Friday, April 22, 2011

TKO (Thomas Keller Oreo) at the Bouchon Bakery, Las Vegas

A few weeks ago, I tempted you with the mention of the famous Thomas Keller Oreo (or TKO, as it's commonly called). Well, our trip to Vegas is over, so I can officially say that I've been there and bought the cookie, and here are my thoughts:

The TKO is essentially marketed as an upscale rendition of the American junk-food classic - two thin wafers of rich, dark, chocolate sable dough sandwiched together with a filling of thick, creamy, white chocolate ganache. The cookie is a product of the amazing Thomas Keller (of French Laundry, Bouchon, Per Se and Ad Hoc fame) and has garnered rave reviews all over the web, so I knew I had to add it to my list of Las Vegas indulgences. Just one day into my Vegas adventure, I wasted no time in tracking down the tiny Bouchon Bakery outpost on the gaming floor of the Venetian Hotel.

I expected a little more than small sweets counter with a to-go cafe attached, but I was soon distracted and easily appeased by the beautiful array of baked goods in their glass-fronted cases. For a moment, I was tempted to scoop up armfuls of their giant cookies and artfully frosted cupcakes, but then I remembered my reason for searching them out in the first place and walked away with a lone TKO. I found a quiet place in the upper floors of the Venetian (which, in itself, is quite a remarkable feat) and prepared myself for an indulgent and transformative experience.

While the cookie is indulgent, I can't say that it was a revelation. Perhaps it was the hype or the lack of lunch (I probably should have been searching out 'real' food instead of really fancy cookies) but my TKO experience fell a little short of my expectations.  First of all, the cookie was too greasy for my taste; by the time I'd found a place to sit and eat it, its pretty paper bag was soaked with oily stains, and the ganache had such a fatty mouthfeel that I couldn't really enjoy the supposed white chocolate flavor. The presentation was beautiful and I liked the earthiness of the chocolate dough, but I didn't feel that it complemented the filling in the same way that the cheap, store-bought Oreo cookie does.

I never thought I'd rule in favor of the mass-produced versus the artisan variety, but since I rarely eat Oreos, I decided to bring half of the cookie home and defer to a real chocolate-sandwich-cookie aficionado.  Matt has a high opinion of the classic Oreo - complete with a very specific way of eating them - so I hoped the TKO might garner a better reaction from a true expert.  Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. It may have been the absence his usual tall, cold glass of milk, but the TKO failed to impress Matt as well. Like me, he enjoyed the richness of the chocolate cookie but found the filling too dense and lacking in sweetness - he finished it, but called it a 'Faux-reo' and still firmly believes you can't improve on the original.

Perhaps I'm missing the point of this reinterpretation, but the things I like about the regular Oreo (heavy on chocolate, light on filling and a strongly sweet aftertaste) are missing from this cookie.  I'm willing to concede that it might just be my tastebuds or a stale batch, mostly because I had high hopes for this Bouchon classic, but I don't think I'll be seeking out another TKO any time soon.  

There is, however, a silver lining to my high-class cookie heartbreak; the execution didn't captivate me, but the concept did! I've already begun to scour the web for recipes and I'm sure I'll be dreaming of whipping up my own, high-brow Oreos from now until I'm settled in a new kitchen, somewhere in TN.

Have you ever tried to re-make your favorite store-bought classics at home? Were you successful or just left craving the original? Any suggestions for my future Faux-reos?

Bouchon Bakery (Venetian) on Urbanspoon


  1. Smitten Kitchen has a yummy home-made oreo recipe.

  2. Oooh - I'll have to check it out! Have you guys made them? Matt is skeptical but I think homemade Oreos could be great!