Five students gathered in the Branford common room to choose New Haven’s best chocolate chip cookie. The student judges clustered around unmarked brown paper bags, each filled with a pile of New Haven’s finest cookies. The identities of the cookies would not be revealed until the end of the competition. With a gleaming look of determination in their eyes, the students seemed willing to add a few extra calories to their diets for the sake of finding the king of local cookiedom.
The student judges had varying degrees of cookie-experience. Max Chafkin ’04, was a relative chocolate chip cookie virgin who claimed “my parents were health nuts; I didn’t have sweets until I was 12 or 13.”
On the other end of the cookie-experience spectrum was Liz Hammond ’04, a veritable cookie genius. Liz wrote an entire English 120 essay on how to make the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Jean-Paul Christophe ’04, Venkat Lakshminarayanan ’04 and Naved Sheikh ’03 rounded out the field as “everyman” judges.
Cookie #1 was from Atticus. As the group took its first bites, the hunger pains were replaced by “oohs” and “ahhs.” It was clear that the other cookies had their work cut out for them. Max liked the consistency. “It’s crunchy on the outside, soft and chewy in the middle.” Liz agreed, saying she liked the crunch and the sweetness of the chips.
Venkat dissented, however. “There are too many chocolate chips, and I don’t get a good enough sense of the body of the cookie,” he said.
Cookie #2 was of Rainbow Cafe’s signature frisbee-sized variety. Though at first glance the judges were excited, the chocolate itself was not well-received. “The chips taste funny,” Jean-Paul said. “It’s fun to eat though.”
Naved commented insightfully, “I could see girls liking this more.”
The ever-witty Venkat had his own take.
“This is more of a cake,” Venkat said. “It has some ‘dimensionality’ to it. This is a cookie that pushes you around a little.”
This cookie was so thick and rich that Max didn’t even want to finish the piece of cookie that he had been given. “It’s just too much,” he said.
Au Bon Pain supplied Cookie #3. “It looks like a foot-print with bird crap, and tastes like a brick,” said Jean-Paul rather harshly.
Max concurred with Jean-Paul.
“It’s awful,” he said. “It tastes like someone left it out in the sun all day.”
Liz, ever perceptive, said she tasted a slight coffee flavor, as if the cookie had picked up traces of its possible environment. Naved pithily stated he didn’t think his teeth were capable of handling the cookie before him. Venkat once again gave the definitive word on the sample cookie.
“I feel like my mom found me in the cookie jar and made me eat this cookie as some sort of punishment,” he said.
Cookie #4, the final contender, came from Koffee, Too? Overall, the judges gave this cookie high marks.
“This looks homemade, although it needs more chocolate chips,” Max said.
Naved appreciated the straightforward nature of the cookie.
“It’s simple to understand,” he said. “There aren’t any mysteries here. It’s a little bland though.”
But Venkat resented the lack of intrigue. “This cookie doesn’t challenge me,” he said cryptically.
Liz liked the crumbly texture and thought this would be a good cookie to have with coffee. While she later admitted she knew from the instant she saw the cookie that it was indeed her tried-and-true favorite, she tried not to let this bias influence her judgment.
Once all four cookies had been tried, the judges were prompted to make some general conclusions. The Rainbow Cafe cookie was given high marks for presentation. “Who doesn’t want to eat a huge cookie?,” the group seemed to concur. Surprisingly, however, the Rainbow Cafe cookie scored lowest with the judges for taste. While it was Naved’s favorite, the rest of the group couldn’t get past the cake-like texture and “weird” chocolate chips. Even so, Max felt strongly that Au Bon Pain’s cookie was the worst by far.
The cookie champion? Atticus. Jean-Paul, Max, and Venkat agreed it was the best “all-purpose” cookie and an overall good choice. “It’s got the total package,” Max said. Liz was impressed by the Atticus cookie, and said that, under different circumstances, she may have chosen it as the champion, but she stuck to her guns that the cookie from Koffee, Too? was best.