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F.C. Moms Pop Open Secret to Success With Cookies & Corks

4954789447_060f40e289_oTwo Falls Church moms who met through their children’s play group and left their corporate roots behind to bake up creativity are now the faces of what could be the next wave in food trends – gourmet cookie and wine pairings through their newest business venture, Cookies & Corks.

 

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BUSINESS DUO, Leah Kuo (left) and Laura Englander, bake at Falls Church Presbyterian Church. (Photo: Vicki Coe, News-Press)

 

Two Falls Church moms who met through their children’s play group and left their corporate roots behind to bake up creativity are now the faces of what could be the next wave in food trends – gourmet cookie and wine pairings through their newest business venture, Cookies & Corks.

Before clinking their glasses to success though, Chief Baker Leah Kuo and Vice President of Sales and Marketing Laura Englander started out as the brains behind CookieZen in June 2009, a company selling all-natural cookies ranging from sea salt chocolate oatmeal to iced lemon sugar.

Kuo and Englander represented the gourmet cookie business as newbies at the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade’s 2010 Fancy Food Show in San Francisco last January. Companies staff booths as vendors while buyers troll the spread for their next best buy. A business partnership is hopefully formed somewhere in between.

It was there where Kuo and Englander met their third – Amy Reiley, who, in 2004,  became the second American to earn the title Master of Gastronomy awarded by France’s culinary cathedral, Le Cordon Bleu.

“I remember how excited Amy was when she came to our booth and she said we’d be hearing from her,” said Englander.

Reiley reviewed the show shortly thereafter on her blog, calling CookieZen her show favorite of the 80,000 specialty food and beverage vendors across the U.S. and the other 45-plus countries present. A connoisseur of aphrodisiac foods, she’s appeared on “The Today Show,” “Fine Living TV” and the like encouraging people to consume sultriness. Reiley also does this through her aptly-named website, EatSomethingSexy.com.

You know we’d do our ‘market’ research, which involved meeting at one of our homes here in Falls Church and popping open a bottle of wine. – Kuo

Out of Kuo and Englander’s new relationship with Reiley, who suggested pairings from afar to the cookies mailed to her, came Cookies & Corks. The same stand-alone cookies from CookieZen are now packaged in specific red, white and sparkling wine sampling boxes, each containing 15 bite-sized cookies of three different flavors suitable for the designated grape.

 

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Amy Reiley (Courtesy Photo)

Eliminating the intimidation, graph-like pairing charts on the back of each cookie box show, for example, which red wine cookie goes best with a Merlot. It’s a tie between the espresso chocolate and peanut butter and the savory white cheddar rosemary, for those interested.

The latter aromatic cookie, falling into the same category as Cookies & Corks’ parmesan thyme and apricot sage, prove to skeptics there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to tired, overly-sweet dessert pairings.

But as sexy as coupling these treats with spirits sounds, it wasn’t always glamorous for Kuo and Englander. The two attest to still baking around their little ones’ naptimes and sometimes until 2 a.m. once their families are asleep. They now also bake at a kitchen inside Falls Church Presbyterian Church.

Of course, the women’s late-night meetings may have helped ease the stress of turning out hundreds of cookies a day, each of which is weighed individually to ensure consistency.

“You know we’d do our ‘market’ research, which involved meeting at one of our homes here in Falls Church and popping open a bottle of wine,” said Kuo.

Not too shabby, indeed.

Cookies & Corks is now sold at four in-store locations, including Red, White & Bleu in Falls Church, where the CookieZen and wine pairings began with some help from Co-founder James Roth. Cookies & Corks will host its official launch night at the F.C. wine and gourmet shop on Friday, Sept. 24 from 6 to 8 p.m.

For more on Cookies & Corks, visit cookiesandcorks.com.

 

Cookie Meets Wine: A Pairing Guide by Cookies & Corks

Cookie and Wine Pairing Advisor Amy Reiley of Cookies & Corks in Falls Church lets readers in as she explains the thought process behind the company’s niche.
In August 2004, Reiley became the second American to earn the Master of Gastronomy title from France’s Le Cordon Bleu.

Espresso Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie Meets Pinot Noir

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(Photo: Vicki Coe, News-Press)

“We often hear that red wine and chocolate are a great pairing, but I find the tannins in the cocoa tend to make the tannins in the wine more harsh,” says Reiley.
“This wine tends to be lighter in tannins than most reds, which helps the cookie harmonize the wine. But the bitter espresso note also shows off the Pinot Noir’s earthy elements and that bite of sweet peanut butter adds richness.”

Apricot Sage Cookie Meets Gewurztraminer

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(Photo: Vicki Coe, News-Press)

“This wine’s up-front fruity notes make a great counterpart to the cookie’s savory, herbal element. And the spicy flavors on the wine’s finish give complexity to the cookie’s sweet apricot flavor,” says Reiley.

Iced Lemon Cookie Meets Champagne

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(Photo: Vicki Coe, News-Press)

“With a totally dry sparkling wine, both the cookie and wine bring a fresh and acidic flavor to the experience with a demi-sec. It’s the cookie that stands alone as the tart and refreshing note, playing against the wine’s subtle sweetness,” says Reiley.
“It’s a delicious and unusual experience, and a really fun way to experience food and wine pairing.”