VILLAGE BAKERY CHOCOLATE CHUNK COOKIES
|Bakery-style softness and chewiness, without the bakery.|
You know how there's that well-known adage that says you should never visit the grocery store hungry? It's true, and I can vouch for it. But there's a lesser-known alternative to that side of the coin: don't go to a grocery store full, either. Sure, you might save a little on your grocery bill since nothing looks even remotely appetizing, but you're going to end up with barely anything in your cart except sweets.
And that is how I ended up with this in my cart. And their name-brand cupcake knockoffs. And ice cream. Yet not even enough food for the rest of the week. Oh well. These enticed me because I'm a plain person who loves the simple taste of chocolate chip cookies, and these seem to be pretty well loaded with them evenly across each cookie. They had another variety called “kitchen sink” cookies that lost me with the inclusion of coconut (along with, as the name implies, about thirty other ingredients); I've since learned they won an award as Best Private Label Cookie of 2015 according to the PLMA (Private Label Manufacturer's Association, an actual organization). I'll probably be going back for those next time.
But that's a story for the future: the focus now are on Village Bakery's Chocolate Chunk Cookies, available all the time at Aldi stores nationwide. The cookie looks like a cookie, which is a good thing. Each one is pretty uniformly round, and you can tell just by looking at them that they're going to be chewy—that's a good thing for me (and most others that I've talked to about preferred cookie strength), but if you like yours burnt or crispy, then this is probably not the cookie for you. Sure enough, a single bite confirms exactly the softness that I thought. The actual cookie here is pretty much standard cookie, though it is pretty flavorful, with a sweetness that gradually gives way to some kind of finish that I can't accurately detect because I have a terrible palate. It's good, but nothing to write home about.
As it should be, the main focus is on the chocolate chunks, and each cookie is loaded with them. There's no reason that, assuming you are a fully-grown human being, you should end up with a bite completely devoid of them, because they're all well spread throughout. The chocolate chips are nice and sweet, but not overly so, and blend very well with the cookie portion. In other words, these actually approach the same flavor and consistency of supermarket bakery cookies, at least in my humble opinion. But of course you're not going to be paying the price for fresh-baked cookies...I honestly don't remember the exact price, a fact that I am ashamed of, nor can I find pricing info online, but I believe they are $2.79, or thereabouts. For ten cookies, that runs about a quarter each, which is a great deal for cookies this delicious.
I'll end this story with an anecdote that explains how I actually first encountered these: I was at a friend's party and helped myself to a cookie. Upon taking a bite, I stated (it was an upscale party, hence the larger words) how delectable the cookie was, and inquired if he was the baker responsible for creating such a delicious treat. That's when he pointed to a large Aldi poster he had hanging on his wall. Without saying a word, I understood, and began to nod approvingly. That's a true story. Well, some of it.
Overall: 8/10. I don't eat sweets all that often, but after loading up on lunch at a tasty local establishment, I was craving dessert, and ended up with these (and ice cream, and cupcakes, etc.) in the cart. This is a delicious cookie, nice and chewy with the perfect texture. The chocolate chips are milk chocolate (my favorite), and are fairly sweet, but not overly so. The cookie itself is sugary (of course), but also has an added flavor (Perhaps vanilla? My tastebuds suck) that actually gains in intensity; it wasn't the plain, boring cookie that I was expecting. The end result is a bakery-style cookie that beats out most other store-bought cookies. This is actually the first time I've ever bought them myself, but I will definitely be grabbing another package, and in the near future, too.
VILLAGE BAKERY KITCHEN SINK COOKIES
|Don't get too excited...they're basically a very good peanut butter-chocolate cookie.|
As soon as we got home, I fired up the old computer and did a little research on the ol' Kitchen Sink cookies. What did others think of them? Were they that good? Much to my surprise, I could find little in the way of other bloggers' reviews for them, but what I did find piqued my interest level up even more than most reviews could: A PLMA award for best cookie of 2015. Enticed, I also looked up the PLMA, because I had no idea what the hell that was or what this prestigious award stood for.
I learned that it stands for Private Label Manufacturers Association. They have end-of-the-year awards where they go through dozens of off-brand products across three dozen different categories (everything ranging from cereals, to side dishes, to cakes and pies, and just about everything in between), and pick a product that they feel best exemplifies that category. Obviously, it's not just limited to products at Aldi, but rather any store-brand product across the entire nation (in fact, out of all the different categories, Aldi only claimed the top spot on two of them). So out of every single cookie the judges tried, this one took the top spot.
|Look at all those delicious, unnecessary ingredients...|
So what are these Kitchen Sink cookies, you have probably been asking yourself the entire time it has taken you to read the previous three paragraphs? After all, there are really no set recipes for these; it's just a way to clear your pantry by throwing as many sweet things in as you can. In Village Bakery's version, they are peanut butter cookies with chocolate, and peanut butter chips, chunks of white chocolate, little bits of pretzel, and finished off with some coconut. How can all of these possibly combine into something that doesn't taste like a complete mess?
They're not the taste sensation that the PLMA was leading me to believe they would be, but what we have here is basically an above-average peanut butter-chocolate cookie. Since the cookie base is peanut butter, and there are added peanut butter chips, it makes sense that's the dominant flavor, with large chunks of milk chocolate coming in right behind. The rest of the ingredients leave little-to-no-mark on the proceedings...I love white chocolate, and didn't really notice it all that much, while the pretzels and coconut seem to add only to the texture, by giving the soft, chewy cookies some added crunch. I was a little worried about the coconut since it's one of the few things I don't like at all, but I couldn't taste it one bit.
I was very disappointed at first, but over the course of what amounted to almost the entire package (my wife did not like them and only ate two or three out of the included ten), I really grew to like them for what they were. They aren't as mind-blowing, or even as complex, as all the ingredients would lead you to believe, so dial back your expectations a bit and you should be just fine.
Overall: 7.5/10. Really, these are just an unnecessarily over-the-top presentation of a typical peanut butter-chocolate cookie. Ignore a majority of the ingredient list, because the white chocolate is barely noticeable (at least it was to me), and all I can tell that the pretzels and coconut left behind is a crunchier texture. I don't generally like peanut butter cookies, but these are perfectly soft, and the peanut butter is counterbalanced by the chocolate, so it's not the overwhelming flavor. Once the disappointment of expecting a much crazier taste explosion died down, I slowly grew to appreciate these for what they were, and I would definitely get them again at some point in the future. For the sake of full discourse, my wife was less than impressed.