Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Ninth Annual Pumpkin Challenge

Western Washington, circa 2008.
We have some new items in the FAQ this year and a few changes in the rules.

What is the pumpkin challenge?
The Pumpkin Challenge is an annual quest to consume as many varieties of pumpkin edibles as humanly possible. Most years, the Pumpkin Challenge has taken place between September 15 to October 31. Last year, we started early. This year, we're starting late.

What are the rules?
Food items may not be doubled. Two slices of pumpkin cheesecake count as one item. The only way it could count for two different items is if the second item has a distinct enough difference of flavor that it warrants a different name AND the item comes from a different source than the first item (i.e. Pumpkin Pecan Cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory and homemade pumpkin cheesecake). Pumpkin candles or pumpkin soap do not count unless you eat them.

What about beverages?
Yup, they're food. But see the above rule. TL;DR: Twenty pumpkin spice lattes only count as one item.

Does pumpkin spice count? Or does it have to actually contain pumpkin?
Ideally, the ingredients include actual pumpkin. But it all tastes good, so pumpkin spice counts!

What is the record?
During 2012’s Pumpkin Challenge, I consumed 52 different varieties of pumpkin. The previous record (2010) had been 40.

What are my chances of defeating you, Brad?
This year, they are pretty good. I don't think I've had anything pumpkin so far this month, whereas usually I've been eating as much as possible starting September 1. Your chances of beating my record, however, are slim unless you do a LOT of cooking.

Why does it stop in October? Isn’t pumpkin often a Thanksgiving staple?
Ideally, the meeting of mouths to pumpkin products would go on forever. But we most focus our efforts. The Pumpkin Challenge was created to encourage the same sort of crass commercialism extended to that Santa holiday. We want to encourage—through pestering and purchase—stores offering pumpkin foods at progressively earlier dates each year. To focus the Challenge to a time period that is the height of pumpkin consumption is both missing the mark and far too easy.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Brad's Perfect S'mores Ice Cream Recipe

From my Ben & Jerry's cookbook showing me the ropes, back when I first got started making ice cream, to my travels tasting the best ice creams in the country, I am a man indebted to his influences. When I took to the kitchen this time around, I took inspiration from two sources: the toasted marshmallow milkshake from NYC's Stand 4 and the liquid chocolate mix-in from Graeter's in Cincinnati (and beyond). These two components (toasted and melted!) are typically missing from other s'mores ice creams. In mine they work together to create the perfect frozen representation of the quintessential campout fare:

A toasted marshmallow and graham ice cream base, featuring a melted chocolate mix-in that halfway hardens while the ice cream churns. Top it off with more melted chocolate (still warm when mixed in!) and graham cracker dust. Enjoy!

Brad's Perfect S'mores Ice Cream

12 - 16 campfire-sized marshmallow
4 - 6 oz. graham crackers, divided...depending on how much you want to use as topping
½ cup sugar
2 cups heavy cream
½ cup milk
¾ - 1¼ cup dark chocolate chips...depending on how chocolatey you like it
4 half graham crackers, optional

(1) Place marshmallows on foil and toast in a toaster oven* until golden on top and melty. (A lower temperature for longer is better than a high temperature for shorter.)

(2) While still in the packet, crush the graham crackers in packet with a hammer. Not too hard, or you'll burst the packet open.

(3) Put toasted marshmallows and 2 - 4 oz. of graham crackers in a food processor. (Reserve the rest of the crushed graham crackers for topping later.) Blend well. It should resemble a Rice Krispies® treat made out of Golden Grahams™.

(4) Add cream, sugar and milk to the food processor and blend. Between rounds of blending, scrap the sticky marshmallow mixture off of the blades and sides.

(5) Chill mix in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Then...

(6) Start up your ice cream maker. Pour in the mixture. My ice cream maker takes about 15-20 minutes to whip in a good amount of air. (If there isn't enough air, any leftover ice cream will freeze too densely and be rock hard.)

(7) While the mix churns in the ice cream maker, melt the chocolate chips. (They only need to be soft, not fully liquid. Small portions in the microwave works fine.) Add at least half of the melted chocolate chips into the churning ice cream. Reserve the rest for topping.

(8) When the ice cream is done churning, scoop into bowls and top with the reserved melted chocolate chips and graham cracker dust. If you like, put half a graham cracker on the bottom of the bowl, or on top for extra crunch.

* Use a toaster oven because, like a broiler, it will actually toast the marshmallows. A regular oven would just melt them. A microwave will cause them to inflate, which doesn't help with the recipe, but is great fun when you have two marshmallow Peeps® and want to make them joust with toothpicks.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Minneapolis: Ice Cream Indoors

Worth braving the elements for.
This post is part of a series celebrating my new favorite ice cream destination, Minneapolis.

• • •

What happens for dessert-seekers in Minneapolis after the cold settles in, when the desire to be outdoors ranks about as high as the Minnesota Twins so far this season? For those months there is a dessert worthy of bundling up and trekking to: Sweet Science Ice Cream. You can't take the Skyway to get there, but all you need to do is walk a short block-and-a-half west of the Franklin Avenue Metro stop. When you see the sign that says “Verdant Tea,” you’ve arrived at your destination.

Imagine yourself inside here...
...and snow out here.
Once you enter the cozy teashop, you’ll feel warmed by the wooden tables and accents as well as the light green/sage toned walls. Though it reminds you of the interior of a lodge-y coffee shop, it more closely resembles a boutique stationary store, card shop or florist. You smile, unravel your scarf and know that this is an excellent place to steal away for a wintry evening. All that’s missing from the scene is a fireplace, but that might lean too far into the category of those ubiquitous ski lodge coffee shops. Not that it wouldn’t be nice. Still, you can thaw out by picking your poison of hot drink. After all, there’s ice cream to be eaten.

Sated (and having regained the feeling in your toes), you approach the counter, looking at the display of ice cream options, each flavor represented by a colored periodic table square and scientific abbreviation. The person at the counter tells you that though Sweet Science is a separate entity from Verdant Tea, all of the ice cream is made in-house in their backroom. Small batches—maybe ten pints each—and fresh ingredients. None of that corn syrup garbage. You weigh your options, knowing you’ll want two of the $3 minis they sell…and at least one pint you’ll buy later to take home. But all of the flavors sound good. How will you ever decide?

When was this lesson in chemistry class?
You settle on Dark Chocolate Sorbet—the staff person said she preferred this to the chocolate ice cream—and Rhubarb Cinnamon Almond. You’re presented with two plastic cups on a plate with two tiny spoons. You find a seat that looks out huge windows onto the snow-covered scene outside. You laugh a little to yourself about the pleasant absurdity of eating ice cream in this weather. And then you open the lids.

The Dark Chocolate Sorbet hits you like a gelato, packing in a concentrated flavor. It is neither creamy nor watery and tastes more like dark chocolate—actual dark chocolate—than ice cream does. Cold chocolate with mildly rough textural notes, like stone ground Mexican chocolate. Sweet rhapsody.

A few bites in, you switch to the Rhubarb Cinnamon Almond. It tastes all the more creamy following the sorbet. You recognize that the primary flavor is the cinnamon base, which creeps along the line of not quite spicy and not quite sweet. In bursts, the rhubarb jelly swirls punch out. The almond, it seems, functions primarily as a garnish, resting only on the surface layer, but is a welcome addition. It adds to the overall concept of a rhubarb crisp a la mode.

Ignore the nose prints.
After finishing, you consider trying another flavor before cursing your stomach for not being larger! But then you lean back, gazing out the window realizing you don’t have anywhere else to be. You might just hang out here until closing. Looking around, you realize this must be a great place in the warmer months, too. Big windows, some space for a few outdoor tables. So why ever go home, you think? Why not just hibernate here until the summer comes?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Minneapolis: Ice Cream Downtown

View of the 10th Avenue Bridge from Northern Pacific Bridge Number 9.
This post is part of a series celebrating my new favorite ice cream destination, Minneapolis.

• • •

After taking in Emily Johnson/Catalyst's latest dance/performance/ installation/etc. piece, I made my way to one of the pedestrian bridges, crossing over the Mississippi River. Having been inspired by the piece, my soul felt blown up like a balloon--floating, yet fragile. And though I was a ways away from where I was staying, there was far too much electricity in the air for me to simply go to sleep. I needed to walk around, see the earth in motion, live ice cream.

Très chic, oui?
Just east of Gold Medal Park stands Izzy's Ice Cream, a scoop shop that also houses the production facilities for the cafe of the same name in neighboring St. Paul. The tall white block of a building has a minimalist, IKEA charm, a style that distinguishes it from the oldey-timey 50's music scoop shoppes and the sometimes cluttered, sometimes pastel cozy ice cream cafes that seem to have the market cornered in America. Inside, the menu board consists of polka dots with flavor names in them, which weren't nearly as enticing as peering into their display cases where a much wider palette of colors and inspirations awaited my palate.

Polka dot menu on a flat screen.
Boasting 30 or so flavor options any given night, many old stand-bys are there, but the more adventurous will rejoice to find numerous flavors they have never seen before. With eager youngsters behind the counter offering me as many samples as I wanted--an offer I tested...they aren't bluffing!--it was a relief that they offered a sampler bowl of five mini-scoops, which amount to two or three bites each, because two-and-a-half flavors would not be enough. (This same mini-scoop tops each order and is an idea the business takes awkward pride in, having trademarked the mini-scoop as the Izzy Scoop®. It seems a little misguided to me to want to be remembered for one's top scoop being small than, say, having a superior product, but I'm no businessman.) Though these five tiny scoops were somewhat clumsily piled in the same bowl--as opposed to side by side on a dish as to not contaminate one another, something I expected from such a style-conscious business--I ate it fast enough to preserve the sanctity of each flavor. And, ultimately, it was taste and not style that made this Izzy's experience memorable.

Modern building in
an industrial neighborhood.
Of the numerous flavors I tried, most were above average, but none were as great as these three: Mexican Chocolate Fiesta, Swedish Garden Party and Church Elderberry. Mexican Chocolate Fiesta was not as spicy as many Latino-themed chocolates, choosing instead to make cinnamon the dominant spice. To make the flavor even more memorable, a hint of orange lingered in the flavor. Swedish Garden Party had an eggy, custard-y base, housing a raspberry swirl and gingerbread. I've no idea what made this Swedish--why not lingonberries?--but this cultural confusion didn't stop me from ordering it a second time. (Note: Supposedly the base is elderflower.) Church Elderberry boasts the crisp freshness of a fruit sorbet in an ice cream flavor. The sharp sweet-and-tart combo of raspberries, blackberries, strawberry, elderberry and blueberry ranks this flavor among the best fruit ice creams I've ever eaten.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Minneapolis: Ice Cream from the Market

View northwest from the Guthrie's Endless Bridge.
This post is part of a series celebrating my new favorite ice cream destination, Minneapolis.

• • •

During Saturdays on the riverfront, throngs of people make their way to the Mill City Farmers Market. Tucked between the Guthrie Theatre and the Mill City Museum (a stone's throw from Izzy's Ice Cream) market-goers can buy produce, eat delicious food and become frustrated by Salty Tart Bakery's elusive, always sold-out stuffed brioche. And while they're in the area, market-goers can also enjoy the riverfront by day, walking along the Mississippi, trekking across one of the two pedestrian bridges or taking in the view from above on the Guthrie's "Endless Bridge." But after enjoying the summer sun, a market-goer will need to cool down.

Before the dripping mess.
Perusing the flavors at the Sonny's Ice Cream Cart, I knew I was in good hands. After trying some samples, I wondered if those hands had been touched by the divine. After eating a triple scoop bowl, piled high and dripping over the edges, I wondered where I might wash my hands...but never mind the scars of battle. On to the flavors!

Looking down at
Mill City Farmer's Market.

Downtown in background.
I knew immediately I wanted a scoop of rhubarb sorbet. Having grown up in the south where the ground doesn't get cold enough, rhubarb continues to feel like a special treat for me. Tangy and sweet, this icy scoop reminded me why. Next, I chose a scoop of cantaloupe-lime sorbet. The sour lime overshadowed almost any trace of the cantaloupe, but it was so blissfully refreshing I didn't care. My favorite of the bunch. And my final choice was crème brûlée. This flavor was eggy and rich, complete with some crunchy bits of burnt sugar, adding a touch of caramel flavor.

Luckily, the market isn't the only place to find Sonny's. They have a brick-and-mortar location and, according to Cafe Crema's website (which is far more informative about locations than Sonny's seemingly dormant website), Sonny's ice cream cart can also be found at the Kingfield Farmer's Market and downtown at 8th & Nicollet Mall "on sunny days."

View north from the Endless Bridge.
View looking northeast.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Minneapolis: Ice Cream Near the Parks

The Franklin Ave. location of Sebastian Joe's.
This post is part of a series celebrating my new favorite ice cream destination, Minneapolis.

• • •

When a city gets so cold during the winter that it necessitates the creation of the Skyway System for people to move from building to building in order to avoid being outdoors, you can wager residents have numerous ways to relish the warmer months. Indeed, wandering Minneapolis in June, it was no wonder why people would choose to live here. An immaculately clean downtown area with modern-looking skyscrapers and plenty of greenery, the Mississippi River cuts through the middle with a gorgeous waterside park to enjoy, right near the famed Guthrie Theater.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.
Two of the most popular (and most worthy of a tourist’s time) outdoor attractions are Minnehaha Falls and the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The former, a light rail stop or two north of the airport, is a 193-acre park area surrounding the largest waterfall to feed into a river that leads to the Mississippi; the latter is an 11-acre garden that is part of the Walker Art Center at the western edge of the diamond that is downtown Minneapolis. Another fun activity is renting a kayak at Lake Calhoun and paddling around a chain of lakes. Conveniently, each of these attractions are near places serving Sebastian Joe’s ice cream.

Minnehaha Falls.
Offering a rotating assortment of over 100 flavors, Sebastian Joe’s has all its bases covered, from classics from the ice cream canon, to scoops with tons of mix-ins, to imaginative flavors that might not exist anywhere else. Take for example my first sampling, which I treated myself to after traipsing around Minnehaha Falls for well over an hour.* While dipping my feet in the Mississippi had a rejuvenating effect on my epidermis, eating a bowl of Vanilla Basil ice cream topped with some Raspberry Chocolate Chip washed away any dust that had collected on my soul. The vanilla blended with the basil in a way that was refreshing and slightly herby without being savory, all while tinting the ice cream a light shade of green. And each bite of the Raspberry Chocolate Chip had seedy evidence of real fruit having been used, plus the spare use of the chocolate chip (or chocolate covered raspberry seeds?) added just the right touch of sweetness to balance out the light tarty effect of the ice cream. I’ve had a lot, but I can’t remember a Raspberry Chocolate Chip better than Sebastian Joe’s. I went back and forth in my mind, but I couldn’t decide which of the two flavors I liked better. All I knew was I needed to return to Sebastian Joe’s before my time in Minneapolis was done.

*Sebastian Joe’s ice cream is served at Sea Salt Eatery, a seasonal stand featured on numerous best-of-Minneapolis lists that has lines out the door for its fish tacos. Luckily, the ice cream line is separate on the opposite side.

Images from kayaking the chain of lakes connected to Lake Calhoun.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Minneapolis Ice Cream Week

View of downtown from a Metro platform.
I never thought I'd see the day Boston/Cambridge was dethroned from being my favorite destination for ice cream. But after eating my way through Minneapolis's ice cream gauntlet during a short stay this summer, I couldn't deny the numbers: four(!) blog-worthy frozen dessert distributors, each offering something different. I'll have to go back again (and again) and try each place many more times to authoritatively pick a favorite, but the easy answer is you can't lose.

This week I will celebrate Minneapolis as my new favorite ice cream destination with four entries:

Minneapolis: Ice Cream for the Parks
Minneapolis: Ice Cream from the Market
Minneapolis: Ice Cream Downtown
Minneapolis: Ice Cream Indoors

Minneapolis Sculpture Park.

From the top of Minnehaha Falls.

Target Field.
The park around Minnehaha Falls.

Minneapolis Sculpture Park.
Minnehaha Falls,
where the falls lead to
the Mississippi River.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Bobtail Year 2: Olaf

Does my Olaf drawing look bad? ...You hesitated.
June was month one of my second Bobtail Year, in which I receive two pints of homemade ice cream a month from Bobtail.

If you haven't seen Frozen yet, I wouldn't recommend reading this entry. No spoilers or anything, but you won't get the jokes. I would recommend instead that you stop what you're doing and watch the film. But before you do that please tell me how you get internet service while living under a rock?

• • •

I found out what frozen things do in the summer. He was a snowman named Olaf and I just ate him.

I realize that must make me seem as wicked as Adele Dazeem.

I almost felt guilty, but I let it go.

(I could keep going...and I will.)

Like a snowman in a blender.
Having confessed to this act of carnage, you might think me a button-nosed dessert blogger with a heart made out of coal. But I was not the only one whose enthusiasm for Disney's Frozen has turned to acts of hysteria. People were lining up to eat him because Olaf is the name of Bobtail's latest customer-suggested creation. Inspired by the film's carrot-schnozzed snowman--unofficially inspired, Disney lawyers--Olaf ice cream has a white cream cheese base with generous hunks of carrot cake and walnuts. And, true to form, it contains no bones.

One read of the flavor description and I thought Olaf might like a warm hug...from my mouth. While I have but a mild amity for carrot cake, I am jumping-out-of-my-clogs ecstatic at the mention of carrot cake ice cream. The cream cheese base was lighter than one expects and the carrot cake and walnuts did a lot more than provide texture, adding much to the flavor. Suffice to say I had far less restraint than Sven the reindeer. (Reindeers are better than people, after all.) A flavor this good should be celebrated near and far, from Chicago to Weaseltown. And I think Olaf, who made the greatest sacrifice for this flavor to exist, would agree that it is a flavor worth melting for.

If you have the chance to try this flavor from Bobtail, it is an opportunity to knock at...assuming you know how to knock.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Atlanta on a Stick: King of Pops

King of Pops Window and Headquarters.
There aren’t many places I’ve heard of that are famous for popsicles, but one place, Atlanta’s King of Pops, has been on my radar for years now. It only seemed natural that before celebrating democracy at the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum—the fourth president I’ve checked off—I bow before a monarch of dessert.

The Corner.
But why, you might ask, do popsicles need a king when other desserts seem to have political neutrality? I’m no political science expert, but the explanation behind the coronation can be found in some simple math: Hammer + sickle = communism. Subtract the hammer (the voice of the working class), drop the k from “sickle” (via the type of healthcare only royalty or the 1% can afford), add patriarchy (patri-, father, pop) and there you have it: Monarchy = Popsicles. But I digress…

Within a short distance from one another are the two most important King of Pops locations, the Corner and the Window. My first stop was the Corner, the original location to feature a King of Pops cart. Waiting for me was a small cart, an umbrella, a smiling face and a seven-item menu. Having heard praise of their Sea Salt Chocolate, I dove in. This sweet-salty snack was the perfect chocolaty thing to smack my lips to on a warm day. Shame it wasn’t peanut-themed, eh, Jimmy?

Menu at the Window.
Later that evening, when it came time for dinner, I pointed my car toward Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q. (Perhaps the best ribs I’ve ever had, by the way.) Before I hit the gas, though, I concluded that since the day continued to be warm I would probably need another popsicle to cool down. It was practically on the way anyhow, being so close to the Window and all. Plus, I’d probably want lemonade with my proper southern meal, so why not eat a popsicle instead. This is the type of logic we use here at Ice Cream U Scream.

Tucked amongst brick and artful graffiti, the Window functions as the headquarters of King of Pops. Were it not for two things that indicate one has come to the right place—the eye-level signage and the chalkboard sign detailing the fifteen flavors available that day (out of over 100 rotating flavors!)—it would be easy to miss because the eponymous window peers out from a basement. Met with another smiling person happy to serve me what I was happy to eat, I hemmed and hawed for a while before settling on Blackberry Ginger Lemonade. Walking away eating the juicy frozen heir to the throne, I realized it didn’t matter what I’d chosen because anything would have been incredible. Well, almost anything. (I’m looking at you Strawberry Banana.)

Pop royalty.
Following this line of thinking, I turned around to test the theory by ordering the Mystery Flavor. For a buck less than their already affordable prices, King of Pops dares customers to put their fate in the hands of the jovial window-worker. When I ordered, he held out several popsicles and asked me to choose. I gently explained my burning hatred feelings about bananas, which sent one of the choices back into the freezer. (Good riddance!) I settled upon a cantaloupe-colored pop that looked the most adventurous. The jovial window-worker offered to tell me what I’d chosen, but I wanted to guess. While the taste wasn’t my favorite of those I tried, this flavor was the more refreshing than the others! It was light and tart, with a tingle of herb. Grapefruit Basil, I guessed, but I’d guessed wrong: Grapefruit Mint.

A pop veiled in mystery.
I’m happy to report that Atlanta is no longer the only place to find King of Pops (see the pull down arrow at the top left on their website); indeed, they are snuffing out democracy in shops and farmer’s markets both near (just 90 minutes away in Athens, GA at Ike & Jane Cafe and Bakery) and far (as far west as Chattanooga and as far north as Richmond, VA). So now you have the option to enjoy warm weather the Atlanta way without being in Georgia! Enjoy!

For another way to cool off in Atlanta, check out Atlanta in a Cone!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Atlanta in a Cone: Morelli's

The name Less-elli's was never considered.
Atlanta is hot. This is obvious to anyone with a basic understanding of weather systems on planet Earth. Still, like many cities, it has acquired a cute-but-annoying nickname used by non-residents: Hot-lanta. (This might be the most sigh-worthy of such loathsome nicknames, which is saying a lot being from *sigh* Chi-town, pronounced shy-town.) Non-residents and newbie transplants use these vapid cute-isms to indicate that they are knowing insiders when, ironically, doing so exposes them as superficial frauds. That being said, the fact remains that Atlanta does get hot and, therefore, anyone who finds themselves there would benefit from knowing different ways to cool off. And, as I live only to serve you, I’ve found two of the best options available.
Great photo, Brad!
Thanks, self!

Today, I’ll talk about Atlanta in a Cone. Later on, I’ll tell you about Atlanta on a Stick.

• • •

The moment I landed at ATL, I hustled my bustle straight to the rental car place, hastily agreed to numerous contractual obligations and turned on my phone’s GPS. I had one hour to get to my destination before it closed for the night, a business whose “Away on Vacation” sign had broken my heart when I last passed through Atlanta in 2009, a business that since has grown to add two more locations, a business whose flavor concepts stuck with me even before I tasted them.

Night photography is hard, y'all.
Dr. Pepper, Lard Raspberry, Salted Caramel, Coconut Caramel Macadamia. These are some of the rotating options I tried at Morelli’s. Their original location, tucked away from the street, is a walk-up window with a handful of cafe chairs sitting at umbrella-shaded tables. Though the surrounding area may seem a little rundown and, based on my experience, you will likely be solicited for money in the parking lot, something about a summer evening spent relaxing with a cone or bowl outside of Morelli’s adds a touch of class that resonates much longer than the “Am I in the right place?” feeling one gets driving there at night. (For guests who want more of a typical scoop shop vibe, their second of three locations is in an open air shopping center called Edgewood. Formerly a Cold Stone, the spot has indoor seating and an ice cream freezer you can peek in to see the flavors.)

Salted Caramel in the middle.
And then there’s the ice cream itself. Morelli’s dense, creamy scoops each offer something unique. Take, for example, the Salted Caramel. At first, one might think them just another dessert distributor jumping on the band wagon, believing themselves to be a James Beard contender simply by sprinkling some Morton’s in with some runny nonsense they slanderously refer to as caramel. But one taste proves that Morelli’s may have the best Salted Caramel creation available, certainly the best I’ve ever had. Rather than tasting sweet and salty as two separate entities, they arrive as one. The caramel has a dark and rich burnt sugar taste to it and the salt serves only to kick the other flavors up a notch, not to steal to the show. With flavors like this, it is no wonder they've won so much acclaim. It’s also no wonder that I visited Morelli’s three times during my short stay!

Next time: Atlanta on a Stick!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bobtail Year-in-Review

24 pints, 12 months, 1 man to eat them all.
My Bobtail Year, which lasted from June 2013 through May 2014, consisted of receiving two pints of Bobtail Homemade Ice Cream a month for donating to Oracle Theatre.

• • •

A year's worth of Bobtail ice cream is many things. It is in touch with pop culture via flavors named after a self-objectifying twerking enthusiast or a murderous medieval tagline. It makes use of the flavors of the season, be it a favorite dessert at Thanksgiving or a certain Valentine's Day treat. It honors people in uniform, including Chicago's lovable losers and young dealers who profit off of addicts during their annual nationwide baked goods sale. It is a little bit nutty, whether by way of legumes or actual tree nuts paired with chocolate. It is abstract, often in the form of concepts Kevin Spacey once referenced in a string of murders. It is an inquisitive study of farm animals. But above all else, a year's worth of Bobtail ice cream is inspired. But, twenty-four pints later, one has to ask: which flavors were the best?

Without a doubt my favorite Bobtail creation over the past twelve months was Lemongrass Mint Ginger. Though almost a year has passed since I tasted this flavor, I remember its nuances well. The subtle way each of its three namesakes floated in and out, playing off one another perfectly. Though it was a rare occurrence when I found myself doubting that Lemongrass Mint Ginger was as good as I remembered it being, it was put to the test when Bobtail offered Lemongrass ice cream partway through the year. It was delicious, but it was a sad nostalgia, like when you drive down the main drag of your hometown and see some of the stores had closed. I missed the spice of the mint. I missed the carbonated-like effect of the crystallized ginger sprinkled throughout. I hate to drag a solo artist through the mud--Honestly, Lemongrass, you were great--but I hope the band gets back together someday because Lemongrass Mint Ginger was one of the best, a legend on a spoon.

Both of the runners-up are four-legged flavors. First, there was the oddly-named 'Goat?', which brilliantly added goat cheese to the classic pairing of blackberry and vanilla. Pretty and delicate, both in color and on the tongue, it was an inspired twist on an underrated favorite. Next, there was Sloth which, for reason that escape me now, was never actually given its own post. Sloth had a peanut butter base with marshmallow and butterscotch mixed in. I'm not usually one for peanut butter flavors, but this one did it for me.

As luck would have it, the story doesn't end here. Chris over at Bobtail has been a big fan of my blog posts and was kind enough to send me a new punchcard for another year of Bobtail ice cream! Year two begins in June.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bobtail Year: Goat?

Photo copyrights are not mine. Will take down upon request.
L-to-R: "Wildman" Steve Brill, Murray's Cheese and Beyond Reason.

May is month twelve of my Bobtail Year, two pints of Bobtail Homemade Ice Cream a month for donating to Oracle Theatre.

• • • 

When I walk into Bobtail, I see they have a flavor named after a certain bearded, Taylor Swift back-up singer with rectangular pupils, a horned barnyardigan whose fuzzy figure doesn't seem like appetizing inspiration for a dessert.

"Tell me about the Goat, please."
"You have to say it, 'Goat?' Haha!"
"I'd like to try the Goat? please."

My scoop-stress, who having been tasked to name the flavor assigned it its inquisitive moniker, dunked her arm into the freezer. The sample spoon dipped into the prettiest bucket of ice cream in all the freezer. Could it be?

"Tell me about the Goat?"
"Goat? is a vanilla goat cheese ice cream with blackberries and goat cheese crumbles."

It was! I'd known it on sight: Just as blackberries stain one's fingers, it turns an ice cream base a delicate white and purple. Blackberry ice cream is perhaps the finest of all fruit ice cream, its tartness blending with cream and vanilla into the sweetest three-part harmony known to man. Adding a new voice to the mix, goat cheese? My oral cavity ached for this trio-turned-quartet's appetizing acoustics.

I let the echo of the sample bite reverberate through my being. Having just tasted vanilla goat cheese ice cream with blackberries and goat cheese crumble, it was clear that a change had taken place inside me. Part of me knew that nothing would ever be the--
"Well?" she asked. Clearly, I had lingered for longer than is normal.
"Well, I know I love it. The thing I'm wondering is how many pints I should get."
And I wish I'd gotten more.

Anyone who knows me and Bobtail will know this isn't Bobtail's first dance with goat cheese ice cream. This time around, vanilla is the principle flavor, one that is softened by the goat cheese and made tart by the blackberries. The goat cheese flavor isn't really in the foreground until one gets a bite with the goat cheese crumble mix-in, temporarily overtaking the silky vanilla-blackberry. The goat cheese crumbles are not overused, sneaking in every two or three bites. While the blackberry mix-in is less present than the goat cheese crumbles--just a few in my pint--their effect on the flavor as a whole is undeniable.

Without question, this was one of the best flavors of my Bobtail Year...but was it the best? This requires some thought. Next time: Bobtail Year in Review!