Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mark Your Calendars!

I’ve already missed two major holidays: Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day, held annually in late April or early May, and Pi Day, held on April 14 (3.14, the first three digits of pi), which is celebrated with pies aplenty. I am determined to not miss any more!
  • National Ice Cream Month: July
  • National Ice Cream Day: Third Sunday in July
  • Free Slurpee Day: July 11 (7/11). 7.11 oz Slurpees will be free from 7am to 11pm.
Please let me know of any more dessert-themed days you know of, especially if they result in free desserts or are frequently celebrated with parties.

For over achievers, more days exist, though quite possibly only in imagination.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ben & Jerry’s Turns 30!

Ben and Jerry’s continues to push the importance of ice cream ethics in their latest batch of new flavors, which, honestly, are all worth trying and most worth keeping around:

ONE Cheesecake Brownie – The ONE Foundation does more than fight poverty: they inspire people to do more…and eat more. (I love eating for a cause.) This is not just a cheesecake ice cream with Ben & Jerry’s familiar brownie chunks: they actually use cheesecake brownies! Ben & Jerry’s proves once again they know how to do cheesecake ice cream.

Dave Matthew’s Band Magic Brownies Remix “Encore Edition” – The earlier version of this flavor was chocolate-based with a gooey brownie and raspberry swirl. This was good, but did not inspire multiple purchases. The “remix” is much more exciting: the brownies are now in black raspberry ice cream. Euphoric. (And a portion of proceeds go towards the band’s Bama Works Fund.)

John Lennon’s Imagine Whirled Peace – With its caramel and toffee cookie pieces, this one takes on a graham-cracker-y taste, reminding me of one of my favorite regional flavors, Stewart’s Crumbs Along the Mohawk
. (It is at least a step in the right direction for folks that aren’t in New England.) I do not think the caramel cups used in the flavor match the quality of the ice cream, but when they left a bad taste in my mouth I just took another bite.

Cake Batter – The secret to Ben & Jerry’s exemplary cheesecake ice creams is that they are uncharacteristically subtle while other brands overload theirs with cheesecake flavor. Similarly, cake-inspired ice creams are usually overly sweet with too much “frosting.” With Cake Batter, Ben and Jerry’s schools everyone else. Still, they could learn from Perry’s Piece of Cake by mixing in texture-enhancing cake pieces…and by using yellow cake…or they could just purchase Perry’s recipe.

Another update to the Ethics of Ice Cream debate: Häagen-Dazs is on a new kick. It is donating money toward research to save the dwindling honey bee population. It seems an odd cause to raise money for, but the blurb on the side of my most recent carton pulled at my heartstrings a little, like when that polar bear couldn’t find solid land
in An Inconvenient Truth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

I am not an addict.

I took a Meditation class last summer, learning that, at its most basic, meditation is a practice of being present in the moment: not escaping it, nor over-analyzing it. Facing each moment for all it is and asking “What’s happening now?” The idea isn’t to become lost in thoughts, profound or otherwise, or even observations, but instead letting moments pass through you, instead of focusing on the past or future of a moment. Keeping yourself conscious, instead of on autopilot.

One concept explored was addiction. The instructor asked us to consider the act of eating. He explained that we may have plans to eat at our favorite restaurant and, throughout the day, look forward to eating our favorite meal. When the dish arrives, we relish in the smell, look, and taste…but after a few bites we’ve fallen back into conversation and are absent-mindedly taking bite after bite. The instructor said he used to eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every night before bed. As this became a daily activity, it was no longer about making each bite its own experience, but more a quest to finish the pint. It became an addiction for him. The more addicted you are to something, he said, the less pleasurable it is. Something that once was savored in each moment is lost with the quest to have more. We get confused when we think having more is the way to achieve satisfaction. The instructor told us that only when we find the actual source of satisfaction can we lose the addictive desire. (This practice can be applied to any situation where you might not feel like yourself.)

I agree fully with the instructor’s message, but we have distinctly different experiences with ice cream. I have, even since I started this blog, gone weeks without consuming ice cream. This wasn’t to prove the “power of self-will;” I just didn’t think to indulge.

More importantly, when the instructor spoke about taking a bite of ice cream and not fully experiencing each bite, I had no idea what he was talking about. I do not ever take ice cream for granted. Actually, it makes me more than a little giddy.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Wildlife animals inspire delicious ice cream (or “Tastes gamey”)

Denali Flavors ice cream (sometimes called Denali Alaskan Classics) are the folks that claim to have originated Moose Tracks ice cream, the popular vanilla-based flavor with a hardened fudge chocolate ripple and chocolate peanut-butter cups. I confess that amongst antler-themed ice creams, I am more drawn to Denali’s Caramel Caribou, a triple threat of caramel. Like Moose Tracks, this flavor is licensed by other brands, so you may have seen it before.

The tragedy is that Bear Claw, Denali’s finest flavor and my favorite half-gallon flavor, is not as widely available as its forest-dwelling peers. Let the drooling begin: dark chocolate ice cream filled with choco-covered cashews and a caramel swirl.

While Bear Claw is not being copied nationwide (with bootleg variations on the name), I am delighted to report that cashews are becoming more commonplace in ice cream: Ben and Jerry’s Turtle Soup—a simple-sounding, yet incredible flavor—and other half-gallon flavors from grocery store brands.

I planned on including a link to Denali’s website, which used to feature a section where you could listen to a moose call—few things were more entertaining to me in the pre-YouTube-world—but, regrettably, the website has been updated to be more adult and functional. The good news is they have a flavor locator so you can find Bear Claw in your state, which I advise you do…now!

Note from 2012: Happily, Bear Claw is starting to get licensed out. Kroger-brand stores now offer Bear Claw in their store brand. It remains my favorite half-gallon flavor.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Flavor Review: Häagen-Dazs Reserve Series

This new flavor series features rather expensive ice cream made from "rare and unique" ingredients. Some of them are worth shelling out the extra cash for:

Pomegranate Chip - Tied with Ben and Jerry’s Limited Edition Pumpkin Cheesecake, this was my favorite flavor from 2007. The pomegranate flavor is full, unlike many weak fruit-flavored ice creams. (Fruit is generally better in gelatos and sorbets.) The dark chocolate flakes add the perfect amount of sweetness. Dark chocolate ice cream bars are also available for this flavor, but the balance of flavor is better out of the carton.

Amazon Valley Dark Chocolate – I’ve already reviewed this flavor. In short, it is highly recommended.

Brazilian Acai Berry Sorbet – This sorbet was not very flavorful straight out of the freezer
and had a berry seed texture. But I learned (much too late into the carton) that the taste was unlocked by letting the sorbet sit out for a bit. It then became perhaps the most unique sorbet I have ever tasted. Worth trying for sorbet and fruit lovers.

Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle – Remember the
Häagen-Dazs contest to search for the next flavor? Well, it seems this flavor was a runner-up in the 2006 contest! And according to a blog entry from a runner-up from this year’s contest, the creator of Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle did actually receive prize money. (His hope is that his flavor, Coco y Cacao, is selected for this same reason.) As for Toasted Coconut Sesame Brittle, I like the coconut ice cream, but, this my first experience with sesame brittle, I did not find it the delicacy others do.

Hawaiian Lehua Honey and Sweet Cream – As promised, this ice cream tastes like honey. I like honey on things, but not as a substance to eat alone. In retrospect, I should have tried this ice cream in tandem with another flavor or complimenting another dessert.

NEW IN 2008! Fleur de Sel (“Flower of Salt”) Caramel – It is a popular hoity-toity practice to eat caramels that have hints of sea salt on top. This is a mixture of salty and sweet that I confess I do not understand. (One I DO understand is chocolate-covered pretzels or chocolate-covered potato chips, which if you’ve never tried, are delicious!) The fact is this ice cream does not seem to have sea salt nuances, as promised. It tastes like a lighter version of Ben and Jerry’s defunct Triple Caramel Chunk or a less creamy version of Denali’s Caramel Caribou.

Note from 2012: The
Häagen-Dazs Reserve Series had an tragically short lifespan, which I attribute to timing. Superpremium pints of ice cream were still an affordable luxury after the collapse of the housing market, but paying even higher prices for more decadent flavors was probably harder for people to justify. These flavors all fit the elegance of the Häagen-Dazs brand, but may never be seen again.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Back in Business

Free ice cream!
Ice Cream Theatre. It has been a dream of mine for some time now, realized in Seattle company Emerald City Scene's ambitious evening of world premiere one-acts, The Shark and The Worm. Everyone in attendance receives free ice cream from an authentically-dressed ice cream person. But why ice cream? There is one part during The Worm where a bumbling country grandpa compares the discontent of being without ice cream to his friend’s struggles with cancer. This may sound rude and abrasive, but I assure you it is not. Another thing it is NOT is “to be missed.” Catch The Shark and The Worm in its final performances of its extended run at Stone Soup Theatre, 4035 Stone Way N, Seattle. Runs Friday and Saturday at 8pm. Buy tickets early!

Free Gelato!
My favorite Gelato place in Seattle, Gelatiamo offered free gelato scoops to anyone who came in between 11 and 1 today. And not just little one scoops; two scoops. There were lines around the corner of happy smiling people waiting patiently for sweet, sweet free gelato. Being a socially conscious sort, I made sure to leave a tip in support of the cause. Big ups to Rachel S. for the tip.

Cheap ice cream! (Almost!)
Yesterday, Baskin Robbins shops across the nation (except Seattle, apparently) participated in 31 Cent Scoop Night in recognition of America’s firefighters. Baskin Robbins, perhaps pondering “The Ethics of Ice Cream,” made a donation of $100,000 to The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation , which “remembers America’s fallen heroes and assists their families.” The shop I sought out, however, was not participating. (There was fine print anyway: “Limit 10 scoops per person.”) Still, there was a long line of people, all disappointed, but still needing a fix. I recommend Love Potion #31 .