Saturday, April 4, 2009


167 W 74th Street

As if Momofuku and Jacques Torres weren’t enough, my Internet surfing for the best cookie in NYC led me to Levain Bakery on the Upper West Side. Triumphant in its Throwdown against Bobby Flay and featured on numerous television shows, Levain (named for the French word for a leavening agent) is best known for their fist-sized, fresh-baked cookies. Coming in at a $3.75 price tag, they cost more than twice a cornflake marshmallow cookie and well over a Jacques Torres chocolate chip. Not being able to choose between the four selections, I did what any normal person would do and got one of each. These are their stories:

Chocolate Chip Walnut:

The anchor of the group. When people talk of Levain cookies, this is what they are talking about. This juggernaut of baking packs tons of chocolate chips and walnuts into a gooey mixture that is soft on the inside and firm on the outside. Getting one fresh from the oven is a winning proposition. If you prefer a softer chocolate chip cookie, this is the choice over Jacques. If you prefer a cookie that is just oozing with chocolate and is a little crispier, head down to visit the chocolate man.

Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip:

Brownie-like in texture with melted pools of semi-sweet chocolate make this a wise choice for those that want a deeper chocolate flavor. What I appreciated was that although the actual dough was dryer than I would have liked, the melted chocolate balanced out the texture and made for a nice complement.

Oatmeal Raisin:

I’m a big fan of oatmeal raisin cookies, just not this kind. Though my girlfriend was a fan, I found the flavors to be pretty muted. I wanted more brown sugar, more cinnamon. The dough itself needed to be sweeter and the whole thing just wasn’t up to par with the other choices.

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip:

Take one dark chocolate chocolate chip cookie and substitute peanut butter chips for the chocolate chips. It’s a tough choice between this one and the chocolate chip walnut for top honors (though I would be happy to sample again to determine a winner). Loaded with peanut butter chips, fans of peanut butter treats will adore this cookie. Peanut chocolate chip ice cream is my go to, so this cookie was a perfect fit for me.

Is $3.75 too much to pay for a cookie? Probably, but it depends on the context and if you’re a cookie freak it’s certainly worth a trip uptown. I’m not sure that I can justify just stopping in for a cookie whenever, but I can easily see myself skipping dessert at a nearby restaurant in favor of a couple cookies from Levain. Whether thinking about grabbing a couple before heading into a movie or for an after-dinner treat, the decision isn’t whether to go, but how many cookies to get.

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