Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Ice Cream for the Baltimore Suburbanite

Two dogs enjoy Bonkey's Ice Cream.
Bonkey's Ice Cream and Snoballs in New Freedom, PA is the premier destination for residents of the tiny town and Baltimore suburbanites. There's something for all tastes--human and canine--with their solid mix of traditional flavors (vanilla that meets even my very particular cousin's approval), original flavors (pineapple upside down cake, white chocolate macadamia) and new takes on old favorites (most notably Cookie Monster, a monster-blue vanilla ice cream with crushed Oreos and cookie dough).

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ice Cream for the Baltimore "Herbanite"

There's something nostalgic and wholesome about selling ice cream from an ice cream truck. There's something foul and unsavory about dealing marijuana that is stored in one's underwear. Unsurprisingly, these two business models have never been considered for overlap. Until now.

Most people would consider it despicable to try selling drugs to kids when they are buying ice cream. Yes, it may be an unreasonable upsell, but on the flipside it is undeniably innovative to sell ice cream to potheads with the munchies! Two birds, one stoned. Consider also the forethought: both products are mobile by nature. Transporting them in the same vehicle is efficient and cost-cutting.

It is easy to paint this man as a bad apple and, joking aside, his alleged actions were certainly justifiable for arrest. But wasn't he simply mimicking the same unethical opportunism that this country has rewarded in recent years? I wonder how a ghetto entrepreneur being brought to justice might differ if he were, say, a creditor (a) taking part in predatory lending, (b) making money betting against the home owner's capacity to repay their subprime loans, (c) foreclosing homes and/or (d) giving himself several million dollars in bonuses using government bailout money? Which would more likely get off scot-free? And which has caused the greater damage: a inner-city pot dealer or the corrupt perpetuant of the housing crisis/recession? Only one is in jail.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Future of Dessert for the 99%

May Day is coming, but the country's flaming cockpit has been radioing "May Day" since the collapse of the housing market. I could repeat the well-publicized news of economic inequality, plutocracy, corporate personhood or anything else that is fairly obvious to those with powers of observation uninhibited by Fox "News." (I don't mind joking about Fox News since it is treated with a grain of salt by my friends who identify themselves as having Republican and conservative views.) I will NOT be talking about these critical and timely issues for our nation. Instead, I will talk about dessert.

My brother recently sent me an article that details a natural resource whose supply is in danger. It is dark in color, highly viscous in liquid form and among the most important and needed substances in the world: chocolate. While demand for cacao increases each year, the finicky crop remains static. The crops have very specific needs to thrive but limited amounts of available land that can meet those needs. Deforestation, a controversial and unsustainable option, is the current practice while different ideas for plant cultivation are explored. But time is running out as each year brings higher demand. And future limited supply will result in chocolate going to highest bidder, namely those with the wealth.

Issues like this are easy to dismiss because it seems like a problem of the future. But that feeling only lasts until the problem hits where it hurts.

During my fourth visit to Boston this year, I made my typical rounds, which include a trip down Mass Ave. I passed the newly closed Daddy's Junky Music, a regional chain guitar shop I would go inside whenever I passed. I continued north to Newbury Street, Boston's funky shopping district for both local and chain stores for fashion, food and miscellany. My first stop, however, sent shock waves through me. Instead of a bustling ice cream escape house, I saw this:

On the closed entry doors of J.P. Licks was a message. It wasn't an advertisement for a new flavor to tempt me away from my old stand-by, a scoop of creamy Oreo Batter and a scoop of their chocolate-based Oreo. No, it was the disturbing message that the store was closed because the only store capable of affording the rising rent costs are big chain businesses. The Back Bay neighborhood Ben & Jerry's is still in business, the Emack & Bolio's charges on, but a successful local chain has been driven from its home. Here's the message in its entirety:

March 13, 2012

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls,

It is with great sadness that I must announce the closing of this, our Newbury Street store. After almost 20 years our lease is expiring and our time has come to vacate the premises. Our last day open will be Sunday, March 11th. Our landlord plans to rent the entire building to a single tenant like the Converse, Patagonia, and Forever 21 buildings on this block of Newbury Street. We can neither afford nor utilize this entire 2 story building.

This was our third store when it opened and perhaps the most unique and wonderful looking store of any since. Our shattered tile, sculptural front counter was a genuflection to the great architect from Barcelona at the turn of the twentieth century, Antoni Gaudi. The counter was co-designed and built by Mitch Sidd. The magnificent, life-sized Holstein wall mural was painted by Kim Goldstein and Gail Henry. The overall design of the "Church of the Cow" was conceived by myself and built by CAFCO Construction.

As we continue to look for a new affordable home in the Back Bay, please be sure to visit our newest store at 150 Charles Street on Beacon Hill. The Charles Street shop is currently under construction and scheduled to open in April. You can also visit any of our 9 locations in and around Boston for your yogurt and ice cream needs.

Thank you so much for your patronage over the years. It's been a lot of fun serving you all.

Vince Petryk
Owner and Founder of J.P. Licks

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Square Doughnuts in the Big Apple

Top: vanilla bean with jelly, tres leche, coconut creme
Center: blueberry, crème brûlée
Bottom: chocolate chip cookie, pineapple, Valrhona chocolate
Every doughnut at Doughnut Plant looks fun, original and stylish. But with prices that match their high quality ingredients (none of these: trans fat, preservatives, artificial flavors or even eggs), one is forced to choose wisely. Even I found myself limiting how many I bought, settling on these 8 doughnuts for roughly $24.

Yeast doughnuts, cake doughnuts, round doughnuts, square doughnuts; they are ALL specialty doughnuts at Doughnut Plant, each offering something unique. I could simply highlight my favorites of this batch, but all of them were delicious and deserving of attention. Here they are reviewed in their pictured order:

Vanilla Bean & Blackberry Jelly - A square yeast doughnut filled with jelly. Unlike most jelly doughnuts, every bite offers tastes of the filling and in a controlled ratio. 'Nuff said.

Tres Leche - A round cake doughnut with filling! This doughnut has a delicate flavor with a rich filling that is ripe with milkiness and perhaps coconut milk. I liked what I tried, but not as much as the person in my party who snagged the leftover portion before I could. My throne may be in danger.

Coconut Creme - A square yeast doughnut with filling. Delicious coconut creme filling and glazed with coconut flakes. Though they would claim this flavor was made in the plant with the other doughnuts, I'd argue it was made in heaven. A favorite of members in my party.

Blueberry - A berry-purple(!) round cake doughnut. This was the prettiest of the doughnuts. Admittedly, blueberry cake doughnuts are not my favorite, but this did contain some nice hunks of blueberries. I had hoped the glaze would have been more tart.

Crème Brûlée - A small round doughnut with a crystallized top you could crack with a spoon. The robust flavor of this filled doughnut is that of burnt sugar, flavorful first and sweet second. My favorite of these doughnuts, which admittedly did not last long enough for me to share.

Chocolate Chip Cookie - This doughnut is deceptively simple. Crushed cookies completely coat its cakey core. At first it tastes like eating a fried cookie, but then it tastes like eating A FRIED COOKIE!

Valrhona Chocolate - A light, chewy, round yeast doughnut covered from top-to-bottom with a thin layer of frosting, which tastes more like chocolate than most other would-be chocolate frostings.

Pineapple - A round yeast doughnut with a pineapple glaze. Sadly, I ate this the next morning. One recommendation: if you buy doughnuts for the next day, the yeast doughnuts do not keep well. The frosting did still have the quick sharp flavor one would hope to get from a pineapple food product.

Doughnut Plant is located in easy walking distance from where the Chinatown buses load and drop off. After impatiently eating the Crème Brûlée, it is amazing that any of these doughnuts made the trip to Boston. Some of them were saved until the next morning. (Please note that the yeast doughnuts do not keep well overnight.) But do not let this keep you from buying in bulk, though, because the cake doughnuts with remaining bites actually tasted better the next day.

Frozen, toasted & better than an ashtray full of icicles.

You are looking at the Toasted Marshmallow milkshake, a product of Stand 4, a hamburger joint near NYU in Manhattan. Photographed by friend and fellow-sugar-addict Piper Blouin, this dessert holds many wonderful secrets waiting to be found by eager taste buds.

Make no mistake this is not a vanilla milkshake with marshmallows floating in it; this is a creamy liquid marshmallow. It has a slightly rough texture, attributed to the grey and brown flecks present throughout. These are the source of the genuine toasted flavor that makes the dessert tasty and memorable.

"Is there liquid smoke in this?" I ask Brandon, our wonderful waiter. No, he assures me; the cooks at Stand 4 toast hundreds of marshmallows every day. These are then blended/food processed/molecularly bonded with vanilla gelato to create the fabulous frozen/burnt paradox every mouth can enjoy.

I got my answer. To get that unmistakable toasted flavor, the key is including actual toasted things (unlike certain would be toasted marshmallow desserts). But that doesn't stop me from wanting to create an ice cream flavor that uses liquid smoke!