The Takedowns, started by Matt Timms, culminated in Brooklyn in 2003 with a chili contest. In the past 12 years, the takedowns have spread nationwide—now in LA, Dallas, Chicago, Boston, Nashville, and many other cities.
To celebrate the upcoming holidays, this month’s takedown featured a common favorite tradition: cookies. Thirty bakers came together to compete for best cookie-maker in the greater New York area, judged by bakers and guests alike. The event was held at the Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club in Brooklyn, an elegantly-decorated (and ultimately extremely-Instagrammable) venue with actual shuffleboard courts, a full bar, and flamingo-wallpapered bathrooms.
Each baker came up with their own fun cookie recipes, or new spins on classics: we saw a few different shortbreads, a not-so-conventional “gingerbread manspread,” and lots of holiday spiced recipes. Plates of cookies were piled sky-high, looking like this (or fuller!):
Unfortunately, I have to eat a strict gluten-free diet, so I brought along my friend Katie to help taste all of the delicious baked goods about to come our way. And there were a lot of them. Katie and I had to do multiple walkthroughs to taste them all, and as we made our rounds, and made time to digest, we discussed our favorites.
Although I focused on presentation rather than taste for obvious reasons, I was inordinately excited that I found a single gluten-free cookie to munch on. I later found out that the creator of this cookie, Emily Hanhan, is a Takedown devotee, having participated since 2010 after attending various events herself and consequently meeting Matt. Emily’s featured cookie was coined the Campfire Fluffernutter, and many guests noticed her torch used to brown the marshmallows before the cookies themselves. When Emily is not kicking butt making cookies, she works in a bakery -- as an operations manager, not directly with baked goods -- and likes the opportunity to showcase her baking skills outside of her day job in this type of venue.
Katie’s personal favorite cookie was “Barb’s Maple Bacon Bourbon Snowballs” made by Amanda Houde. Amanda, a CPA at an accounting firm, is a newbie at the Takedowns. She got involved this year because of a friend who has competed in The Takedowns in the past. Her recipe is one of her mom’s old standbys (thus the moniker), with a few of her own twists. Amanda started out with a classic snowball recipe which her mom has used forever, and added a maple syrup and bourbon glaze, with crumbled bacon. These were hard to resist, and even as we were interviewing, crowds of people stopped to admire them and their bacon-y, boozy goodness. When asked about her experience at the Takedowns this year, she commented that although there are a few professionals who come out to the Takedowns, the majority of the turnout are people like herself—those who bake as a side project (and end up being really great at it!)
After eating all the cookies, guests had a few moments to relax, have a drink at the bar, and vote. The judges also needed some time to weigh their many options and pick their own favorites. The judges for this competition— One Girl Cookies, Sexy Batch Baking Company, and Buttermilk Bake Shop, all bakeries local to New York City—chose three winners to receive fancy kitchenware from the prize sponsors. When we walked in, we were handed one ballot, in which we were encouraged to vote for one of our favorites. After around 2 hours of cookie eating and chatting with the other cookie-lovers, we all gathered around a stage where the winners were to be announced. Emily ended up winning 2nd place for people’s choice!
All in all, we had an amazingly fun time. Even if I didn’t get to eat all the cookies, I still enjoyed the people, the presentations, and the general atmosphere and energy that the Cookie Takedown emanated. We will definitely be back to check out another one soon!
If you live in the New York City area, be sure to check out the website, for information on how to participate in or attend an event! The next one will be their classic chili, and it’s coming up soon. You won’t be disappointed.