When word reached me that there was some kind of a grand hoedown involving amateur cookie mongers from all walks of Boston life, I thought it rash of me not to get in on the action and demonstrate my sinister baking chops. Of which I have had exactly none to date, but all that really meant was I was starting off with an impeccable record. In any case, the moment I arrived, it was like entering a strange and vast subculture I had only begun to scratch the surface of. Below, my mental and physical notes of my time in the competitive baking trenches.
I enter and walk down into the dim lit downstairs of The Middle East. Metal blasting, a bouquet of various cookie-ish smells fills my nasal cavity. Children weaving in and out of tables, contestants set up their displays. The host, Matt Timms (founder of the venerated Chili Takedowns and their ilk originating in Brooklyn, NY) approaches me wearing a seasonally appropriate ugly sweater. He’s flat out jolly, and welcomes me to what I can only describe as, “his cookie dungeon of flavor”. 14 contestants put their skills to the test. Including myself. I threw my oven mitt into the ring being there to represent DigBoston, and thus, I put booze in the cookies. If something’s worth doing…
My Jim Beam Maple Whiskey-infused bacon chocolate-chip cookies, which I like to believe would’ve won had Ron Swanson been one of the judges, faced stiff competition across the board. A good number of the contestants had been in previous Takedowns, while others just had major baking chops (it remained to be seen if I’d fall into the latter category).
One of my competitors, Matt, weathered four other Takedowns and even won the last Cookie Takedown. His entry this time: bourbon chocolate ginger nutmeg eggnog cream cheese cookies. Name: Santa’s Little Helper. An orgy of flavor in the mouth, truly. Another contestant, Melanie, used espresso in what she called Java Jives cookies. The strangest ingredient employed I encountered in my odyssey through the world of aggressive baking by far however, was Sriracha. Entered by sweets warriors Leah and Deanna (both veterans of previous Takedowns) their cookie was strange. Tasty. A definite threat to my attempt at glory. In the end they walked away with forth place in the people’s choice, with first going to a batch called Walnut Spirals created by a local scientist named John (proving, if my early attempts didn’t, that baking really is a science). John came in second in the judge’s choice, ultimately losing to Toffee Peanut Butter cookies by force of cookie-dom Heather, who was wearing a shirt with a milk and cookie holding hands. Poetic.
With everyone walking around eating cookies you would imagine people would build up quite a thirst. Thanks to sponsor Sailor Jerry offering rum-spiked eggnog, the ballots were cast with the gentle calm that comes over the brain under the influence of strong rum, excessive sugar, and eggnog. The legit array of prizes eventually were handed out: a literal pyramid of Cuisinart appliances and cutlery was divvied up among the winners, with yours truly landing an official Cake Boss cookie sheet for my efforts, which I plan to use next time the Cookie Takedown comes to Boston. That’s right, like many of my fellow first time contenders, I’ve got Takedown fever. Fortunately, for the last decade The Takedown has been going from city to city, with a variety of themes from mac n cheese to hot sauce. So check them out here, and maybe throw your oven mitt into the ring next time.