Saturday, May 31, 2014

Bobtail Year-in-Review

24 pints, 12 months, 1 man to eat them all.
My Bobtail Year, which lasted from June 2013 through May 2014, consisted of receiving two pints of Bobtail Homemade Ice Cream a month for donating to Oracle Theatre.

• • •

A year's worth of Bobtail ice cream is many things. It is in touch with pop culture via flavors named after a self-objectifying twerking enthusiast or a murderous medieval tagline. It makes use of the flavors of the season, be it a favorite dessert at Thanksgiving or a certain Valentine's Day treat. It honors people in uniform, including Chicago's lovable losers and young dealers who profit off of addicts during their annual nationwide baked goods sale. It is a little bit nutty, whether by way of legumes or actual tree nuts paired with chocolate. It is abstract, often in the form of concepts Kevin Spacey once referenced in a string of murders. It is an inquisitive study of farm animals. But above all else, a year's worth of Bobtail ice cream is inspired. But, twenty-four pints later, one has to ask: which flavors were the best?

Without a doubt my favorite Bobtail creation over the past twelve months was Lemongrass Mint Ginger. Though almost a year has passed since I tasted this flavor, I remember its nuances well. The subtle way each of its three namesakes floated in and out, playing off one another perfectly. Though it was a rare occurrence when I found myself doubting that Lemongrass Mint Ginger was as good as I remembered it being, it was put to the test when Bobtail offered Lemongrass ice cream partway through the year. It was delicious, but it was a sad nostalgia, like when you drive down the main drag of your hometown and see some of the stores had closed. I missed the spice of the mint. I missed the carbonated-like effect of the crystallized ginger sprinkled throughout. I hate to drag a solo artist through the mud--Honestly, Lemongrass, you were great--but I hope the band gets back together someday because Lemongrass Mint Ginger was one of the best, a legend on a spoon.

Both of the runners-up are four-legged flavors. First, there was the oddly-named 'Goat?', which brilliantly added goat cheese to the classic pairing of blackberry and vanilla. Pretty and delicate, both in color and on the tongue, it was an inspired twist on an underrated favorite. Next, there was Sloth which, for reason that escape me now, was never actually given its own post. Sloth had a peanut butter base with marshmallow and butterscotch mixed in. I'm not usually one for peanut butter flavors, but this one did it for me.

As luck would have it, the story doesn't end here. Chris over at Bobtail has been a big fan of my blog posts and was kind enough to send me a new punchcard for another year of Bobtail ice cream! Year two begins in June.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Bobtail Year: Goat?

Photo copyrights are not mine. Will take down upon request.
L-to-R: "Wildman" Steve Brill, Murray's Cheese and Beyond Reason.

May is month twelve of my Bobtail Year, two pints of Bobtail Homemade Ice Cream a month for donating to Oracle Theatre.

• • • 

When I walk into Bobtail, I see they have a flavor named after a certain bearded, Taylor Swift back-up singer with rectangular pupils, a horned barnyardigan whose fuzzy figure doesn't seem like appetizing inspiration for a dessert.

"Tell me about the Goat, please."
"You have to say it, 'Goat?' Haha!"
"I'd like to try the Goat? please."

My scoop-stress, who having been tasked to name the flavor assigned it its inquisitive moniker, dunked her arm into the freezer. The sample spoon dipped into the prettiest bucket of ice cream in all the freezer. Could it be?

"Tell me about the Goat?"
"Goat? is a vanilla goat cheese ice cream with blackberries and goat cheese crumbles."

It was! I'd known it on sight: Just as blackberries stain one's fingers, it turns an ice cream base a delicate white and purple. Blackberry ice cream is perhaps the finest of all fruit ice cream, its tartness blending with cream and vanilla into the sweetest three-part harmony known to man. Adding a new voice to the mix, goat cheese? My oral cavity ached for this trio-turned-quartet's appetizing acoustics.

I let the echo of the sample bite reverberate through my being. Having just tasted vanilla goat cheese ice cream with blackberries and goat cheese crumble, it was clear that a change had taken place inside me. Part of me knew that nothing would ever be the--
"Well?" she asked. Clearly, I had lingered for longer than is normal.
"Well, I know I love it. The thing I'm wondering is how many pints I should get."
And I wish I'd gotten more.

Anyone who knows me and Bobtail will know this isn't Bobtail's first dance with goat cheese ice cream. This time around, vanilla is the principle flavor, one that is softened by the goat cheese and made tart by the blackberries. The goat cheese flavor isn't really in the foreground until one gets a bite with the goat cheese crumble mix-in, temporarily overtaking the silky vanilla-blackberry. The goat cheese crumbles are not overused, sneaking in every two or three bites. While the blackberry mix-in is less present than the goat cheese crumbles--just a few in my pint--their effect on the flavor as a whole is undeniable.

Without question, this was one of the best flavors of my Bobtail Year...but was it the best? This requires some thought. Next time: Bobtail Year in Review!

Friday, May 9, 2014

SLC Night: Dolcetti Gelato

I know, Open Hands. I too wish there was more.
Part of the series SLC: Morning, Noon & Night.

• • •

"Taste it. I think you'll find it's a bit of a revelation."

I took the sample spoon of Lime-Basil Sorbetto from the friendly poet behind the counter. Indeed, the flavor seemed to reveal new taste buds and revive dormant ones, as if my mouth had been transformed from a studio apartment into a high-ceilinged cathedral. I wanted more. I needed more. He continued, "It's like a mojito with basil instead of mint." I don't want to drink it, I thought. I want to eat it by the shovel-full.

Italian 101: The "ce" in dolcetti is
pronounced "cheh", like "Chet."
Studying the display case, it was immediately clear that Dolcetti Gelato was much more than I expected. (One can be a little hoity-toity about gelato after a trip to Italy, even if that trip was five years ago.) Their flavors ranged from oddball (Jalapeño Chocolate) and uncommon (Lavender Honey) to simple (Blueberry Lemon sorbetto) and classic (Hazelnut). The only problem was the limit of two flavors per cup, which is both frustrating to a glutton who wants to eat everything he can and sensible to a connoisseur who wants to get a clear, uncontaminated understanding of the flavors tried. I settled on Coconut Sticky Rice gelato to go with my Lime-Basil Sorbetto, a combination both the gelato poet behind the counter and I agreed was a delightfully Thai combination.
I considered taking up
residence in this nest.

In addition to offering a fantastic product that mixed the contemporary with the classic, the place also featured a mishmash of contemporary decor. I wasn't sure whether it was a sleek café lovingly adorned with hipster flair or the other way around. My favorite parts were the showcase tables full of trinkets and an enormous metal bird's nest chandelier. This would be a great place to sit for an evening, playing Bananagrams with friends between bowls of gelato.

They also offered little sweets--dolcetti--like pastries and imported chocolate, all of which made me wish my stomach joined my mouth in suddenly feeling bigger. Much bigger. One shovel-full of Lime-Basil Sorbetto was not enough.

After I tried Jalapeño Chocolate, I was offered a palate cleanser.
Just another reason to love Dolcetti Gelato.

Dolcetti Gelato was easily the stand-out among frozen desserts downtown. I also tried the old fashioned Leatherby's Family Creamery and the island-themed Tropical Dreams Hawaiian Creamery. For dinner in Salt Lake City, I'd point you to Cucina Toscana where I received truly memorable service to go with an exquisite special: Halibut Umido, halibut in tomato-basil sauce with scallops, shrimp, squid and clams. Be warned, though: when SLC restaurants advertise that they closes at 10, it means the kitchen closes at 9. Take note.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

SLC Noon: Les Madeleines

In Salt Lake City, Kouing is king.
 Part of the series SLC: Morning, Noon & Night.

• • •

Shortly after arriving at my hotel in Salt Lake City, I ran out to grab some food. My first stop was Les Madeleines Patisserie and Café. Upon entering, it was very clear that this French bakery had more than few items that I wanted to take home with me. (I believe the phrase vous le vous coucher avec moi, ce soi? is appropriate, oui?) But the pastry du jour was to be their famed Kouing Aman.

"I'll have the one I can't pronounce."

Crispy on the outside with caramelized sugar and airy/chewy on inside, I knew from my first bite that this was one of the best pastries I've eaten in my life. Pronounced kween ah-MAHN, it is no wonder that this treat national treasure has won awards and has been featured of the Food Network. It has a Food Network price attached to it as well, but, trust me, when the person behind the counter asks how many you want, do not say "just one." Once you taste it, you'll join me in bowing to the Kouing.

While you're in the area, I recommend checking out the roof of  nearby City Library. It offers a lovely view of the city and the surrounding mountains. You may also want lunch, so walk north up nearby State Street--Yes! A street with a name instead of a number!--to Alamexo. Their Cochinita Pibil (achiote & bitter orange marinated pork shoulder, cooked in banana leaf, served with habanero pickled escabeche) was extraordinary and their free chips and salsa were the best I've ever had.

Other mid-day pastries I consumed were a chocolate chip coconut macadamia cookie from Tony Caputo's Market & Deli--so much yum in one city--and the vanilla liege waffle from the Belgiumphilic hole-in-the-wall Bruges Waffles & Frites. But the Kouing Aman at Les Madeleines was far and away my favorite. As for the other restaurants I tried, check out SLC Night.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

SLC Morning: Vosen's

In the left-hand display case, Nusskipferl is top-left
and Plunderschnecke is top, second from right.
Part of the series SLC: Morning, Noon & Night.

• • •

Looking in the display case, my eyes and my stomach were at a stalemate. The woman behind the counter said, in a German accent, that I could take my time.

The pastries at Vosen's are huge. 1980s mobile phone huge. Hollow it out for your toddler to use as Crocs huge. And they all looked delectable. I needed to phone a friend.

I confided in the polite German woman. I told her I'd narrowed it down, but couldn't decide. I knew I was getting the apricot jelly croi-liner (croissant/berliner hybrid AKA cronut, were the name not trademarked), but couldn't decide between the plunderschnecke (custard-filled spiral pastry) and the nusskipferl (hazelnut croissant).

Danke schön, Vosen's!
"That is a tough decision," she agreed. "You like custard?"


"You like hazelnut?"


"Hmm...You choose one and I'll throw in the other."

This is where indecision and high tipping meet.

Each of the pastries were good in their own way. The apricot jelly croiliner, while the smallest, was enough for breakfast by itself. It was more oily than a doughnut (on account of its flaky, absorbent layers), but the jelly and custard cut through really well. The nusskipferl was a dense pastry filled with hazelnut butter/paste that consistency-wise was somewhere between peanut butter and the marzipan that often fills almond croissants. It put more emphasis on the hazelnut flavor than it did being sugar-y sweet. The dough of the plunderschneke, my favorite, was also dense and yellow. There were bites where the custard was the main event and others where the custard moistened the dough until the two flavors blended together.

Apricot jelly croi-liner.
I wish I had more days in Salt Lake City to come back and try more of the pastries at Vosen's, even branch out into something savory. It definitely was my pick for best breakfast pastry.

In addition to selling breads and pastries, Vosen's also features a small market of imported items, including Ritter Sport chocolate bars, Kinder products and Biscoff brand speculoos spread.

For breakfast pastry downtown, I also tried the très chic Eva's Bakery and the more traditional Banbury Cross Donuts, as well as those I mention in SLC Noon. While both of these were good, I feel Vosen's is the better bet downtown. I had hoped to try a Cherry Limeade doughnut at Beyond Glazed, but unfortunately their downtown location closed. If you are looking for more of a savory and sweet brunch experience, may I recommend the chicken and waffles at Pig & Jelly Jar. Be sure to use both the syrup and the hot sauce.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

SLC: Morning, Noon & Night

View from atop SLC's City Library.
Welcome to Salt Lake City! Home to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the Utah Jazz and uneven sidewalks that are shaved down to accommodate people in wheelchairs!

People here are nice, reeeeeally nice. Even the beggars are polite! It makes sense. Standing in the valley that is downtown and seeing the mountains in every direction, it's no wonder why Brigham Young said to the other LDS pioneers, "This is the place" and settled.

Buildings in foreground are
all part of Temple Square.
Though the streets are wide--wide enough for a horse and wagon to turn around--and the buildings spread out, it is a walkable downtown...if you have a map and the patience of a (latter-day) saint. The city is a grid (easy to follow) where street names are numbers (good so far) based on their relation to the Mormon church's Temple Square (okaaay), meaning there's a 300 N, 300 S, 300 W and 300 E (oh, no) and that intersections have names like E 900 South & S 900 East (please, no) and addresses are like numerical torture devices, 425 South 300 West (make it stop!). To make matters easier(?), locals have nicknamed the streets with shorthand names; E 900 South & S 900 East are referred to as 9th S & 9th E. (Kill me.)

Pictured: the thin line between
healthy curiosity and obsession.
Not only does Salt Lake City have friendly locals and a gorgeous, pedestrian-friendly downtown, but it also features fantastic dining options. Like any good culinary tourist, I did my research beforehand, pouring over articles, review sites and blogs searching for destinations for my Stomach (praise be unto It). Having tried multiple food items at over a dozen of SLC's highest reviewed places, I've narrowed it down to your best bets for both dessert and meals.

Check back here for three more posts covering the best of Salt Lake City: Morning, Noon & Night!

L to R: Pig & Jelly Jar's Chicken and Waffles
Alamexo's Cochinita Pubil and Cucina Tosacna's Halibut Umido