You know that Vanilla Bean advertising billboard on Route 2 as you're heading from Troy towards Latham that warns "Don't be fooled! There's only *one* Fudge Fancy at the Vanilla Bean"? I always thought it was a joke. Like, yeah, right-- there are these high-stakes competitions between imposter Fudge Fancies around here? The Vanilla Bean has such a dominating presence in the grocery stores that I never really thought they should be worried about these supposed pretenders to the throne. Fudge Fancies are good, but they're pretty basic and very sugary; what's the big deal?
So imagine my surprise when I discovered that in fact the Vanilla Bean has something to worry about. Apparently other area bakers do try to copy the Fudge Fancy. Now at the Cookie Factory in Troy, you can find similar cookies called "Fudge Fantasies." How sad is that? They can't even come up with their own signature cookie, so they have to copy a cookie that's pretty mediocre to begin with.
The Cookie Factory is on Congress Street (aka Route 2), east of Prospect Park but before the intersection with Pawling Ave. I'm always up for trying out cookies, so I went.
One thing that anyone who knows me well knows is that I LOVE cookies. In fact, if I don't have "a little something"-- meaning, a bag of cookies-- in the house, I feel downright unsafe. My favorite place to get cookies is Dean and Deluca's cookies by the pound counter, where I go to salivate whenever I visit the city. I have been known to snarf down some Fudge Fancies (I like the peanut butter kind), but well, they're pretty fluffy and there is definitely shortening involved. And I'm sorry, but shortening just isn't what real bakers use.
So I even splurged, buying a box of the Cookie Factory's almond cookies. This was not because I wanted an entire box, but because you couldn't buy these particular cookies by the pound. I took them home to have my way with them but discovered they are so sweet that they are almost inedible. The consistency is right: a bit crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. But there is no subtlety here. The marzipan flavor is overpowering, and then you're completely knocked out by the sugar blast.
The Cookie Factory had the usual collection of cookies they call "Italian butter cookies" but they are basically the particle-board of the cookie kingdom: fake and highly proceessed. You know, they're the kind of cookies you find at every office party piled high on a plastic plate covered in maraschino cherries and sprinkles. Dry, and depressing. The biscotti they had looked drier than the Sahara.
Some cookies they did sell singly: they had some ginormous hearts that looked like they were trying to be shortbread but were again mostly sugar and shortening, not real butter. Or, hullo, how about real eggs? The almond horns looked fairly saturated by sugar, and their jam cookies looked suspiciously pale (=too much sugar, no butter or eggs).
So I got a hermit and a chocolate chip covered heart.
I can't say that the Vanilla Bean is that much better, but they do have a passable chocolate chip cookie, some pretty good donuts, and OK pastries like Napoleans and eclairs.
It's really pathetic when we can't even get decent baked goods in America. What is "freedom" if it doesn't include good pastries? I honestly believe that if we had better baked goods, we'd be satisfied from eating less, and we wouldn't have an obesity problem.