i love ATK taste tests! i always use Madagascar vanilla or mexican vanilla but i guess it would depend on the application. i wouldnt use imitation in like a creme brulee, pudding, pastry cream or buttercream but i guess if you are baking it out, cookies and cakes are fine. we should do our own taste test! :D
I like the taste (and look) of using vanilla beans.. but because it's expensive, I'll often use pure vanilla extract.
I love ATK! I totally subscribe to Cook's Illustrated. I am obsessed with a local vanilla made in Utah from Blue Cattle Truck. (It's actually the kind Sweet Revenge swears by.) I just like the idea of real vanilla. But I grew up with imitation in my mom's chocolate chip cookies. I made my own this year...going to bust it out on Thanksgiving (or sooner!)PS I'm back to cupcake blogging!
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