Ginger snaps, snickerdoodles, tea cakes, rum balls, shortbread, pfeffernüsse, madeleines, biscotti: So many cookies, so little time. Whether it's dropped, rolled, pressed, molded, refrigerated, fried, or sandwiched, there's a cookie out there for you. Following are some particularly yummy local examples of the cookie baker's art.
California Golden Cookies
255 Kearny (at Bush), 956-3070
The bar cookie attains heavenly heights with California Golden Cookies' German Chocolate Bar. This rich, moist brick of bittersweet brownie is layered with buttery caramel, studded with creamy walnuts, and sprinkled with shreds of toasted coconut. It's a thoroughly satisfying marriage of heft, endorphins, and succulent texture. The store is a friendly, sunny below-the-radar urban treasure, offering a dozen or so cookies of outstanding quality (the snickerdoodles and halvah bars are also recommended) as well as very good falafel, hummus, schawerma, and other Middle Eastern savories.
1230 Grant (at Columbus), 986-8612, www.thehse.com
While we love and respect the standard Chinese almond cookie found everywhere from Ninth Avenue to Stockton Street, let's face it: Its hard, crumbly texture and rich, almost greasy flavor make it only slightly more palatable than those gimmicky tooth-cracking fortune cookies. The House's almond cookie is a different matter altogether. Crisp as a potato chip, with a subtle hint of marzipan and a traditional toasted almond embedded on top, it's a delicate yet satisfying sweet treat equally delectable on its own or after a meal of shrimp-chive dumplings and Blue Lake bean tempura.
Kika's Treats (available at Bi-Rite Market, Rainbow Grocery, Blue Fog Markets, and other specialty Bay Area food shops) are dreamy bits of chocolate-coated heaven handcrafted in the Dogpatch neighborhood by São Paulo baker Cristina Besher and company. The operation is best known for its all-natural graham crackers and shortbread, but Besher's Brazilian honey cakes are something special. A thick layer of rich, creamy Guittard chocolate cloaks squares of moist pao de mel spicy with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and a hint of coffee; the result is sweet, luscious, and just a little peppery all at once. They're egg- and dairy-free, too.
Mara's Italian Pastry
503 Columbus (at Green), 397-9435
Drop by Mara's when you're in the mood for a wide assortment of nosh-friendly, button-sized, absolutely delectable cookies, Neapolitan or otherwise. You'll find ultra-rich, paper-thin laces; moist, chewy chocolate-dipped macaroons; flaky pinwheels filled with strawberry jam; rich shortbread studded with lemon zest; buttery wedding cookies doused in powdered sugar; sandwich cookies stuffed with rich, dark fudge; chewy meringues laced with anise; and airy madeleines, chocolate-filled thumbprints, and crumbly biscotti chock-full of sliced almonds. It's a good place to set a spell, schmooze, sip an espresso, and cookie down.