Cookies · Utica,NY

Cookie crumbs…

In the short couple months since I began writing about cookies it appears I have become known as Mr. Cookie at times around Utica, this tells me one thing at the very least people are reading and enjoying what I’m writing about, for that I would like to say; Thank You.

I have barely scratched the surface of all the delicious cookies Utica and beyond have to offer, and I’m really looking forward to continuing this adventure and sharing it with all of you.  Today as we often do The Smiths, thats My wife and I for those who don’t know,  were bouncing around the city on our day off  taking full advantage of Utica Restaurant Week and our Made In Utica, UticaPassport too [click those links to learn more]. Our adventures as they often to led us over to Bite for some desserts for later, and I wanted to show off this box of goodies and tease a couple of blog stories I’m working on for the summer. Photo Jun 14, 3 47 25 PM

Now I know what you are thinking,  that cake looks really good doesn’t it? Well ignore it, because I didn’t do this for cake I Did It All For The Cookie. Look at what is left inside the bog, for starters we have something that is a quintessential Utica dessert, yes the Half Moon Cookie a timeless classic that Uticans have enjoyed for years, a cookie that like many other Utica foods is different but yet delicious everywhere it is found, look for an entire blog post where I will dive in, sample and photograph as many different Half Moons as I can find.

Onto those other goodies that want to jump out of that box and right into you mouth. Those are Macarons a French pastry/cookie that has sort of taken Utica by storm in the last couple months. I’m really looking forward to learning a bit more about this delicate treat, tasting the never ending variety of flavors they can be found in,  and writing a exciting and mouth-watering must read too.

I’m always looking for some cookie ideas, places to explore, stories to write, so if you have any ideas let me now here or on the all new I Did It All For The Cookie Facebook page as well, which you should be sure to like and follow as well.

Cookies · Utica,NY

The North Star

The North Star, a constant in the night sky, a landmark you can always count on, and the next stop on The I Did It All For The Cookie adventure. I had originally set the course for this blog post to be about “The Cookie” you know the one that had inspired this blog, however that cookie was sold out and it mad me really sad. So I began to think where can I go that’s close, and like a shooting star breaking through the sky I thought of course let’s go to North Star Orchards. Now I know what your thinking, “Orchards are places you go in the fall for apples, pumpkins, cider, and pies so why would you go there for cookies?” The answer is easy the universe of treats inside this beautiful red building is pretty awesome.

Just take a look around when you walk inside, your eyes don’t know where to look first. It’s the same as if you were hiking in the Adirondacks on a crystal clear night and looked up and really saw the night sky and all its wonderment for the first time. Inside North Star Orchards you will find fruits, veggies, plants, locally made products, candies, pies, and the reason we are here cookies.

Now these are not just ordinary cookies they are out of this world cookies, I gravitated towards the large cookies in the bakery case however they do also often have plates of smaller cookies available if you need to share with others. The case on this day had 5 delicious looking options to choose from, Oatmeal Raisin, Molasses, Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Chip, and an Iced Brownie Cookie, now came the decision, how on earth do you choose, well because I can, I got all 5.IMG_9174

To be honest I’m not a huge fan of oatmeal raisin cookies at all, but fortunately I have a sidekick who is,  so I recruited my wife Amy to offer up her thoughts on this one for you. I figured since there were 5 cookies we could share, so I’m gonna use her take on the molasses as well. IMG_9189

“They taste like Cookies” was the first thing she said, which I suppose since this is a blog about cookies is a very good start. “Very soft and chewy, you can taste of the freshness” I probed for more details and got “buttery, with hints of cinnamon and plenty of raisins” for the oatmeal raisin. As for the molasses, it reminded her of a large gingersnap, one of her favorite cookies.

One thing all these cookies have in common is how large, soft, chewy, and fresh they are. Something that can’t always be said or found looking for a good cookie. I enjoyed all 3 cookies I tasted so lets take a look at them.

If you have not noticed, chocolate chip are a favorite of mine, all but one entry has featured this slice of Americana cookie, and they have all been different too. North Stars is a big, thick, meaty cookie that begs to be put in your mouth. I found it a touch on the sweet side and loaded with tiny chips which melt delightfully on your tongue. For me the best part of this cookie was the slightly underdone center, giving you that cookie dough feel I really love.

These next two cookies were my favorites of the bunch, and a pair that I have not found anywhere else so far. The peanut butter chip was loaded with those same tiny chips as well, only these where peanut butter. This cookie was just so full of peanut buttery goodness, I kept thinking the only thing better would be eating peanut butter from a jar.

Now the iced brownie cookie was pure joy to eat, a treat for the senses. I swear if you closed your eyes while eating it you would immediately think you were just licking the spoon after making brownies. The icing added this sweetness that complimented the chocolate overload really well too.

Do yourself a favor, next time you craving something yummy, skip over the Milky way, set a course for North Star Orchards instead, explore their universe of goodies, but most importantly Do It For The Cookie! Don’t forget if you have any thoughts or suggestions on where I should go next  let me know on Twitter or Facebook.

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Cookies · Utica,NY

Tram-Love

When you begin a new adventure you are often unsure how it will be received, or if people will even read it as was the case when I decided to start blogging about cookies. Well Utica is an amazing community and the feedback and love for I Did It All For The Cookie, has so far been UticAwesome and I must say thank you for that. Utica is full of its cheerleaders, its mothers, its fathers, people and or businesses that will support you without question as long as the work you’re doing is honest and good, this is what led me to The Tram.

Every now and then there is a story needs to be told, well this story begins at Made In Utica Day, an event put together by the Made In Utica team showcasing Places, Business, Events, all things Utica. My wife Amy and I attended and while we were hanging out we were Cookie Bombed! Robin the owner of The Tram, swooped in like a superhero and shoved 3 cookies in our bag, a Chocolate chip, a Gingersnap, and a Chocolate Raspberry,  all I heard her say was “They might not be the best but I wanted you to try them”.  It was at this moment I knew that Utica was behind what I was trying to do, people were listening and one of Uticas biggest cheerleaders had acknowledged my silly little cookie blog. Sadly I never even got to try those cookies, because they were apparently so good my wife ate all three of them on me.

That all changed today, on one of the nicest days of the entire spring I found my way navigating the maze of streets caused by the Arterial construction near Lincoln Ave.  just so I could finally get my hands on some Tram cookies and let me tell you, these cookies were worth the wait.

Tram cookies are homemade and I stress that because all I kept thinking while I was eating these cookies was how they just felt like what you would find in any home, anywhere in Utica where someone felt like baking cookies, except these were done to really, really well. I was able to grab both the Chocolate chip and Gingersnap as those were all that was available, neither left me disappointed in fact I even forget I was  looking forward to the Chocolate Raspberry cookie. IMG_9137

Chocolate chip cookies are one of the most American of cookies, in fact they were first created in 1938 in Wakefield, MA at the Toll House Inn, now I only bring that up because as I was eating The Tram Chocolate chip cookie all I kept thinking was this is Americana, this is what a perfect homemade chocolate chip cookie is supposed to taste like. In fact my wife even said “you can taste the love in every bite” and for a change,  she was right.  These are large cookies, in fact today that were on that legendary Utica Mannys cookie level size, and because it was a warm day as well, they stayed warm all day too. On your first bite you get a crunch, followed by a buttery, soft, moist, chewy, gooey cookie that screams like mom used to make with just the right amount of chips to make them a near perfect cookie.  I could eat these all day long if I was allowed too, they were that good.

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Inhale, “can you smell the ginger”, that’s what I said when I began unwrapping this Gingersnap, they smell so wonderful you almost want to bite write in before unwrapping them however that might seem a bit strange right. Gingersnaps often remind me of my Christmas and my Grandma, she loved those Archway Gingerbread cookies, and I loved to eat them with her. This cookie was so good I wished I could have shared it with my Grandma, I know she would have loved it. The delicate sugary coating, the soft yet heaviness of the cookie itself is such a joy to eat, they are packed with ginger that lingers in your mouth as you ponder how good that cookie you just ate was. I would without question say this is the best Gingersnap I have ever eaten.

So I am going to challenge all of you to navigate the maze,  because there are some really incredible treats waiting for you to discover at The Tram. They are made with a Love that you can taste, they will make you think of home, make you pause for a moment and just get lost in how good they really are. Don’t do it for me, do it for Robin, do it for The Tram, do it for Utica but most of all Do It All For The Cookie!

 

Cookies · Utica,NY

Rainbows…

“Rainbows are visions, but only illusions, and rainbows have nothing to hide…” If you were to say the word Rainbow in Utica you are likely talking about the man known simply as Rainbow, a colorful charismatic individual that will sing a happy birthday to a stranger and always puts a smile on your face. Well folks there is a new Rainbow in town and it is one that you will also want to know about, a Rainbow that you can take home with you, a Rainbow you can hold in your hands and it too will put a smile on your face. This Rainbow however will be short-lived and elusive, but when you get ahold of one you will want to brag about it to anyone who will listen.

Photo May 08, 8 31 12 AM

I suppose I should tell you what is inside that brown paper bag, This folks is The Rainbow Chocolate Chip Cookie and it is a cookie I feel you would only discover in a big city bakery, but instead you can find this rainbow right here in downtown Utica at Bite Bakery and Café. I’m not surprised Bite is bringing this cookie to Utica, Bite itself is a colorful exciting bakery with that big city feel, and the centerpiece for the rebirth of Downtown Uticas Franklin Square.

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Rainbows themselves are fleeting, they make you want to take a picture and share it to your Instagram, your Facebook, your twitter anywhere you can show off what you’re seeing well these cookies are no exception and I would urge you to share these as well. Each cookie is its own individual work of art a one of a kind food masterpiece where no two will be exactly alike, kind of like well you guessed it a Rainbow.

I know what your thinking, do they taste as good as they look?  Well I didn’t get up early today and to be the first in line to not answer that question. Honestly the answer is no, they taste even better. The coloring has no impact on the taste whatsoever, and these are big cookies folks, anyone familiar with the long-lost Mannys Chocolate chip cookie these are that big if not bigger. The cookie itself is full of the most delicious chocolate chips in fact it is hard to take a bite and not get at least a chip or two. Something about the coloring makes this cookie so much fun to eat, almost like you were a kid savoring each bite. The cookie is soft and just chewy enough with that subtle taste of left over cookie dough lingering in your mouth.IMG_8278

Rainbows folks vanish quickly, much like most of the treats at Bite do actually. So if you are lucky enough to happen downtown on a weekend, which is when I’m told these colorful cookies will be re- appearing then try to get your hands on one, I mean I did it all for the cookie, and you can too. Feel free to share your Bite Rainbows with me on instagram or twitter and be sure to tag #BiteUtica as well.

 

Cookies · Utica,NY

Life’s Short, Eat Cookies

Photo Apr 29, 11 43 20 AM

When I pondered where to head on my next  I Did It all For the Cookie review,  I felt a trip back in time was needed.  Now you don’t need  Marty McFly and a DeLorean to do this, you simply need to take a drive down Bleeker street to one of East Utica’s Italian bakeries like Caruso Pastry Shoppe or as it is also known Caffe Caruso.

As you approach this nostalgic Italian bakery its history and charm is hard to miss, from the neon in the window  to the tables and chairs that look like what you would find on  a patio in Italy,  the family pictures covering the wall, and the classic white pastry box hand tied with string.  This is a bakery that has stories to tell, that has seen its share of hungry Uticans and has persevered and survived for almost 60 years.

On this visit my wife and I grabbed a pound of Italian cookies, a mix of things we both wanted to eat and try. I should tell you that I have never been a huge fan of Italian cookies, now I know what you are all saying. How is that possible you are from Utica and eating Italian is a requirement right?  Well I suppose it’s more that I just haven’t had a lot of great Italian cookies in the past. Speaking of cookies, let’s get to some pictures and reviews.

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That’s a good-looking box of cookies isn’t it?  Well I’m only going to dive into about half of those delicious treats and tell you what I think about them, because if I eat that entire box I may need to loosen my belt a bit.  Let’s pull a Chocolate Meatball, a Thumbprint, a Lemon, and a Strawberry sandwich out and get to it shall we.

The Chocolate Meatball is by far the best of this bunch for me, as you are about to bite into this treat you get a whiff of what can only be described as a hot cocoa and you know right then it’s gonna be a good cookie. That first bite is so rich and dense that you already need a second bite. This cookie has a sort of creamy quality that melts in your mouth as you wonder how they packed so much chocolate goodness in just one cookie. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that this is by far the BEST Chocolate Meatball cookie I have every had.

Lemon cookies are always favorite of mine, and this was just as good as others I have had. Similar to the Chocolate,  as you are just about to bite into this cookie it’s the smell of fresh lemon zest that grabs you and pulls you in for a mouthful of its deliciousness.  Another dense, and rich cookie, with just a hint of sweetness to compliment the lemon. However on this day I found this cookie to be slightly dry.  I’m not holding that against them though, I mean that’s gonna happen on occasion and It didn’t stop me from eating and enjoying a tasty pair of these lemon goodies.

The Strawberry Thumbprint and the Strawberry Sandwich cookies, which I was really excited to try because they reminded me of Christmastime when I was a kid at my grandmas left me wanting just a bit more. This pair of cookies seemed somewhat hard, crumbly, and lacking in any real flavor, both were begging for more strawberry jam that’s for sure.

So as we progress back to the future from our trip back in time, I have to say I would certainly return to Caffe Caruso for more of that “Old World charm” and another box tied with a string, a few chocolate meatballs even the Strawberry thumbprint, why you might ask? Well because Life is short and I Did it all for the Cookie!IMG_8151

 

 

Cookies · Easter · Utica,NY

Butter What…

I pondered where to take our cookie quest with Easter approaching, and while there were all sorts of options, one place and one cookie stuck out in my mind. Now keeping in mind that “I Did It All for The Cookie” I let that cookie guide me to Holland Farms Bakery & Deli on the Boulevard in Yorkville.  Now if you are from Utica, or most anywhere else in Central New York you probably have heard of Holland Farms and their famous Jelly Buns, heck they dedicate an entire month to them, or those delectable Half-moon cookies that drive us all mad too. Well neither of those were on my shopping list when I parked under the watchful eyes of Cupcake and Chucky the sort of Iconic mascots of Holland Farms.

It was early on a Thursday morning and the Bakery was buzzing with activity and the air filled with enthusiasm. While I waited to pick up some of the Fancy Easter themed Butter cookies I browsed the other treats that were available, donuts, cakes, Easter breads, half-moons and so much more. It didn’t help that I was hungry and really wanted just about one of everything in the case either. Thankfully as busy as it seemed there was more than enough staff around to help, filling orders, bringing more goodies out from the back, and even answering the phone which seemed to never stop ringing with Easter orders.

What I love about these cookies is you can always count on some fun seasonal or holiday themed cut outs to be available, and they taste good too. I managed to grab all three flavors, Easter bunny, Easter chic and Easter egg, because I knew one cookie would just not be enough. IMG_8034

 The butter cookie itself is relatively light, flakey, buttery and sort of smooth, a classic taste that you imagine you parents and maybe even their parents enjoyed. The icing is sweet, and just sugary enough to compliment the buttery goodness. Together they offer a perfect cookie for any event. Oh, and before I forget, that Easter egg had one of those pure sugar candy décor pieces that were often used on cookies and cakes back in the day on it as well and I for one love those tasty bits of nostalgia.IMG_8035

These cookies are worth adding to your Easter Shopping list, why because they make a nice addition to an Easter basket, offer a nice break from all the Candy and feel like a cookie you might have gotten from a forgotten era. Happy Easter and  Take my advice, leave the Butter lamb in the cooler case, and Do it all for the Butter Cookie instead.

Cookies · Utica,NY

Christine’s

My cookie quest began March 29th, on what just happened to be opening day for Christine’s Cookie Shoppe in the 171 building on Genesee Street in downtown Utica. A building itself that is undergoing a grand transformation and bringing new life to downtown. This was not my first time enjoying the delightful cookies that Christine makes, in fact not my second or third time even, but it had been quite a while. A few observations on the new shop, for starters it is simple, modern, clean, and beautiful all at the same time. While the work on the new storefront was not quite finished, you could see it is going to be one of those great little hidden gems of downtown. Christine was her usual bubbly self, just another reason why she is #UticAwesome, running between the counter and the kitchen making sure cookies were available to those that visited on opening day all while saying Hi, There and thank you to everyone for stopping in.

 

I knew going in that if they were available I would opt for two of my all times favorites because I wanted to make my first reviews as tasty as possible.  The classic chocolate chip and the frosted sugar cookie are always my go to cookies and as luck would have it they were both available!  It was hard to not to dive right into the box and eat them at one of the lovely little tables in the shop; however, I had yet to eat lunch and really wanted to photograph them at home before eating I mean tasting and reviewing them. So as hard as it was to resist, I accepted the challenge and the cookies made it home safely and were ready and willing to let me have my way with them when I was ready. IMG_7928

 

I must tell you the gourmet chocolate chip cookies that Christine’s bakes are nothing short of a tantalizing treat for your taste buds, a sort of reward for all the bad things you put in your mouth that don’t really taste good. On the surface, they look like a perfect little cookie, and in fact they are nearly flawless, in my opinion. As you take that first bite you hear and feel a light crunch, then notice how simply soft and delicate these cookies really are. That classic taste of cookie dough “you know the taste, not the cookie dough ice cream taste, the taste from just licking the spoon when you’re making cookies” with just the right amount of chocolatey chip goodness on the finish. This cookie melts in your mouth, the amount of chocolate chips is perfectly balanced for the size of the cookie. Going forward, it may be a very hard feat to find a better chocolate chip cookie than these, but I’m up for that challenge. IMG_7956

Now let’s dive into that stunning frosted sugar cookie, I mean it is almost too pretty to eat, right? Almost. A near perfectly round cookie with a more than generous amount of icing delightfully garnished with some pink and gold sugar sprinkles. This is one darn good looking cookie and it tastes even better than it looks.  The first bite is a nothing short of wonderful, the icing is light and sweet but not too sweet, smooth as silk and tickles and teases your senses. The cookie itself is dense, yet still flakey, and together the icing and cookie complement each other perfectly. In fact, if you get some sprinkles in your bite you get a sugary sweet crunch that just adds to the enjoyment of these scrumptious cookies.  These are real dessert cookies; serve them after dinner and your guests will beg to know where you got them.IMG_7953

 

Both cookies leave you wanting more because they are experiences that you will want to live over and over again. If you happen to call Utica home or are just visiting The U, as I like to call our town, these are cookies you want to put in your mouth. Christine’s has several other cookies options available as well and I may even revisit them to try some others when they have their grand opening and ribbon cutting in April on the 28th at 4pm. Until then I need to figure out whose cookies to eat, I mean photograph and review (wink, wink) next. I would love to hear your thoughts on cookies, this blog or on where to go and what to try. Look for me on Twitter or Instagram.  Honestly, I simply did it all for “The Cookie”.

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I Did It All For The Cookie…

I did it all for the cookie, yes “The Cookie” those delectable treats we often enjoy as a tasty snack or maybe even a scrumptious dessert.  Most everyone has their favorite type of cookie, mine happen to be chocolate chip, frosted sugar, gingerbread, peanut butter blossoms, you get the picture – I like cookies.  I ask you, have you ever thought “I wonder where you can get the best chocolate chip cookie in town?” Have you ever treated yourself to a cookie after lunch at a local restaurant and were blown away by how good it was?  Hey, who remembers Manny’s Chocolate Chip Cookies?  Those may be the benchmark that all chocolate chip cookies are judged on for most Uticans. Boy, what I would give for one of those right now. That is why I am about to embark on a journey to discover all the great cookies around town, around the state, anywhere the cookie crumbles.

 

 Let me take a brief step back first and tell you a little about myself and how we got here. For starters, I’m old, that is, if you consider 40 old. I grew up in Sauquoit and have lived in South Utica for the last 10 years with my partner in crime and wife, Amy. We are both avid photographers and co-owners of SMITH Imagery, along with our normal day jobs. Utica has our heart and we love our city like no other! A few months back I had this idea that I wanted to write a blog; I wanted it to be unique and to be something no one expected out of me. I have friends that blog like my buddy Arian and his blogs The Urban Phoenix, for which I am also a photo correspondent; and Rochester Guy. I love the great stuff that comes out of the UticAwesome Made in Utica team like the Hungry Utican’s. Keeping these blogs in mind I pondered what could I do, what would be my “thing”.  I had sort of let the idea of blogging settle into the back of my mind for a while because I really wasn’t sure what to write about and couldn’t get behind a single idea. Flash forward to February 2017, while eating one of those randomly delicious chocolate chip cookie finds you never expected to be as good as it was, I thought, “I’m going to write about cookies, take their picture, and review them!” I guess in a way I did it all for the cookie. It’s a completely random idea, one that makes both perfect sense and no sense at all, and that’s what I love about it. I mean who decides to write about, review, and photograph cookies just because? Only Cookie Monster or someone who like me really likes cookies.

 

So here we are about to start on what I hope is a delicious adventure, and all of you get to come alone as well because my good friends at Made in Utica want to know all about cookies too!  As a photographer, taking pictures will be easy. As a fan of cookies, tasting them will be a treat. The hardest part will be honestly telling you what I think, I am sure there will be some better “left as crumbs” cookies out there, let us try to not find those, but if we do I won’t hold back on my review I promise you that. Enough of me boring you, I’m kind of hungry, I mean I did it all for the cookie after all.