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.