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These cookies are really taking off

Wed., May 2, 2007

About a month ago, thousands of cream-cheese sugar cookies began flying from the ovens of Just American Desserts in Spokane Valley.

The cookies are airplane-shaped. And they’re being served to passengers about to board ExpressJet Airlines’ inaugural flights from 17 U.S. cities, with seven more locations to be added soon.

“It’s been amazing. We’ve gotten so many positive comments about the cookies. All the customers have really enjoyed them,” said ExpressJet spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas from the airline’s Houston headquarters.

“It’s also helped us make friends at the airports,” Nicholas added. “A lot of TSA workers and people from other airlines have come (to our gates), sampled the cookies and like them as well.”

So far, the treats have tickled taste buds in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, Sacramento, Fresno, Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Colorado Springs and Jacksonville, Fla., among others.

Soon they’ll be served in Monterey, San Diego, Albuquerque, Tucson and Boise.The “made-in-Spokane” goodies debuted at Spokane International Airport on April 2 for the launch of ExpressJet’s service here. ExpressJet execs were so impressed with the cookies’ flavor and appearance they called Eva Roberts, the bakery’s co-owner, to see if she could turn out enough cookies to feed passengers in the many spots being added to ExpressJet’s flight schedule.

Just American Desserts’ job for ExpressJet is expected to draw to a close once all the commuter airline’s service cities have joined the schedule.

Baked from scratch and made with real butter, the cookies are dressed in ExpressJet’s red and white corporate colors. Each one is hand frosted in glossy white chocolate with the words piped onto them.

Roberts is known around the region for wedding cakes, fancy desserts and hand-dipped truffles.

But she said she’s “busting with pride” to think her cookies have been enjoyed all over the nation.

“It’s really fun for me knowing that someone is sitting on a tarmac in (a distant city) having a Just American Desserts cookie,” said Roberts. “I have this weird passion to please people with food. I understand there was another bakery in Los Angeles that had done some (cookies) for them, but ours won out,” Roberts said.

The cookies’ cuteness factor is stratospheric, said airport officials.

But what cookie monsters can’t see is the back-breaking steps it takes to create the delicacies.

“They see all the pretty food — but it’s not glamorous on the back end. It’s hard work,” said Roberts, a self-taught baker with 21 years in the business.

She’s had to bring in two part-time assistants to keep the cookies coming. Bagging and packaging them for overnight delivery flights are among the trickiest tasks.

One morning recently, 19-year veteran employee Rachel Lassiterhunkered over a fresh-baked tray of ExpressJet cookies, demonstrating the frosting techniques she’s found to be quickest and most legible.

“A lot of work and a lot of love” goes into every batch, said Lassiter.

About 3,000 edible airplanes have been created in Spokane so far. Roberts said the work has added about 5 percent to her company’s bottom line.

“It’s not the volume. It’s the concept” of knowing her delicacies are being enjoyed in places she’d always dreamed of serving, she said.

“Who knows, maybe it’ll lead to the Food Network,” Roberts said with a laugh.


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