I spent four days on a Chinese macrobiotic cleanse a few weeks back while the Cute Gardener went to New York City for a business trip. When I told him I was all clean from the Thanksgiving food onslaught, he told me I better be ready to get dirtied up again because he was bringing home cookies from the Momofuku Milk Bar. Instead of thinking, “Oh, I just spent all this time clearing out my organs, skin and pores so I will go light on the cookies when he brings them home,” I immediately starting feeling the joy a cocaine addict gets knowing he’s going to score later in the evening while imagining just how many cookies I could possibly stuff into my newly minted and hollowed out gut.
Because you see, these weren’t ordinary cookies but indeed more like crack. In fact, the Momofuku Milk Bar actually makes a dessert called Crack Pie, served in a small cardboard sheath akin to an alcoholic’s brown paper liquor store bag made of nothing but brown sugar, copious amounts of butter and cream.
I stumbled upon the Milk Bar and its noted pastry chef Christina Tosi while watching an addictive television series called Mind of a Chef about the creative genius of Chef David Chang. Chang is one of my favorite chefs because he takes every day ordinary things and makes them extraordinary. It’s not that watching him make gnocchi out of cheap, grocery store ramen or doing amazing things with dried milk powder makes me drool; it’s the crafty thought process behind taking things that he was forced to eat growing up and then turning them into wizardry combined with new ingredients from his grown up palate that stokes my admiration. Non-pretentious and joyous creation is what made him famous more so than being just another guy cooking up delicious dishes. His zest for the craft shows and takes me back to the days when I sat in my own bedroom with a Ready Bake Oven, powder chocolate bags, an adjacent science laboratory kit and lots of bottles of lotions, oils and half used lipsticks. I loved pouring them all together and lighting them on fire in ways only a former latchkey kid can truly grasp the bliss within. Only Chang’s grown up combinations have landed him with over half a dozen restaurants where the fun continues.
He chose a perfect person to hold court at Milk Bar in Tosi because she does equally zany, fun in the preschool playground things such as making ice cream flavors inspired by the taste of leftover cereal milk and banana cream pie from the gross, black rotten bananas that her experimentation has taught her produces the absolutely best flavor.
This is why I wanted to taste her cookies so bad, especially the odd pure corn version that was touted as a densely, sugared, sweet creamed corn bread. That and the blueberries and cream beast that was so moist it had the heft of a baseball in my hand. And the double chocolate sin fest that held the perfect ratio of crispy outer crunch to inner, soft and mushy core. The crack pie never made it back to California, which is probably best because by the time I downed the three baked-to-perfection cookies (still amazing after two days in a plastic bag and a flight across the states) not an ounce of my internal cleanse perfection remained – only a severely worthwhile sweets high and a desire to visit New York City soon if only to lap up the Milk Bar’s mile high cakes next.