Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Charmery in Baltimore

Though I've never heard the nickname used outside the city, Baltimore is sometimes referred to as the Charm City. It is from this nickname that the best ice cream I've eaten in Baltimore derives its name: The Charmery.

Top L: Otterbein Cookie Creamcicle
Top R: Tell Tale Chocolate
Bottom: Old Bay Caramel
Baby Scoop: Pistachio Toffee
Located on the W. 36th St strip in Hampden (along with shoe-store-cum-chocolate-shoppe Ma Petite Shoe and another location for blog-favorite Dangerously Delicious Pies), this corner shop sticks out for its bright mural, giant scoop sculpture and nighttime lights. The exterior is just one part of this destination's creative design decisions. My favorite of the shop's artwork is actually the nautical-themed washroom, where soft mood lighting illuminate a wall mural and hanging sculptures of sea creatures (made from colorful plastic ice cream spoons). Back in the store, in addition to their main product, they also sell a collection of odd, Charmery-branded knickknacks, including baby onesies, ice cream pint koozies, turntable slipmats and car air fresheners. Finally, their creativity even extends to their customer loyalty program: when a customer gets their Charmery card punched a certain number of times they get to spin a wheel to see what free thing they earn while a light show spectacle happens and song plays.

The fun doesn't stop there. The Charmery's ice cream showcases originality in its risky flavors whose names often take inspiration from Baltimore landmarks and foods.
The menu changes a little each day.
  • Old Bay Caramel, the Charmery's best selling flavor, chooses an unlikely pairing of flavors using a certain spice known best for being used on seafood and potato chips. The Old Bay adds a spicy aftertaste and unexpectedly makes the caramel come alive.
  • Otterbein Cookie Creamcicle features a local brand of cookies to create a creamcicle ice cream textured with cookies and white chocolate chips. Delicious.
  • Tell Tale Chocolate, an ice cream so dark you'd think it's a sorbet, references Baltimore's grim antebellum poet Edgar Allan Poe...and makes for a much more evocative flavor than the overused "Death By Chocolate." 
  • The Baltimore Orioles' home field gets a nod from the Charmery flavor Day at the Yard, an ice cream with black and orange chocolate-covered sunflower seeds. (This is the first I've seen sunflower seeds in ice cream. Not for me, but I still tip my hat.)
Having tasted nearly all of the available flavors, the top three of the above were ones I'd heartily recommend, along with Pistachio Toffee--an ice cream that takes the subtle flavor of pistachios and complements it with a punch of sweet that makes one marvel at how this pairing hasn't caught on--and their vegan/dairy-free flavor Choco-nut Coconut, which uses coconut milk instead of dairy. (There was also a flavor with Wasabi peas, which the scooper and I agreed was fun to sample, but not to our liking.)

Mural on building exterior,
which bleeds onto the sidewalk.
A glance into their pint freezer revealed numerous other flavors I hope are being served next time I visit: Berger Cookies & Cream (which uses a traditional Baltimore cookie), Cinnamon Ramen (which presumably like a dessert kugel), Queso Frito Fresco (sign me up!) and Peanut Butter Fig.

Not sure what to order? Happily, the Charmery offers a $1 baby scoop that one can add on to any order. A double with a baby scoop on top is a perfectly respectable sampling, though a triple with a baby scoop is also a portion size I found myself more than capable of eating.

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