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.
Feel free to comment on your favorite place in the North End (bakery or otherwise).
Total cost of this adventure was $8.50 with a side of colorful people watching and knowledge of shops for return visits.