One of my favorite things about home is going to work. For the past four summers (and during the school year before I started college), I have worked in a small seafood restaurant, appropriately titled Off the Hook. It has been a really wonderful experience with a lot of great people and out of this world food. Seared Ahi tuna, buttermilk battered calamari, grilled swordfish, white cheddar grits, corn and jalapeno crab bisque, trust me it’s all good; fresh, local seafood at its best. But my favorite thing on the menu isn’t fish; it’s not even an entrée. No, it’s the chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake.
The cake first graced our presence in the winter of my senior year of high school. Walking back to the kitchen with my hands full of plates, I saw my manager and several of the servers gathered around the prep station. “That should be illegal” one of the servers said as I came back out. “What?” I asked as my eyes fell upon the huge caramel covered mass in front of me. “Chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake” my manager told me, each word like a prayer. I grabbed a fork.
Words cannot truly describe this dessert. First of all, it’s cheesecake, so it’s rich and creamy but not overly sweet, with a perfect graham cracker crust. Second of all, there are mounds of cookie dough and chocolate chips hiding inside all of that creamy goodness. I’ve found that the perfect bites have all three components; my favorite spot is near the bottom of the crust, with a hunk of cookie dough and chocolate surrounded by creamy cheesecake and tucked into a cave of graham cracker.
And that’s the way I usually get to enjoy it: by the rushed forkful. We cut desserts piece by piece, which means that usually the last bit is too big for one piece but too small for two. We resolve the dilemma by cutting the cake unevenly- the big half destined to be dressed up and served to guests in the dining room, and the smaller half to be descended upon with soup spoons, cocktail forks, and whatever else is clean and can be considered a utensil. It wasn’t until I came home from college for a weekend and my parents and I went out to dinner that I had an entire piece, garnish and all. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, but don’t think that means that I shared it. Oh no, I got over the emotional trauma quickly enough and enjoyed every bite.
Chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake. A mouthful of a name, but it’s my favorite dessert to recite to diners, and the one I always save for last. It’s also my favorite thing to deliver to a table. Eyes go wide as they catch sight of the cake, topped with a cookie, drizzled with chocolate syrup and sitting on a plate adorned with chocolate and caramel swirls. I smile as I set down the forks and ask if I can bring them anything else. The answer is always no, trust me; there’s nothing your life is lacking when you have chocolate chip cookie dough cheesecake. When I return to ask how it is, I don’t need to wait for an answer, it’s written on their faces and the empty plate. It’s my favorite thing to force on new employees.
Whenever one of those magical misfit pieces appears on the prep table, I hunt down the newbies and make sure the other vultures save them a bite. And that bite tastes perfect every time. Whether it’s eaten off of a plate or a cocktail fork, eaten while sitting down or while walking from dish room to dining room, whether it’s the first time you tasted it or the hundredth, that bite is heaven.