What: Victory Love + Cookies
Where: 3200 Irving Street
Pros: An array of creative cookies, served up with a smile and a story. If you think of cookies as pedestrian, VL+C will change your mind. Sophisticated flavor profiles and extra attention to texture make these cookies stand out from the crowd. Flavors like the diablo (bittersweet chocolate, cayenne, black pepper, and cinnamon) and strawberry margarita (strawberries, lime zest, tequila, and triple sec) share space with chocolate chip walnut and chewy ginger.
Cons: Cookies may seem a little on the pricey side, but take into account that VL+C uses much higher quality ingredients than most.
Walking in to Victory Love + Cookies off of 32nd Avenue, I wasn’t quite sure I had even found the right place—I saw rows and rows of loaves of bread, and signs for the Denver Bread Company. Turns out, this small space is home to both the Denver Bread Company as well as Victory Love + Cookies. The businesses are separate, though very connected. Kristy Greenwood, the owner of VL+C, is married to Greg Bortz, owner of the Denver Bread Company. They share the bakery and counter space here, providing a full range of offerings, both sweet at savory, in one convenient spot.
When I stopped by a few weeks back on a Friday, the first thing I noticed were the bottles of booze set up next to plates of cookies. “I thought some cookie and booze pairings would be a fun way to celebrate Friday,” Greenwood said, as she poured me a glass of rosé. And that’s really what Victory Love + Cookies is all about: celebration, sharing, and enjoyment. Greenwood’s positive spirit is infectious, whether you’re spend a few moments chatting with her or simply tasting the love baked into each and every cookie.
VL+C gets its name from Greenwood’s inspiration to open the business: her victory over cancer. She had worked with her husband baking award-winning bread for years before her diagnosis, but, as she says, “cookies had always been my thing.” When the community threw her a fundraiser for her treatment, she baked hundreds of cookies, and the accolades came rolling in. After a few years off and a full recovery, she was ready to branch off from the bread business and go all in for cookies.
As it turned out, she didn’t have to look too far for a place to open up shop. The bakery, which has been home to The Denver Bread Company for twenty years, is the ideal shared-space for the two businesses, as the bread gets baked early in the morning and the cookies later in the afternoon. “It’s the perfect partnership of time and space,” Greenwood said. “Plus, this is really the only way I’d get to see my husband!”
VL+C is now celebrating its sixth year in business, and it’s easy to see why. Not only does everyone love cookies, but for many people they also provide an automatic connection with nostalgic memories. The ones Greenwood bakes at VL+C, however, tend to shake things up and get people talking. Between the high quality ingredients and unique flavor combinations, VL+C is definitely elevating the cookie. At the same time, Greenwood’s business remains firmly rooted in the belief that “cookies are like edible hugs,” meaning that she strives to inspire connection community, and sharing with each bite.
Greenwood bakes cookies to please every palate—from kids to connoisseurs. She obsesses over her recipes, making sure that every one fits her criteria of a great cookie. “Ten minutes after I eat it, I have to still be thinking about that cookie, wanting more of it,” Greenwood says. She is constantly working on new flavors to enter the rotating cast of cookies populating her menu. Seasonality is key, as are unconventional combinations. Take, for instance, her newest “grown up” chocolate chip cookie, a.k.a. Papa G’s: whiskey-soaked dried cherries, toasted hazelnuts, milk chocolate chips, maple syrup, and a little buckwheat flour make for a perfect fall cookie. It’s doubtful that you’ve ever had a chocolate chip cookie like this before, or that you could find one quite like it anywhere else.
One of my favorites that we sampled was Greenwood’s lavender blueberry shortbread. This cookie recently got the nod from 5280 Magazine for best cookie in Denver, and it’s easy to see why. The texture is spot on, with slightly crisp edges and tender insides, and the flavor is delicate, well rounded, and downright pretty. While Greenwood always has shortbread on the menu, the flavors change quite often, ranging from salty maple pecan to thyme lemon black pepper.
We tasted all of the cookies with wines the great folks at Mondo Vino (located just up 32nd Avenue) had paired with Greenwood’s cookies. Never thought of pairing cookies with booze? I hadn’t either, but I have to say, Greenwood’s elegant cookies made for perfect pairing companions. I would highly recommend the Chateau Marqui Rosé with the blueberry lavender shortbread. The wine showcased all of the floral notes of the lavender and cut the richness of the shortbread.
Next we tried the classy rosemary fig cornmeal cookie. Greenwood uses organic cornmeal to give the cookie a seriously satisfying crunch. This cookie toed the line between sweet and savory, and would be the perfect component on a cheese plate.
Probably my favorite cookie of the day, however, was the butterscotch cashew. It really managed to hit all the notes you look for in a classic cookie: salty, sweet, crisp and chewy. The pairing for this luscious cookie was one of Fluid Dynamic’s specialty barrel-aged spirits, The St. Nick, a blend of Brandy and Cranberry Liqueur. The combination was reticent of Holiday cheer, and one I would highly recommend.
If you’re lucky enough, you may stop by the shop when Greenwood has baked some of her signature booty bars. They’re not around all the time due to the high amount of labor that go into them, but when they are, they disappear quick. This multi-layered concoction starts with shortbread, which is then slathered in dulce de leche, topped with layers of Rice Krispies, Nutella and flourless chocolate brownie. Eaten cold, it’s an experience you won’t soon forget—it was even featured on The Food Network’s Unique Sweets.
Greenwood has won many awards and accolades for her cookies, not the least of which include the seal of approval from Julia Child. The culinary legend herself stopped by the Denver Bread Company shop years ago. Greenwood recalls serving her a glass of rosé and some berry and rose petal shortbread, and how much Child enjoyed the experience.
It doesn’t get much better than that. Greenwood imbues her business with true passion and joy, day in and day out. “I love what I do,” she says. “Children get to come in here and find out what real cookies should taste like.” Check out Victory Love + Cookies’ website for a list of the day’s selections, and be sure to spread the love.
All photography by Glenn Ross.