Friday, February 09, 2007

Cookie Monsters Aloose and Hungry

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.

The hermit was too sweet, without any of the fruity cinnamony flavor they're supposed to have. And the chocolate chipper was hard. The pre-mixed Tollhouse cookies you can buy at the grocery store are better! This is just sad.

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.


Kari said...

I'm always curious why Vanilla Bean is so popular, when everything I've tried from there is "just okay". My favorite place to go is Scratch Bakery on Madison Ave in Albany. They have awesome cookies, bars, and other desserts!

Nosher said...

Hi kari,
Yeah, I wonder the same thing. I think it's just because they make it easy to buy their stuff.
Oooh--I have heard about Scratch Bakery and now I can't wait to go!

Linda said...

The best thing about that Cookie Factory is the awesome view from the window! We bought some almond cookies and some rolls - both were good, but not exceptional.

Chelly said...

Scratch is pretty good but you should give the Cookie Factory Bread a try, their tuscan loaf is pretty good by Capital Region Standards - I'm from Syracuse and they have BIG Itallian Bread wars.

louis said...

I think the whole cookie factoy idea is really sad, everyone thinks they are affiliated with the Vanilla Bean. The truth is they are not! After al the cookie factory guys worked at Vanilla Bean for 17 years I wouldnt be surprised how much more they copy from Vaniia Bean. Just not original Real Life Copy Cats!! We wont go back

drago said...

hey nosher read your story on the cookie factory and thought you should give Zachary's Pastry Shoppe a try in east greenbush. let us know what you think of the place