By Catharine L. Kaufman
Even if Santa never shows, you might as well set out a plate of fresh-baked cookies-someone is gonna have to eat them. So push the gift wrap and tape aside, pour a big glass of milk and settle in with a jolly bellyful of San Diego's best.
Jennifer Grantham, the pastry chef at Del Mar's Urban Plates, loves baking gourmet cookies big. "They're deliberately craggy for extra texture, too, with a nice, dark caramel color," she says of her outsized creations.
Grantham's ?ve-inch-diameter Chocolate Chunk cookie is ?lled with bittersweet Belgian chocolate that's hand-chopped to vary the bite experience. Her Cowgirl packs a wholesome mother lode of rolled oats, coconut, dried cranberries and sun?ower seeds, while her super-chewy Ginger Molasses cookie blends sweet and savory ?avors.
Health-conscious customers may appreciate that Grantham swaps butter for Earth Balance-a trans fat-free, vegan blend of palm fruit, canola, soybean, ?ax and olive oils.
12857 El Camino Real, Del Mar
There's nothing half-baked about the business approach of The Cravory, launched two-and-half years ago by childhood pals from Arizona (and now-twentysomething San Diego residents) Adam Koven, Nate Ransom and Derek Jaeger. As Koven describes it, the trio set out to make their online company "the Ben and Jerry's of the cookie world," offering nearly 1,000 gourmet taste combinations (many of which are derived from suggestions by fans posting on The Cravory's Facebook page).
With premium ingredients like hand-crafted salty caramel and Callebaut Belgian chocolate, The Cravory's sumptuous, soft-center cookies run the ?avor gamut-from the exotic (Pumpkin Chai Tea Dough) to the kitschy (Pancakes and Bacon).
Koven says cookie chef Derek Jaeger "never met a cookie he didn't like," adding that Jaeger's olive oil-based Savory Rosemary Balsamic cookie "goes great with an evening glass of wine."
Sold online and at the Hillcrest and La Jolla farmers markets, The Cravory's cookies have also landed at concession stands in New York's La Guardia and JFK airports-giving sweet, new life to the concept of carry-ons.
This is high season for François Goedhuys, a native of Belgium who for the past quarter century has been making fanciful cookies (as many as 4,000 a week during the year-end holidays) at his Girard Gourmet deli, bakery and restaurant in La Jolla.
Using an almond butter cookie "canvas" and a palette of multicolored icings, Goedhuys renders mini-masterworks in the form of reindeer, dreidels and just about anything his customers request. They're almost too good to eat.
7387 Girard Avenue, La Jolla
CHEW ON THIS
Named after its owner, Liz Chou, a former CPA-turned-culinary whiz, The Cookie Chew is a San Diego-based online company delivering decadent twists on traditional cookie favorites.
Some of Chou's wildest creations derive from her concept of marrying a chocolate truf?e and a cookie, which she calls a "Truf?e." Hot off her holiday baking sheet: White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Truf?e, Gimmee S'mores (marshmallow-stuffed graham cracker chocolate cookie) and Sweet Fiesta (cinnamon-spiced sugar cookie stuffed with Mexican dark chocolate truf?e).
All my products are handmade locally in Mission Hills using only butter and no trans fats or preservatives," Chou says. They're also available at local farmers markets.
The Cookie Chew
HOME, SWEET HOME
Take a mouthwatering tour of some unreal estates at the 18th Annual Gingerbread City Gala, December 1 at The Grand Del Mar resort.
Using only edible materials (gingerbread and otherwise), "homebuilders" will compete for a top prize of $2,500.
San Diego Padres CEO Jeff Moorad is the honorary chair of this year's event-a fundraiser for the Epilepsy Foundation of San Diego County (EFSDC) and "the biggest competition of its kind on the West Coast," says Healy Vigderson, assistant director of EFSDC.
The elaborate structures will be auctioned off during an awards gala, with proceeds bene?ting EFSDC.
More info: 619.296.0161