Saturday, June 19, 2010

Bobtail Ice Cream

There are many reasons to love Bobtail ice cream. First of all, according to their website, “Bobtail is the only Chicago company that makes truly homemade, hard-pack ice cream.” They also have creative local-inspired flavors, like the addictive Cubby Crunch (vanilla ice cream, sprinkles, Oreo®, chocolate chips, toffee). And they stick to natural ingredients whenever possible, which is why the once blue-dyed Cubby Crunch is no longer artificially colored to match its namesake team. But even more excitement has been churning at Bobtail since January of this year.

At an Oracle Theatre event, I was introduced to Chris Liebelt, Bobtail’s General Operations Manager. In addition to generously bestowing me with some freebie coupons, he let me know that every week of 2010 will feature a customer-suggested flavor. Understandably, this got both my imagination and taste buds excited. It has been a successful tactic for generating business: I have stopped by Bobtail every time I’m been even remotely nearby so I can check out the latest!

The most popular ways of coming up with new flavors seem to be the following: (1) imagining ingredients that one rarely sees in ice cream and mixing them in or (2) taking flavor combinations featured in other treats and adapting them into ice cream form. But Bobtail customers have found inspiration from more diverse sources: current events (Blago’s Blues, blueberry ice cream with macadamia nuts), video games (1-UP, lime ice cream with coconut, inspired by the green mushroom in Mario Bros.) and children’s programming (Bobtail the Builder, chocolate ice cream with chocolate-covered peanuts, almonds, Oreo® and raisins! RAISINS!). Gourmet cooking was the inspiration for Strawberry and Goat Cheese ice cream; already a legend, the flavor was the talk of the town for weeks. (Imagine strawberry cheesecake ice cream, only more subtle and delicate.) Also worthy of mention is the breakfast-inspired Lemon Poppy Seed ice cream. Mmm hmm. These flavors made my simple suggestion of Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting seem old hat.

I asked Chris some questions about behind the scenes at Bobtail:

What’s the usual process for coming up with new flavors at Bobtail?
The team at Bobtail is always inventing flavors and have always picked 2 new ones each month to sell. Every year we hold an ice cream contest where cone shaped entry forms can be colored with the flavor creation. These entries cover all the walls in the store. So we pick the most creative and yummy sounding ones straight from our stores walls.

What is the likelihood any of these customer-suggested flavors will work their way into Bobtail’s regular rotation? What flavor would you say has been the most successful? Have you had a favorite?
One of our long standing flavors, Daley Addiction (vanilla with hand stirred butter fudge) came from a flavor contest and has become one of our most popular flavors. I once mentioned it to Mayor Daley, but he didn't seem too impressed. This year my favorite has to be the Goats Cheese Strawberry. People would ask to taste it with hesitation in their voices, but then their eyes would light up and say "It tastes just like strawberry cheesecake!"

Where are your favorite places to get ice cream when you aren’t in Chicago?
Traders Point Creamery in Indiana makes a pretty awesome organic ice cream.[Editor's note: They are located just outside Indianapolis in Zionsville.]

World-wide, what are some of the crazier flavors of ice cream you have tasted, good and bad?
I had basil ice cream a few weeks back which was too overpowering but probably would work well as a side for another dessert. My favorite flavor is Banoffee (banana and toffee).

How successful has the experiment of a new customer-suggested flavor each week been? Any chance that Bobtail will continue with a regularly rotating customer-suggested flavors next year?
Our customers are the most important thing to us, and they love it. I can see this running indefinitely.

1 comment:

Kevin M. Scarbrough said...

Bobtail! I love this place! I recently had a espresso coffee something milk shake. Amazing.