Thursday, July 10, 2008
Vie de France and the Quest for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie
I am many things - a runner, an aspiring writer, a sister, a daughter, a neurotic, and a chocolate chip cookie aficionado. While I maintain a moderate appreciation for the non-chocolate variety as well, not even the oatiest oatmeal raisin (found at Urth Caffe) or perfectly frosted sugar cookie (found at Wonderland Bakery in Newport Beach or Al's Deli in Evanston, IL) can summon the same "mmm" response that a chocolate chip variety is able to elicit from my pretty pink lips.
While the "mmming" noises are mostly attributable to the superior taste of the chocolate-speckled cookie, part of the "mmm" factor comes from the nostalgia attached. With each bite I can't help but remember the Saturday mornings when I awoke to vanilla and cinnamon wafting through the house, or the road trips where my family and I got through the miles on an all-cookie diet. The chocolate chip cookie is representative of my childhood -- of the carefree days when fat grams didn't count and Atkins was just a funny-sounding word.
Today, the chocolate chip cookie still holds significant value in my family. It is the cookie my mom bakes when my brother comes home to visit from Phoenix. It is the cookie she bakes my dad on Father's Day. And it is the cookie that my mom and I cannot resist whenever we pass a bakeshop or cafe.
Over the years, my mom and I have consumed an exorbitant amount of chocolate chip cookies in our quest for mid-afternoon sugar-craving satisfaction. While we have found significant joy in sharing the Coco Loco cookie at Pain du Monde in Newport Beach, the triple chocolate chip cookie with toffee at Wonderland Bakery, also in Newport, and the unexpectedly flavorful chocolate chip at Zov's in Newport Coast, no cookie has ever come close to the chocolate chip from Vie de France in South Coast Plaza.
Thick and adequately freckled with bittersweet chocolate chunks, this cookie often emerges from the Vie de France display case still warm from the oven. It is neither greasy nor gooey, and imparts an ample flavor of vanilla on the tongue with each delectable bite. The edge is perfectly crisp -- not brittle enough to scrap the mouth, but crunchy enough to provide the proper amount of textural contrast with the soft interior. It is a cookie that eradicates all thoughts of fat grams or body consciousness. It is a cookie that transports me back to the days when I wasn't afraid of salmonella and felt free to lick my mother's pale green mixing bowl for errant batter. And it is a cookie that my mom and I will continue to eat together for years to come.
Or until we find a version we like better.