Cravin’ Cookies ... and More!
A sweet ending note
The sweetest ending to any good meal is, of course, dessert. Sugary confections are food’s natural conclusion, perfectly punctuating simple dinners and extravagant feasts alike. In this vein, for my final review, I chose a place that specializes in sweet teeth.
A mile north of Alameda on Fourth Street is Cravin’ Cookies ... and More! A cozy bakery nestled in the lush greenery that sets this area apart from the city’s concrete sprawl, Cravin’ Cookies echoes the laid-back feel of its Far North Valley neighborhood. Café-style seating indoors and out, potted plants and a wooden display hutch create a warm, homey environment that begs visitors to sit and sip a cup of tea. Conversations of the girlfriend-type spring up with only the slightest coaxing—most likely in the form Earl Grey and chocolate chips.
Behind a glass dessert case filled with the day’s goodies is the heart of this sweet spot. A small kitchen—no more than a couple of ovens and cramped counters—is a center of constant activity, perpetual baking motion. Barb, the cookie crafter, moves through the small space like a whirling dervish dancer. Pulling sheets from the convection ovens then spinning to grab the next batch, she pauses just long enough to wave at patrons coming through the door.
Barb bakes up at least a dozen different cookies a day, along with several pies, cakes and tortes. Cookies are available in mini and regular sizes, and there’s always a plate of samples to help you make up your mind. The cookies are usually wrapped in packages of six, but they’re happy to fill an order of any size.
Barb, the cookie crafter, moves through the small space like a whirling dervish dancer. Pulling sheets from the convection ovens then spinning to grab the next batch, she pauses just long enough to wave at patrons coming through the door.
Let's start with the grand master of cookies, the chocolate chip. Rumor has it the mother of them all was an accident. Ruth Wakefield of the Toll House Inn is said to have substituted a chopped Nestlé chocolate bar for baker’s chocolate in a favorite cookie recipe. Unlike baker’s chocolate, the candy bar pieces didn’t melt into a chocolatey dough, and an American classic was born. Barb’s version doesn’t stray far from the original, delivering soft chocolate and crumbly cookie in one lip-smacking parcel. Another chocolate treat steps things up a notch. A simple cocoa cookie packs a piquant punch as red chile sneaks up on the palette. The cookie is delicate in texture, easily yielding with each bite, but the spicy background sends a clear message to those pushy, adorable Girl Scouts: There’s a new cookie in town.
The only cookie I wasn’t head-over-heels for was a cherry-almond shortbread. Colored a strange pink, halfway between Pepto Bismol and a taffeta nightmare, it just had an artificial vibe that clashed with the otherwise homemade nature of Cravin’ Cookies. The faux coloring was matched by the flavor, which tasted overwhelmingly of bottled extracts, and the crumb lacked the buttery richness of shortbread.
Then there’s the pie. I’m a picky pie-eater, and I make no secret of demanding perfection. Barb’s toasted coconut pie is right on the money. No gooey, sticky mess here—just piles of fluffy, light coconut barely held together by sugar and what appeared to be egg whites. The crust is flaky and fine-grained, ideally matched to its nearly gossamer filling. Flourless chocolate torte is equally well-executed. Dense and rich, the torte is pure cocoa Zen. Yolk-based, the dainty (in appearance only) torte gives traditional cakes a run for their money.
Adorable and delicious, Cravin’ Cookies serves up just desserts, just right.