Thursday, August 21, 2008

Field Report: Christina’s Ice Cream

My co-worker Rebecca recently sojourned to the Boston area and happened upon newsworthy ice cream! I, too have been ice creaming in this part of the country. While in Boston I ate at J.P. Lick’s which features a wide variety of flavors. I sampled the accurately named cucumber and Disco Inferno (sweet cream with a hint of Tabasco). I purchased chocolate chip cheesecake and strawberry-rhubarb. Mmm, rhubarb. But enough about my silly life! Here’s the scoop on Rebecca’s findings:

Christina’s Ice Cream in Cambridge, MA has the single largest selection of flavors I’ve ever seen in an ice cream shop, and I’ve been to a lot of ice cream shops. After much deliberation, I narrowed it down to adzuki bean and carrot cake. I tasted both, and while the adzuki was good, it didn’t have the enough of the red bean flavor that I love in those steamed sweet rice Chinese nibbles wrapped in banana leaves that I don’t know the name of. So I opted for the carrot cake with a side of walnuts, and went with the economically sensible pint size. It is more than twice the size of an individual serving but only costs a little bit more, so the ice cream lasted me my whole weekend in Boston. The flecks of carrot in the ice cream went very well with the walnuts, but my one issue with it was the raisins. Because they were mixed into the ice cream, and not provided as an optional topping, the raisins were like hard little pebbles that you had to let sit in your mouth to soften before you could chew them. I would have preferred a side of plump golden raisins to sprinkle on top…but I enjoyed it nevertheless.

Sarah, the resident Cambridgian, got a pint of her favorite flavor, burnt sugar. It was yummy but a bit sweet for me—it really did taste like someone just took a kitchen torch to a pile of table sugar. Patty split her pint between mint chocolate chip and blackberry, which was notable for just how fresh and sorbet-y it was, despite the fact it was a full-fat ice cream. Carly’s pistachio, with chunks of pistachios and a light sage-green color, was the perfect summer flavor (even though our summer weather was thunderstorms).

If you’re ever in Cambridge, I recommend a trip to Christina’s in Inman Square! Their website has a full list of flavors, including the puzzlingly named Nietzsche’s Chocolate Ascension and why-would-you-come-up-with-such-a-combination Wild Turkey & Walnut.

Note from 2012: I had opportunity to visit Christina's and, yes, it is good! In my humble opinion, Toscanini's is better, but try both and decide for yourself.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Nyce Ice in NYC

When I travel, I research ahead on the best local ice cream. I then print out a short list to consider more closely when I know where I will be staying and exploring. In New York City, if you crosscheck a few different lists to find the “Best Ice Cream,” you will find these names on all or most of those lists:

Who wouldn't be curious about Chinatown Ice Cream Factory's wide selection of flavors? Amongst all the exotic fruit flavors—including lychee!!!—I was surprisingly most impressed by their almond cookie ice cream. They also have wasabi ice cream some days, though sadly not the day I visited. Admit it: You want to go to Chinatown, but have no idea why. This will give you a destination to spend your money so you don’t blow all your cash on bootleg DVDs.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory
may only have a couple flavors, but they remind you why plain vanilla and chocolate are still the best selling ice creams. When made right, you don’t need anything else…but I still chose double chocolate chip because who doesn’t like more chocolate? This is the one thing I would recommend this little two hour excursion to anyone going to New York City: ride the subway over to Brooklyn, walk to Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and relax taking in the beautiful panoramic view of the lower Manhattan skyline while eating delicious ice cream, and then get your exercise by walking across the neighboring Brooklyn Bridge. (Top 20 to Visit)

My brother’s review, “New York, New York”:
“I had read that the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory can also have hour-long waits, but I was only in line for about 15 minutes. You could see the Statue of Liberty in the distance from their steps. I think they only had seven flavors of ice cream. I decided to get Vanilla Chocolate Chunk and Chocolate Chocolate Chunk in a bowl. My brother was right - as soon as I took my first bite of the Chocolate Chocolate Chunk, I knew it was some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted. This wasn't your average grocery store chocolate ice cream - this was high quality stuff! …The Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory gets a big seal of approval from me!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ice Cream Etiquette

Some people liked to josh with me, making threats to break into my freezer and steal my ice cream. But I do not react or become defensive. My mantra, to reinterpret what many sages have said, is “If a man tries to steal your ice cream, give him your spoon.”

Not only do I open my freezer to all, I have my guests serve themselves so they may give themselves the amount they truly crave. I have too often been offered dessert and been rationed the equivalent of four bites. I am not ungrateful; I just feel it is rude to be an “Indian giver” of joy (or “Native American giver”). My approach also practices waste-prevention: a big portion will never be served to a guest who only wants a little.

Some more items of etiquette:

  • Do not scoop from a carton haphazardly. To reduce ice crystal build-up, scoop in the way that exposes the least amount of new surface area.
  • You may share my spoon, but do not lick my cone. Don’t ask me why, but I think it’s gross.
  • Put that thing back where it belongs. If you host an ice cream-oriented gathering, please serve everyone and return any unfinished cartons to the freezer BEFORE consuming, not after. If you leave the ice cream out too long, the ice cream touching the edges of the carton—which defrosts the fastest—will melt and then have icy refreeze syndrome which causes trauma to future users.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I am a savage.

I have noted on more than one occasion that a particular flavor was enhanced by letting the carton sit out for a little bit. It seems this is actually true of all ice cream. According to Wikipedia, allowing a little post-freezer defrost time results in more of the flavor being unlocked for the 3,000 taste buds of the tongue. Why does this make me a savage? Read on.

For years I have failed to comprehend people’s obsession with Cold Stone. Without getting too heated on the subject, I will say that my complaint has always been that they give you melty ice cream. Who knew this character trait is actually a ringing endorsement? But I am a humble man. I will admit now, despite my otherwise elite taste in frozen desserts, that I have been incorrect about rejecting melty ice cream. I still maintain my preference for other parlors, though, and will not be going to Cold Stone anytime soon. …If I ever want soup, however, I know where to go. (Zing!)

I am a savage in one other way, too:

  • Unlike some connoisseurs, I do not eat my ice cream with an overturned spoon. Eating that way has always proved awkward for me—perhaps a bit too intimate. 
  • Though it is less desirable amongst most of the elite, I actually enjoy the chill of a metal spoon. 
So, dear, forgiving reader, I hope you do not feel lead astray by your unrefined host. I am just a man. A humble man. An extremely humble man with a superior knowledge of ice cream to you. So back off.