Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Iran penetrates the Green Zone...with ice cream

Credit: Liz Sly, Washington Post
Liz Sly, formerly of the Chicago Tribune and now with the Washington Post, did a fun little story last week about IcePack, an Iranian ice cream chain making headway in Iraq - in the Green Zone, no less.  I'm not sure that a few ice cream stores, albeit ones from a chain that claims to "exalt the name of Iran and reinforce Iranian Identity", truly represent a big Iranian challenge to America.  Wasn't there some kerfuffle about a nuclear program?  Or something?

My other issue with this story is that I don't see a single description of the ice cream's taste or quality.  I don't even know whether this is soft-serve or scooped!  Nor can this information be garnered with certainty from Icepack's throwback website, where the four specialties on offer are named the "Multi Fruit", "Multi Mix", "Ice Pack" and "Special Ice Pack".  They are largely distinguishable in the photos by the fact that they come in different styles of paper cup.

Still, it's good to know Iraq is gaining enough relative security that people can go out and enjoy ice cream.  This is a recurrent trope in the works of a few other contemporary writers on Iraq, such as the feminist scholar Nadje Al-Ali and the blogger Salam Pax, who often mention Iraqis going out for evening ice creams as a sign of normalcy and peace.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Professional Foray #14: DC does gelato, and how: Dolcezza, Dupont Circle

DC does a few things right.  Museums.  Air quality.  Indian food, namely at Rasika, where I had quite possibly the best Indian meal I've ever had.  Chinese food, humor and politics are not its strengths.

Gelato, it turns out, is.  Dolcezza, of which there are three locations in the DC area, is some of the finest gelato I've tasted in America, on a par with Grom or Cones.  The location near Dupont is clean, mostly white, intimate and rustic, like the sophisticated little cafes that dot the historical town centers of the wealthy cities in northern Italy.  It's owned by an Argentine woman, Violetta Edelman, and her husband Rob Duncan, who source everything from local farmers.  You can read their Michael Pollan-esque odes to their farmer friends on their website.  Almost everyone gets described as "some of the nicest folks we know."

Irrespective of how kind the farmers are, and how much Violetta and Rob adore them, this is some spanking good gelato.  My friend Liz and I had the ginger cardamom pistachio, the pumpkin spice (with nutmet, allspice, clove, cinnamon and ginger), and the chocolate with ancho, chipotle and cinnamon.  The pistachio flavor was particularly unique, reminiscent of mann w' salwa, a cardamom-pistachio flavor I'd heretofore only eaten in the Middle East, where that combination is used often in nougat candies.  As in most cases, the addition of ginger made it even more delicious.  The pumpkin flavor features locally-grown Crookneck pumpkins, a sweet variety of squash they bake with spices before folding it into cream sourced from a Pennsylvania dairy.

I'm nearing my wit's end with the preciousness of local this and small farmer that (even though I prefer to shop, eat and generally live that way, I'm tired of talking and reading about it all the time), so I won't dwell further on how great all of these efforts are.  The important thing is taste, and this gelato tastes wonderful.  It's creamy and light on the tongue, goes down easy, and you don't need to drink a lot of water while you eat it, which is how you know if it's too rich or heavy.  I was able to go to dinner a half-hour later, and eat another giant Indian meal.  And if Dolcezza wasn't closed by the time we finished, I would have had another cone.  Dolcezza, 1705 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC, 202 299 9116, www.dolcezzagelato.com

Monday, November 22, 2010

Professional Foray #13: Sorry Grom (and sorry readers), I'm back - with a new NYC favorite, Maialino

Photo by Kelly O'Connor from Maialino's Facebook page
Readers, if there are still any of you left, I'm sorry.  I've neglected you (but not ice cream) for a long time.

However, someone has brought me back into the fold.  And her name is Jennifer Shelbo, pastry chef at Maialino.

Friends, this is the best gelato in New York.  Not only is the texture perfect - and I mean spot-on, no margin of error, to the .0001% perfect - her flavors are wildly good.  It's creamy, but light on the tongue and melts instantly in the mouth, bum-rushing the palate.  After a very, very good meal (and a wonderful evening at the theater - run, don't walk to catch Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones in "Driving Miss Daisy") I had the bruschetta di canella (Italian for "cinnamon toast"), chocolate, and almond straciatella.  The cinnamon is a pale, delicately flavored cinnamon gelato with crunchy bits of cinnamon-y cracker-y stuff on top, like the topping on a great muffin, sprinkled on the gelato.  The almond was amaretto flavored, with wisps of great dark chocolate woven through.  The chocolate was complex and richly flavored without being heavy, dense or overwhelming.  Because of its effortless texture, it went down easy.

Contrast this with, for example, the chocolate at Grom, previously my contender for best New York gelato.  I don't know if I should admit this but the last time I had a taster of the dark chocolate, I puckered my mouth and said "I'm just not strong enough for that."  See, I don't want to move into a mindset where the gelato and I become adversaries.  No, I'd rather the gelato to be my intimate confidante.  And at Maialino, I think I've found my new best friend.

Monday, September 27, 2010

More medicated ice cream...this time with weed


You know what I always say - "Ice cream.  Good for what ails you."  Are you getting older?  Try anti-aging ice cream.  Recovering from chemotherapy?  Ice cream.  Perhaps you're afflicted with the ailment of not being stoned?  Let's review the options...there's...oh hey! Look at that! Ice cream.  Creme de Canna, which also makes a small selection of cookies in flavors like chewy molasses and chocolate chip, has a line of gourmet ice creams in Bananas Foster, TripLe Fudge Brownie and Straw Mari Cheesecake.  Each pint is $15 and "contains 2-4 doses."

Healthzone.ca reported:
"It's made with organic local strawberries and a Grand Marnier reduction,” says Jonathan Kolodinski, owner of the licensed dispensary.

Um, and drugs, buddy!

The article also notes that the ice cream is "available only to card-carrying medical-marijuana users."  Uh-huh.  They're not passing the spoon.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ice cream treats cancer! Maybe!

I just came across this old article from a March issue of The Scientist.  The writer Katherine Bagley describes an effort by scientists to isolate milk proteins that can help patients recovering from chemotherapy and insert them directly into...strawberry ice cream.  Yes.

She writes:

"One protein in particular, lactoferrin, has been shown to inhibit tumor growth, promote intestinal cell growth, and regulate immune response in the intestine (Biochem Cell Biol, 89:95–102, 2002). The scientists reasoned it could therefore help patients receiving chemotherapy, which can damage normal cells that multiply quickly, such as infection-fighting white blood cells, known as neutrophils, and intestinal cells."

One of the doctors involved explains why ice cream was the most suitable delivery mechanism for lactoferrin:

"Palmano considered incorporating the bioactives into a liquid drink or yogurt, but in the end, ice cream won out. “Creating a frozen product meant we didn’t have to worry about the bioactives’ shelf life,” she says. “Plus, people going through chemotherapy typically lose their appetite. Why not give them a treat like ice cream?""


While it's not yet on the market, it is being tested by patients who are "required" to eat ice cream every day:

"The scientists worked with New Zealand’s top ice cream manufacturers to create six tons of strawberry-flavored ReCharge. They then made a placebo ice cream with the same taste, color, and calorie count. ReCharge started its Phase II clinical trial in October 2009, in which 200 prechemotherapy cancer patients will be required to eat 100 grams of either ReCharge or the placebo ice cream each day.
“It has been a wonderful ride creating this product,” says Geursen. “We don’t know if ReCharge will work—it is always a challenge going from mice to humans—but we are keeping our fingers crossed.”"

I just raised the question in a previous post about anti-aging ice cream, why not deliver vitamins via ice cream?  This is an entirely feasible and worthy undertaking.   Maybe I should petition Solgar and Grom to do a collaboration. 


Read more: Sweet relief - The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/2010/3/1/24/1/#ixzz10RtLlYQn


Brainfreeze does not cause long-term brain damage

Getty Images
Did you really think it did?  I've never heard that before.  Luckily a writer at Popular Science has cleared all of this up for us with this helpful post, in which he first describes the two theories of how and why one gets brainfreeze (or an "ice-cream headache"):

"First, let’s get one thing straight. “This condition is referred to as an ‘ice-cream headache,’ ” says Stacey Gray, a sinus surgeon at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. “It’s a very technical term.” Although there’s no published paper saying as much, a milkshake slurped too quickly probably does not actually lower brain temperature. Besides, Gray says, the temporary pain can’t do any harm because it has nothing to do with the brain.

There are two schools of thought on what causes the ice-cream headache. The drink may chill the air in your sinuses and cause the blood vessels in the nasal cavity near your forehead to constrict, creating pain similar to a migraine. Or perhaps it touches off a branch of the trigeminal nerve in your mouth, triggering a pain response in the nerve that’s responsible for facial sensation."

Later he quotes a doctor explaining why lowering brain temperature temporarily is not a big deal:

"“Even if the patient wasn’t anesthetized, at that temperature they would be in a noninteractive state, unable to sense stimuli or produce a response,” Tamargo says. “But once you warm the brain up, it picks right up from where it left off. It’s not harmful at all.” So whether your brain is frozen or not, if you can handle a little pain, slurp away."

Have you ever heard of this before?  Long-term brain damage?  Seriously?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To anyone who thought Unilever was not intent on world domination: anti-aging ice cream

Unilever, the biggest ice cream manufacturer in the world (so I guess it doesn't need to intend to dominate the world; it already does), makes Ben and Jerry's, Magnum, Cornetto, and is sold in more than 40 countries.  As if this wasn't world-dominate-y enough already, they're also planning to research anti-aging ice cream.  It will apparently contain anti-oxidants.  Ampere Life Sciences, based in San Jose, California, will carry out the research over a period of five years, Fox reports.

I don't know how a few anti-oxidants are going to mitigate the effects of all the sugar and fat that make your skin age and give you heart disease, but it seems they know the answers.  Speaking of which, why haven't they fortified ice cream with vitamins yet?  Why do cereals come fortified, but not ice cream?  Why shouldn't I have ice cream with vitamins for breakfast?  I demand answers.

Professional Foray #12, Cones gelato, Bleecker St, NY

Happy news, dear readers!  I'm moving into the Bermuda Triangle of gelato - the rocky zone bordered by Bleecker Street, Carmine Street and 7th Avenue South, home to no less than three of New York's top gelaterie (Grom, l'Arte del Gelato and Cones) and one of my favorite Italian ice shops (Rocco's pasticceria).  Luckily I've got a fifth-floor walk-up, so hopefully the running up and down the stairs a few times a day will balance out the ice creams I'm sure I will eat a few times a day.  As a friend who knows me too well asked, when I told him where I was moving: "looks cute. is the kitchen going to be big enough for you, or do you plan to cycle through the ice cream shops for your daily nutrition?"


On that note, I headed to Cones with my wonderful friend/real estate broker Adam, to sample their wares for the first time in a decade.  Cones opened when I was in high school, and it was the first gourmet gelato shop in the neighborhood.  There was Moondog further north on Bleecker, and Bleecker St. Pastry and Rocco's selling icies, but there was nothing like this before - soft, very sweet and intensely flavored.  My best friend at the time, Emma Feigenbaum, fell hard for their Dom Perignon lemon sorbet.  She was always a woman of expensive tastes.  I liked the almond, if I remember correctly, but I always thought the flavors were a little too sugary, and attributed it to the proprietor's Argentine roots (desserts come very sweet in South America).  
Behold the halo of cinnamon



I tasted the almond, for old time's sake, and the corn, of which I had heard legions.  I really, really love corn - I can eat about a half-dozen to ten ears in a sitting - and corn + sugar + cream + a sprinkling of cinnamon could only turn out well, my instincts told me.  As I tasted and surveyed the lay of the land, indecision settled over me like a cloud.  There was also a chocolate flavor with white chocolate chips, and a maté flavor that the scooper told me was similar to green tea.  Could I taste just one or two more?  No.  A firm "no."  I had reached the two-taste maximum, and with the owner standing by, there was no bending the iron-clad rule.  I stalked the freezer cases, still unsure of what to get.  

"If she has this much trouble choosing an ice cream flavor, imagine what she'll be like when it's time to choose an apartment," an older man nearby commented to Adam.  We swiftly corrected him, noting that it was taking me about twice as long to select my cone as it had to choose an apartment.  In the end, I settled on chocolate with white chocolate snow (little chocolate shavings) and corn, sprinkled with ground cinnamon.  The corn was exceptional, delicate and sweet, like a frozen version of atole, the Mexican corn drink made with corn flour, vanilla, milk and cinnamon.  The chocolate was less impressive - not dark or chocolate-y enough, and the white chocolate shavings were too small to taste but large enough to make the ice cream texture gritty.  Since it's around the corner, expect updates soon.  272 Bleecker Street, 212-414-4795, 1 scoop $4.75, 2 scoops $5.75, 3 scoops $7.

Professional Foray #11, Emack and Bolio's, Houston Street, New York


Zagat's, the Scoop on Cones, and my friend Oscar all think this is some of the best ice cream in New York City.  Is it?  They definitely have ground-breaking flavors, and for someone whose benchmark is Cookies and Cream, I was delighted to hear from the proprietor that E & B were the first company to put Oreos into ice cream, in 1975.  "That's why it's called 'The Original Oreo,'" she explained.  

Since 1975, the instinct to throw Oreos into ice cream has gone unrestrained, resulting in such triumphs as peanut butter Oreo, and my favorite, Grasshopper Pie: mint chip ice cream - WITH OREOS.  I am so, so grateful to this company for replacing the "or" (as in "mint chip or mint Oreo?") and replacing it with that vastly preferable conjunction, "and."  The chocolate is very rich and tasty, as is the Cosmic Crunch - vanilla ice cream, caramel swirl, chocolate chips, walnuts, and cookies.  The "Deep Purple" black raspberry flavor is also divine - much more flavorful than the wan, rather artificial stuff I'm used to seeing.

You may have noticed I'm dodging the aforementioned question.  It may very well be the best ice cream in New York, and I appreciate that they were using non-hormonally-charged milk way before anyone else, but my book, it's slightly too rich.  It is super-premium ice cream, meaning it has a butterfat content of, most likely, above 14% (the International Dairy Foods Association doesn't have specific guidelines on this, but this is commonly accepted), much higher than the 5-8% that's normally found in gelato.  And I, my friends, have been eating a lot of gelato lately.  When it came time to take charge of my double-scoop cone of Original Oreo and Grasshopper pie, I was barely equipped to handle it.  

It was like training for a marathon by running around the Central Park reservoir once a week for a month.  I just wasn't ready.  My body couldn't take it.  The ice cream felt dangerously rich; I could hear it whispering for an angioplasty as it slid down my throat.  I needed gulps of water between bites.  But that said, it sure tasted great.  And I've been back - training, as it were - several more times since then.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

NYT spotlights the helados of Buenos Aires

Horacio Paone for the New York Times
Man, I wish I'd gotten to this place before I had to read about it.  I've been hearing about Persicco (watch out for the crazy techno runway-show intro) for years, from my friend Massoud, who told me that by running an ice cream blog and not featuring Persicco, I'd "lost the plot already," in his words.  Luckily the NYT has thoughtfully found the plot, with a great story about dulce de leche ice cream, in its myriad forms, available in all the grand heladerias of Buenos Aires.  In fact, a chain called Chungo's won for best dulce de leche ice cream, not Persicco, but they all sound pretty good to me.  How about this one?

"During Freddo’s heyday in the ’80s and ’90s, the company began offering crema tramontana — which contains dulce de leche jam and specks of malted chocolate ball."

Malted milk ball...someone needs to bring that back - and not Ciao Bella, which is straight up disgusting these days.

Update:  Corinne Masucci, a BA native, reports that they deliver til midnight.  Damn.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pregnant nuns shill gelato

The esteemed Daily Mail of London brings us news that Italian gelato company Antonio Federici has offended Catholics by using a pregnant nun, with the tagline "immaculately conceived," as its poster girl.  The firm "said the adverts celebrated the ‘implied forbidden Italian temptations’ of the ice cream," according to the article.  I can see how this might be offensive to Catholics, several of whom have had trouble resisting the forbidden temptations of, say, young male parishioners.  

Saturday, August 28, 2010

USA Today names the top 50 ice cream destinations in America

My best friend Brendan once described USA Today as "an experiment in how much of the news can be expressed as a pie chart."  Journalistic quibbles aside, here's their rundown of the best ice cream parlors in America, state-by-state.  I'm already skeptical since their California listing forgoes Bi-Rite in favor of, well, who cares? Somewhere else.  So that can't be right.  How's their list, in your view?  Do you spot an error?  Is your favorite missing?  Do weigh in.

Artisanal ice cream hits South Korea

I can't say I'm very familiar with the Korea Herald as a news source, but for now I'll trust their ice cream reporting on good faith.  According to the paper, a couple of artisanal ice cream parlors have opened recently, including one that's owned and operated by a protege of les deux grands Pierres - Pierre Herme, author of Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme, and Pierre Marcolini, one of Belgium's top chocolatiers.  So if you're living in South Korea, life just got a lot better.
Photo: The Korea Herald

If you're fresh out of North Korea, like this preacher guy Jimmy Carter just rescued, life just got a lot better too.  If you're still in North Korea, life is most likely terrible - speaking of which, Harper's magazine has some fantastic reportage from there in their July issue.

Blue Marble's flagship will close due to rent hike

The Brooklyn Paper reports that the flagship location of Blue Marble, the organic, local-dairy, seasonal, yada yada yada ice cream parlor in Boerum Hill in downtown Brooklyn, will close because of a rent hike.  I wasn't overwhelmed by the ice cream, but it seemed like a sweet place and it's too bad it will close.  The story does a nice job of pointing out how Blue Marble was one of the first businesses to trigger that neighborhood's gentrification, and the irony of its being forced out because of said gentrification.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Why Sicily is the greatest place on earth: The Empire of Ice Cream

A gorgeous paean to Sicily and its tradition of gelati, by Mary Taylor Simeti, in Saveur.

Christopher Hirsheimer, from Saveur, issue 52

..."Sicilians took their ice cream very seriously, at all levels of society. In northern Italy, ices remained the preserve of the sick or the wealthy until the late 19th century, owing to the cost and limited availability of ice and other ingredients. But in Sicily even peasants considered ices their due. William Irvine, an English gentleman visiting there in the early 1800s, marveled that "wretches whose rags have scarse adhesion enough to hang upon their bodies, yet find a baioc [a coin worth less than a penny] to spend in the ice shop". The lackadaisical Sicilian legislators may have been described as an "ice cream and sorbet parliament" by King Vittorio Amedeo II in the 1700s, but these were men who knew their priorities: when in 1774 Palermo's supply of snow gave out, the parliament dispatched armed dragoons to Etna to procure more. The demand for snow was insatiable. It is said that during a ball given in 1799, likely for the Bourbon king Ferdinand and his wife, Maria Carolina, such a quantity of ices was served that their production required 11,000 pounds of snow."

Monday, August 23, 2010

A review of yesterday's ice cream social at the New Amsterdam Market

I had to work yesterday, and am furious that I missed the ice cream bonanza at the New Amsterdam Market.  Luckily, a writer named Brad Thomas Parsons from Serious Eats had a roundup, with Bent Spoon of Princeton, NJ, coming in #1.  Here's his review of Bent Spoon, find the rest here.

Heirloom Tomato-Peach sorbet.  Photo by Brad Thomas Parsons via Serious Eats


Featured Flavors: Fresh Ricotta, Bourbon Vanilla Sea Salt Caramel, Nectarine Sorbet
Bonus Flavors: Heirloom Tomato-Peach Sorbet, Concord Grape Sorbet
This wasn't a contest, but The Bent Spoon was the winner for me. From the super-friendly server who enthusiastically described the provenance of the wild grapes used in their sorbet, to their generosity with the samples. (Plus, they brought two bonus flavors.) I was tempted to cash in all of my ice cream tickets just to try them all. The Concord Grape sorbet was bursting with grape flavor and was one of the creamiest fruit ice creams I've ever tasted. And you had to love how they tipped their hat to the tomato tasting with their Heirloom Tomato-Peach sorbet, probably my favorite taste of the day.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Food writers reminisce about ice cream around the world, from Saveur

Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer, from Saveur edition 52
I just stumbled across this beautiful collection of vignettes from writers around the world, reminiscing about memorable ice cream run-ins.  I hope this blog becomes a wider, richer version of this kind of story.  Here are two of my favorites - and notice how the second one hints at the historical roots of the relative dearth of good ice cream in the UK, despite its renowned dairy industry.

Mexico: Frozen Dinner
The tropical ice creams of Puebla are so alluring that I once made an entire dinner out of nothing else. The meal began at Tepoznieves, a wildly colorful shop near the main square. My appetizer was fig ice cream dotted with bits of candied fig and spiked with mescal. The main course followed: tequila ice cream—as white as a cloud—with tangy passion fruit ice. The passion fruit was so refreshing that I had to have two more scoops. For dessert, I walked around the corner to La Flor de Michoacan for a Popsicle-like paleta of guanábana, or soursop, which tastes like a highly perfumed blend of apple and pear. Luscious. And for the road? A mango paleta, as nice a nightcap as I have ever had. —Barbara Hansen

England: Postwar Treat
I began eating ice cream in London in 1947. Ice cream distribution had been banned during World War II and for a time afterward, to save fuel, and it was consequently available only at shops where the owners made the ice cream themselves. Although the quality was rather poor, it tasted simply delicious to me. I'd go to such a shop and get a sandwich of two wafers enclosing a slice from a neapolitan brick; it was called a slider, because if you squeezed it too hard the middle would slide right out. The slider evolved from an earlier ice cream called the hokey pokey, a neapolitan slice wrapped in paper. The vendors who sold it were Italian, and they'd cry, "Ecco un poco" (Here is a little)—which, in the Cockney accent of the customers, became "hokey pokey". —Robin Weir

Baskin Robbins India launches Kulfi ice cream for the local market

Baskin Robbins is offering a kulfi ice cream in India to celebrate its 65th anniversary (as a company, I'm presuming, not as a presence in India).  The flavor sounds delicious - it will feature saffron, cardamom and cinnamon.  From the photo, it doesn't look like it will resemble a true kulfi, which is made with boiled-down milk and is usually much richer and heavier than normal ice cream, and is often served on a stick in a cone shape.  Still, I would eat it.

Obama loves Martha's Vineyard ice cream, reports USA Today

USA Today - known for their Beltway coverage - reports that Obama is "a big fan" of the ice cream in Martha's Vineyard, according to a White House spokesperson.

A modern-day tragedy, by Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman

A modern-day tragedy, 2010, Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman



Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman is an actor and artist whose sharp eye and deep sense of empathy captured this image and called it out for what it truly is: a modern-day tragedy.  The random scattering New York City sidewalk debris echoes the sprinkles caught amidst the vanilla ice cream, and the drip attunes the viewer to the sense of time passing.  How long ago was there a screaming, crying toddler standing astride this fallen scoop?  Did she or he get another free scoop from a compassionate vendor?  One can only hope.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Watermelon Ice Cream Cake - a retro recipe from Big Girls, Small Kitchen

Like a watermelon, only not.

I have to confess, I'd never heard of watermelon ice cream cake before Cara from Big Girls, Small Kitchen, sent me this recipe.  I may have seen (and repressed having seen) them, but from her description, it actually sounds like a good idea.  Raspberry sorbet, flecked with chocolate chips, surrounded by pistachio or green-tinged vanilla ice cream - how bad can that be?  Check out her easy recipe and gorgeous photography here.

Los Angeles catches on to the ice cream sandwich

L.A. Weekly rounds up five places doing interesting-sounding ice cream sandwiches.  Watch out, Melt Bakery.

Sandwiches from MILK in L.A.  Goodness me, those look fantastic.

Village Voice chats with the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's Doug Quint

Here's a sweet little Q and A with the chef/owner of the Big Gay Ice Cream truck, which apparently pushes its wares on Union Square.  I'll be back with a professional foray soon!

Pus in your ice cream, from John Robbins

John Robbins, the only son of Baskin-Robbins founder Irvine Robbins, had a piece in the Huffington Post this week about Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormones (rBGH) showing up in ice cream.  Ben and Jerry's has pledged not to use rBGH-tainted milk in their products, and Robbins calls on other companies to do the same:

Ben & Jerry's gets all their milk from dairies that have pledged not to inject their cows with genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rBGH). Why, then, can't Haagen Dazs, Breyers and Baskin-Robbins do the same?
Starbucks now guarantees that all their milk, cream and other dairy products are rBGH-free. So do Yoplait and Dannon yogurts, Tillamook cheese, Chipotle restaurants, and many others. But ice cream giants Haagen Dazs, Breyers and Baskin-Robbins continue to use milk from cows injected with rBGH, a hormone that's been banned in Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Australia and all 27 nations of the European Union. As if to add insult to injury, Haagen Dazs and Breyers have the audacity to tell us, right on the label, that their ice cream is " All Natural."

Later he quotes a veterinarian who has some disturbing news about rBGH's effects on white blood cell count:

Does the increase in udder infections have an effect on the milk, and thus any ice cream, cheese or other product made from it? Most definitely, according to Dr. Richard Burroughs, a veterinarian deeply familiar with rBGH. "It results in an increase of white blood cells," he says, "which means there's pus in the milk!" The antibiotic use, he adds, "leaves residues in the milk. It's all very serious."
A sick cow

At the end of the article, he highlights a "Take Back Our Ice Cream" campaign from the Oregon chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility and urges readers to get engaged by contacting companies to demand they use hormone-free dairy products.

Proustian moment #5, regarding my late father, the wonderful Gerald Sussman

I emailed my Uncle Harvey to tell him about the blog, and this is what he sent:

"Here's a true ice cream story from your own dad:

Gerald was at a party talking to some guy. The topic was
the best ice cream each guy had in his life.  Each said his was
for sure the best there is.

Turns out they both attributed the best ice cream to the
dairy school at University of Wisconsin in Madison. Gerald had
some when he visited me.

You need to take a field trip there. The ag students make it and
they sell it at a student run store at edge of campus.

Any serious ice cream blogger knows this.

Not crazy about blog name (call me old fashioned)."
 

Blast from the Past: Golden Gaytime ice cream video via HuffPo

Huffington Post links to a hilarious advertisment for Golden Gaytime ice cream pops, described on the company's official website as a "combination of toffee and vanilla-flavoured centre, dipped in a scrumptious choc coating and covered in crunchy biscuit pieces."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Professional Foray #10, Melt Bakery

As a day camper at Mount Tom, I remember eating ice cream sandwiches on days when we weren't lucky enough to get Toasted Almond bars or even Strawberry Shortcake bars. They consisted of two slightly salty, cake-like chocolate wafers with slimy vanilla ice cream in between, and the whole thing was the size and shape of a mid-1990s cellphone.  A thin sticky residue usually coated the paper wrappers.
Blech.

I never understood why an idea with such powerful potential - cookies + ice cream in one portable package - fell victim to such abominable execution.  There were other attempts over the years: the Chipwich sandwich, the Klondike/Oreo sandwich, but no one was really putting their back into it.

Until my new favorite people Kareem and Julian came along.  They co-founded Melt Bakery, which specializes in the best ice cream sandwiches I've ever tasted.  Kareem is a bespectacled, food-loving Lebanese entrepreneur, and Julian is the guy in the kitchen, formerly of Lever House.  They work every weekend at the Hester Street market, which is a collection of antique vendors and food stalls in a park in the Seward Park housing projects.  It doesn't sound like a promising locale, and on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I wasn't quite sure if ice cream was the thing, but Kareem's smiling face (and the ice cream sandwiches he handed me) put my doubts to bed.

He first offered me the Cinnamax, cinnamon ice cream between two snickerdoodles.  I adore any and all things cinnamon, and Julian makes his ice cream with both ground cinnamon and by steeping his custard with whole cinnamon sticks.  The cookies were your standard butter cookies with cinnamon and sugar on top, but the ice cream was very, very, intensely cinnamony.  Each bite was like a concentrated, elegant bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  My only criticism, which Kareem took like a man, was that I prefer a more generous amount of ice cream with respect to how thick the cookies were.  In other words, the ice cream should play a starring role, with the cookies functioning as back-up.  There may be protest coming from some quarters (I haven't yet had this debate with Julian, the chef), but this is, after all, an ice cream blog, written by an ice cream lover.

Next came the Cocoa Daddy, salted caramel ice cream sandwiched between two Valrhona-laced brownies.  I had seen this matchup online, and it sounded like it could go one of two ways: nauseatingly rich and sweet, or luxurious and indulgent.  Guess which way it went?  Yes.  Two for two, boys!  The salt kept the caramel ice cream from wandering off into overly-sweet dulce de leche territory, and lovely bittersweet shards of chocolate punctuated the brownies.
Kareem and me


Lastly (for this week, at least), I tried their marquis sandwich, the Belle - peach ice cream between two slender discs of brown butter bourbon shortbread.  Julian uses white peaches from the greenmarket, and roasts them to bring out their flavor.  The cookies were very, very rich, and again I'd prefer a bit more ice cream to cookie, but this was a very unique, and very luscious combination.  It was faintly hedonistic, something a wealthy family from Savannah, Georgia might serve at an afternoon luncheon.

Well done, Julian and Kareem.  Looking forward to trying more.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Professional Foray #9, Alphabet Scoop

Several friends who have lived in the East Village, apprised of my blog, have oriented me in the direction of Alphabet Scoop.  It sounds like my dream come true: ice cream as income-generating tool for kids from underserved communities.  Their motto is "Changing lives, one scoop at a time."  Or three scoops at a time, if you're me.

Their website describes the project:

"Alphabet Scoop is a homemade ice cream store that trains and employs youth in the life and job skills that will allow them to advance in their school and work endeavors. Teenagers receive classroom instruction and work under a mentor/manager, someone who oversees the operation of the shift and mentors the teen."

So that's the good news.  The other good news is that there are free unlimited sprinkles (chocolate and rainbow), exceptionally nice people behind the counter, one of whom bent the rules and squeezed three flavors into a regular-sized cones (love that), and it's late on weekends, til 11 on Saturday.

The bad news is the ice cream.  I had chocolate peanut butter, chocolate chip cookie dough, and cookies and cream.  While the flavors were all right, the texture was off.  It never quite melted; I could tell that, given enough time, this ice cream could end up like a supermarket brand my best friend Katie once bought for a dinner party in Berlin.  While she insisted she loved its fluffy, mousse-like texture, I pointed out that the morning after the party, it still had not melted entirely.  It was in some kind of state of suspension, a limbo born of too many stabilizers, and not enough dairy.  Remember dairy? 

Alphabet Scoop's ice cream bore that same mark of uncertain melting capacity.  My friend Greg and I had walked all the way to Second Avenue from Avenue B, where the store is located, and bumped into a friend and talked for twenty minutes before we sat down in a park where I could finish my ice cream.  And still, it wasn't melted.

My advice to the lovely, lovely folks who work there: skip the stabilizers, or the milk powder, or the corn syrup, or whatever funny stuff is going into your ice creams, and get back to the basics.  Your concept is FABULOUS and I would support you in a heartbeat if I could stomach more of your product. $2.25 for a small, $3.75 for a regular (2 scoops).543 East 11th Street, New York 10009, between Avenues A and B, 212-982-1422, http://www.fathersheartnyc.com/programs-alphabetscoop.php 

Dispatches from the Frontline #4, Scoopless in Shanghai



Scoopless in Shanghai, by Mona, LME East Asia correspondent

Upon hearing that I was moving to China for the summer, various well-traveled friends of mine assured me that I would just LOVE Shanghai, because...well..."it's just so cosmopolitan!" And that's proven to be true. I do love Shanghai. A city that boasts a wealth of international cuisines, cultures and communities which most other Chinese cities lack. 

Shanghai skyline

One of the most unique and admirable aspects I have come to appreciate about Shanghai is the juxtaposition in the built environment of old and new. Swaths of the cityscape are construed solely for the tourist's gaze, decorated with ginormous glass towers, sweeping broad avenues, high-end restaurants and manicured gardens. However, at the street level, the accessible world of older, low density neighborhoods characterized by networks of pedestrian-friendly alleyways continue to maintain spaces for small markets, food stalls and local community life in the center of the city. Anyone who has spent time in Paris, Dubai, or New York knows that this is a rarity in the average tourist-destination metropolis. 

Of course, no one is sure how long this will last, as capital-hungry developers continuously work to transform every "available" inch of the city into a demolition and soon to be construction site. 

Demolition and high-rises
Tianzifang alleyway = consumer's delight
Then there are the spaces of the city that are somewhere in the middle: the gentrified and refurbished old alleyways where developers have transformed Shanghai's older neighborhoods into vibrant tourist destinations. Tianzifang is a perfect example of one of these spaces, and from the point of view of an ex-patriot tourist I have to say the appeal is obvious. 

I mean, by now aren't we all completely sick of navigating mall escalators shoved into glass box buildings the size of a city block? Who wouldn't prefer to shop in a charming maze of narrow, walkable alleys, packed to the brim with small boutiques that offer everything from clothes, music and hand-made jewelry to books, photographic prints and of course FOOD? 

Last week, I set out to Tianzifang with a (by now) obvious priority: to seek out a delicious and if possible local ice cream experience. I figured this would be a good place to look because Tianzifang A) mostly caters to an international crowd of tourists, and B) isn't a mall in the strict sense and thus has no Haagen Dazs around to shut out smaller vendors. 

Online research proved promising, pointing me towards Bing - a small stall tucked deep in the alleys and offering Teppanyaki-style sorbet. I'd never heard of the Japanese sensation before, but it sounds absolutely delightful: "First, pick your choice of fresh fruits or other zesty flavors, such as champagne, mint, green tea, red pepper, yogurt, basil and yak cheese. Then, Bing blends your selection with water, syrup and milk, and stirs the mixture on a -20C freezing iron griddle. And ta-da, a fresh delightful frozen treat is served." 





Teppanyaki - source: shanghaidaily.com
Ta-da indeed! Ice cream fresh off a frozen griddle? Wow. I was psyched to say the least, and all set to order up some basil, mint and yogurt sorbet. You can only imagine my disappointment to learn after about half an hour of winding through the alleyways that the world wide web had steered me wrong. Bing no longer exists in Tianzifang, and Shanghai for all I can tell. Now in its place stands a silly second-hand CD shop. Tragic. 

Palace desserts, apparently all the rage


But I wasn't ready to give up my mission, determined to find what I had come after. Just around the corner, I spotted a popular looking hole in the wall called "Palace Dessert" and decided to investigate. After consulting with the signage and the woman at the counter, I determined that on offer here was a uniquely Chinese dessert of "milk, sugar and rice wine" that had its roots in the supposed genius of a Qing Dynasty chef of the legendary Forbidden City. 

I asked if there was a frozen version of the dessert, and the woman helping me pointed to one menu selection saying (and I quote) "it's just like ice cream." I immediately forked over the 9RMB ($1.30) for a small cup, eager to try the stuff but worried that this sounded too good to be true.



Serving up ice cream, Forbidden City-style
And it was. I had been led astray yet again. This was NOT ice cream, or anything like it. Sure, it was dairy-based and cold, but the tartness of the wine completely cancelled out any hint of anticipated sweetness or creaminess. After a few bites, I threw in my spoon with curiosity fulfilled but tummy unsatisfied. 


No, in fact, this is not just like ice cre
As a final resort, I turned to gelato. I know it isn't a particularly Asian specialty by any stretch of the imagination, but it was the closet thing I could expect to a sure bet. The challenge in Tianzifang was finding a gelato vendor that was selling goods that didn't look like they were containers oozing with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial color. 

It wasn't until after dinner that I had my eureka moment. Origin, a spacious and yummy California-esque restaurant serving "seasonal fresh cuisine" on the edge of Tianzifang happens to have a delicious-looking display of normal-colored gelato attached to the restaurant. After the long afternoon of hunting, the sun had gone down, my feet were aching, and one fat scoop of gelato in a waffle cone never sounded so good. I tasted the coffee flavor and wasn't impressed. I was pretty baffled when the server used my first tasting spoon for my subsequent sample of lemon, but I was feeling desperate at this point and couldn't walk away. 

Last stop, gelato


I went for the lemon - tangy yet refreshing  - and I've resolved that the final damage of 22RMB ($3.00) isn't too appalling considering that decent ice cream is such a rare commodity in the Tianzifang marketplace. 

This is Mona reporting for Lick Me Everywhere from the streets of Shanghai.

Origin, House 39, Lane 155 JianGuo C. Rd.(near RuiJin Rd.), http://originsh.com/, RESERVATIONS: 646 701 00

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The "Worst" Ice Creams in America, via the Daily Beast

The Daily Beast has a slideshow of 40 dastardly ice cream desserts that run from 880 calories (a Dairy Queen nut and fudge waffle sundae) to 1,900 (Baskin Robbins' Fudge Brownie 31 Below dessert).  Most of the offenders are, predictably, from the likes of Carvel, Friendly's, Dairy Queen, Cold Stone Creamery and Baskin Robbins.  Most of them also contain mix-ins like peanut butter, fudge, Oreos, brownies and chocolate chip cookies.  Most of them also sound distressingly good. 

The article inspired an incisive comment on mix-ins, posted on Gawker:

"I can't eat ice cream at a Cold Stone Creamery. I just don't get it. Why the hell do I need gummy bears and Apple Jacks chopped into my ice cream? It's ludicrous. People who frequent shopping malls love this place. They're all in there, waiting in line to say, "I'll have the Cherry Do-Wop, Pillsbury Crescent Roll, Cinnamon, Cookie Crisp Delight, with extra Booberry chunks please." And I'm like, "You fucking sugar monsters. What the ever loving kidney failure are you doing here? Just raid a supermarket and poise your jiggle-butts under a Dominos sugar two ton feed bag. And die quietly."
A day's worth of calories.  Yum!


 







Ice cream news round-up, week of August 14th

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is after Ben and Jerry's for its deceptive mislabeling of products containing high-fructose corn syrup and other funky ingredients as "all-natural."

Don't you wish anything at all would happen in San Francisco?  Until then, the SF Chronicle will run stories by staff writers on Ghirardelli's ice cream parlor.

John McCain and Jan Brewer ate some ice cream yesterday and then made empty campaign promises.

Ice cream sales remain strong (4% growth in the retail sector) in the Middle East.  There are some great sub-heads in this article, such as "Preference for traditional desserts set to constrain ice cream growth in Iran" and "Demographics and high temperatures save ice cream's performance in Saudi Arabia." 


There's an ice cream-themed spa in the Mall of America.  Sounds dumb.


Tomorrow night, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck and Humphrey Slocombe are doing an event in SF.  Now that's news, Chronicle!  Are you paying attention?


Katy Perry and Baskin-Robbins are promoting her new album, "Down Under," by offering free cotton-candy ice cream on August 27th, also known as Katy Perry Day.  Just go in to a shop and mention her name, if you actually want cotton-candy ice cream.


The Kitchn had this popular post on making ice cream without a machine, HuffPo details six more ways, including using liquid nitrogen.


A Texan supermarket employee hit by a falling half-gallon of ice cream sues the store for damages for medical care and expenses, physical pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, loss of earning capacity, loss of body member, disfigurement, fear of future disease or condition, cost of medical monitoring and prevention, exemplary damages, interest and court costs.

Professional Foray #8, Mia Dona gelato cart, East Midtown, NY

After reading about the cart a few weeks ago on Daily Candy, I've been looking for an afternoon window in which to go check out Mia Dona's ice cream cart.  According to this posting on the Midtown Lunch blog, Dona is serving "the best takeaway dessert in the area."  And Serious Eats NY's Kathy Chan liked it well enough.

Credit: Kathy Chan
Kathy wrote that, seeing her torn between the two flavors, honey-ricotta and pistachio, the obliging man working the cart was kind enough to offer her two flavors in her brioche.  This is the least he could do, seeing as each sandwich is $6.  When my friend Maisie and I sidled up to the shop, at quarter of 7 p.m., the cart was already parked in the back of the restaurant by the toilets, and we had to order from the manager.  He wasn't familiar with the two-scoop, bulging brioche policy, and gave us each a stale, toasted brioche schmeared with a thin layer of our respective choices.  I've eaten bagels buttered more generously than this brioche.

When I cut each one in half so Maisie and I could try each others', it barely squished out of the sides.  This was a far cry from the oozing, bulging, lick-it-before-it-drips-down-your-hand glory of La Sorbetteria in Bologna (more to come on that soon), where Maisie and I first bonded as juniors studying abroad.  Not a promising start.

The gelato, as you may be able to tell from the picture, is rather icy.  The flavors are decent, sweet and clear (as you may know from reading this blog, I'm not entirely averse to iciness in an ice cream or gelato, but in this case it felt stingy and compromising), but nothing special.  The honey drizzled on top of the ricotta was a nice touch, but the brioche was well past its prime, and didn't soak up the ice cream in the way that makes a brioche ice cream sandwich such a win-win proposition.

When the manager came out and saw eight shards of half-eaten brioche on our plates, he solicited our opinions.  We shrugged and politely mumbled some sentence fragments.  "A little icy."  "Brioche kind of stale."  "Usually there's more."  He very kindly offered them on the house, acknowledging that we hadn't truly enjoyed them, and therefore shouldn't have to pay for them.  He also predicted that Friday, yesterday, would be the cart's final day, so let this post serve as a eulogy. $6, Mia Dona, 206 East 58th St, 212-750-8170, www.miadona.com

Professional Foray #7, People's Pops and Mercer's Dairy, Highline, NY

On Tuesday night, my friend Valentina and I went for a walk on the High Line, something I never get tired of doing.  L'Arte del Gelato (full review to come) has been replaced by People's Pops as one of the High Line's rotating cast of concessions, and although I'd just polished off an Ultimate Summer Cooler before we set off on our walk, I forced myself to have a pop, after having a bite of Valentina's watermelon-and-cucumber flavor. 

Forced is probably the wrong word.  The pop was sweet and refreshing; like the watermelon Frozfruit pops I used to get if my mom caught me trying to sneak a creamy strawberry or coconut one (which are technically ice cream, not a *healthy* fruity snack), but these were more delicate, and without the black seeds that Frozfruit used to throw in their either for street cred or because they were too lazy to remove them.  There wasn't too much cucumber going on, but the watermelon flavor was sweet and clear.  Valentina thought there was no sugar added; I thought there was.  This, readers, I promise to clarify when I go behind-the-scenes at the People's Pops operation one day soon.  My friend, the food writer and fellow Brown alum Nathalie Jordi, will be back soon from a holiday and hopefully I can get some backstage access.  At the very least, I'll get an answer on the sugar content. $3.50 per pop, High Line concession stand, also available at Chelsea Market and at weekend markets, check www.peoplespops.com for info)

After a quick up-and-back on the High Line, we descended back down to reality on Gansevoort Street, where a big green ice cream truck lurked in the shadows, lying in wait for me like some kind of crafty jungle cat.  It pounced; I succumbed.

The ice cream was from Mercer's Dairy, which, as far as I can tell is a mediocre outfit based in upstate New York.  Some of it was supposed to be organic, although one of the flavors I had, black raspberry, is not listed as an organic option on their website.  All of the flavors were just all right: the vanilla, fine, the chocolate, embarrassingly lacking in flavor, and the black raspberry, tasty.  The texture was a little foamy and not as dense as I'd prefer, but not icy either (which I do prefer).  All in all, not the best $4 I'd ever spent.  One thing I do love about them: these old school cartons.


The black raspberry was good, I guess.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Upcoming ice cream events: Austin, TX, Brooklyn, NY and South Street Seaport, NY

My sources in Austin, TX, tell me that this Saturday from 10-7 brings a mighty, mighty Ice Cream Festival in Waterloo Park.  The $5 admission fee goes to children's charities, among others, and the weekend includes a homemade ice cream contest (just dangle that in front of me, why don't you, when I have to work that day), and an ice cream eating contest with someone named Joey Chestnut.
This guy is the champion?



I have seen an eating contest once on TV.  It made me never want to eat again.  The contestants ate bowls of mayonnaise that they shoveled into their faces with their hands.  However, I am older than 18 and I believe I could eat more ice cream than Joey Chestnut in six minutes, and I deeply regret that I am unable to prove this hunch, because I'm nowhere near Austin, TX at the moment.  So, Joey, sleep easy tonight; your competition's far away in New York.



Next Sunday, thank heavens, I will get my own mini-festival at the New Amsterdam Market down by the South Street seaport.  This description sounds like my dream come true:

"Sunday august 22, 2010
the market is open from 11:00am to 4:00pm


ICE CREAM FAIR AT NEW AMSTERDAM MARKET 12:00PM TO 4:00PM
special tasting tickets $20; proceeds benefit the market


This August 22nd we will celebrate the height of summer with six ice cream and sorbet makers including The Bent Spoon, Roberta's, Early Bird Cookery, Marlow & Daughters, MilkMade Ice Cream, and Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream. These artisans are committed to showcasing regional products and flavors. Each will create up to three unique ice creams and sorbets for the market using only seasonal or responsibly sourced ingredients.

With more than a dozen great flavors available, we know it might be hard to choose just one! You'll of course be able to get a regular cup or cone, but we'll also be selling tickets for an ice cream sampler, which will entitle you to six miniature ice cream cones with the flavors of your choice. Tickets cost $20, with proceeds supporting New Amsterdam Market. On a hot summer day, what better way to benefit the market and highlight the producers and flavors of the region?"

 My only complaint is, if they're selling "more than a dozen great flavors", why does my sampler packet only include six tastes?  Huh?  What about the other six+ that I don't get to taste?  Am I supposed to get another packet?  These are serious questions and I demand answers from the ice cream community.
 
Coming up on Monday night is a beer tasting and ice cream social at the Beer Table, in (where else?) Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Here's the info:

August 16th
Bent Spoon and Beer Table Ice Cream Social

New Jersey native and Bent Spoon ice cream maker/co-owner Gabrielle Carbone will make her way to Park Slope to co-host the first Beer Table ice cream social! Hailing from Princeton NJ, the Bent Spoon has gotten quite a following thanks to its stellar ice cream and use of seasonal ingredients from the area's farms and producers. Gabrielle and a NJ grower will give a small glimpse into the rich agricultural landscape of the southern Garden State. 4 flavors will be served along with beer pairings.
Tickets: $35. Please e-mail events@beertable.com for tickets.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Professional Foray #6, Lily Lolly, Bryant Park/Soho

In all honesty, I was favorably disposed towards these ice cream popsicles before I even tasted them.  Have a look at the Lily Lolly website, and tell me you don't feel the same.
Lily Lolly is a 1920s flapper character created by Nadia Roden, artist, illustrator, and ice cream perfectionist.  She's also the daughter of Claudia Roden, one of the world's experts on Mediterranean food.

Nadia wrote the first-ever book on granita, Granita Magic, but when she decided to start her own food business, she chose to vend creamy popsicles instead, reasoning that she "could be extra creative with lollies," and "do things you can't do in a cup," like roll a white-chocolate-dipped orange cream lolly in finely grated citrus zest mixed with crystalline sugar.

Monday evening found Nadia, her nephew Cesar, and her stepmother Peggy all sporting matching black-and-white aprons (Cesar looked especially fetching in his), selling popsicles to the curious cinemaphiles there to see a screening of the Goodbye Girl.  It was hot, sticky and humid, and despite a competing Time Warner-sponsored ice cream truck (and a Ben and Jerry's kiosk on the corner of 42nd and 6th), Nadia was doing a brisk business.
The family + me (Nadia's got her arm around me)

Not only that, but in the few hours I spent hanging around and watching her ply her trade, at least a half-dozen people (women, all) turned up specifically to buy a lolly (or three), then dashed off before the film even started.  One group of young women, who had at least two apiece, then announced they were off to dinner, which cracked Peggy up.

At least two pops each.  Good on you, ladies!
 Why the fuss, the serial buying, the devoted followers?  Nadia is a perfectionist: she tinkers with each recipe til she's got it down pat, and takes extra care in using the best ingredients and making sure each recipe is as flavorful as possible.  I've had ice cream that stresses how local and organic it is, but somehow the part about flavor/deliciousness gets lost in the mix.  Nadia's pistachio rose, for example, my first of three, tasted just like a Lebanese milk pudding, creamy and fragrant with rosewater, chock full of finely chopped Bazzini pistachios.  Having just returned from Beirut, I felt I was back in Lebanon again, at the end of a long mezze meal, stuffing myself with a few bites of muhallibiyah before passing out.

As the evening wore on, I met a number of charming, interesting people, all drawn into Nadia's polka-dotted orbit.  This lovely woman below, Roxandra Antoniadis, is an art consultant and soon-to-be memoirist, based between New York and Ohio (how often are people based between New York and Ohio?).  She was thrilled with her 50s Orange Lolly, and nearly fainted when I mentioned that Nadia is Claudia Roden's daughter. 
I also met Pam, a daytime bartender whose best friend from college owns the family farm in San Diego where Nadia gets the oranges for her lollies.  She also nearly fainted when she realized the coincidence. 
My next lolly was the Fresh Mint flavor, which Nadia makes by steeping fresh mint leaves in the cream and milk.  This one was truly exceptional: the mint was so fresh, and so intense, and the texture so light (she says she uses three parts milk to one part cream), that it felt like a small explosion of mint went off in my mouth, its mushroom cloud dissipating and leaving behind chocolate chip detritus in its wake.  I wouldn't normally use the word "symphonic" in an ice cream review, but here it seems worth the pretention. 

Nadia sent me off with one of her classics, the 50s Orange Lolly.  I was skeptical when I heard her describing it as having a sour cream base, because sour cream reminds me of bad Mexican food, or something delicious such as rice pudding that got left out of the fridge too long and turned gross.  This, however, was barely sour.  It was a creamy, luscious ice cream base whose mild sourness accented the delicate, refined taste of the Valencia oranges that she specially orders from California.  It was dipped in white chocolate, and then decorated beautifully with a dusting of superfine zest and sugar.  To her tremendous credit, after three ice lollies in a row, I still went home hungry for dinner.   

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bespoke ice cream, attempt #1: Molasses gingersnap à la Moondog Ice Cream

In the "Bespoke ice cream" series, I will chronicle my endeavors to make the world's most delicious (to me) ice cream.  I confess that, if given the choice, I will generally err on the side of a lighter, icier ice cream - more milky than creamy, although I do love a kulfi every now and then when the occasion demands it. It may be because I drink such copious amounts of chai that I've grown accustomed to its particular mouthfeel.  My chai formula calls for part vanilla soymilk and part whole organic milk- the soymilk lets the spicy flavors come through while the whole milk gives it body.

On my first grocery store run, I came home from Whole Foods with a one-gallon jug of organic whole milk, a few pints of half-and-half, a box of vanilla soymilk, and a few cartons of heavy whipping cream.  I was going to make cookies and cream, my go-to flavor, first, so I bought some "natural" Oreo-style cookies, at which point I noticed a bag of "natural" gingersnaps on the shelf.  I flashed back to my early teens: long-boarding around Greenwich Village with my best friend Emma, cutting school to eat lobster rolls at Pearl Oyster Bar back when it only had one table and a few seats at the bar, and always, always stopping at Moondog Ice Cream on Bleecker Street for a little taste of their heaven.  One particular flavor that has never left me was the molasses gingersnap.  So simple, so...outlandishly...good.  I realized I hadn't had it in over a decade, whereas my last cookies and cream encounter was probably only hours old.  Then I waited 45 minutes to pay for my ingredients, enough time to read all the latest news as well as the most popular news with the NYT iPhone app.

I started with Christopher Kimball's basic two-quart recipe for vanilla from the Dessert Bible (I'm away at a wedding at the moment but I'll post it in full on Sunday night), but substituted one cup of soymilk for one of the cups of milk, and one cup of half-and-half for one of the cups of heavy cream.  I also upped the sugar by a tiny bit, which turned out to be a youthful error.  After refrigerating the mixture overnight, I poured half of it out into a large Pyrex, reserving the other quart for a cookies and cream adventure.

Into the Pyrex full of creamy vanilla custard base I drizzled organic blackstrap molasses, stirring and stirring til it had the same dark, coffee-colored hue I remembered from Moondog.  I also added ground ginger and cinnamon, to make it taste more like a gingersnap cookies.  As it churned, I crumbled the gingersnaps into a bowl, added some chopped crystallized ginger (to be safe) and dusted those items with more ground ginger and cinnamon.

I am happy to report that, even though my freezing canister wasn't quite cold enough, and the ice cream never quite froze to real ice cream, the taste is 100% right on, just like a delicious molasses cookie with chunks of chewy gingersnap and even more chunks of bracing candied ginger.  Each bite makes me feel 15 again.  After a day or two in the freezer, it became real hard ice cream, which I now scoop into organic sugar cones (I know, I know) or, even better, have every morning for breakfast as part of my "Ultimate Summer Cooler": iced chai, sweetened with a jaggery-honey syrup, topped with a few scoops of molasses gingersnap candied ginger ice cream.

FYI: I looked into what became of Moondog and according to a poster on Chowhound, the owner was "considering getting out of the ice cream biz" (is that like "having enough of the gang life"?).  I called a number they had listed in Brooklyn and got one of those fast busy signals that means the line is probably no longer working.  This is very sad, but I feel tremendously empowered having recreated his ice cream by myself. 
My friend Kate enjoys Bespoke ice cream, attempt #1.
 

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