by Alice Levitt
400 Pine Street, Burlington, 863-3968
For as long as I've worked at Seven Days, I've known the nearby Cheese Outlet/Fresh Market for one thing. It's the site of the best cookies on Earth. I'm not exaggerating.
Ideally balanced between chewy and crunchy, with nary a hint of cakiness, some bizarre alchemy ensures that the chocolate chips remain slightly melty long after the cookie has cooled. The desserts are also sizable enough that I can usually only eat a third at a time. Unless, that is, I get it right out of the oven. Then the slightly salty cookies simply prove too irresistible not to inhale all at once, my ensuing loginess be damned.
Given my over-the-top devotion, it's strange that I'd never gotten lunch at the spot that's just a few minute's walk from my desk.
The prepared-food case offers a glut of options, but luckily Seven Days calendar editor Carolyn Fox was there to help me choose. We brought a veritable buffet back to the office at a cost of $25 and change.
We started with still-hot macaroni and cheese. A crunchy, light, breadcrumb-covered crust yielded to a creamy, mild cheese sauce speckled with pepper. Even though I tend to prefer sharper cheeses, it was difficult to discern this from the one I make at home. And I didn't have to cook or clean up!
Though I ordered four maple Buffalo wings, I ended up with five, as one small wing had adhered to a drumette. No complaints. Despite the fact that I ate them cold, the meaty chicken was flavorful. It was even better with the sweet sauce, which burned with just a hint of spice as I swallowed each bite.
The peanut noodles had a similar slow fire that developed with every bite. The savory, creamy noodles were some of the best of their kind I've tried in the area.
On the other hand, I haven't seen anything quite like the refreshing corn salad, brightened with a liberal sprinkling of cilantro. The tomatoes, red peppers and even the corn all tasted surprisingly juicy and fresh for vegetables that aren't yet in season locally.
Though I'm not usually a fan of mayonnaise-slicked salads, Fresh Market's tarragon chicken version made me crave Georgian Tarkhun, tarragon soda. Crunchy celery and grapes added a nice textural interplay to the meaty chunks of chicken. That said, I was still wiping off mayo wherever I could.
I even ventured outside my usual box and tried a different dessert. What a brilliant creation the Fresh Market s'more is! Despite a thick, crumbly graham-cracker crust and gooey, broiled, homemade marshmallow crown, the thin layer of chocolate ganache dominates the dessert's flavor. I'm a convert. Now I know, there's more to "Freshie" than the best cookie in the world.
Alice Eats is a weekly blog feature devoted to reviewing restaurants where diners can get a meal for two for less than $35. Got a restaurant you'd love to see featured? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.