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December 21, 2011

The Taste Bud: Sweeeeet (well, semi-sweet)

When I was a kid, my mother would make homemade Toll House cookies for me every Christmas — hell, she still does most years — and it was something that made the holidays memorable.

As the years have passed, I have grown less and less fond of sweets. I never order dessert in a restaurant, and when the birthday cake gets passed around, I am the first to ask for some potato chips. But my taste for chocolate chip cookies just won’t go away. I can eat them like, well, like candy.

Most people know the back story: In or around 1930, Ruth Graves, owner of the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Mass., accidentally discovered chocolate chip cookies by putting chunks of chocolate into dough because she ran out of baker’s chocolate. She assumed the chocolate would melt and mix with the dough, but it didn’t, and the delicious result has persevered. (A Toll House employee later claimed the story was bogus and that he was responsible; whatever, dude.)

But think about the chocolate chip cookie — it’s just a mixture of butter, eggs, flour, sugar and chocolate, all of which one can get at Kroger for a few dollars. But mix it all together, and you get one of the best treats money can buy.

So, if you are too lazy to bake your own (like I am), where can you go — apart from Mom’s house — to get good chocolate chip cookies in Louisville? Well, I did a bit of cookie research, and I let my taste buds do the rest in my quest for the city’s best.

Kizito: It’s Louisville’s signature cookie, made here daily by Elizabeth Kizito and sold locally in spots ranging from coffee shops to baseball games. The chocolate chip cookie itself is pretty huge — close to 6 inches across. It’s thin but maintains softness with a bit of crispiness at the edges, and when you bite into a chocolate chip, you know it. For about $1.50, this is a tasty option any time of year.

Blue Dog Bakery: One of the city’s premiere locations for baked goods, Blue Dog’s chocolate chip cookies aren’t really what you’d call traditional. They’re big, just $1.75, and ballyhooed by many as the best in town. But they are more like chocolate chunk cookies than chocolate chip, and also include nuts. Nuts? Yeah, you lost me. I can’t deny these cookies are rich and tasty, but I’m old school.

Comfy Cow: For $1.59, Comfy Cow offers a pretty solid rendition of the traditional chocolate chip cookie. It’s about 4 inches in diameter, crisp and brown at the edges, and soft in the middle, with big semi-sweet chocolate chips. Not the absolute best in town, but a strong contender, and reminiscent of homemade.

Homemade Pie and Ice Cream Kitchen: Another popular spot for those with a sweet tooth, the Pie Kitchen excels at desserts — but their chocolate chip cookies may be the weak link here. The cookies are drizzled in chocolate, which is a nice twist, but the cookie didn’t really assert itself. Thin and cracker-like, for $1.65, it isn’t much better than what you’ll get at Kroger.

Adrienne & Co.: This bakery and café in downtown Jeffersonville, Ind., offers a wide variety of good food, and the chocolate chip cookies follow suit. At $1.49, this roughly 3-inch-in-diameter treat is thick, soft and full of flavor, and each tasty chocolate chip offers an explosion of goodness.

Please & Thank You: This place doesn’t carry a high profile, but I found it by way of comedian Marc Maron, who visited our city and proclaimed Please & Thank You chocolate chip cookies the best he’s ever tasted. Know what? It’s also a freaking record store. Holy crap! Anyway, Maron is on it — the cookies here are moist, buttery and to die for. Just $1.75 each, they were arguably the best of my quest.

Doc Crow’s: Well, except for Doc Crow’s. Yeah, it’s a raw-bar-meets-barbecue, semi-upscale restaurant downtown, but it also serves homemade chocolate chip cookies. And it serves them made to order, hot and gooey. How gooey? Well, my server brought me a fork. Hands down, these are the closest you will find to homemade. They are a little pricey at three for $4, but totally worth it.

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