Sure, it's the holiday season, when we're all supposed to be baking pies or sugar cookies shaped like elves or stars or candy canes. But sometimes you just want a chocolate chip cookie, preferably a very good one — and at this point, preferably baked by somebody else.
Fortunately, there are many fantastic bakers and restaurant pastry chefs around town who not only make brilliant pastries and desserts, but pretty great old fashioned chocolate chip cookies too. Here are three of our favorites, each perfect with a glass of milk or maybe a double espresso.
Auntie Em's Kitchen — Terri Wahl's Eagle Rock restaurant is a cozy place to stop in for breakfast or a sandwich, as well as homestyle desserts. Wahl and her bakers make terrific red velvet cakes and cupcakes — and the cookies are great too, not least because there are not one but two versions of the chocolate chip cookies: a chewy version and a crispy one. The soft cookies are made with Guittard bittersweet chocolate and have a sprinkling of fleur de sel on the top, while the giant crisp cookies are made with Valrhona chocolate and a far greater percentage of butter, which is what makes them crunchy and gives them the great filigreed edges. (Want the recipe for the latter? It's in Wahl's locally-published cookbook.) 4616 Eagle Rock Blvd., Eagle Rock, (323) 255-0800, auntieemskitchen.com.
Cooks County — There are a lot of reasons to spend time at Cooks County, where it seems like chefs Daniel Mattern and Roxana Jullapat devote every day to something kind of wonderful (Fried Chicken Mondays, Farm-to-Taco Tuesdays, Sausage Thursdays, weekend brunches). Then there's dessert, which should probably include Jullapat's homey cookies, served warm on a plate. She makes them with brown sugar, 73% chocolate from local chocolatier Compartes, oats and kosher salt, which she puts in the dough instead of sprinkling it on top. " I bake them dark on the edges, somewhat soft in the middle," says Jullapat. "It takes all my will power not to eat one every day." 8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 653-8009, cookscountyrestaurant.com.
Proof Bakery — Pastry chef Na Young Ma does a lot of things very, very well at her tiny Atwater Village bakery. There are the gorgeous tarts and tartines, the quiches, the pretty financiers and shortbreads, and particularly the fantastic croissants. But don't overlook the simple cookies, especially the chocolate chip. Made with Guittard chocolate (the croissants use Valrhona) and topped with a sprinkle of Maldon salt, the cookies are a study in the balance of salt and sweet. And they pair wonderfully with the Cognoscenti coffee. 3156 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village, (323) 664-8633, proofbakeryla.com.