Saturday, August 7, 2010

Ralph Gardner at the WSJ pays tribute to the Good Humor Toasted Almond Bar

I have to hand it to the Journal.  On the same day that the NYT was offering fancy recipes for homemade ice cream, they ran a paean to the Good Humor Toasted Almond bar by Ralph Gardner Jr, titled "An Unappreciated Culinary Delight":

"No, the reason I love the Toasted Almond Bar is that it's a significantly sophisticated taste experience. I'd go so far as to say that if your server at Jean-Georges or Café Boulud (in all likelihood someone named Kevin) presented you with a Good Humor Toasted Almond Bar you'd think it was the most fabulous thing you'd ever tasted."


This was always my favorite flavor of Good Humor bar too.  I went to a day camp for many years and our counselors gave out ice cream at the end of every day; what a good day it was when that ice cream was a toasted almond bar.  It was like eating prison fare every day and then all of a sudden having the warden announce that a care package had arrived for me from Danny Meyer.  I was never big on regular vanilla ice cream pops coated with waxy chocolate, or ice cream sandwiches, or whatever other junk we were handed on most days.

Just three things I'd like to share with Mr. Gardner: one, there is, of course, a Facebook group for toasted almond bars, should he wish to join.  And two, he writes that:

"Of course, not everyone is a fan of almonds. I can live with that. I hate cilantro. But for those who enjoy their ice cream covered in nuts, biting into a Toasted Almond Bar is a mind/body experience. It doesn't just taste great, it makes you feel privileged. Your taste buds congratulate you on your education, whisper into your ear that you possess powers of culinary discernment far beyond those of ordinary pedestrians. I'm not a big wine drinker, but I'm sure connoisseurs feel the same way when they talk about the nose of a classic Bordeaux, with its hints of coffee, rose petals and forest berries.
Your first interaction is with the coarseness of the almonds; so what if they're usually a little soggy: I can live with that. Then you experience creamy ice cream."

The ice cream, unfortunately, is not exactly "covered in nuts," and the coarseness you're encountering is not quite due to almonds.  In their ingredient list, Good Humor calls that crunchy topping "Cake Crunch" and, while the very last ingredient is almonds, there are a few other goodies that precede the nuts.
INGREDIENTS: ICE CREAM: NONFAT MILK, SUGAR, MILKFAT, CORN SYRUP, WHEY, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, MONO- AND DIGLYCERIDES, CELLULOSE GUM, GUAR GUM, POLYSORBATE 65 AND 80, CARRAGEENAN, ARTIFICIAL AND NATURAL FLAVORS. ALMOND FLAVORED CORE: WATER, CORN SYRUP, NONFAT MILK, SUGAR, WHEY, MILKFAT, GUAR GUM, MODIFIED CELLULOSE, LOCUST BEAN GUM, NATURAL FLAVOR, ANNATTO (FOR COLOR), CARAMEL COLOR. COATING: CAKE CRUNCH (SUGAR, CORN FLOUR, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED VEGETABLE OIL [COTTONSEED, PALM AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL], WATER, CARAMEL COLOR, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS), SOYBEAN OIL, PALM OIL, ALMONDS.

Thirdly, he writes:
"The Toasted Almond Bar's innermost layer has a yellowish hue. But to be honest I've never been able to tell whether that's just an aesthetic choice on Good Humor's part or if it actually contributes to the great almond taste."

The "great almond taste" is probably coming from some great "natural flavors."  That would be my guess.  Probably not from the "locust bean gum."

This is not to dismiss the thrust of his initial proposition: that these are, indisputably, one of the all-time greatest of trashy indulgences.  And I loved the sociological analysis (these bars are largely the province of an older clientele, according to his shoe-leather reporting in and around Central Park). Great piece, much appreciated.

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