Well, who could turn down something like this. Margaret McCormick (@mmccormickny), former food editor of the Syracuse Post Standard, sends me a direct message through Twitter and asks if I’d like to participate in a cookie tasting contest on the 24th at the Doubletree Hotel off Carrier Circle. Who am I to turn down the opportunity to taste cookies?

I have some history with that hotel. My first visit was in 1990 when I went to a meeting there, and for the next 14 years I had some kind of meeting there on a regular basis. My wife and I used to go to dinner buffets on Friday nights, and every once in awhile we’d go to Sunday morning breakfast buffets as well. One time I remember one of Syracuse University’s basketball opponents was staying there, and I had to hold myself from booing them, which was probably one of the smartest things I ever did because until you’ve stood next to a basketball player you don’t realize how big they really are.

That was in the days when it was still the Marriott. When they became the Doubletree I took a short visit over there because I knew one of the hotel managers there, and I got myself a free cookie. After all, that’s really what the Doubletree is known for, at least in traveler circles. Every new guest gets a free Doubletree cookie, warm and tasty, and if you stay at one you can get a cookie a day, and if they like you then you can get multiple cookies late at night; I’m not telling where that happened.

Anyway, I went over there with my buddy Jenn Pedde, with whom I’d shared lunch with first at the Empire Buffet in Paradise Market Plaza (I’m not sure that’s what it’s officially called now but that’s what I’m calling it), where the Old Country Buffet used to be. It’s a wonderful buffet and I’ve now been there 4 times with 4 different people, and other than the fact that they let their Rice Krispies treats get hard and brittle (shameful!) it’s a great place to eat.

Jenn and I get in there, and we meet up with Kevin Magdon (@syrdt), the business travel sales manager of the Doubletree, Bill Gambino (@fosterdad2), Scott Severance (@scottseverance) and of course Margaret. The challenge was simple. Margaret had found the recipe for the Doubletree cookie online somewhere, made a big batch, and convinced Kevin to set up a tasting to see if we could tell the difference between her cookies and the Doubletree cookie. I’ve said in the past that my favorite cookie, other than the Reese’s peanut butter cookie at Barnes & Noble, is the Doubletree cookie, so I figured this was going to be an interesting test. I got asked because at our last impromptu tweetup I’d mentioned how I loved that cookie and could always tell the difference in stuff.

We all sat at a table and one of the hotel representatives brought out two plates of cookies that had been heated up. An initial look had both sets of cookies looking the same, and I wondered how this contest was going to go. Me being me, I reached for a piece of cookie first, and I knew from that moment it was the Doubletree cookie. Or did I? The taste was great, the texture was what I remembered, but there was still a second cookie to taste.

I reached over for the second cookie and, though it was tasty, it wasn’t even a close contest for me. Everyone else, other than Kevin, seemed to have a little bit of difficulty figuring out which cookie they liked better, and which one was the Doubletree cookie.

How could I tell? The chocolate chips tasted different immediately, and they didn’t melt the same. The Doubletree uses Giarardelli chocolate chips, whereas Margaret used two types of chocolate chips. And her cookie had way more chocolate chips, which might have overwhelmed the cookie a little bit. As I said, it was tasty, but it wasn’t the same. In the end everyone got it correct, including Margaret.

Of course, if that’s how the story ended it wouldn’t be my life. I lobbied and got an extra cookie to bring home with me. As Jenn and I were getting back to our cars the bag I had my cookie in opened at the other end, and my cookie fell out and onto the pavement. Sorry, but there’s no 5-second rule in the winter in Syracuse in the parking lot, so I picked it up and put it onto the ground, hoping that birds would eat it eventually; sigh…

It was a fun time, and I’m putting the word out that if there are other dessert challenges, I’m the guy to call!

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