf Oreos on the Internet since reddit was born. How would an officially sanctioned, factory-baked mult-stuf measure up against the indie-stacked competition?

Thankfully, Megastuf was significantly easier to find than the Ice Cream Cookies n’ Creme Oreos — while my crack team of my mother managed to secure me a box from Target, I’ve actually since run across Megastuf in Duane Reade and Food Emporium. This may be due to the way Megastuf fits into Nabisco’s larger advertising scheme, or simply a nod to the sizable audience of creme-preferring Oreo eaters. I’d call us “cremers,” but that just makes me incredibly uncomfortable.

It’s also worth noting that Nabisco had previously attempted to alter the cookie/creme ratio, via the Triple Double Oreo. The TDO is the structural equivalent of a Big Mac — three cookies with two layers of creme, one vanilla, one chocolate. I’d rank the TDO pretty low on my Oreo variations list, for a couple of reasons. First — way too much cookie, and unless these bad boys are stale, that means each bite is gonna be pretty damn crunchy. Second — the creme layers are not Double Stuf, and I have standards. And lastly, who likes chocolate creme Oreos? It’s not even real chocolate — it’s chocolate-flavored. No thank you. That being said, if you’re on the cookie side of things, you may prefer the TDO to the Megastuf at the end of the day. Although if you’re a real Oreo lover, you’ll seek out the Oreo X3, the Argentinian Oreo product that features 3 cookies and 2 layers of original creme. God, I know way too much about Oreos.
2013-02-16 15.19.01
And with that in mind, let’s get down to the overanalysis of processed food. Enter the Megastuf Oreo. Thanks to my boyfriend, I had a box of Double Stuf on hand for a direct comparison. Despite having fewer cookies per box, the Megastuf package felt heavier than the Double Stuf box. I don’t want to think about the implications of the creme being the heavier part of the Oreo than the actual cookies.

2013-02-16 15.19.20

The package is actually stuf(f)ed to the brim with cookies overflowing with creme.

Upon opening the package, I was greeted with the familiar Oreo scent — cocoa intermingling with sugary sweet pseudo-vanilla. I would wager it was slightly more pungent with this product, but thankfully not the chemically-fortified strength of the Birthday Cake or Ice Cream Cookies n Creme varieties. Smell-wise, these are your basic Oreos, but if you maybe slathered the insides of the package in creme. Speaking of slathering, some of the Megastufs looked like they were nearly exploding with filling. The creme cannot be contained! (Getting uncomfortable again.)

Megastuf on the left, regular Double Stuf on the right. The Megastuf looks like it's slowly pulling the Double Stuf's filling into its gravitational field.

Megastuf on the left, regular Double Stuf on the right. The Megastuf looks like it’s slowly pulling the Double Stuf’s filling into its gravitational field.

Side by side with a Double Stuf, it appears that the Megastuf has about 1.5 times the filling of a Double Stuf. So I guess compared to an Original, the Megastuf is really a 3.5-stuffed Oreo? For me, this was drool-worthy, but I could see it being a little imposing for the old-fashioned Oreo pursuits (although really, you all should just be eating Hydrox — why even pretend to be part of the Nabisco sugar-industrial complex?).

The Megastuf was supremely easy to twist apart, most likely due to the lubrication from the extra filling. Tasting the standalone Oreo, the flavor is nothing new — classic, not too sweet cocoa taste. The creme was wonderfully soft, but again was nothing different in flavor. Nabisco was clearly not interested in revamping their formula with the Megastuf. I guess that’s what the Creamsicle/Berry Burst/Candy Corn Oreo monstrosities are for.

It will come as no surprise that overall I found the experience of eating a Megastuf extremely positive. Because of the softness of the filling, it spreads across the breadth of the cookies, providing a balance of cookie/creme flavors, and crunchy/soft texture in every bite. I sincerely hope Megastufs graduate from the Limited Edition space to mainstream Oreodom. The Megastuf singlehandly removes the most unfortunate consequence of underground Oreo hacks — what to do with the remaining naked half cookies once you’ve assembled your leaning tower of creme filling. The Megastufs also maintain the ideal composition, allowing bits of cookie and creme to be a part of the whole eating experience.

God, I'm actually salivating looking at this photo.

God, I’m actually salivating looking at this photo.

The only downside to the Megastufs is their nutrition. Coming in at 180 calories per 2-cookie serving, they’re only 40 calories more per serving than Double Stuf. But the Megastufs make up for it in sugar content, slapping you in the face with a stunning 18g of sugar per serving. For comparison, the worst rated sugary cereal, Honey Smacks, has only 15g of sugar per serving. So maybe hold back on the kids wolfing down a box of Megastufs, unless you’re prepared to wrestle them to the ground after they’ve finished crayoning the wallpaper.

In terms of Oreo product reviews on this blog, the Megastufs are the clear winner (wooo small sample size), but even beyond that, I will be keeping my fingers crossed that this Oreo variety stays around. Thanks to Valentine’s Day treats, I’ve still got 98% of the Megastuf box left, so I’m already deliberating on whether I should mix them with ice cream, or bake with them, or just savor the overflowing creme filling lick by lick. Ugh, regardless of how I eat them, I’ve got to stop writing about it. This post is getting less family friendly by the second. Bottom line: if you’re on the creme side of the cookie v. creme debate, go find these. Your mouth will thank you.

Oreoception

I swear, I had grander plans for my first post. I had every intention of highlighting the culinary delights of a recent trip to Rhode Island, or delving into my new hobby of unopened  restaurant stalking. But unfortunately, and I have to admit, quite fittingly, the first post on my new food blog is going to be about Oreos.

Luckily, we’re not talking about just any Oreos — this post is about a new interloper, a possible gamechanger, an oreo that redefines what it means to be a chocolate sandwich cookie with vaguely vanilla-ish creme filling. Of course, I’m talking about the new Limited Edition Ice Cream Oreo Cookies and Creme flavored Oreos. Christopher Nolan’s cookie of choice. The Oreo-within-an-Oreo. Oreoception.

Before I discuss my encounter with the L.E.I.C.O.C.&C.s (geez, Nabisco, could you make that name longer?), I think it’s only right to explain why I literally searched every single bodega and grocery store near my apartment to find a box of these. (Side note: If you also seek the grail, check out Stop & Shop — after weeks of fruitless and awkward bodega loitering, I ended up smack dab in front of a large display at the supermarket. Facepalm.)

Here are the hard, cold facts: I have a serious, lifelong Oreo problem.

I have to imagine it started in the womb, since I can’t remember a time when I didn’t lust after anything remotely cookies & creme flavored. If it’s the cookies, I’m a brand purist, sticking by Nabisco and their claims of producing Milk’s (and at one time America’s) favorite cookie. Put away your Trader Joe’s Jojos, and don’t even talk to me about Newman-O’s. But within the safety of the National Biscuit Company’s arms, I’ll go hog-wild. Double-stuf (the real Oreo lover’s classic), golden, peanut butter, mint, mini, fudge-covered, McFlurrys, DQ Blizzards, I’m down. Show me an Oreo-themed dessert at a restaurant, and I’ll show you an inappropriate level of excitement.

As a child, I devoured Breyer’s Cookies and Creme ice cream (the blue package is the only box for the discerning Oreo lover). I would also purposefully schedule playdates to increase my chances of an afterschool bowl of Oreo-O’s (RIP, you best cereal ever). By the time I got to college, I had developed a bit of a reputation. What was the first cast gift I received as a stage manager? Well, just take a look at the photo below.

 

Me and all the oreos

I don’t know if it’s evident from the sheer joy on my face, but this was one of the best presents I’ve ever received. Inquiring minds can ask for reviews of the specific products in that photo, but let me just say that second semester of freshman year was a blur of black and white deliciousness. And I frickin saved that box of Oreo-O’s for MONTHS. (Second side note: I recently learned that you can buy Oreo-O’s from Korea off of eBay. I struggle with whether this is a valid purchase.)

So yeah, I don’t think anyone would argue that the L.E.I.C.O.C.&C.s and I were destined to be together. My favorite ice cream combo smushed inside my favorite store-bought cookie? Sounds like an express train to tasty-town in my mouth. But enough preamble, let’s open these bad boys up!

 

 

2012-10-06 13.30.34

Okay, so from the get-go you can see they’re making it absolutely clear that these are ICE CREAM flavored. There’s even a ice cream cone on the side to emphasize the comparison. (Based on scale, that’s either a giant Oreo or the world’s most adorable mini-ice cream cone.)

Unfortunately, Nabisco’s effective leading of the witness is completely necessary. But let’s not jump ahead.

2012-10-06 13.32.12

Things seemed to be heading in the right direction when I opened the package. I was a little nervous because I’ve been recently burned by the Birthday Cake Oreos. Not only did they taste awful, but you were subjected to an overwhelmingly chemically smell upon opening. It smelled like aliens had tried to re-engineer a cake out of amino acids. The L.E.I.C.O.C.&C.s also had a strong aroma, but thankfully it was the heady scent of dairy mixed with vanilla. It reminded me of opening a pint of actual C&C ice cream, or unwrapping a Hershey’s Cookies & Creme bar. I sniffed a solitary cookie — even the chocolate part smelled of ice cream.

2012-10-06 13.36.23

 

These guys are somewhere between Double Stuf and Classic thickness, which I appreciate as a creme-over-cookie fan (seriously, if they sold Oreo filling in jars, I would buy it). The sandwich was very easy to twist, and you can see that the layers separate cleanly. The creme is strangely greyish in color, with what appear to be flecks of cookie throughout. I imagine if we go deeper, Joseph Gorden-Levitt is in those flecks fighting in a revolving hallway of sugar (okay, okay, last Inception joke).

But as a I alluded to before, despite a solid foundation of smell and look, these cookies really just under perform on taste. The cookie layer is your classic Oreo, which wasn’t surprising — after all, the filling is clearly supposed to be the star here. But the creme was just grainy and very mild compared the to the strong flavor suggested by its smell. It lacks the intense sweetness of regular Oreo creme, and it doesn’t taste anything like my old Breyers Ice Cream or Hershey’s C&C bars. And alas, just like the Birthday Cake Oreos, there is a strange chemical aftertaste that lingers as a bitter note.

What the creme really reminds me of is the non-cookie products in the Oreo line — like the fudge sticks or Oreo-O’s. They approximate Oreo flavoring, which I can get behind since they’re not trying to be a cookie, but here it just doesn’t make sense. You’re trying to be the meta-Oreo — you should taste like the ultimate, authentic cookie!

Overall, the Limited Edition Ice Cream Cookies and Creme Oreos were not flat-out gross like their Birthday Cake counterparts, but I’d probably choose regular Double Stuf over these guys the next time I’m buying. It just doesn’t seem worth it to eat a milder version of almost-Oreos.

That said, I’m probably about to devour this whole box. I mean, I just spent an entire post describing my unreasonable affection towards Oreos — now Mama’s jonesing for a fix.