Holiday cookie exchanges are a godsend for the fanatics among us, but I, for one, cannot get enough. If there are cookies on a restaurant’s dessert menu (preferably a cookie plate), there is no contest in my book — they will be ordered. Truly, they are the perfect dessert; a bite or two of sweetness and concentrated flavor with an espresso or a cup of tea is all you need after a meal.
Special cookie events this holiday season that I’m especially jazzed about include Publican Quality Meat’s Cross-Country Holiday Cookie Swap (Dec. 10-24), where a national who’s who of celebrity bakers (Joanne Chang, Flour Bakery + Café, Boston; Dolester Miles, Highlands Bar & Grill, Birmingham, Alabama; Lisa Ludwinski, Sister Pie, Detroit; Jessica Koslow, Sqirl, Los Angeles; Anna Posey, Elske, Chicago; and more!) join Erika Chan of The Publican to share signature cookies (think Valhrona Fleur de Sels, Coconut Drops, and Scandinavian Gingersnaps). The sweetest ending of all? A portion of proceeds from the Cookie Swap will benefit Chicago-based nonprofit Deborah’s Place to aid women affected by homelessness. Cookies can be purchased over the counter at Publican Quality Meats, or on The Publican’s dessert menu, where you can order the Publican Holiday Cookie Jar assortment. What are you waiting for? I’m already on my way.
Over at theWit Hotel in the Loop, Banchet Award-winning pastry chef Toni Roberts showcases her irresistible holiday sweets at theWit’s Winter Wonder Pop-Up Shop in the lobby (open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day during the holiday season). One peep at her Get Lit! Hazelnut Holiday Lights, Peanut Butter Penguins, and Peppermint Mocha Macarons and your holiday cookie needs will be answered. You can also order them online if you can’t make it downtown.
You might have missed the Fairmont Chicago’s annual Cookies and Cheer luxury cookie exchange last month, but never fear … the celebration continues through Jan. 31 at THE BAR with their seasonal “Smitten for Sweets” menu. Each cookie-inspired cocktail will be accompanied by a companion cookie, perhaps a Rosemary Shortbread, Brandy Snap Tuile, or even a Kumquat Macaroon.
Looking for a restaurant that understands and caters to your cookie addiction on a regular basis? Check out these favorites.
A stack of their House-Made Chocolate Chip Cookies ($10), served warm, all crisp edges and oozy chocolate bits, are reason enough to soldier on in this cold, hard world. If you also want to order a scoop of ice cream on the side, we won’t judge.
Their bounteous pastry bar includes treats both gluten-free (Triple Chocolate Chunk Cookies, Macaroons) and gluten-full (Chocolate Chunk, Butterscotch Oatmeal, Lemon Crisps, Stuffed Nutella Cookies, and more). It’s almost an embarrassment of riches, but cookies feel no shame, nor should they.
This Evanston hotspot knows how to wrap up a meal. Behold the denizens of their cookie plate ($9): Two each of Chocolate Chip and Candied Ginger, and a tender and buttery Lemon Bar.
James Beard Award-winning pastry chef Mindy Segal is the Cookie Queen of Chicago, and whether you grab a cookie from her Hot Chocolate Bakery at Revival Food Hall or from the cookie jars at her Damen Avenue mother ship, you will not be disappointed. Rugelach, Brownie Krinkles, and Snickerdoodles are particular faves.
This outstanding Ice Cream Sandwich ($5) features two of Scofflaw’s justifiably famous Chocolate Chip cookies surrounding house-made ice cream. The best part is they are available all the time — not just at midnight, which is when Scofflaw starts passing around the freshly made cookies to late-night drinkers.
Man cannot live by meat alone, so pastry chef Lauren Terrill brings the yummy with a chocolate trolley that transports a selection of mini desserts directly to your table, many of them cookie-centric. At any given time, you might find dark chocolate-dipped, house-made Oreo cookie dough; macaron with exotic fillings; or Mexican brownie bites with goat’s milk caramel and a decided kick from ancho chile powder. Still feeling peckish? The regular dessert menu’s warm and gooey Deep Dish Cookie ($9) à la mode is big enough to share with a loved one.
How important are cookies to the ethos of this Lettuce Entertain You Lincoln Park favorite? The huge display case is the first thing you see when you walk in the door. That is no accident, my friends. If you aren’t seduced by the giant Rice Crispy Chocolate Chip, Apple Oatmeal, Gingersnap, Peanut Butter, Chocolate Walnut, or S’Mores cookies, let’s face it — you are probably much thinner than me.
Julie Chernoff, Make It Better’s dining editor since its inception in 2007, graduated from Yale University with a degree in English — which she speaks fluently — and added a professional chef’s degree from the California Culinary Academy. She has worked for Boz Scaggs, Rick Bayless, and Wolfgang Puck (not all at the same time); and sits on the boards of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and Northlight Theatre.