When Pichet Ong opened his bakery Batch last month, foie gras–flavored dog biscuits were displayed front and center alongside the spiced coconut brownies and Vietnamese coffee cake. Foie gras canine confections have long been available at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, of course, but Ong isn’t worried. “My customers told me ours are better,” he said, a boast that raises two questions: How would they know? And isn’t it time for a boutique-dog-biscuit taste test? We threw in Birdbath’s vegetarian peanut-butter-oat dog treats, and a mass-produced ringer, then convened a panel of pooches—and one human, who found them all “really good.” With all four biscuits lined up in a row, we unleashed the pups, one at a time, and monitored the feeding frenzy.
Breed: French bulldog.
Favorite foods: Natural Balance Potato & Duck Formula with kibble, peanut-butter treats.
Hobbies: Fetching tennis balls, meeting people, cruising McGolrick Park.
According to his owner, Gordy has a promiscuous palate and a weakness for peanut-butter treats, so it looked like the Birdbath biscuit was a shoo-in. But the little guy surprised us by coolly sniffing at it for a few seconds and then shuffling over to the Milk-Bone Bakery Bite. He made quick work of it, licking his chops and, with a spirited woof, giving his compliments to the chef. When Gordy declined to eat anything else, we redid the test from scratch, breaking up the biscuits into smaller, Gordy-size bites. But the results were nearly the same: He nibbled the Batch biscuit, but his heart wasn’t in it, and he then quickly moved on to a second helping of his beloved Milk-Bone. That seemed to spark his appetite, and Gordy polished off the Birdbath biscuit. Still unenthused by what Batch had to offer, he doubled back to the Milk-Bone zone to see if he had neglected any crumbs. Back to Batch. Not interested. On to Bouchon. No, thank you. Was Gordy anti–foie gras?
Breed: Saint Bernard.
Habitat: East Village, West Hampton.
Favorite foods: Nutro brand Chicken & Rice Formula, freeze-dried lamb lungs, butter on the sly.
Favorite restaurants: Da Silvano, Peter Luger.
Hobbies: Eating, lounging, and reclining.
When the dinner gong rang, gentle giant Bear attacked the Birdbath peanut-butter treat with a Cujo-like determination. Next, he sniffed at the Bouchon Bakery biscuit in the manner of a veteran food critic who has been served a bad oyster and quickly turned his attention to the Milk-Bone Bakery Bite, which he ate with considerable zeal. Back to the Bouchon Bakery biscuit: Still no go. Over to the Batch biscuit: Gulp! One final inspection of the Bouchon biscuit. Sniff, sniff, sniff, and it was gone in two bites, although it must be noted he did not lick his plate.
Breed: Boston terrier.
Favorite foods: Chicken and brown rice with peas and carrots, Liv-a-Snaps.
Hobbies: Eating, playing fetch.
Right away it became clear that in Chopper, we had another Milk-Bone-Bakery-Bite fanatic. She immediately took the Cheetos-colored snack and ran away with it. Apparently Chopper likes to eat in privacy, away from the glare of the camera lights and without people gawking at her. Having finished the Milk-Bone, she headed back to the buffet for dessert. She ate a small piece of the Bouchon biscuit (as we did for Gordy, we had broken up the biscuits into small pieces) and again ran away. She returned to sniff at the Birdbath cookie. She ate another bite or two of the Bouchon biscuit and seemed to gain an appreciation for what had by now become a lonely and neglected doggie treat. A cursory glance at Batch, a tentative sniff at Birdbath, and Chopper decided to call it a day. The remains: zero Milk-Bone, a few crumbs of a Bouchon Bakery biscuit, 3/4 of a Batch biscuit, and 7/8 of the Birdbath cookie.