The Cookie Takedown, brainchild of Matt Timms (he of the Bacon, Chili, Fondue and Cheese Takedowns), took place under the dangling chandeliers of Brooklyn’s Bell House last night to the strains of stoner metal. “I bet people would prefer a DJ, but I couldn’t abide that,” declared Timms over his beloved Monster Magnet. “I mixed it up this time with punk–usually it’s just straight doom metal. Whatever. It’s my Takedown, and I’m going to do what I want!”
With his Willy Wonka-on-speed demeanor, light megalomania, and exclamation-point-saturated writing style, Timms is perhaps as much of a draw as the baked goods at this affair, which by many accounts boasted only a few culinary knockouts. (In the bakers’ defense, they had a hard go of it, lugging 250 samples through the snow–and everyone knows cookies are at their best fresh-baked.)
In a nod to the salty-sweet dessert trend, several of the 30 entrants were caked with salt, some to such an extraordinary extent that they provoked flashbacks to The Dark Crystal. As judge and Time Out dining editor Gabriella Gershenson noted carefully, “some people lack restraint, and took the ‘everything in the kitchen sink’ approach,” Her fellow judge, Renato Poliafito of the Red Hook sweets shop Baked, renowned for its salty-sweet treats, was more to the point: “Some of them tasted like they’d dumped Diamond Crystal on them.”
His advice to cooks looking to incorporate salt into their sweets? “Take your favorite cookie. Sprinkle each one with just a little bit of salt just before baking. See what you think.” His favorite–and the judges’ winner–was a sandwich cookie he pronounced “Baked-esque.” Two chocolate cookies with a touch of espresso sandwiched a homemade cream cheese frosting flecked with orange–a first try from fledgling catering entrepreneur Nicholetta of Nicholetta’s Eats & Treats.
As for awards voting procedure, Timms had a decidedly anarchist approach to the ballot box, unlike the gents at the Brooklyn Chocolate Experiment, who carefully handed out one printed ballot to each attendee. Timms handed a blank one-inch square of ripped-up paper to anyone who came up to him: One young woman wandered around holding three. Of his ballots technique, Timms originally declared, “I like to look each person in the eye and make a connection.” He backtracked seconds later, “OK, I know it’s a bad idea.” “Is it fair to say you like to think the best of people?” asked Fork in the Road. “Yeah. Absolutely.”
No one was heard protesting Timms’s methodology, perhaps because of the stiff rum-and-bourbon-laced eggnog being handed out gratis at the bar from Kimberley, a blonde, elfin bartender of incredible loquacity. She greeted each customer in an increasingly peculiar way–“Look at you, mister wine man with my cookies, I’m an Upper East Side cookie lover,” or “You’re a naughty librarian in those glasses, girl!” Finally, Kimberley admitted that she had sampled the eggnog “once … no, over and over to make sure it was OK for Santa’s Little Helpers.”
The judging commenced, the last of the nog was drained, Kimberley rounded up her tips and the audience awards were named. Runner-up was newbie caterer Bean & Apple with its Oreo-flecked cookies. The No. 1 prize was a tie between Emily Hanhan, whose butterscotch-drizzled chocolate chip cookies were served warm thanks to a Bunsen burner, and Rachel Anderson’s triangular “nacho” cookies–sugar cookies sandwiching a giant dollop of orange buttercream.
The third-place judges’ prize went to some chunky, cranberry-spiked chocolate chip cookies by Melissa Denchak, who competed alongside her fiance. As Poliafito prepared to hand an autographed Baked cookbook to the judge’s award winner, Nicholetta, Gershenson announced the second-prize winner–a double-chocolate cookie called Death by Chocolate Chipp’d from R. Tianna Lawrence. A small girl sporting Christmas colors suddenly remembered Lawrence’s sign advertising that cookie’s charms: “They’re better than sex!” she screamed, to her mother’s mortification.
But strong opinions and slight insanity seemed the theme of the night. Timms ended the evening by handing out bottles of Zacapa rum and Bulleit bourbon to competitors, and crooned, “Yes, everybody’s a winner at the Takedown. Everybody loves Matt Timms. And that’s what this is really all about.”