Black and white cookies at D.Z. Akin's
What’s the opposite of a sweet tooth? Because for a number of years in my early adulthood I was that. Making student loan payments instead of ordering dessert. Quitting soda and taking up coffee. Learning to drink whiskey instead of cocktails. My twenties became virtually sugarless, and I didn’t even miss it.
6930 Alvarado Road, San Diego
All it took to change that was a local delicatessen: D.Z. Akin's.
Raspberry and raisin rugelach, sold by the pound
We were there for breakfast, a group of friends, ordering bagels and latkes and chopped liver for the table. As I passed the bakery counter on the way out, I noticed a tray of black and white cookies: the cakey delicatessen standard, with chocolate icing on one side, and a perfect half moon of vanilla on the other. I’d tried one in New York when I was 18, so credit the wistful push of vacation nostalgia for what happened next.
A pile of cookies, ready for the holidays
In today’s prices, $2.95 gets you the full size black and white, roughly the size of a compact disc. But for $1.50, there’s a miniature cookie, about the same diameter as a cupcake. I ordered one of those. Just one. Remember, I was off the sweet stuff.
The cookie part is like shortbread, but softer, and lemony. The icing shiny and crisp. First I took a small bit from the vanilla side, then a nibble of the chocolate side, then I shoved the whole thing in my mouth. As I chewed happily, our driver decided to duck back into the restaurant to use the restroom. Meanwhile, the sweet receptors in my taste buds woke up for the first time in a long, long time, and demanded more.
“What kinds of rugelach are those?” I asked the clerk, pointing to another shelf within a glass counter absolutely loaded with sweet bakery treats.
I went home that day with a box of cookies weighing one pound, and when those were gone I set forth on an exploration of all the wondrous desserts I’d been missing out on as an adult, such as Turkish delights, tiramisus, crème brûlées, and semi-freddos.
But with the holidays rolling around, my thoughts veer back to cookies, and for my money, that means a return visit to D.Z. Akin's. While select items including the black and white are individually priced, most of the cookies go for $10.99 per pound. And there are so many to choose. I took a number and browsed while I waited.
A woman ahead of me in the queue appeared to be a regular, calling the deli clerk by name.
“Any cookies you recommend,” I asked her.
Without batting an eye, she said, “One of everything.”
She was right. I got all four rugelach: chocolate chip, cinnamon, raspberry raisin, apricot walnut. Macaroons came in coconut and chocolate dipped, and, so I added a few of those. Priced the same as black and whites were large and small linzer cookies: sugar dusted, cookie sandwiches, here filled with either raspberry or apricot jelly. So I got a few of all of the above, plus anything else that looked remotely good.
This time I left with two boxes, to start off what promises to be a very sweet holiday season.