Saturday, November 22, 2008

Schmerty's Cookies and the Quest for Ultimate Brownie Satisfaction

I blame "the Office." Even though I was enjoying a bowl of Soy Creamy Vanilla Mango ice cream while watching Thursday night's episode, all I could think about was how much I wanted one of the brownies the cast was devouring at the beginning of the show. Michael took two brownies that he claimed he was going to ration out throughout the day, but upon discovering that his HR nemesis Toby had returned from Costa Rica, he immediately inhaled both. I giggled at his reaction, but secretly wished I was the one gorging on the decadent chocolate treats.

I forgot all about the brownies until yesterday. It was a somewhat stressful day at work, as Fridays often tend to be, and I had a lot to accomplish before I left for the weekend. I am finally using up some of my vacation time, extending the Thanksgiving holiday into a full week away from the office, and needed to complete a lengthy to-do list before leaving for the day. Of course, as is often the case with vacations, they wind up creating more stress/work in the lead up and aftermath. As I sat at my desk yesterday, feverishly preparing excel documents and flooding my coworkers' Outlook inboxes with an obscene amount of e-mails, I started to feel a bit antsy. My head was suddenly thick with images of brownies -- luscious, cake-like chocolatey brownies. I knew that I wouldn't be able to get through the rest of the day without one.

My tongue glistening with moisture, I grabbed my wallet and charged across the street from my office to Schmerty's Cookies on Ocean Park Blvd. in Santa Monica. Entering the exceedingly cramped corners of the shop, I was immediately overwhelmed with the neat rows of cookies and brownies. There were chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin cookies with nuts and dried fruit, and four different kinds of brownies. I hesitated for a moment, completely flummoxed by the options in front of me. I asked the polite young man behind the counter if he recommended the brownies or the cookies, and he paused before extolling the virtues of both. His fervent praise of both baked goods did nothing to calm the war in my mind. It was at this crucial juncture that a woman working behind the counter (the owner perhaps) chimed in, "If you want something intensely chocolatey, go with the brownie."

At first, I took her advice to mean I should go with the chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips. I am often hesitant to buy brownies in bakeries because they so often are cloyingly sweet and taste more like fudge than a proper baked good. I prefer my brownies to be a bit more cake-like in texture -- slightly chewy, but not gooey in the center. Yet as the young man began to bag my cookie, I found myself asking him to switch it out for the brownie. I had come for a brownie, and I was going to leave with a brownie. In the moment, there could be no substitutions.

As soon as I bit into the 1/2 inch thick brownie, I knew I had made the right decision. The powdered sugar-dusted top was crisp in texture, forming a nice crust above the chocolate-chip studded interior. The inside was moist without taking on the dreaded ooey-gooeyness that I loathe, and the chocolate flavor was intense, but not overwhelming on my palate. It was exactly what I wanted and needed in that moment. I didn't ration it out. I didn't offer a bite to the friendly coworker in the next office. I sat there with my cup of chamomile tea, and I ate the entire thing.

And then I went back to my excel documents and e-mails, completely satisfied by my indulgence and the experience of eating exactly what I craved at exactly the moment I craved it.


Esi said...

I'm baking brownies right now...crazy. I don't know if they are going to turn out so well, maybe I should just find my way to Santa Monica and pick up some of these!

Heather said...

you know what's really sad. my favorite brownie, ever, ever, EVER is the duncan heinz low fat brownie, which i ruin a little by adding chocolate chips to the mix. i've made toms of different brownies, but those are my favorite. it's pathetic. i don't like anything else that comes out of a box... but those? many they're good. these brownies sound mighty tasty, though :)

Diana H. said...

I actually prefer boxed brownie mixes too! My favorite is Betty Crocker triple chocolate -- my two college roommates and I used to go through half a pan in a sitting. (While watching Center Stage of course!)