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/

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A Tale of Two Bakers: Dominique Ansel’s Cronut v. Breads Bakery

All right, my friends, it’s time for a croissant cagefight, a donut deathmatch. We’re talking full on pastry prizefighting. In this corner we have … the up-and-comer, the hot new hybrid, the latest culinary craze to hit Manhattan — Dominique Ansel’s one and only Cronut! And in the other corner … the tried and true technician, the desert darkhorse, the archetypal archduke of allspice — Breads Bakery’s Almond Croissant. It’s a throwdown for the ages, and the only type of warfare I readily endorse. So (in what must be a violation of a trademarked catchphrase) … let’s get ready to crumble!

Dominique Ansel Bakery‘s The Cronut:

For those who may be unaware of the Cronut Mania overtaking Manhattan at the moment, here’s a bit of context. Dominique Ansel, formerly of the Michelin-starred Daniel, and currently one of the top pastry chefs in America, recently devised a new form of pastry. His personal Frankenstein’s monster is a half-donut, half croissant hybrid, and therefore was christened The Cronut. Arriving last month, the pastry swiftly sent shockwaves through New York’s foodie scene, eliciting the kind of fervor that might seem more reasonable at a Twilight premiere. Lines began to form at Ansel’s Lower East Side bakery, and as they stretched longer and arrived earlier, Ansel had to start instituting rules (outlined on the “Cronut 101” page of their website — yes, this exists). The bakery can only produce between 200-250 cronuts each day, so customers were limited to only two per in-store purchase, six if you manage to get on the pre-order list — which won’t happen, because they’re already full. Oh, and if you want that in-store Cronut? Better gird your loins and bring some energy drinks along — you’re lining up at 6am for that buttery bad boy. The bakery opens at eight, so pack a sudoku book or two.

None of the above is a joke — this hyperbolic hysteria is actually happening each day in downtown Manhattan. A Cronut black market has developed, with seemingly otherwise unemployed and endlessly patient people offering hand-delivered Cronuts for those willing to shell out nearly 10 times the store price (one Cronut retails for about $5, on Craigslist people are asking for upwards of $50 a delivery, depending on the neighborhood).

My Cronut delivery, thanks to Randeep!

My Cronut delivery, thanks to Randeep!

 

I received my Cronut secondhand as well, but never fear, I did not sink so low as to entrust my dessert delivery to a complete stranger. A good friend and fellow foodie Randeep decided to endure the line and get a Cronut the oldfashioned way (well, the month-old-fashioned way, I guess), and was generous enough to let me buy his second pastry off him. So full disclosure: the Cronut I tasted was a day old. I did my best to reheat it in the toaster oven at work, but I recognize that my views are tainted by the ravages of time upon those delicate layers of dough.

The Cronut carrying case -- classy packaging, or commercial ploy?

The Cronut carrying case — classy packaging, or commercial ploy?

 

The Cronuts are packaged in a golden, pyramidal box, which could be viewed as either a way to placate the masses and elevate the experience (this is no Krispy Kreme donut, mon ami), or as an over-the-top, eye-roll inducing display of food fetishism. Guess which camp I fall into? Look, I know I’m one to talk in my glass house of Oreo and Levain cultism, but I sometimes I find the spectacle of food presentation a little unnecessary. I’m all for molecular gastronomy and innovative plating, but I don’t think the way you package a baked product needs to be any fancier than a white cardboard box. The beauty of Dominique Ansel’s Cronut is in the design of the pastry itself. The gold box adds a layer of pomp and circumstance that feels like a poor play to make me feel like the Cronut unboxing should be an event in itself.

The Cronut in all its sugar-crusted glory.

The Cronut in all its sugar-crusted glory.

 

Thankfully, as I alluded to above, the Cronut itself is a gorgeous display of craftsmanship. Even after a day of marinating in its own creamy innards, the layers of flaky dough were still distinct. Golden-brown and crispy on the outside, with a soft yellow, multilayered inside reminiscent of the croissant-side of its family, the pastry cream was still soft and oozing from the crevices. Cronut 1.0 was flavored vanilla rose, but Ansel is rolling out new flavors each month, so my June Cronut was lemon maple. Unfortunately, I’ve never been much of a lemon person, so I wish I had gotten to try the Cronut in its initial form.

Inside you can see the distinct layers of dough, and the cream oozing between them.

Inside you can see the distinct layers of dough, and the cream oozing between them.

According to Ansel’s website, the Cronuts are first fried in grapeseed oil, then rolled in sugar and filled with pastry cream, completing their donutification. This means that when you bite into the Cronut, the dominant flavor is that of the cream filling instead of the dough itself. For June’s iteration, the foremost taste is strongly lemon, with a hint of vanilla from the surrounding dough. I struggled to find any maple flavor at all, although it may serve mainly as a sweetener. A day after it was baked, the Cronut had indeed lost some of the lightness in the pastry, but you could still see the wafer thin and springy layers as you tore into them. The overall impression I got was one of eating a deep-fried croissant, perhaps because the basic architecture of the dessert was born from a croissant. I’m not sure what could have brought the Cronut closer to its donut heritage — perhaps its best thought of as a croissant adopted and raised from birth by donut parents.

All in all, while I applaud Dominique Ansel’s creativity and devotion to raising the pastry game, I think I’d rather try one of his takes on a more traditional dessert, like his highly regarded Kouign Amman (which was previously the most popular item on the Bakery’s menu).

 

 

Breads Bakery’s Almond Croissant (and more):

2013-06-08 11.40.56

Our other contender comes from Breads Bakery, down in Union Square. Breads is relatively new to the New York scene, opening in the beginning of 2013 as the first American outpost of the popular Lehamim Bakeries in Tel Aviv (Lehamim means “breads” in Hebrew). Located just off Union Square on East 16th St, Breads seems to still be flying just under the radar, despite earning the accolade of baking the “best babka in NY” from New York Magazine. When I visited the bakery/cafe last Saturday, I found a steady stream of customers but plenty of space to linger, sit and sample the menu.

Inside Breads -- the dessert and bread counter located up front, and the coffee is in the back.

Inside Breads — the dessert and bread counter located up front, and the coffee is in the back.

Breads offers both savory and sweet goods, with their loaves of various breads and baked items at the front counter, a coffee bar and selection of salads and sandwiches in the back, a small seating area in the middle. They win major points for an enthusiastic staff — everyone I talked to was willing to explain the menu and offer their own recommendations. Plus, you gotta love a place that not only offers free samples as you walk in, but also constantly replenishes the supply and rotates the sample selection. In the time I was there I got to try a fresh hard and crusty baguette, a boureka, and some onion bread.

A small sample of Breads baked goods.

A small sample of Breads baked goods. Note the rugelach on the left.

I didn’t get to test New York Magazine’s assertion this go-round, but I did buy a piece of rugelach, the other item Breads is well-known for. Both the rugelach and the babka are loaded up with a Nutella/Belgian chocolate filling, and covered with a sugar syrup after emerging from the oven, leaving a soft, flaky crust.

2013-06-08 12.31.33

Breads‘ rugelach, bringing me back to my days in Jerusalem.

My typical preference for babka or rugelach is cinnamon over chocolate, but man this was one phenomenal rugelach. You can detect just a hint of nuttiness in the filling, but the dominant flavor is the rich Belgian chocolate, similar to a ganache in texture. The dough is flaky on the outside, but yeasty within, the filling and the sugar glaze keeping it moist (and lingering on your fingers). Breads’ rendition reminded me of the personal-paradigm-shifting rugelach I had at Marzipan in Jerusalem. Maybe it’s because the chef behind Breads Bakery is Uri Scheft, a Danish-Israeli with an eye towards twisting up traditional breads, but a reverence for tradition with Jewish staples. For example, along with the dark Scandanavian rye loaves that fill the baskets at Breads, Scheft bakes up challah each weekend for Shabbat.

 

The flat but full-flavored Almond Croissant.

The flat, but full-flavored Almond Croissant.

But the more appropriate dish for Cronut comparison (Cro-comp?) is Breads’ version of an Almond Croissant, which Jacob selected. (Again, the lucky duck lives in the neighborhood — clearly I need to move to Gramercy.) While almond croissants are one of Jacob’s favorite pastries, I’ve only had a handful in my life, probably due to the poor quality of most of the ones you find at the local Starbucks or Au Bon Pain. Much like my rugelach experience, however, Breads’ take on an almond croissant proved eye-opening.

The pictures featured on Breads’ website show a familiarly puffy pastry, but the almond croissants we encountered at the bakery were the flattest I’d ever seen. However, the croissant was clearly baked with care, golden-brown with some slightly burnt areas near the edges. It appeared to be double-braided, almost like a challah loaf, and had marzipan piped on top, beneath a dusting of powdered sugar and sliced almonds. The first bite revealed that marzipan also filled the middle of the croissant. More viscous than the pastry cream in the Cronut, I strongly preferred Breads’ filling, since it gave a moistness to the croissant dough but held the whole pastry together, making it easier to eat overall. The lemon maple cream of the Cronut squirted out with each bite, leaving you with pastry cream on your hands and face. The more stable marzipan also allowed the taste of the dough to have more of a presence on your tongue. It made the almond flavor purer and more natural tasting than the common almond croissant, which tend to be differentiated from their original brethren simply by tossing a few almonds on top.

 

All in all, the Cronut and Almond Croissant fared equally on dough texture, but Breads wins out because of the basic architecture of its dessert. I think you need the integrity of a yeast donut to properly handle the pastry cream. In fact, most of the cream-filled desserts I can think of have a certain amount of heft to the surrounding baked dough — eclairs, cupcakes, even twinkies have a stronger structural base compared to the airyness of croissant layers. While the frying of the Cronut solidifies the dough a bit more after baking, the pastry cream doesn’t get absorbed by the Cronut, making the process of eating it a messier experience than its elegant appearance would suggestion. In the end, I sampled all three of these pastries long after they had been baked. Although the Cronut suffered the longest delay, even my friend who tried it fresh out of the fryer concurred that it was good, but not really worth all the hype. I’m happy for Dominique Ansel to get the business, because I honestly believe he’s pushing the industry forward, but on a blow-by-blow count, Breads Bakery wins in a knockout. The newest eye-catching, show-stopping fad can be pretty thrilling at the time, but sometimes all you need is a small tweak to familiar formulas to really be memorable.

Bottom line? If you can find your way to a Cronut with little hassle or time investment, give it a shot — it’s definitely a beauty to behold. But feel free to sleep in on Saturday morning if getting up at 5 sounds awful — Breads Bakery will be there, open until late and inviting you to sample and revel in some rich rugelach or commendable croissants.

 

Dominique Ansel Bakery

189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)

http://dominiqueansel.com/

Breads Bakery

18 E 16th St.

breadsbakery.com

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!

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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.