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MOUTHING OFF

Going to the dogs: Four out of five mutts surveyed in my neighborhood agree--the biscuits from Cosmo's Dog Biscuit Bakery, at 1224 East Sixth Avenue, are better than your average puppy chow. The slightly insane-yet-ingenious business (named after a cat, by the way) is the brainchild of Laurin Wiltgen, who now may spend every morning of the rest of her life baking all-natural, preservative-free treats (made from such tasty ingredients as tuna, garlic, cheddar and bacon) for canines. Wiltgen opened Cosmo's two weeks ago to a huge crowd studded with media types who know a story when it bites them (including Channel 4's Tom Martino, who on air actually scared a dog into not wanting a biscuit), as well as satisfied customers seen walking out on all fours licking their chops.

Since dog food is slightly out of my realm--although I tried one of the peanut-butter biscuits and have to admit it was better than some meals I've had as a restaurant reviewer--I relied on the opinions of a few neighborhood dogs, as well as that of my own neurotic German shepherd/chow mix, Flannery. Answering the call were Bear, an Australian sheepdog who has been the perpetrator in a number of crimes against children on bicycles; Kelly, a golden retriever so friendly she should be the role model for waitstaffs everywhere; Cody, an annoying sheltie who barks at me for three hours straight when I water the garden; and Rusty, the marvelous result of something like a Shar-Pei losing the battle with something like a bull mastiff.

The carefully controlled experiment consisted of my placing three biscuits--the first, Cosmo's peanut butter brindle biscuit; the second, Purina Brand Dog Biscuits (for adult dogs); and the third, Best Buy multi-flavored biscuits from Safeway--in a line while the dog was held (usually not happily). At the whistle, the dog was released. The only mutt who didn't cooperate was Cody, who was too stupid to realize that food was involved and wouldn't let us catch him. The other dogs invariably chose Cosmo's biscuit first, although we had to watch very closely because each tester hoovered up all three biscuits without taking a break. My dog distinguished herself by moving right on to the bag the biscuits had come in, which she ate--twist-tie and all. Kelly and Rusty were so happy that they both tried to engage us in a game of Why Don't You Let Me Eat Your Sweater, and later, Bear, riled up from all the commotion, ate a small child. For $8 to $10 a pound, he could have had some more of Cosmo's biscuits.

If I were handing out biscuit rewards to humans, a whole truckload would have to go to the staff at the Starbucks in Larimer Square. A few weeks ago in this column, I wrote about a surly employee who didn't believe me when I said the coffee was oddly watery; a week later, a co-worker told me she stopped by for a cup of joe and was treated like royalty. To check it out, I snuck back in and found that when the food critic gets tough, the staff at Starbucks gets going. They could not possibly have known who I was, and I have rarely seen such perfect service. The coffee had been freshly brewed, the cashier pointed out the amenities, everyone was cheerful even though the place was packed with grumpy Christmas shoppers, and when one employee saw that my companion was carrying a lot of packages, he offered to bring her espresso to the table. They got my business back.

 
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