Last Chance Foods: One Connoisseur's Quest for the Freshest Mallomar


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Heads up to Mallomars fans out there: The season for the chocolate-covered, marshmallow-and-graham-cracker cookie is nearly over. Yes, this packaged and processed cookie has a season.

Mallomars are only made by Nabisco from September through March. The reason for that began when the cookies were invented 100 years ago, at a time that predated refrigeration. The cookies have a thin chocolate shell that would melt during the warmer months. The cool-month schedule continued on track — due to a combination of tradition and, likely, savvy marketing — even after refrigeration came into existence.

“I suppose it also creates a cult-like demand for it,” said Wall Street Journal columnist Ralph Gardner Jr., who has an admitted obsession for the confection.

Even sticking to the cold-weather delivery does not ensure a perfect cookie every time, apparently. “You’d assume that if it has all these preservatives or whatever that… any box should be pristine or perfect, but that’s not the case,” Gardner said. And that is the key to this oddly seasonal, weirdly delicate cookie.

“The difference between a fresh Mallomar and a stale Mallomar is the difference between bliss and despair,” wrote Gardner his “Urban Gardner” column.

(Photo: Ralph Gardner action/Courtesy of Ralph Gardner Jr.)

The chocolate on a “fresh” specimen should snap when being bitten into. On a stale one, it can be chalky or cracked. “If it becomes cracked and air is allowed to enter through the chocolate, then the marshmallow is sort of tough and stale,” he said. The same staleness even permeates the cookie.

He explained that, while the boxes emerging from Nabisco are likely uniformly perfect in the way of processed foods, supermarkets may be far less sensitive to the optimal condition under which the cookies need to remain perfectly fresh.

In one case, Gardner noticed that a display of the cookies were located under one grocery store’s heat lamp. So, despite digging through boxes to find the one with the most recent sell-by date, the cookies he brought home were less than perfect. So subtle is Gardner’s Mallomar palate, that though the cookies were in the same box, he noted some of them differed from their brethren in freshness.

“It sort of introduces connoisseurship to a cookie that really has no right to be open to that,” he admitted. And while NPR reported that some fans hoard Mallomars in their freezers for year-round availability, Gardner is staunchly opposed to doing so. For him, it’s all about enjoying the perfect cookie while its in season.

“I just can’t believe that a frozen Mallomar tastes as good as one fresh out of the box,” Gardner said.

Gardner’s clearly not the only super-fan out there. Bouchon Bakery has created a $3.95, made-from-scratch version called the “Mallowmore.” By some accounts, it lives up to the original. It’s certain that Gardner is on yet another cookie-related mission to find out.

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