Black & White Cookies in the North End

Looking for a unique outing on Saturday night? Interested in checking out the North End section of Boston, but don't want Italian delights? Start a black & white cookie crawl. 

Last weekend's spontaneous idea with friends proved to be a fun sugar filled walking tour of the North End.  The group consisted of three BU Gastronomy students and visited four bakeries. Each person purchased one cookie from a store. After the first visit to a bakery that yielded no cookie due to a sell-out, we decided that one person would survey the cases before getting in line. Once all cookies were purchased, we employed a "critical tasting analysis" upon conclusion of the tour.  After two attempts to seek a dry seating area due to rain, cookies were lined up so that we could observe the color, size, and shape.  After taking bites of each cookie, it was immediately obvious which cookie reigned supreme.  The analysis lasted about five minutes leaving a few crumbs.

Some historical background:  the black & white cookie is also called a half and half, a drop cake or a half moon cookie.  It is considered a Manhattan or New Jersey dessert.  Common differences occur in the texture of the cookie and the flavor of the fondant or icing.  More details of the cookie's origins can be found here.

Thanks to foursquare for some tips, maps, and one "crunk" badge upon check-in. 

Stop #1: Modern Pastry (257 Hanover Street)
The line at Modern Pastry spanned the length of two to three businesses.  The wait was close to 30 minutes, and sadly, no black & white cookies to be found.  Modern was sold out.  We did debate the merits of finding an alternative cookie, but that would be outside the evaluation limits.  During the wait, we discovered overpriced ceramic mugs.

Stop #2: Mike's Pastry (300 Hanover Street)
Always a popular favorite in the North End, the line to get into the shop was a bit misleading.  One long line on the right side of the building did not seem to notice the empty space on the left side of the building.  We quickly swooped in, got in line, and purchased a cookie ($3.50) without too much of a wait.  The cookie came in Mike's distinctive box with white and blue lettering and string.

Stop #3: Bova (134 Salem Street)

This 24 hour deli/pastry shop was a fantastic find.  The line inside was short consisting of locals or folks who knew where they were going.  Located off the main drag of the North End, the black & white cookies were large and $2.50 apiece.  Hot sandwiches lined the counter along with deli meats and fresh breads.  Returning for a meatball sub might have to go on the to-eat list this summer.

Stop #4: Maria's Pastry (46 Cross Street)

The last stop on the black & white cookie tour ended at Maria's, a shop on the front lines of the neighborhood.  We walked right into the shop after passing a cat hanging out by the front door.  Like Bova, the cookie was $2.50.

Black & White Cookie Analysis

The clear winner was Bova due to the cookie's price, visual appeal, and flavor of cake and both white and chocolate frostings.  The vanilla frosting on Mike's cookie was preferred (detection of lemon juice), but that cookie's chocolate frosting tasted fake and lacked real chocolate flavor.  Maria's cookie tasted stale and had a matte finish; the cookies from Mike's and Bova's shined and appeared fresh.

Total cost of this adventure was $8.50 with a side of colorful people watching and knowledge of shops for return visits.

Feel free to comment on your favorite place in the North End (bakery or otherwise).  

Brown Eggs + Tiffany Blue

Ever notice the textures and colors of eggs?  Eggs fresh from the farm come in all shapes, sizes, and color variations.  Some are shiny, others are matte. 

I happen to really like the contrast of the blue egg tray against the gradations of brown.

Time for a fried egg sandwich.

Irish Soda Bread

Living in walking distance to a bakery is both a blessing and a curse.  Hot and flaky chocolate croissants, fresh baguettes, and holiday treats such as this Irish soda bread happily greet hungry customers.  If wandering the Brookline/Brighton Ave/Packards Corner area, stop in, breathe in the sweet aromas, and walk out happy.

Clear Flour Bread
178 Thorndike Street
Brookline, MA 02446

On-the-Road Dining Adventures

Capturing some of the meals eaten away from my kitchen:

BBQ Chicken Salad courtesy of American Airlines (not terrible, but not spectacular .. it is airline food, after all)

Blazin' Burger with Village Fries (rosemary & thyme) from Good Stuff in DC

Dinner at Carrabba's in Panama City, FL

Spicy Chicken Sandwich & Fries from Chick-fil-a.  Craving achieved.

Chicken/Rice/Green Chile Soup and House Salad with Grilled Corn from Chili's.  Surprisingly good.

Kosher-style hot dog from Five Guys.  Tried to make it Chicago-style but no sport peppers, celery salt, or neon green relish existed.

Black & Bleu Burger from Boston Burger Company in Somerville, MA.  Simple and well-prepared.


What do your dining experiences look like when (or if) traveling for work?

Funny Wine Label

Perhaps it was the funny label on the bottle or the low price of $3.99, but this 2008 LaGranja 360 Tempranillo was worth taking home from Trader Joe's.  The tempranillo grape is the most widely planted red wine varietal in Spain.  

In Spanish, LaGranja 360 means "the farm 360".  The little pig is flying because it expresses a song which the Spanish children sing when somebody has asked for something which is impossible to realize, has a dream, or says something absurd.  

This is an everyday drinking wine with juicy, raspberry notes.

When buying wine, do you buy based on price, label, or grape?