First Look: Creme De La Cookie

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The food biz is risky.

Dallas is an incredibly competitive market when it comes to restaurants, and given the current economy, it's tougher than ever before to make a go of a place while everyone is cutting back on pretty much everything. Starting a new food business requires much in the way of wide-eyed optimism (re: denial) and we've seen that plenty of times before. Sometimes, though, jaded as we are, we're downright baffled by the choices new business owners make.

Take Crème de la Cookie, for instance. This new Snyder Plaza [make that Snider Plaza] sweet shop opened last Thursday in the same space--the very same space--that the much-acclaimed Doughmonkey bakery vacated just a few months ago. Hmmmm, indeed. If this upscale shopping center couldn't support one of the most well thought of food businesses in recent memory, why risk history repeating itself?

Owner Toni Rivard doesn't seem worried. Or maybe she's just too busy to give it a second thought. In her first few days of operation, the owner of Crème de la Cookie has been working like crazy to fill her cases. And when she does get a spare moment it's spent chatting up the customers (or pesky food bloggers). Bearing a strong resemblance to "That Girl" Marlo Thomas (complete with charming smile), we're inclined to believe Rivard when she explains that she opened her shop simply for the love of baking.

After working in the marketing and commercial real estate fields, Rivard transitioned to the food business at the urging of friends and clients who raved about her homemade goodies. She owned her own dessert catering company in California, and her recipe was awarded the title of Best Chocolate Chip Cookie in Orange County a few years back. She came to Dallas five years ago and, along with her husband Steve, developed the concept for Crème de la Cookie from scratch. "I get to do what I love," Rivard explains of the experience of owning her own place.

The store is clean and attractive in fashionable shades of chocolate brown and teal blue. A couple of tables, one couch and two comfy chairs--torture--are available for lounging. The case up front holds a variety of cookies and brownies and several types of cupcakes, and a station to the left has additional shakers of sprinkles, for adorning your desserts or demonstrating a friends and family calling plan.

All this sounds great--but also familiar. What makes Crème de la Cookie different from Sprinkles or Society Bakery or any of the other trendy bakeries in Dallas? Rivard says super-premium ingredients are what set her place apart. "Whatever is good, I usually add more of," she boasts of her free hand with Valrhona chocolate, fine European butter and Madagascar vanilla beans.

Same could have also been said of Doughmonkey.

Rivard's offerings, however, also look more "homemade" than a lot of their counterparts--and many will find that appealing. Cupcakes, for instance ($2.75 and $3.25), are of a manageable 3-4 bite size, unlike some status-symbol cupcakes we've encountered. Despite being overwhelmed by a heavy cap of frosting, their flavor is simple and pleasant. Nothing about them (so far) indicates a pre-fab box mix or other short cuts in the kitchen.

Crème de la Cookie will hold its grand opening July 11th; in the meantime you can give it a try during this "soft opening" period.

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