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.