Friday, July 8, 2011

'C' is for 'Cookie,' That's Good Enough for Me (Levain Bakery)

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie

Cookies hold a very special place in my heart, as I'm sure they do for many other people. For as long as I can remember, cookies have been one of my favorite foods, dating back to when Cookie Monster was my favorite Sesame Street character because he, too, loved cookies. Childhood memories of baking chocolate chip cookies with my mom, going to a nearby bakery for their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-shaped cookies, and licking off the cream filling from my Oreos that were packed with my lunch are something that I will forever remember, so the humble cookie has quite a bit of nostalgic value to me. But of course, cookies these days are no longer quite so simple and humble, as evidenced by the proliferation of, er, non-traditional cookies. While I'm all for innovation and different flavor combinations, there's something to be said for traditional, old-school flavors done well. Enter: Levain Bakery. 

Ironically, Levain was founded by a pair of women who were training for an Ironman competition. In need of a serious amount of calories to meet the energy requirements of their extremely demanding training, they came up with the idea to mate a cookie with a softball, and from this blessed  union came the gigantic six-ounce heifers that we know and love today. The cookies come in four flavors: Chocolate Chip Walnut, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip, Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip, and Oatmeal Raisin. If the four types of cookies were represented by the popular girls in high school, the Oatmeal Raisin cookie would be the average-looking girl in that group. While she's perfectly sweet, has a great personality, and is probably downright likeable, she's just completely overshadowed by her hotter, more popular friends. For shame, because she...err, I mean the Oatmeal Raisin cookie is probably really good at Levain, too, but the allure of the other three cookies is simply too great to ever make me want to try it out.

Like I said, these cookies are enormous. For my amusement, I compared the size of the cookie to a standard pill tube. Note that this isn't just the smallest-sized tube, either; it's the one that's about 1.5" in diameter.

The Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip is the stuff that dreams are made of, and it's definitely my favorite. That's possibly because I'm a sucker for almost anything that has peanut butter in it, but I find that the saltiness injected into the cookie from the peanut butter chips helps mellow out some of the sweetness, making for an incredible salty-sweet cookie that is damn near impossible to stop eating.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookie

Some people aren't fans of walnuts in their chocolate chip cookies, but I'm all for adding some textural contrast. Loaded with chopped walnuts and tons of chocolate chips, this cookie brings out the best of a childhood classic, but in the form of a six-ounce giant.

Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie

The Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chip is a seriously chocolate-y affair, and it can almost come across like a brownie. This is the cookie for hardcore chocolate lovers.

Levain seems to have a steady flow of cookies popping out of the over throughout the day, meaning you are likely to be handed still-warm cookies with melty chocolate (or peanut butter) chips. The aroma alone makes it incredibly difficult to restrain oneself from just inhaling all of the cookies on the spot. One of the big complaints about Levain is that their cookies are like raw cookie dough on the inside, but really, the dough isn't raw; it's just very, very soft on the inside, with a gooey texture if it is still warm. Off-putting to some, sure, but not for me. And while I am generally a fan of crisp cookies, Levain has made me reconsider what I look for in a cookie. All in all, Levain produces some fantastic cookies, and while you probably can't go wrong with any of the four, I don't see the Oatmeal Raisin cookie getting any loving from me anytime soon.

167 West 74th St.
New York, NY 10023


  1. That's downright pornographic.

    I was trying to figure out the pill bottle before reading, I thought insulin came in vials.

    I've almost put the mail order in several times. But I'm holding off until I visit.

  2. Rodzilla: I'm not sure what the quality of the mail-order cookies are like, but I'm sure it'd be pretty pricey. You're probably better off just waiting until you come to NYC to try Levain because while the cookies are certainly very good, cookies just don't seem like something that would be worth mail-ordering for. Plus, your first Levain experience should be with gooey, still-warm cookies.