Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Flavors: Ben & Jerry’s Class of 2007

To ring in the new year, I will review some of the most notable ice cream flavors to premier in grocery stores in 2007, starting with Ben & Jerry's.

Cinnamon Buns - This flavor is good. Of the few people I know who have tasted all the new flavors, this has always ranked as their favorite, possibly because of its brilliant simplicity in taste and concept. (I have only experienced one other flavor modeled after this breakfast treat--at Lickety Split in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Theirs was even better because it included pecans!) Though good, this Ben & Jerry’s creation is not as good as the two flavors it seems to fuse: Oatmeal Cookie Chunk and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, if you subtracted the chocolate chunks and added more cinnamon to the vanilla-base.

Crème Brulee - I remember thinking when I had Häagen-Dazs’ Crème Brulee a few years ago that it was good, but I never needed to have it again. Same thing with the Ben & Jerry’s incarnation, only B&J’s has more of the burnt sugar crunch. What I miss in ice cream versions of Crème Brulee is the gooeiness. I’m not sure super premium ice cream can accomplish both the richness and the lightness of custard.

Willie Nelson’s Country Peach Cobbler – Put simply, I am not a fan of peach-flavoring. After trying this, I stand my ground. I find, in ice cream, that fruit flavors taste too diluted for me, with the exception of berry flavors. I usually get my frozen fruit fix with gelato or sorbet (or I go acoustic and eat fruit).

Mint Chocolate Chunk – Do not expect mint cookies and cream; the ice cream is much mintier than it is creamy. The mintiness also overpowers the chocolate flavor. I prefer mint chocolate chip, especially if the ice cream is green.

Also new this year are Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream, Banana Split, and several flavors now available as a “Lighten Up” product line.

Monday, December 24, 2007

"Almond" the other reindeer?

Gelatiamo, the finest gelato establishment in Seattle, has caused me great confusion. My favorite flavor, Almond, has not been seen for nearly a year. When I asked about the flavor's disappearance, I was told that Almond is a seasonal flavor. (If you can explain to me what makes Almond a seasonal flavor, you will have cured me of great existential trauma.) It would seem the only nut one might call seasonal would be the chestnut, but that seems a bit of a stretch.

There are many seasonal flavors that appear during the year. Ben & Jerry's made Festivus ice cream for a little while, a gingerbread ice cream to celebrate the Seinfeld holiday that inspired the flavor. Also available annually from various distributors are peppermint and candy cane (two distinctly different flavors), egg nog, and other varieties of gingerbread. I indulged in an apple cider sorbet at Purple
in downtown Seattle. I've never seen a fruitcake ice cream, but don't deny that it probably exists somewhere.

Outside of ice cream, other seasonal offerings have also become staples. Cheesecake Factory has its annual pumpkin pecan cheesecake, which is half Cheesecake Factory's famous pumpkin cheesecake and half pecan pie. Jones Soda makes seasonal sodas for Valentine's Day, Halloween, and Thanksgiving. This all began with their now famous Turkey and Gravy soda. I have only had the privilege of tasting Jones' Seattle Seahawks-themed soda for this year's football season. Flavors included Sweat, Field Turf, Dirt, and Sports Cream. The theory was to be a true Seahawks fan one must endure each of the above flavors to reach the final flavor: Sweet Victory. The people at Jones are not just being cute when they name these flavors; they actually develop special flavors to match the names, including Sweat. Blech.

All of this being said, what is your favorite seasonal flavor? (Is it spumoni? It's spumoni, isn't it?) Anyone who knows me knows pumpkin is my favorite. Speaking of which, my sweet mother has made a pumpkin cream cheese roll with my name on it...

Please join me in requesting Almond anytime you go to Gelatiamo. Your participation is appreciated.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

...With a little help from my friends.

I have been making ice cream for over five years. It all started when I graduated high school. My friends James and Lauren surprised me with a graduation present they both chipped in to buy: an ice cream maker, my Deni Scoop Factory Compact with an electric mixer. It is a wonderful machine. It makes 1.5 quarts with no salt or ice! Just put it in the freezer for two days (or, depending on who you are, keep in there habitually) and take it out when you’re ready to use.

In my short culinary career dedicated to the fruits of the bovine, I have made many flavors, ranging from chocolate-covered pretzel to raspberry to gingerbread cookie dough. Usually, after extensive internet research into the trials and errors of others, I create my own mishmash recipe. (For example, when I made jalapeño popper, I pulled several recipes for cream cheese ice cream to compare and contrast. I also looked up jalapeño ice cream recipes, though no results that looked reliable. Then with these reference tools and my existing knowledge of ice cream, I created my jalapeño popper ice cream.) But my number one reference tool is a very special cookbook: Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book. This book taught me how to make ice cream. ‘Twas a gift from my college friend Becca during our Freshman year. It is still my primary reference tool to this day; my pumpkin ice cream is taken directly from this book.

Do you make ice cream? If so, what type of machine do you use? Where do you get your recipes?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Ethics of Ice Cream

I am currently enrolled in a certificate program in marketing which has me thinking about social responsibility and “going green.” It seems I am not the only dessert-craving fool pondering this subject, since my most popular blog entry thus far has been Larry David hates me. This entry discusses a serious moral conundrum: To sample (which utilizes single-serving spoons to aid the decision-making process) or not to sample (which produces less waste, but takes away from the customer’s experience).

There are many ethical considerations to ponder when purchasing ice cream, which companies are factoring into their product lines and marketing:
Products can be certified as being Fair Trade. This year, Ben and Jerry’s expanded its line of Fair Trade ice cream flavors.
(2) Ben and Jerry’s is popular for its animal friendly decision to use products from cows that were not treated with a particular hormone that is often used. A pledge is made by farmers (milk suppliers) that their animals will not be treated with this hormone.
(3) Ben and Jerry’s boasts its use of non-bleached paper in their packaging.
(4) Haagen-Dazs is known for being “All Natural.” Not sure how this term is regulated.
(5) Ben and Jerry’s has a line of “Organic” ice creams. Products can be certified as being Organic.
(6) Many healthier options offered by multiple companies: low-fat, frozen yogurt, sugar free, etc.
(7) Countless local brands produce pints for grocery stores, which benefit of the local economy, rather than a large corporation. (I’m not suggesting all corporations are evil—many are wonderful!—but this is a factor to consider in a debate on ice cream ethics.)

It seems the major questions center around where the product comes from (farming and factory conditions) and how the product affects the user. In a perfect world, I think many people would like products that are concerned with both arguments, incorporating all of the above things. I doubt, however, that many would willingly pay the increased cost were cheaper options still available. (Notice none of these options even talk about the quality of the product.)

Which product would you choose if you had only the following criteria to make a purchase decision: a product that is in the best interest of you and other consumers or having a product that is friendlier on a global scale?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Frost is on the Pumpkin.

Over a month has passed of pumpkin season, and those of us who took the Pumpkin Challenge have spent these past weeks gorging ourselves on the gourd of the gods. As promised, here is the list of pumpkin items I consumed this year (a total of 25). Last year's list (a total of 20) can be found in the comments section. How did everyone do? Beat last year’s record?

Pumpkin things I consumed in the 2007 pumpkin season:

Pumpkin cream cheese muffin*, Pumpkin loaf*, Pumpkin cake doughnut*, Pumpkin bread pudding, Pumpkin scone, Pumpkin cheesecake, Pumpkin torte, Pumpkin lasagna, Granola with pumpkin seed, Pumpkin cupcake, Pumpkin coffee cake, Pumpkin pudding, Pumpkin muffins, Pumpkin ice cream*, Pumpkin butter, Pumpkin soup, Pumpkin cheesecake chocolate truffle, Pumpkin cake*, Pumpkin soufflé, Pumpkin bagel, Pumpkin pecan cheesecake*, Pumpkin-spiced churro, Pumpkin pie squares (with streusel topping), Pumpkin seeds, Pumpkin pizza with Swiss cheese, sausage, and peppers 
*Items also consumed in the 2006 pumpkin season.
I have recipes for all Italicized items.

A big shout out to my friend Gail at work, who affectionately calls me “Pumpkin.” Aware of my love of the gourd, she printed out 24 recipes appropriate to the challenge.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Field Report: Lobster Ice Cream

Happy Halloween! Our spooky Field Report comes from an anonymous colleague…or maybe it was a written by a creature of the damned! Bwa-ha-ha!

The real Martha’s Vineyard is about the creepiest place in the world. I definitely get creeped out easily and by a lot of things, so I might not be the most impartial judge of this place, but I have to say, it was right up there with the “It’s a Small World” ride at Epcot Center. The ways in which people from Cape Cod push Lobster on you and expect you to just nod and chew is really alarming. The day I went to Martha’s Vineyard, I ate lobster three distinctly different ways. The lobster ice cream wasn’t as good as the lobster roll, but I’m not going to lie, the ice cream definitely beat the boiled-alive lobster.

On the way back from Creepy’s Vineyard, we stopped for lobster ice cream. I’d had nothing else but an only-just-quaffable cappuccino all day. Being from the North West gives me an inflated ego when it comes to my coffee palate.

I took a bite of the lobster ice cream that was tilting on a waffle cone, and thought that if I were to die a terrible boiled-alive death, that I hoped never to be made into a kitschy ice-cream flavor. It tasted like eating regular vanilla in a room where someone was canning fish. I smiled and gave a half-hearted “yum” so that my college-boyfriend didn’t feel like his hometown specialty was sickening me. It wasn’t really disgusting, just a little chewy.

Monday, October 29, 2007

“Wow! That’s Good?”

Jellyfish ice cream, ladies and gentlemen. It exists. Don’t believe me?

I have tried many strange flavors: black sesame, avocado, red bean, and jalapeño popper (a combination of cream cheese ice cream and pureed jalapeños, which I made). I’ve heard of wonderful gourmet explorations into garlic ice cream and I would gladly taste it, but have never seen it anywhere. (I confess, I am too chicken to make it myself.* Is it actually meant as dessert? Could it be a better option than a conventional ice cream flavor?) I love the adventure of trying a new flavor, no matter how strange. Sometimes flavors surprise you and are both weird and good.

But jellyfish ice cream? I’ve never known jellyfish to be consumed in any form, much less as something sweet to follow a big meal. Still, I think I’d rather eat a bowl of invertebrate ice cream than participate in the annual lutefisk-eating contest at the Ballard Seafood Festival.

Don’t know what lutefisk is? (Make sure you read the second paragraph of “Traces in literature.”) Lutefisk looks very much like fish apple sauce.

Have you heard of, tried, or made a strange flavor of ice cream?

NEXT TIME: A spooky Halloween Field Report on what might be the most horrifying ice cream flavor ever!!

*Note from 2012: I actually did make garlic ice cream once.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

A different game of squash

Anticipating the upcoming results of the Pumpkin Challenge in November, I thought I would report on my gourd-related activities this past weekend.

Getting into the autumnal spirit, my girlfriend and I went to Bastyr Univeristy's Haunted Trails. As we waited for our group number to be called, we walked around taking in the many features of the Halloween Carnival: apple cider, face painting, hay rides, the whole deal. It was not unlike many seasonal celebrations around the country, except for one distinguishing feature: Pumpkin Bowling.

This high-class sport is exactly what you probably imagine. We walked up, chose two pumpkins, and went to our lane. Set outside on an asphalt racket ball court, the premise is simple: use your pumpkin to knock over the pins, plastic 2-liters filled with water or dried paint. One could also opt out of the competitive spirit by selecting the lane without pins: The Throwing Wall. Emily and I chose to start with the subtle poetry of the former.

At first, we rolled the pumpkins on their sides, giving me and my more evenly-shaped pumpkin the clear advantage. In response, Emily experimented with swinging her pumpkin by the stem and tossing it. Surprised that this did not split the pumpkins, I joined in, too. This went on for a few turns, including one strike (by me)! Meanwhile, the charming sounds of Armageddon surrounded us as children and adults alike savagely destroyed their pumpkins at the Throwing Wall. It wasn’t long before we, too, were hungry for carnage.

Upon joining the mayhem, I tried the shot put approach, while Emily went with a two-handed toss. It took a few throws to split it open, at which point neither of us rested until our pumpkins were smashed to tiny bits. Grinning from ear to ear, I insisted the pumpkin proprietor make this amusement a permanent fixture of the annual Haunted Trails Halloween Carnival.

Coming the first week of November: The results
of the Pumpkin Challenge!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Field Report: Seattle Desserts (Non-Ice Cream)

In this Field Report, my co-worker Joe fills us in on the best bites in Seattle:

As a long time sugar junkie, it has been predestined that I would explore the dessert landscape of Seattle. In fifteen years of dining out, I have had the full range of experiences, from dismal servings that would have made Little Debbie blanch to the heavenly creations I will share with you.

Nothing compares to the experience of donuts at Dahlia Lounge . The airy puffs of pastry are cooked to order and brought to the table piping hot in a paper bag. After shaking them in sugar, the bag is opened and the aroma wafts around the table. They are served with mascarpone and a seasonal jelly for dipping. They are also a great conversation starter. Order them at the bar, and I guarantee you’ll have the attention of the person next to you. And if you are at the Lounge for lunch, pop around the corner to the Dahlia Bakery
. Three things to not miss are the pain au chocolat topped with pistachios, the macaroons, and the butter-crème filled cookies. A little bit of heaven to take home.

at 3321 West McGraw in Magnolia is the crème de la crème of Seattle’s crème brulee. Their trio of mini brulee's are everything you could want, yummy rich eggy goodness in the custard, expertly torched sugar forming a fun-to-crack crust. The flavors change daily, so while the quality is always superb, the experience varies. There are some very unexpected, and unexpectedly good, flavors. I have a vague recollection of a violet flavored crème brulee, but there is a chance I am confusing that experience with the violet martini, which is a very different story.

For those of you looking for a “healthier” version of dessert—denial is a wonderful thing—Le Panier in the Market has a marvelous tarte au pomme. Beautifully presented with a hypnotic whirlpool of apples and an incredibly flakey crust, it fulfills the need for a slightly tart (pun intended) alternative.

Always remember, stressed is desserts spelled backwards.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Seattle is not an ice cream city.

The pink bench might be reason enough to visit.
The greater Seattle area is famous for many things, including a heroin-addicted rock star and, fittingly, a giant needle. There are a number of national ice cream chains and some gelaterias, but where are the small scoop shops with special, signature flavors made on-site? Well, friends, look no further. I have found this place of harmony, but it resides outside Seattle’s city limits.

All of the ice cream sold at the two Mora Iced Creamery locations is made on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry’s ride from downtown Seattle. Using “old-world recipes,” the Argentinean flavor artists behind Mora craft over 48 flavors daily, including a rotating list of special flavors. This place offers much more than a few default ice cream flavors with a wide variety of mix-ins; at Mora they offer chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate mousse, Gianduja, Swiss Chocolate, Italian Chocolate, and more. They also have a list of less likely flavors including B.A. (their take on dulce de leche), Marron Glace (French chestnuts), and Mora (blackberry).

At Mora, a person is assigned to help you sample as many of their flavors as you wish. When I shyly asked for “just one more sample,” the young man behind the counter ordered me to try as many as I liked, proudly declaring he would give me a sample of every flavor if I liked. Tipping never felt so appropriate.

f their selection, the favorite shared by my best friend and I is Dark Chocolate Mint. Usually in mint chocolate ice creams the eponymous flavors are present but separate: you taste one and then the other. And usually one flavor is dominant, making the other its sidekick. Not at Mora. So good I recommend eating it sitting down. I also enjoy their Cheesecake with Brownies. Other cheesecake ice creams tend to create cream cheese overkill, bringing to mind a heavy cheesecake slice one struggles to finish, conquering instead of enjoying. Mora’s memorable flavor possesses the subtlety of a light and airy cheesecake slice.

But don’t take my word for it; go sample them all! Mora Iced Creamery is located in the greater Seattle area on Bainbridge Island and in Bellevue.

Note from 2012: While the Bellevue location has closed, Mora has opened two new stores. Check their website for details.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Cake is now obsolete.

I can think of no better way to celebrate my birthday than by waxing nostalgic about a certain cake-flavored ice cream.

A few summers ago, my dad and I went to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY as part of a week-long road trip. Just before our four hour stay at the Hall, my dad and I stopped for ice cream at a nearby roadside joint called Pop’s Place
. They featured Perry's Ice Cream , which I was unfamiliar with, since it is regional to New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Piece of Cake, a yellow cake ice cream with pieces of yellow cake and a chocolate marble frosting swirl, was such a fresh take on cake-inspired ice cream. Often these ice cream flavors have the same problem I find in their baked namesakes: frosting that is more sugary than tasty...and too much of it. Using the classic yellow cake as inspiration, this flavor may not have lots of pretty, bright colors, but accomplishes a refreshingly different ice cream experience. Who needs cake and ice cream? All you really need is Perry's Piece of Cake.

Though Piece of Cake is the only flavor of Perry’s Ice Cream I have had, their website advertises a number of interesting, even bizarre, flavors, including spicy cinnamon Fireball. Anybody else tried an interesting Perry’s ice cream flavor?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

All I really need to know I learned from ice cream.

My birthday is coming up October 4th, so I’ve been reminiscing lately...

One year while I was in grade school, my dad started buying half-gallons of ice cream he found on sale. Before then, eating ice cream had pretty much been reserved for celebrations. It was exciting, eating this frozen delicacy “just because.” Today, when I offer ice cream to friends, neighbors, and people I’ve just met—I’m not kidding—I can tell I am not the only one that, at one time, all but forgot about ice cream between parties. It seems strange to me that, as much as everyone enjoys ice cream, so many eat it so rarely.

Something I’ve noticed is that ice cream brings out the best in people. When a group of people eat ice cream together the conversation stays pretty positive. (Try and imagine someone eating ice cream angrily. Absurd, isn’t it?) It lets them feel like a kid again. In the case of gatherings at my domicile, guests are invited into a world beyond Neapolitan. Most importantly, ice cream gives people a reason to celebrate during a regular day.

And I love sharing! I am overjoyed to open up my freezer full of ice cream for people. After church this past Sunday night, a group of us were talking and I suggested we all go back to my place for ice cream. I may only own one chair in my little apartment, but I knew there was enough ice cream for everyone—a dozen or so people—to leave fat and happy. It turned into a lovely evening: a large group of people, many sitting cross-legged on the floor, trying a scoop of this and a scoop of that, grinning ear to ear. This was not unlike other gatherings I have held with the same dessert theme.

Now, whenever I call up someone who I haven’t seen in a while, they suggest we meet up for ice cream. I can almost hear them smiling because, in their minds, when I am around ice cream is consumed. It’s almost a Pavlovian response that has been created. I’m just glad to share such a wonderful gift.

Friday, September 28, 2007

I am a failure.

Here at Marisa’s Ice Cream, I try to report breaking news, bringing critical information to my beautiful fans with a quick turnaround. But I have let you down. The following is my stirring coverage on an item that may be old hat for some, but I only recently learned about on the Theo Chocolate Factory tour. My sincerest apologies. Now, without further ado...To quote a popular, oft forwarded, email: “Read this slowly and let it sink in in.”

Chocolate might soon be a regular ingredient in toothpaste.

Well, maybe not chocolate, but cacao is being considered. So long as it is not full of sugar, it seems cacao, the bean that is crushed in order to create chocolate, is actually good for teeth. I learned all this and more at the chocolate factory. A detailed report of this experience will appear in a future post.

“Chocolate toothpaste? I still don’t believe you.” Then read on, my skeptical friend, read on. It is already being sold in some countries.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

People think I’m strange.

I don’t own a TV. You’d be surprised how many times I have been offered free television sets. One friend who also doesn’t own a TV was once asked by a bewildered co-worker, “What do you face your furniture towards?” Honestly, there are really only a few reasons to own a television: Cubs games, syndicated Simpsons reruns, Playstation hook-up capabilities (for the purpose of playing Guitar Hero), and rare events that change the course of human history. On Friday, September 21, 2007, Good Morning America broadcast one such event.

The winner of Scoop: The Häagen-Dazs Flavor Search was unveiled Friday morning: Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan. Moon landing, eat your heart out.

I welcome this new flavor into the Ice Cream Kingdom, even though I was actually pulling for Blueberry Belgian Waffle, excited at the prospects of chewy/crispy waffle pieces mixed in. It seemed simple, yet unparalleled. I did get concerned, though, when one of the webisodes mentioned the possibility of using a maple syrup-flavored ice cream base, which sounded a bit overwhelming…disgusting, actually. It also could have used a waffle-flavored ice cream base, which sounded, in a word, glorious.

Still, I went to the grocery store on Friday and picked up a pint of Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan. Its subtle flavor and texture makes it a great alternative to vanilla for pairing with pies and cobblers, while also adding a gourmet touch. Surprisingly, this winning flavor was actually created by accident, much like potato chips and many other great inventions of man.

But what is to become of last year’s spectacular winning flavor, Sticky Toffee Pudding? Häagen-Dazs reports that the flavor has been a big success, and they will promote the flavor from their Limited Edition line to become a full-time flavor! (Yes, “!”)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Field Report: Landliebe, Austrian Yogurt

Following the previous entry's exploration of the difference of chocolate production outside the United States, I feel it more than appropriate to introduce our first Field Report in which Jill Becker will whisk your tastebuds to Austria.
"Liebe ist, wenn es Landliebe ist."*

I’m a romantic at heart. I confess that when I packed my bags in January 2003 to spend a semester studying abroad in Vienna, Austria, I just knew deep down that I would fall in love: with the architecture, the people, the music, the culture…pretty much any aspect of Viennese culture was up for my affection. And not long after arriving, I had indeed fallen head over heels in love. With yoghurt.

I can honestly say I did not expect to find love in yoghurt. My prior experience with the substance had been tainted by too many soupy, room temperature low-fat Yoplaits in Junior High, and by the time I reached fifteen I’d sworn it off, full stop. But yoghurt in Austria is a horse of a different color—a treat so rich in flavor and creamy in texture it is easily at home on a blog dedicated to ice cream. It helps, of course, that it’s made from vollmilch—that is, whole milk (3%) with extra cream added back in. My Austrian yoghurt of choice: Landliebe. It is made, they tell you, from the love of the land and I believe them. The purest ingredients are bottled up in 500g glass jars, ready and waiting to be eaten with your morning muslei, zopf, fruit, or straight from the jar. It comes in 11 flavors and I’ve tried them all.

It all started out very innocently. It was, after all, my duty as a visitor and student to partake in authentic Austrian cuisine. However, my roommate and I became so enamored of Landliebe that we began to consume it in abnormal quantities. Strawberry, blackberry, hazelnut, currant… flavor didn’t matter. Jars of Landliebe became entire meals. Can’t decide what to make for dinner? Have a jar of Landliebe. Running too late for class to pack a lunch? Grab a jar of Landliebe. As our recycling began to pile higher and higher (as our pants became tighter and tighter) we began to wonder if we had crossed the line. So we did the one thing one should never do in this situation: We got out the calculator. In just four months, we had consumed over one hundred and seventy jars of Landliebe. Or, as my roommate and I realized to our horror, we’d eaten the equivalent of her boyfriend’s weight. In yoghurt.

An immediate gross-out phase followed, complete with declarations that we’d never touch the stuff again. But a few days later we were back at the store, Landliebe addicts needing a fix. Our housemates thought us odd, to say the least. But to this day neither of us regret a bite. People do crazy things when they are in love.

*Landliebe’s marketing tagline: “Love is…when it’s Landliebe.” But don't listen to me; listen to the jingle!

Note from 2012: In 2010, I had a roommate who was dating a flight attendant. Thanks to him, I can say that i too have tried Landliebe and, holy cow, is it good!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Restoring a sense of patriotism

Julia, a co-worker, loves chocolate but refuses to purchase it in America. She says that even foreign-made chocolate, such as Lindt, tastes different when purchased in America because the companies manufacture products differently when they are sold in America. Knowing I rarely choose milk chocolate over dark, she declared I would have a more balanced chocolate diet if the American milk chocolate tasted like what is produced in other countries.

To prove this, the next day Julia brought me a Lindt Milk Chocolate candy bar she recently purchased in Europe. As promised, it was completely different from other Lindt milk chocolate I had eaten. It was creamy, soft, and punched you in the face with its flavor, with none of the slightly sour aftertaste of the American variety.

Julia said she wasn’t impressed with American chocolate ice cream either. I felt it my responsibility to open her eyes as she had mine. “Look no further than Häagen-Dazs,” I told her. “Don’t let the umlaut fool you. They are and always have been American.”

Häagen Dazs, I explained, has 4 of the best chocolate options available in grocery stores:

1.) Mayan Chocolate. Indulge in a pint of history as you eat bite after bite of “the original chocolate,” as believed to have been eaten by the Mayans. This rich chocolate has cinnamon spices and a fudge-cinnamon swirl. Sometimes it is featured in a “Limited Edition” package; other times it is not. Play it safe and buy some now in case it goes away!

2.) Triple Chocolate. Though I confess I cannot determine what the third chocolate is, I’m perfectly content with the two I can taste: Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream and pieces of dark chocolate truffle mixed in. This is not the first chocolate truffle ice cream, but is the best one I can find in Seattle. On the East Coast, I used to get my fix buying a pint of Chocolate Truffle Explosion (Edy’s Dreamery, Dryer’s Inc.) or a half-gallon of Forbidden Chocolate Explosion (Friendly’s).

3.) Amazon Valley Chocolate. This new selection is part of the Häagen Dazs Reserve Series. Its distinctive flavor comes from the “Criollo cocoa bean [which] gives this ice cream its intense and nutty flavor.” This is the closest thing to the flavor and texture of gelato I have ever experienced from the grocery store freezer. Such a powerful chocolate flavor—the taste grows in your mouth after you’ve swallowed—and a soft, creamy texture. It isn’t gelato, but someone who’s never had gelato could start here.

4.) Belgian Chocolate. Currently a “Limited Edition” flavor in the grocery store, this is a regular in Häagen-Dazs scoop shops. I can honestly say this is my favorite ice cream flavor of all time. Each bite is half chocolate ice cream and half shaved Belgian dark chocolate. Some of my friends feel the flavor is too rich, but for me it is perfect. Make sure when you purchase it to not eat it straight out of the freezer; it must be indulged in at a soft consistency to unlock the full flavor.

Note from 2012: Sadly none of these flavors are available in grocery store pints. In fact, I think Belgian Chocolate is the only one that is still offered in scoop shops. In general, it seems that since the collapse of the housing market, there simply aren't as many chocolate ice cream flavors being offered anywhere.

Take the Pumpkin Challenge!

Much to my chagrin, pumpkin products are only available a few months of the year: the beginning of fall through New Year’s. Imagine Prometheus giving the gift of fire to all mankind, but adding the stipulation, “Sorry, you can only use it on the weekends.”

The pumpkin is a delicacy. Last fall, knowing pumpkin season only lasts a few sweet months, I challenged myself to eat as many varieties of pumpkins as I could. Between the period of mid-September and Halloween, I ate 20 different varieties of pumpkin. This year, I am presenting this challenge to anyone; those who are really determined should try and beat last year’s record.

Here are the rules: The item consumed must be a food. (Inhaling a pumpkin candle scent does not count.) The only beverage allowed is the milkshake. Food items cannot 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 slightly altered name AND the item comes from a different source than the first item.)

At the beginning of November I will post the pumpkin items I consume this year on my quest to beat last year’s record, along with last year’s list. I invite anyone else to take the Pumpkin Challenge.

“This year I invested in pumpkins. They’ve been going up the whole month of October and I got a feeling they’re going peak right around January.” – Homer Simpson

UPDATE: Ben and Jerry’s is offering a “Limited Edition” flavor in its scoop shops: Pumpkin Cheesecake. But don’t let that keep you from indulging in locally-made Pumpkin ice cream!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Give this man the Nobel Prize.

Wouldn’t it be nice if your workplace had a machine that gave you frozen custard if you had a bad day? Thanks to Demitrios Kargotis' new invention, now it can.

My cubicle neighbor Barbara—who, I should note, works in HR—heard a story about this marvelous invention on the radio. (Marvelous was my word, not hers. What she actually said was, “What a perfect example of the American entrepreneurial spirit.”) The news spread quickly on our row, creating much excitement, confusion, and chaos. Next step: invest our organizational dollars in this highly practical, potentially life-saving, device.

This Mr. Whippy machine also opens up all sorts of opportunities for flavor-naming: Sullen Strawberry, Bitter Butter Pecan, Kooky Cookies and Cream, Homicidal Chocolate (a new take on Death by Chocolate), Psycho Pistachio, Postal Peanut Butter Cup, and Annoyed and Overworked Vanilla.

If we were to get one of these in my office I would need to work on my temper. I’m way too easy-going to benefit. Luckily, I’ve found the loophole: If I were to talk into the machine and it didn’t give me the desired amount frozen custard, chances are my stress level would increase meaning—lo, and behold!—more tasty goodness.

Check out more pictures of this delicious device!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Floats? Splits? A Jedi craves not these things.

Let me start by being open and honest about my feelings toward bananas.

In college, I started an emergency response team called ASOK (Alternative Sources of Potassium), comprised of people who, like me, could not stomach the thought of eating bananas. Unlike most foods, when a person openly admits their dislike of bananas, that person is ridiculed and mocked to no end. Fearing that banana bullies—people who mock anyone who doesn’t eat bananas—would one day try to legislate food preference, ASOK was formed. Do not get me wrong, though: I respect the rights of anyone who chooses to eat a banana split, so long as they do not belittle or—dare I say—persecute (!) others for not doing so. The point is I personally choose to never eat banana splits. Ever.

There are many varieties of ice cream concoctions: banana splits, elaborate sundaes, ice cream bars, ice cream cakes, and more. Another popular option is the float. I prefer the root beer float more as an ice cream flavor than I do its natural state of floatitude, as floats have always seemed too frothy for me. But I do enjoy the lime freeze at Doumar’s Drive-In in Norfolk, Virginia, a float that uses limeade with lime sherbet, instead of ice cream. (Stop in at Doumar’s for some southern BBQ, limeade, and dessert! A southeast Virginia classic!) I also enjoy the textural choice of using cookies and cream ice cream instead of vanilla in ice cream sandwiches, as made by novelty ice cream product makers like Lucerne Foods. But in all of these choices of ice cream concoctions, my favorite is the Chipwich.

A Chipwich is an ice cream sandwich that uses two large chocolate chip cookies as the “bread” instead of the standard chocolate rectangle things. (What are those things anyway, besides tasty?) I remember eating these at Busch Gardens, Williamsburg growing up. The ice cream edges were coated in chocolate chips and the sandwich was so big taking a bite was a challenge. The product has an interesting story, too.

Aside from a simple dish or cone of ice cream, what is your favorite ice cream concoction? Milkshakes don’t count either. Water : ice :: milkshake : ice cream.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

I am now part of the problem.

I do not watch reality television for political reasons: It steals work from actors who commit their lives to their craft in favor of making someone who is less dedicated into a star overnight. My friends tell me this is the new American Dream: To become rich and famous for doing practically nothing. It is the clash of this aversion to reality programming and my love of Häagen-Dazs that has created in me a bit of a moral dilemma.

Scoop: The Häagen-Dazs Flavor Search is a series of webisodes, shot in a documentary style. Häagen-Dazs received 5,000 entries from ice cream lovers with an idea for a flavor they dreamed of. First Häagen-Dazs chose 10 flavors. Then the public voted to narrow those down to 3 finalists:

  • Blueberry Belgian Waffle
  • Caramelized Pear and Toasted Pecan
  • Coco y Cacao - Coconut in Aztec Chocolate (dark chocolate with added spiciness)
The 3 finalists will work with flavor experts to develop their flavor at “the Häagen-Dazs ice cream test kitchen in California.” (Road trip, anyone?) Since it’s Häagen-Dazs, the ice cream will be all-natural; the flavor artists are chefs, not chemists.

Last year’s winner was Sticky Toffee Pudding, based on an English dessert, which I’d never heard of, that makes a darn good ice cream option. Robust in flavor, with pieces of “moist brown sugar cake” adding to the texture. It is easy to finish a whole pint of this in one sitting.

In order to fend off the guilt, I just pretend I’m watching a trailer for the next Christopher Guest film or, better yet, the Food Network…you know, educational programming. And if Scoop is online, it can’t be reality TV, right?
Watch videos documenting the path to the final flavor, to be announced on Good Morning, America on September 21.

P.S. I did not submit my brilliant flavor idea to this contest. My idea is so good I intend to one day take the idea directly to a specific company, earning them millions. I know the flavor is good; I have made it at home.

Larry David hates me.

Waiting for the bus this morning, I looked at newspaper headlines. In an unusual turn, USA Today caught my eye. It featured a brief blurb at the top about the return of HBO comedy show Curb Your Enthusiasm, starring Larry David (co-creator of Seinfeld and inspiration for the irritable George Costanza).

The blurb makes mention of the show taking on “ice cream sample abusers” in its upcoming season. The show is much like Seinfeld would have been if the original show had uncensored storylines and language, an emphasis on improvisation, and always centered around social irregularities encountered (or summoned) by George. In an episode, Larry will undoubtedly make a scene in an ice cream shop because someone is sampling ice cream flavors to their heart’s content, but much to Larry’s irritation. (Note from 2012: Here's the scene. as featured in Season 6, Ep. 3 "The Ida Funkhouser Roadside Memorial.")

This very subject is one I’ve been pondering recently. I am very likely a prime example of one of these so-called “sample abusers.” When I buy ice cream somewhere new to me, I take full advantage of any sampling opportunities to insure I have chosen the perfect flavor combination for my very particular palate. In terms of flavor aesthetics, this is a wonderful practice. Environmentally, however, the one-time use of a plastic spoon or shovel is a wasteful practice. I am at a crossroads: I will not give up my sampling habit, but do not want to leave this earth as a terrible sea of single serving utensils for my children’s children to deal with.

Possible solutions: (1) Ice cream stores use recyclable or washable metal sampling spoons. (2) Scoop shops have jars where samplers can donate money to erase their carbon footprint. (3) Samples are, instead, catapulted into patrons’ mouths.

If anyone sees the aforementioned episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, please report back.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Like an Ouroboros in your mouth…

The discontinued flavor. The one that got away.

My brother still sheds a tear at the thought of a certain long lost castaway: Aloha Macadamia (Ben & Jerry’s). My uncle has an empty space in his heart (and plate) each birthday when he does not get his High’s Banana ice cream. And I still wear black in mourning of the tragic loss of Ben and Jerry’s Pulp Addiction™.

Ahhh, Pulp Addiction™. Such a fine mixture of chocolate ice cream and orange sherbet. What made this flavor stick out was that, unlike chocolate/orange combinations in other desserts, the orange was much more than a subtle hint. Utilizing real orange puree, the flavor cut through the chocolate, causing the flavors to do battle itself inside your mouth until they seem to be swallowing one another, like an Ouroboros in your mouth.

Do you have a favorite flavor that is no longer available? Whether it’s one that is no longer offered at your favorite scoop shop or one that was that got beaten down by the man, I invite you to leave a comment about it.

If your flavor is Ben and Jerry’s, you can even fill out a form to resurrect the flavor! The form has a scroll down list of all their discontinued flavors.

UPDATE: Sometimes they do come back. Due to popular demand, Ben & Jerry's re-released Oatmeal Cookie Chunk after discontinuing it. So fill out the form asking them to bring back your favorite flavor. Wouldn't hurt to wish upon a star, too.

Welcome to Marisa's Ice Cream!

I don’t claim to know the most about ice cream, but in my age bracket I’ve gotta be in the 93rd percentile. And since no rewards, scholarships, or grants are given for this, I have taken the next logical step: I have started a blog.

Marisa’s Ice Cream is officially open for business. While the focus of this blog will be frozen dairy products (ice cream, gelato, frozen custard, and otherwise), I will neither limit myself, nor those who post comments, to this particular species of dessert. I want to know the best places for doughnuts and pies, too. I’m not sure there will be much interesting subject matter for vegans here, but if you dig Tofutti Cuties and want to shout it, I’m here to listen.

I will post ice cream flavor reviews, pose questions asking readers to share their favorite scoop shops, discuss ice cream making methods, and occasionally search for the meaning of life itself through ice cream-tinted lenses. I will also feature Field Reports from guest bloggers to enlighten us all. Heck, if you send me a question on the subject of dessert—and if I find it interesting enough to research—I’ll work it in.

Keep it positive!

Note from 2012: The blog was called Marisa's Ice Cream for the first few years until enough people let me know it was confusing. The name referenced this event in my life.