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Cookies might be too good to be true


Without a doubt, the chocolate chip cookies at the Red Velvet Cafe are top notch.

But they are probably not 27 calories each as owner Chef Aneesha Tolani has long claimed and advertised in promoting her vegan and vegetarian restaurant.

Those of you who have bought a packet of six cookies on your way out are deluding yourself if you gobble all six and tell yourself you only ate 162 calories.

More like 942 calories total or 157 calories each, according to an analysis by a company in California that does this kind of thing.

I know low-cal cookies and Tolani, and these are no low-cal cookies. Put one on a napkin and watch the oil ooze out.

Las Vegan Todd Wilbur, food hacker, author of 10 recipe books and host of television’s “Top Secret Recipes,” sent three cookies to Pacific Coast Analytical Services. Each cookie averaged out to about 157 calories.

That’s six times more than Tolani advertises.

Wilbur said he became interested in the cookies because friends were telling him and his wife they were so amazing and they were eating them all the time ... and gaining weight. One woman was eating these cookies while training for a triathlon — and said she gained 14 pounds.

“I decided to have them analyzed,” Wilbur said. “I just did it out of curiosity.”

The man knows a thing or two about cookies. His first secret cookie recipe hacking job was to clone Mrs. Fields famous chocolate chip cookies. One of those babies is 210 calories but is larger than the Red Velvet jobs.

Wilbur’s wife, Pamela Ellis, called Tolani and told her of the analysis. Ellis said Tolani “got very defensive. I said her numbers were wrong. She said: ‘I’ll have it analyzed again,’ and hung up on me.”

Tolani doesn’t remember the exchange and to be fair, it was a year ago in March 2012 before I became involved in the Affair d’Cookie.

When I first called Tolani on May 15 about the cookie calorie count, Tolani said she was having them analyzed again because she was thinking of expanding into California.

Thinking the analysis was just on the verge of arriving, since the analysis Wilbur provided me took just over two weeks, I said I’d wait.

So I waited and called again June 6 and was told she had been receiving analysis on other foods. But unfortunately, the chocolate chip cookie results hadn’t returned.

More waiting.

Finally, last week, some six weeks after my first call, I called and said I wasn’t waiting any longer.

Tolani told me the cookies were about 5 to 7 calories more than she had been claiming. But she didn’t have any documentation to support her claim. “Sorry we will not have any documentation until the process is complete,” she emailed.

Tolani ignored my request to see the original analysis claiming 27 calories.

If the 27 calorie count was accurate, wouldn’t you have that on hand in case someone questioned it?

Even 32 or 34 calories doesn’t touch the 157 calories the independent analysis provided.

The employees at two of her bakeries told me the chocolate chip cookies were 27 calories, and that’s what the Red Velvet Cafe web site said. There are three locations, one at the Fashion Show Mall, another at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and the original one at 7875 W. Sahara Ave., which opened in 2008. All are owned by Tolani and her husband, Sunil Tolani.

Tolani was touting these babies as healthy because they are vegan and said all her desserts are made without eggs, dairy or nuts.

I was told at the original bakery that every dessert in the case was under 200 calories, including their most famous dessert, their Red Velvet cake, the size of a large cupcake.

Tolani told the Desert Companion she co-founded the restaurant “as a venue that assists kids suffering from allergies and parents who don’t have options when they think of dining out.”

OK, she’s doing it for “the children”

Hopefully not the diabetic children. Or obese children who thought they’d found a low-cal cookie that didn’t taste low-cal.

People with health problems, or even those without, should not be misled into thinking they can eat these cookies and not worry about ill effects.

Those trying to control their weight and bought these cookies should feel exploited. Those who don’t count calories should just enjoy.

Note: I never said they weren’t excellent cookies. But on principle, I won’t be buying them.

I know when I’ve been played.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at 702-383-0275.