Saturday, August 30, 2014

Minneapolis: Ice Cream Downtown

View of the 10th Avenue Bridge from Northern Pacific Bridge Number 9.
This post is part of a series celebrating my new favorite ice cream destination, Minneapolis.

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After taking in Emily Johnson/Catalyst's latest dance/performance/ installation/etc. piece, I made my way to one of the pedestrian bridges, crossing over the Mississippi River. Having been inspired by the piece, my soul felt blown up like a balloon--floating, yet fragile. And though I was a ways away from where I was staying, there was far too much electricity in the air for me to simply go to sleep. I needed to walk around, see the earth in motion, live ice cream.

Très chic, oui?
Just east of Gold Medal Park stands Izzy's Ice Cream, a scoop shop that also houses the production facilities for the cafe of the same name in neighboring St. Paul. The tall white block of a building has a minimalist, IKEA charm, a style that distinguishes it from the oldey-timey 50's music scoop shoppes and the sometimes cluttered, sometimes pastel cozy ice cream cafes that seem to have the market cornered in America. Inside, the menu board consists of polka dots with flavor names in them, which weren't nearly as enticing as peering into their display cases where a much wider palette of colors and inspirations awaited my palate.

Polka dot menu on a flat screen.
Boasting 30 or so flavor options any given night, many old stand-bys are there, but the more adventurous will rejoice to find numerous flavors they have never seen before. With eager youngsters behind the counter offering me as many samples as I wanted--an offer I tested...they aren't bluffing!--it was a relief that they offered a sampler bowl of five mini-scoops, which amount to two or three bites each, because two-and-a-half flavors would not be enough. (This same mini-scoop tops each order and is an idea the business takes awkward pride in, having trademarked the mini-scoop as the Izzy Scoop®. It seems a little misguided to me to want to be remembered for one's top scoop being small than, say, having a superior product, but I'm no businessman.) Though these five tiny scoops were somewhat clumsily piled in the same bowl--as opposed to side by side on a dish as to not contaminate one another, something I expected from such a style-conscious business--I ate it fast enough to preserve the sanctity of each flavor. And, ultimately, it was taste and not style that made this Izzy's experience memorable.

Modern building in
an industrial neighborhood.
Of the numerous flavors I tried, most were above average, but none were as great as these three: Mexican Chocolate Fiesta, Swedish Garden Party and Church Elderberry. Mexican Chocolate Fiesta was not as spicy as many Latino-themed chocolates, choosing instead to make cinnamon the dominant spice. To make the flavor even more memorable, a hint of orange lingered in the flavor. Swedish Garden Party had an eggy, custard-y base, housing a raspberry swirl and gingerbread. I've no idea what made this Swedish--why not lingonberries?--but this cultural confusion didn't stop me from ordering it a second time. (Note: Supposedly the base is elderflower.) Church Elderberry boasts the crisp freshness of a fruit sorbet in an ice cream flavor. The sharp sweet-and-tart combo of raspberries, blackberries, strawberry, elderberry and blueberry ranks this flavor among the best fruit ice creams I've ever eaten.

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