One day, my officemate Arts Editor Aly Comingore received what we in the biz like to call a bribe. Some musician angling for a little ink had dropped off a CD and, with it, a bag of Mandana’s cookies. I’d never seen them before and was curious — and, you know, a tad miffed that the cookies went to her and not me. But whatever. Aly shares.
Two days later, in Isabella Gourmet Foods, I saw them again. “You have those cookies!” I said. “What’s the story with them?”
“Ohmygo,” said Isabella owner Amy Chalker. “It’s like a speakeasy! People are constantly coming in and asking if I have them. I’ve never seen marketing like it.”
Why such a buzz over cookies? Well, owner/baker-in-chief Mandana Mirabrishami’s background might offer a hint: The woman is a professional belly dance and yoga instructor, not to mention a nutritionist (and painter, and pianist), and was raised to follow in her father’s (and brothers’) footsteps and become a dentist. In other words, her job is to counsel people on healthy eating, she respects teeth, and bares her belly on a regular basis. You can trust her.
But with all that other stuff going on, why bake? “I’m Persian,” she told me one steamy afternoon at the French Press. “It’s in my culture to feed people, take care of them.”
To that end, the cookies are crammed with yummy, nutritious stuff, like nuts, fruit, even goat cheese. She covers the basics, but many flavors are unusual: standouts include pistachio, cherry, and chocolate; hazelnut, cranberry, and chocolate; and goat cheese walnut (with blueberries on top and chocolate chips inside). She only uses premium flour, and the butter, sugar, oats, and eggs are organic. And, with all those nuts, they pack a nice protein punch, too. (“My dad used to always keep nuts in his pockets,” she said. “So when we were out and we’d start whining about being hungry, he’d give us some so we’d be quiet.”)
And it must be said: The cookies are also gigantic. This, too, Mirabrishami said, she owes to her background. “The culinary tradition of Persia is that food should always be abundant,” she said. “Catering for double the amount of people eating is perfectly normal.”
Which is to say, half a cookie is perfectly sufficient for a post-meal treat. But then again, given that they’re so healthy, I see nothing wrong with making a meal out of one.
Neither does Mirabrishami. “People tell me they eat them for breakfast.”
If it’s good enough for the nutritionist, surely it’s good enough for me.
Mandana’s cookies are carried at Isabella Gourmet Foods (5 E. Figueroa St.), and can be ordered directly. Email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (650) 995-6688.