Monday, August 31, 2009

Limited Edition Ben & Jerry's

Two flavors. Both alike in dignity. These Limited Edition Ben & Jerry's flavors are actually better than any of the other class of 2009 flavors (except Pumpkin Cheesecake*, obviously). Both of these flavors are in the running for best store-bought fruit ice cream, so much so they've made me forget other contenders. So much so I'm finding it difficult to articulate how good they are. My reviews basically just say over and over again, "Me likey. It good." With that ringing endorsement, read on. Make sure to stock your freezer while you still have time:

Raspberry Peach Cobbler: Is it good enough to justify its existence when Ben & Jerry's also has Peach Cobbler ice cream, a fairly new flavor from the class of 2007? Yes, because it is supremely more flavorful. The bites of raspberry ice cream highlighting the bites of peach. They one-up each other until you realize you've finished the pint! Oh, no! It was so good, but now it's gone!

Key Lime Pie: It took a lot of searching to find this one. While my pint seemed to be missing the "fluffy meringue swirls" promised by the package, I was not disappointed. The lime ice cream and "tangy lime twist" were enough to satisfy me. Best to let it sit out a bit before eating to unlock the flavor.

(On another note, I just spent much longer than I should have playing a computer game called Chunk Challenge on the Ben & Jerry's website. UPDATE: I just scored 75,555, almost doubling my previous high score...but I'm not addicted.)

*Speaking of Pumpkin Cheesecake, start readying yourself for Pumpkin Challenge 2009, which starts September 15. Not familiar with the Pumpkin Challenge? Read the rules from 2008.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Greatest Desserts: Blackberry Ice Cream Pie

I've long said that one dessert ranks in my top 3 desserts of all time, even though I'm yet to have tasted the other two. It seems an extreme statement, but I can easily say that the Mountain High Blackberry Ice Cream Pie at Skyline Drive's Skyland Resort Skyline Drive's Skyland Resort is, and will forever be, one of the greatest desserts.

Skyline Drive is a section of the Shenandoah National Park in the northwest part of Virginia. My family used to vacation there in the fall to see the colorful leaves and go hiking to Dark Hollow Falls and and Stony Man. The smell of the mountain air in the brisk autumnal months is something I can pull up in my memory at anytime. I have been back several times since childhood and continue to have memorable experiences whenever I visit.

Another feature of the park that continues to satisfy over the years is the food. There are a couple musts to any overnight trip to Skyline Drive. Breakfast at the lodge is a must: buckwheat pancakes (my favorite) with their special blackberry syrup (also my favorite). All of the lunch and dinner food is also quite tasty, but, as I said, the dessert is what's most memorable. The Mountain High Blackberry Ice Cream Pie is simple to describe--half a foot of blackberry ice cream and toasted meringue with a graham cracker crust and drizzled with (my favorite) blackberry syrup--but must be tasted to be understood. There are not many times one has astronomically high expectations for something, based on experience and memory, and finds their expectations exceeded! Consistently over the years I have expected to be disappointed just because of the mythical legendary status I have given this dessert, but no! It is always ludicrously wonderful! Substantial detours have been made in road trips over the past 4 years to accommodate my demands to go to Skyline Drive and always I stop and have my dessert.

I also make sure to stop in the gift shop to buy some of their blackberry syrup. Did I mention it's my favorite?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Step 3 to Becoming a Chocolate Connoisseur

In Step 1, I learned how chocolate was made by witnessing it first hand at a factory. In Step 2, I learned a chocolate shop owner taught me about the different qualities of chocolate from the world's regions of origin. Here, in Step 3, I will host a tasting of what many chocolatiers consider to be the finest chocolate in the world.

The biggest shopping spree of my Italy trip earlier this year was at the airport. Stocking up on foreign chocolate at Duty-Free prices made for a much larger carry-on than what originally passed through security. I bought some of my favorites, but the most prized purchase was a box of Amedei Chocolate, 36 napolitaines from 6 different regions of origin. This would provide the perfect opportunity to experience first hand what different regions truly have to offer in their beans. Even better was the fact that each chocolate was 70% cacao, meaning there were less variables for my taste buds to consider. And, since I'm a family man, I decided I could host a tasting with 4 of my kin.

Soon after my return stateside, my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law and I gathered together on comfy chairs to taste our way around the world...or at least the agrarian part that was within 20 degrees of the Equator. First, we snickered as we read aloud the verbosely-written instructions from the Amedei website on conducting a tasting. Then I explained my instructions: (1) smell the chocolate first, (2) do not eat the whole napolitain in one bite so it can later be compared with others and (3) pause together between chocolate to verbalize our reactions. I also presented strawberries for cleansing the palate between chocolates. They may have laughed at the idea, but they agreed.

At a later date, I had a private ceremony where I ate the 6th and final napolitain from each region, nibbling in a different order and recording my own reactions to compare with those documented at the family tasting. Enjoy our attempts to articulate, our poeticisms and our often contradictory opinions! (The italicized sections are what was printed on the labels.)

Venezuela - Flowery aroma with a strong, sweet flavour. Excellent aromatic harmony and a highly elegant long-lasting aftertaste. A great chocolate.
**My sister-in-law's favorite** **My favorite in Round 2**
Bitter aftertaste. Maybe some fruit/citrus. No change in flavor. A dancer on point shoes. Pops of bold flavor between the sweet, like ice cream with hunks of different stuff.

Trinidad - Refined aroma with a pleasant impact on the taste buds. A classic chocolate with a strong character.Creamier than Venezuela, but gets bitter. More arch to the flavor. Earthier. Delicate. Harsh taste in middle. Creamy, harsh, bitter. Almost smoky.

Madagascar - Delicate, inviting aroma with a scent of roasted hazelnut. Truly creamy with a refreshing aftertaste.Nut taste. Soft. NOT a refreshing aftertaste. Starts bitter but gets subtly sweeter. Seemed regular. [Editor's note: Gasp!] Not much sugar. Almost typically semisweet. Wood.

Jamaica - Marked fragrance of wood with herbal scents. A powerful chocolate with a strong personality.
**My brother's favorite**
Wood. The sweetest. The strongest/loudest. Like eating a flower. Jump of sweetness at the end. Wood. Earthy. Sweet follow-up.

Grenada - Delicate aroma of cocoa with a flowery, slightly spicy tone. Creamy and very elegant.**My mom's favorite** **My favorite in Round 1**
Flavor full of spice. Not as bitter. Bitter hints in the middle, but not the aftertaste. Creamy, but not much taste. Spices. Not as aggressive, not as much punch as the others. Fuses bitter and sweet.

Ecuador - Extremely intense fragrance with a strong scent of cocoa. Pleasantly long-lasting aroma.
**My dad's favorite**
Pleasant, even flavor. Consistent. Creamiest. Plumpest. Acidic. Fruity. Like a chocolate Easter bunny (or Pasqua pigeon).

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Contraband and Mysterious Berries

On a different road trip with my dad, we passed through Montoursville, PA and passed by a food cart boasting that it served Eder's Ice Cream. Going to summer camp in central Pennsylvania, Eder's was a legend. All of the counselors had a green Eder's shirt and as a fledgling ice cream aficionado, there was more covetousness in my heart than this church camp would have liked.

So, in my final year as a camper, when an off-camp excursion ended with a stop at Eder's, I had more than ice cream on my mind (even though their "small" fills a 24 oz cup). I slipped a counselor $20 to buy me one of the green shirts--money was considered contraband at camp. You cannot imagine the jealousy of the other campers, nor the disbelief and amazement of the other counselors.This being said, there was no question that my dad and I were obligated to stop at this food cart. I already knew from past experience that Meltaway (peanut butter cup) was their signature flavor, but there was one flavor I had never heard of before: Teaberry. Neither had my dad. So we asked, "What's teaberry?"
"Oh. It tastes like teaberries," the enthused high schooler responded. Another mystery solved.
We sampled the flavor and concluded that it tasted like root beer toothpaste.