Chocolate chip cookies are (almost) everyone’s favorite treat. And, for those who have been lucky enough to taste his food, Thomas Keller is many people’s favorite chef. For those of us who can’t afford $275 for a dinner at Per Se or The French Laundry, Keller has a few lovely little outposts in the Time Warner Center (and Yountville and Vegas), Bouchon Bakery. And, for those of us stuck in Ithaca, the kind folks at Williams-Sonoma commissioned Keller and the Bouchon folks to create an exclusive line of boxed-mix products. On my most recent trip to Syracuse, I picked up a box of the Bouchon chocolate chunk cookie mix. While the directions were admittedly complicated, the mix was a mix nonetheless and was easy to put together. The result? Soft, delicious cookies that will impress a date and your mother alike. — $18; makes approx. 16 cookies.
On the other hand, I’ve been making Toll House chocolate chip cookies for as long as I can remember. (Sidenote: The Toll House is where chocolate chip cookies were invented, and it just happens to be about 20 minutes from my parents’ house, though now closed for business.) The recipe can be conveniently found on the back of Nestle chocolate chips, and includes basic ingredients and straightforward directions. The best part is that you can bake the cookies to your liking, leaving them soft and gooey in the middle or cooking all the way through (the way I like them). And, if you buy all of the ingredients, you can keep making cookies over and over again with very little expense. — about $12 for all ingredients; makes approx. 36 cookies.
The Verdict: Keller is a genius, but Toll House wins.
I have to be honest, up until very recently, I didn’t eat avocado. The texture to me was unpleasant, and to this day I won’t eat sushi with avocado in or on it. But after a particularly delicious experience with guacamole, I now eat avocado (though only in the form of guac). Guacamole is, for some, a very serious subject. There are purists and traditionalists and all sorts of other -ists when it comes to guacamole. The best way, other than tableside preparation at a restaurant in Mexico City, is to make homemade guacamole by mashing up some avocados and adding a bit of salsa. Simple, delicious and very fresh — and you can adjust the spiciness and amount of the salsa to your liking. Always a delicious snack, and a crowd pleaser to boot. — About $10 for all ingredients.
On the other hand, in the interest of investigative journalism, I decided to buy some prepared guacamole from Wegmans. I tried the Wholly Guacamole brand, to be found near the carrot sticks and refrigerated salad dressings. The first problem was, of the two packaged sacks of guacamole included in the box, one had a huge rip (and thus was filled with spoiled guac). So that was a bummer. The un-spoiled pack, while tasty, was a bit bland and not particularly special. The avocado did not taste fresh, and despite buying what promised to be the most flavorful batch, it really just tasted like green mush (if the color green had a flavor). Overall a bad buy. — $3.99.
The Verdict: If you have learned anything from this today, it is to make things yourself. From scratch. You can do it, really. Even guacamole!