If you can imagine a Manhattan version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, squeezed into a 600-odd square foot hall, you'll have an idea of what the Oreo Snack Hack was like.
Earlier this week, Ad Age attended this event conceived by agency 360i and PR firm Weber Shandwick for the Mondelez cookie brand. It played out along the lines of tech hackathons to celebrate the versatility of the iconic sandwich cookie. This time the hackers were celebrated chefs Roy Choi, of the famed Kogi Taco Trucks, Michael Voltaggio of Los Angeles-based Ink, and Nguyen Tran of L.A.'s Starry Kitchen.
The event was a lead-up to a series of films and a social campaign Mondelez launched this week cand viewable on YouTube and Oreo's Tumblr.
It took place on the seventh-floor of a nondescript building in the Flatiron neighborhood of New York City, and the venue resembled a new-age tech office, with ping pong tables and walls covered in Oreo-themed graffiti. In fact, Mr. Tran and Adam Kerj, the chief creative officer of 360i, were engaged in an intense table-tennis match.
I was greeted with a choice of two drinks -- both Oreo cocktails -- and an Oreo popcorn packet.
The place smelled of cookie dough and butter.
And of course, I could generously help myself to as many cookies as I pleased.
The first hack was by Mr. Voltaggio. Not only was he the winner of the sixth season of Top Chef, his restaurant was named the best new restaurant in America by GQ. Mr. Voltaggio took the Oreo and transformed it into an unusual dessert appetizer -- Oreo tortilla chips. He made Oreo batter by blending the cookies with milk and water, which he then spread out thin and baked into the chips. For an accompaniment, he prepared a fruit version of salsa, with diced strawberries and a hint of fresh lemon.
Mr. Voltaggio also prepared an Oreo-style shandy, a low-alcohol cocktail traditionally made with beer and lemonade, or some other fruity mix-in. He added an Oreo twist by creating a rich syrup of golden Oreos, sugar, water and lemon. He then added cold beer to the hot syrup. While the syrup tempered the bitterness of the beer, the fizz made the crowd smile. The lemon also added freshness, making for what would be a perfect summer cocktail. When I had read the description of the dish on paper, I couldn't imagine what it would taste like, but ultimately it was an intriguing mix of citrus and beer, with a lingering cookie aftertaste.
Then it was Mr. Choi's turn. He is largely credited as having launched the food truck craze that still continues to sweep the country. He crushed Oreos into little crumbles, mixed with parsley and flour, in a plastic bag. He used the mixture to coat chicken pieces, fried into what looked like the ultimate hipster version of chicken tenders. As a vegetarian, I abstained from tasting the dish, but I wouldn't be surprised if people start expecting bars to serve Oreo-crusted chicken tenders during happy hours.
Last to hack was Mr. Tran. He dove into an insane exercise of dissolving Oreos in diet cherry sodas (why diet, I don't know), then throwing in peanuts and pound cake. "Being impulsive is my thing," he said as he mixed five Oreos in the soda with an evil grin on his face. He even invited onlookers to partake in creating our own mashes. The pre-made samples Mr. Tran had on hand tasted a lot like pudding. The versions we created on the fly, however, turned out quite differently and could be likened to a chunky, clumsy Nutella.
Overall, the snack hack was quite an epicurean delight -- and I suspect would be so even for those who don't give food much thought. Endearing to me was how much fun the chefs made it seem. Mr. Voltaggio mentioned in passing that he spent hours thinking about the shandy, whereas Mr. Tran gave his bread pudding the cute, and appropriate, name of "the impulse hack."
Needless to say, I am going to have trouble going back to eating plain old Oreos again.