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June 24, 2013

C is for Cookie – and Comfort

When actress Ginnifer Goodwin was asked in a recent interview about her favorite comfort food, she said “one lettuce leaf, hold the dressing,”

That’s what you might expect, but Goodwin, our new favorite actress actually said, “mac and cheese,” tapping into one of the enduring trends in the restaurant world: The food that‘s just like mom used to make. (Unless your mom’s specialty included an aluminum pan and the word Stouffer’s on the lid, which you thought was your family’s name. What do you expect from a 30-year-old?)

Josh Wolkon, who owns a group of Denver restaurants, that includes both the high end Vesta Dipping Grill and Steuben’s, a comfort food emporium, says comfort food is always in. “I think just the word comfort in itself suggests nostalgia. It plays to our emotions whether it’s home or places we went to as kids.”

When it comes to comfort food, chefs fall into two camps – comfort food that really does replicate homestyle favorites; and/or comfort food that goes for the real thing with a twist, you know like lobster mac and cheese or tomato soup with crème fraiche and garlic croutons.

But one person’s comfort food is another person’s idea of food that can only be eaten when drowned in ketchup. “People are passionate about what qualifies as comfort food,” says Wolkon, who flies in rolls from Philadelphia for his cheese steaks and still can’t please everyone.

“Usually it’s the mom argument, my mom made it like this,” he says. There are some universals: Wolkon names devilled eggs and meatloaf among other items, but we found one survey on that was based on definitive research on the top 10 comfort foods. It lists: Chili, fried chicken, ribs, grilled cheese, macaroni and cheese, catfish, waffles, meatloaf, chicken fried steak, and pot roast (Datassential, 2009).

Let me just say what we’re all thinking, “Catfish?” Who were they surveying – the folks at the Catfish Institute? And where are the chocolate chip cookies?

Based on our own non-definitive research, we just had to revamp the list. Who needs science when you have excellent taste? We’d walk a mile for the following foods served at a restaurant:

  1. Pie – Cherry, apple, berry, peach. Whole restaurants have been built around the concept so maybe we’re on to something.
  2. Ice cream – Plain, unadorned vanilla ice cream, preferably sitting on top of pie.
  3. Chocolate chip cookies (just out of the oven – that’s critical and should be mentioned on any list). For awhile there, milk and cookies was a trend. We say, “bring it back.”
  4. Anything chocolate – cakes, candy, chocolate chip cookies (see above)
  5. Anything not chocolate that we missed, like cheesecake. Again, entire restaurants have been built around the concept. That's gotta be a sign, right?
  6. Tomato soup (from a can with little kids on the label) and a certain brand of crackers crumbled on top that rhymes with “Itz.”
  7. Chicken soup (love in any language)
  8. Mashed potatoes (Don’t forget that pat of butter.)
  9. Fried chicken (Help, we’ve been brainwashed by the Colonel.)
  10. Pizza – the old fashioned kind, with gooey cheese and thin crust and nary a leaf of arugula in sight.

Agree or disagree? Say what you want, folks: Now, this is a list.


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I agree wholeheartedly with your amended list of ten. Can we also add a plate of spaghetti?

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