Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Determining Your Gastronomic Limits

I am not kind to my stomach. Even when I know the two-hours-from-now Brian will be cursing the present time I-could-go-for-a-snack Brian, I continue to punish my digestive system. Think: a large ice cream sundae after a smorgasbord of sub par sushi.

Yesterday at the Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, MA, I confirmed the above. After walking by a literally endless array of food vendors, I carefully chose a sure-miss lunch: jambalaya. Everyone knows that if there's one place north of the Mason Dixon line where you should get fine Cajun cuisine, it's a 200-year-old agricultural fair in rural Massachusetts.

To drown my sorrows in what was clearly a poor choice, I decided to treat myself to something that harkens back to Dawn's old post: Boardwalk Food - A Summer Must. I got fried twinkies. For a meager $5, I watched as the man from the funnel cake cart grab two chilled twinkies on sticks, dip them in batter, deep fry them, shake on some powdered sugar, cover them with whipped cream, and drizzle on a brown substance approximating chocolate.

I have to admit, I was only able to eat one of them. Even so, my stomach was cursing me for much of the day.

While I could lie and say that I've learned my lesson, I'm positive this is far from the last time something like this will happen.

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Ultimate Snack Food - Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are food royalty in my life, they rule my sweet tooth world. As most people who like cookies go, you've probably had a ton of different types of chocolate chip cookies. There are only two real kinds - crispy and chewy (a.k.a. soft baked).

Chewy is just an abomination - unless you're personally standing there watching cookies come out of the oven, a cookie should not be flexible. Any chewy chocolate chip cookie is pumped full of chemicals to make it bendable, and tastes like it.

I'll focus on the positive - Crispy! There are many good crispy chocolate chip cookies out there, from mom and pop operations to mass market. Here's my take on the top few manufacturers out there in different categories:

Top National Brand - Pepperidge Farm Nantucket Chocolate Chunk Cookie, large and crispy, loaded with dark chocolate chunks. They carry several other styles of chunk cookies, all good as well. This is the best TRAVEL cookie - car trip, picnics, camping and more. They're even stored in seperate stacks inside the bag for easy sharing as well as for protection from busting up. The bonus is that in hot weather, you leave the bag in the sun and the chips get gooey, simulating fresh out-of-the-oven cookies. I can't tell you how many summers I spent as a teenager at the Jersey Shore reading Weekly World News and munching on gooey Pepperidge Farm cookies.

Top Local Brand (Northeast US) - Peggy Lawton Choco Chip Cookies, a best kept secret of New England. This is the cookie you find most in sub shops, grocery stores, schools, and roach coaches. It's the working man's cookie. They are shrink wrapped (it's an art form learning to open them up) in a set of 3, and come in several kinds such as sugar (mmm), peanut butter, oatmeal, and more. The link above is for a posting about the brand, as Peggy Lawton doesn't have a website that I can locate (old school!). The Choco-Chip cookies are this amazingly perfect dry and crisp cookie with almost a "salt" feeling, the chocolate chips rounding out the "sweet". It has the same draw for me as a chocolate covered pretzel. You definitely can not eat just one. It's all or nothing for Peggy Lawton.

Top Boutique Brand - David's Cookies, I discovered this brand through a cafeteria in our building at work. They get them through a foodservice company, and bake them fresh - handing out free samples on Fridays. Or I can buy them at 3 for a dollar, which I manage to do on average of once a week. They have captured the holy grail of Chocolate Chip Cookie Texture. The outside is firm and crunchy, but the inside is slightly chewy and the chips are borderline gooey. The taste follows suit as perfect. I can't vouch for David's offerings of pre-made cookies, but all I can say is I'm ready to buy a bucket of dough from these guys.

And one final note... I'm a No Nuts girl. Macadamia nuts are OK on occasion since they are exotic, but that's it! People manage to ruin a good chocolate chip cookie with the palatable taste of aptly named WALNUT MEATS. No thanks! Blech.