Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boston, eh? Professional Forays #15 (J.P. Licks) and #16 (Christina's)

The weekend of April 8-10, I was lucky enough to cover the National Conference for Media Reform in Boston, MA (read my report-back for Ms. here), and took that opportunity to sample a couple of Boston's more reputable ice cream joints.  In case you had trouble interpreting that first sentence, let me spell it out for you: The weekend of April 8-10, I used the NCMR as an elaborate, foxy ruse to sample a couple of Boston's more reputable ice cream joints.

Boston's ice cream parlors are myriad and mythic: Gourmet magazine recorded eight noteworthy parlors, and it should be noted that one of my NYC favorites, Emack and Bolio's, got its start here too.  Bostonians' appetite for ice cream is also the stuff of legend; a food writer friend of mine, Indrani Sen, has attempted to explain why residents of this wretchedly cold New England city eat more ice cream per capita than anywhere else, and could only conclude that the city's high student population ensures a plentiful supply of young people looking for a cheap date locale.   NB: Ben and Jerry reached the same conclusion.

First stop was J.P. Licks, since it was around the corner from the Thai place where my best friend Katie and I had dinner.  Spring was still in previews, but despite the 40-degree-weather, students were lined up for their cones.  Many of them did in fact appear to be on dates, and I was briefly reminded how much of my college-era courtship revolved around ice cream.  None of that ended particularly well, but I refrained from telling the young lovers that.

J.P. Licks does a lot of community work, which is commendable, but the ice cream - I got Oreo cookie dough and mint oreo - was merely okay.  It was very creamy, but as I've whined before, creamy at the expense of flavorful.  I should probably give ice cream a handicap since it's clear I prefer gelato to old-fashioned ice cream, but I can't believe that it's impossible to make rich, creamy, American-style ice cream that's also flavorful.  I don't see why a high butterfat content should preclude a strong, clear flavor, unless that's chemically impossible (chemists, feel free to weigh in.)

Happy face!
The following night Katie and I walked over to Christina's, in Inman Square, where I also picked up a fabulous little vintage black dress.  Christina's is Katie's favorite, and had also been recommended to me by several trusted sources.  I sampled their famous Burnt Sugar, which was nice - like a sophisticated, not-as-sweet caramel flavor - and the carrot cake, which did nothing for me (I'd rather eat a real piece of carrot cake.)  Far more impressive was the magisterial malted vanilla, a very malty, very vanilla-y flavor that I could honestly eat until I turned comatose.  I also got Mexican chocolate, which could have been more chocolate-y, upon reflection (it was very Mexican, in the sense that the cinnamon was prominent), and coffee Oreo, an oft-overlooked combination if there ever was one.

Empty bowl --> sad face.
While the flavors - especially that malted vanilla - won me over, the texture left something to be desired.  It was slightly aerated, as though their freezing machine was faulty or they'd used some fillers or stabilizers that prevented it from being as dense and pure as one (me) would have wanted.  I don't know what's stopping them from going all-out on perfection.  It could be the jack of all trades, master of none phenomenon: does offering fifty flavors make it impossible to give each one the attention it deserves?
The overwhelming selection at Christina's.

J.P. Licks, 1312 Mass Ave, 617 - 492 - 1001, open Monday-Friday 6am - midnight, Saturday-Sunday 8am - midnight, for more locations, click here.

Christina's, 1255 Cambridge St, (617) 492-7021

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bye bye, Blue Marble, Hello Steve's

The Village Voice's Fork in the Road food blog (lots of fun, highly recommended) had a piece today on a soon-to-be-opened and highly-anticipated (in this camp) ice cream shop at the former site of what I thought was the none-too-spectacular Blue Marble ice cream shop.


Steve's is from Boston, but its new outpost will feature lots of Brooklyn-y products:
If ice cream can be said to have a terroir, the new Steve's is definitely that of Brooklyn. The company, which began developing and testing new flavors last year, is creating partnerships with a number of the borough's artisanal producers: to date, Salvatore Bklyn is supplying the ricotta in Steve's strawberry ricotta ice cream, Kombucha Brooklyn's eponymous brew is the base for a kombucha sorbet, and Plowshares coffee stars in a coffee-cinnamon ice cream. Taza, a chocolate company based in Somerville, MA, is also supplying chocolate for both flavors and toppings; its chocolate-covered cacao nibs appear in Steve's dairy-free mint-cacao chip.

I cannot wait for this wretched weather to disappear so I can throw on a sundress, flip flops and bike on over to Steve's.  You can get it by the pint but what fun is that?  Not fun.  Will definitely let you know what I find.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Breast milk ice cream + bioethics

When the breast milk ice cream story broke, at least half a dozen thoughtful friends sent me links about, urging me to blog it.  I would, I thought, eventually, but the more I considered it, the more I realized it was more than a gimmick.  To me, it raised a number of disturbing sociological questions -- questions about adventure eating/foodie elitism, what it means that only a woman can provide this ingredient, what it means that it's for sale, what it means for infants, and the choices mothers make.  I didn't want to blog about it merely to say "it exists."

Luckily, Sarah Hepola, a great editor at, assigned me what became this piece on "The Squirmy Ethics of Breast Milk Ice Cream."  In it, I discuss how a commercial market for human milk might impact women and what its relationship might be to other industries based on the commodification of intimate functions: surrogacy, sex work, the organ trade.  Hope you enjoy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Where does "brain freeze" come from? Or, why we get ice cream headaches.

A site called io9 explains that brain freeze is an evolutionary tactic.
Blood rushing through the extremities cools down, and when it comes back to the body, it cools the rest of the system. The body has negotiate a way to keep blood flowing to the fingers, toes, and nose, while protecting itself.
Ice cream headaches don't usually happen in cold weather, but they are bound up with the body's response to it. When people eat ice cream, it chills the area around the head, and the blood vessels constrict. This constriction is painful - it's the same thing that causes intense and debilitating migraines.
But fear not:
It doesn't do damage and lasts only a few minutes. Still, people don't like discomfort with their desserts, and they've found a few ways to avoid it. One is to, yes, eat more slowly.
I always know it's &%$#@!ing cold out when I laugh and get brain freeze from the cold touching my teeth.  It's about that temperature right now in New York.  And speaking of laughing, you know what is really not funny?  The whole Gaddafi family and how they are massacring their own citizens.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Warning: the Kellog's Ice Cream Sandwich Pop Tart is not an ice cream sandwich

Image from The Impulsive Buy

That takes some chutzpah, doesn't it?  Calling yourself a "rainbow cookie ice cream sandwich" and harkening back to Ye Olde "Ice Cream Shoppe" when in fact you are nothing but a hot, toasty Pop Tart?  At first I got terribly excited.  Finally! Someone has taken Pop Tarts and married them with ice cream.  This long-overdue marriage has been consummated. 

But before I could load to try and order them, I discovered the truth.  They are just an ice cream sandwich-flavored Pop Tart. What a letdown.  Also - what a dumb concept.  An ice cream sandwich is a form, or a method, of delivering ice cream.  It is not actually a flavor.   In fact, they come in many flavors, as the guys over at Melt Bakery could attest.  According to the review on The Impulsive Buy, they taste more like cake.  Sad.  An excerpt from the review:

Obviously Kellogg’s can’t put actual ice cream inside their Pop-Tarts, yet have set themselves the task of making the brand taste as much like ice cream as possible, so I was curious about how they’d accomplish this.  The answer, it turns out, is “just cram a whole mess of frosting up in there.”  It really tastes more like marshmallow or cake frosting than ice cream, which is not such a bad thing.  The rainbow sprinkles further put me in the mindset of cake, to the point where “Ye Olde Birth-day Cake” would probably be a more accurate brand name than “Ice Cream Shoppe.” 

"Obviously"?  Why is it so obvious that Kellogg's can't put actual ice cream inside their Pop Tarts?  Why don't they put some actual ice cream in their Pop Tarts and then sell them in the freezer aisle?  Kellogg's execs, if you're reading this, you can thank me later, with cases and cases of free Pop Tarts ice cream sandwiches.
Image from The Impulsive Buy

Friday, February 4, 2011

Tomorrow is International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day

I just found out about this holiday: International Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day.  I think the title explains a lot.  Please observe it - if you check the blog, you can find different places that are celebrating.  Here's a little about the history of the holiday, which began in 1997.  Molly Moon's, a homemade ice cream shop in Seattle, is offering fresh waffles or hot oatmeal with scoops of ice cream.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Lick Me Everywhere Stimulus Plan

Last night's SOTU was not only kind of a snooze, it also missed the mark.  America doesn't need another Sputnik moment.  It needs more ice cream shops - ice cream shops that sell delicious flavors like Gingerbread Crumble, Burnt Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Oats and Walnut.  Ice cream shops that buy from local farmers, that employ local people, and that use American-made equipment.  That is how we will win the future!

That's the message I took from Kendra Baker and Zach Davis, the founders of the Penny Ice Creamery in Santa Cruz, who sat with Michelle Obama at the SOTU address last night.  Here's their sweet little video, in which they thanked the politicians who made their $250,000 loan possible by voting for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

So I say, more artisanal ice cream shops, less defense spending.  I wonder if I could get elected on this platform.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Chef: Just Desserts finalist joins LA Creamery

She looks nice.  Photo courtesy of LA Eater.

LA Eater reports that chef Danielle Keene is joining the artisan ice cream shop LA Creamery as Corporate Pastry Chef.  Here are some of the new flavors allegedly in the works:

Hot Chocolate flavored with chili powder, cinnamon, vanilla bean and cocoa nibs; Milk Chocolate Chai flavored with black tea and seven spices; Sassafras flavored with sassafras bark; Honeycomb ice cream layered with handmade honeycomb seafoam candy; Roasted Banana made with fresh bananas roasted with brown sugar and butter until caramelized, then blended in a lightly flavored rum base; and a non dairy Chocolate Sorbet made with bittersweet chocolate, sugar and water.

None of those strike me as too original but the Milk Chocolate Chai could be interesting.  Speaking of which, here's a link to my world-famous chai recipe and an accompanying article on Poetry of Food.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cold Stone Creamery = Fancy Ice Cream?

I'm not sure what his go-to ice cream is, but Dow Jones newswriter Al Lewis sure threw me a curveball when it turned out the "fancy" ice cream he describes in a recent article was actually Cold Stone Creamery.  By "fancy," does he mean "expensive"?  Or "overpriced"?  Or maybe "gross"?  According to Lewis' article, Cold Stone's sales grew over 20% from 2005 to 2007, but then plunged over 11% in 2008.  The president of Cold Stone, Dan Beem, onto a bus, and hit 16 cities in an effort to figure out how to keep the franchises profitable in a dismal economy.  A few of the solutions they've hit on:

"Next month, Cold Stone is rolling out warm treats to counter the cold weather: brownies, churros and funnel cakes. Come Spring, it will add yogurt to compete with the frozen-yogurt craze that Pinkberry has re-ignited."
The "Cheesecake Fantasy" Signature Creation from Cold Stone Creamery

It's not clear whether or not any of those execs tasted the ice cream.  If so, they might have figured out why sales are dropping.

Incidentally, Cold Stone, which bills itself as "the ultimate ice cream experience," was the subject of a recent nightmare had by a friend of mine.   After he awoke sweaty and trembling (ok, I made that part up), he wrote me to say: As in real life, it's a cavernous nightmare of overpriced ice cream -- people mashing ghastly things like cookie dough and tomatoes into boysenberry sherbert, that sort of thing. Dream-Me was so revolted by the whole spectacle that I just stole as much cookie dough as I could and then got kicked out of the shop.

I shared my own experience with Cold Stone, whose ice cream I found to be heavy, too sweet and pretty tasteless:

The last (and only) time I went to Coldstone Creamery was in 2003 when I was an intern at Vogue.  It had just opened, and CN had just moved to Times Square, and all the girls were talking about incessantly.  I suggested to the other interns that we go after work one day, a suggestion greeted with open horror because (I had forgotten) never would any of them have permitted something so caloric within two hundred feet of their starved, sad little bodies.  I convinced one reasonable colleague to accompany me, at least, and I ordered some abomination that, since you mentioned it, probably included cookie dough.  I did not steal it.  I do remember it being overpriced.

The worst part about this whole excursion was that, unlike your dream, it really happened.

Anyone out there have a Cold Stone experience, real or imagined, delicious or dreadful, to share?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pint-sized Haagen Dazs pints

The Daily News reports today that as commodities prices rise, food companies are shrinking package sizes.  Not like the smaller cap on Poland Spring bottles that saves plastic, but actually quantitatively less food. Small children in America already grow up with our confusing non-metric, or customary, measurement system, and now to confuse them further, a gallon is 59 ounces, according to Tropicana, and a pint is 14 ounces, if you trust Haagen Dazs.  I never trusted them much to begin with.
Monaster News, via the Daily News

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