THE SPOT: Marnee Robinson believes in the power of quality baking. Her cookie creations -- with names like Shangri-La and Xanadu -- are meant to transport you. Her shop in mid-coast Maine, Marnee's Cookie Bistro (23 Elm St., 207-371-8017, marnees.com) sure smells like heaven: The cookies are baked fresh daily. Lucky for us, Robinson sends them around the world.
THE SPECS: The Marnee's Nirvana ($1.60) is your classic thin chocolate chip, with a twist: a sprinkling of oats and toffee chips. Brown sugar, butter and honey bring it together, but it's Robinson's touch that makes the cookies special. Friends with the recipe swear they can't get the same results.
DES MOINES, IOWA
THE SPOT: The owners of Baby Boomers Café (303 E. 5th St., 515-244-9107, babyboomersdiner.com) didn't know what was in store for them in the summer of 2007, when Barack Obama set up camp next door to prepare for the Iowa caucuses. His campaign team and his daughters became regulars, and the cookies are now shipped all over the country.
THE SPECS: Sasha and Malia know good cookies when they taste them: The Baby Boomer chocolate chunk ($1), now known as "The Obama Cookie," is a classic thick and moist dunker, but we may never know what makes it so magical. As with many treasured recipes, a secret ingredient is closely guarded.
* Prices and other details were accurate when we published this article in February 2010.
THE SPOT: Torri Crowell, who spent years in the restaurant biz before opening Volle Nolle (351 Hanover St., 617-523-0003), is modest, insisting, "I'm no pastry chef." Fans might disagree, but it's true that Crowell's baking was a side note when the 16-seat sandwich shop opened four years ago. She simply thought people might want something sweet after lunch, the only meal served.
THE SPECS: The cookies ($1.25) are on the dark side, due to the fact that Crowell shaves a block of chocolate into large chunks and tiny specks that melt into the dough. A generous butter content and high baking temperature send them spreading, but it's the saltiness that makes these guys so addictive.
THE SPOT: Who knew the stick-thin Hollywood set even ate cookies? Apparently they do, at DeLuscious Cookies + Milk (829 North Highland Ave., 323-460-2370, delusciouscookies.com). Renée Zellweger and Reese Witherspoon have proclaimed their love in print. We’re also into the classics—peanut butter, oatmeal raisin—and the seasonally driven kind: Right now there’s a fresh lemon shortbread.
THE SPECS: The large, deliciously chewy chocolate chip cookie ($3.25) is pumped full of three kinds of chocolate (including one imported from Belgium) and is a star in its own right. It made a cameo in Entourage, when the character Drama held it up to bribe a security guard.