Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Is it Ice Cream? A Visit to Snowdays

As a self proclaimed ice cream connoisseur, I'm having a bit of a crisis.  You see, I recently took a trip to Snowdays, where they serve up what is referred to as "Shaved Cream" and all I can think is "Does this count as ice cream?" Because really, what is ice cream?  At the most basic, simple level, all you need to have ice cream is sweetened, cooled cream.  From that jumping off point, there are countless ways ice cream is made and enjoyed in almost every culture.  For a moment I thought, "It needs to be churned in some way to be considered ice cream," and then I remembered how much I love Thai style rolled ice cream, which is possibly one of the creamiest, smoothest ways to make ice cream, but most definitely is not churned.  So I bring it to you, ice cream lovers: Should shaved cream be considered a style of ice cream?
Whatever it is, it sure is cute!
Snowdays' website, and their impressive lineup of press releases, claim that this is, in fact, an entirely new and different dessert.  Shaved cream is inspired by Taiwanese and Korean style shaved ice.  Rather than shaving down ice and adding flavoring to it, Snowdays mixes together milk, cream, sugar, and flavor (sounds a lot like an ice cream base, no?), and freezes it, WITHOUT churning it, into big blocks.  When you place your order, they attach a block to the shaving machine, which turns out ribbons of the snowy, creamy concoction.  This is piled high into a cup and finished with drizzled sauces and hard toppings.  Snowdays claims that they have invented this new spin on an old treat, and are happy to have customers think of shaved cream as being in its own unique category of frozen desserts. 
What I got: Regular size Green Tea Shaved Cream with chocolate syrup drizzle, mochi, and waffle cones (which were really pizzelle cookies).

What Greg got: Regular size Sweetmilk Shaved Cream with salted caramel drizzle and mochi.

I highly recommend you come hungry; the regular size portion (the smallest you can get) is huge.  The shaved cream is piled high above the rim of the cup, and toppings are artfully styled around the edge in a way that begs to be photographed.  But is it ice cream?  I dove in. 

The first thing I noticed is that the ice crystals in shaved cream are HUGE compared to any ice cream I've ever had.  The flavor of ice cream is present; shaved cream has the same sweetness and creaminess, but the texture is entirely different.  With that said, it is also more velvety than a snow cone would be.  What I didn't notice until I had been eating for a while was that the bigger ice crystals also meant I got much colder and had to eat much more slowly than I do when presented with typical ice cream.  I also made much more of a mess than I usually do, as the shaved cream seemed eager to jump out of my cup and slide off my spoon as I tried to eat it.  I'm going to go ahead and blame the ice crystals for that as well.

The flavors were all on point.  Apart from the texture, everything else was exactly what you would expect from a bowl of ice cream.  Both the green tea and the sweetmilk were well balanced and sweet but not too sweet.  The shaved cream got a little melty where the drizzle was added, but that was a nice thing.  All the toppings you would expect to find at an Asian inspired ice cream parlor are available, and you can build and customize your shaved cream adornments to your heart's content.
Bonus points for spoons that change color when they are cold.  That's just fun.
Tastiness and texture aside, I still cannot decide.  IS THIS ICE CREAM??? Leave me a comment.  Or give it a try yourself, and let me know what you think.

The Rundown:
Where: Snowdays
241 East 10th Street
New York, NY 10003
(There are other locations as well)
What they're known for: Shaved Cream, an invention of their own
A single cup: $6.00
Most Extreme Menu Item: Yeti Combo (their largest size) $12.00
Lactose Free/Vegan Option: The Coconut flavor is vegan, but was also sold out. 
Non-ice cream menu options: Cold and hot beverages

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Before They're Gone; an End of Summer Adventure

I know that it's hard to believe, but not all of New York City's ice cream is available year round.  As we cling to the last warm days of summer, some creameries are getting ready to close up shop.  Join me on a special ice cream mission to catch these frozen delights before they are gone.

Oddfellows Carnival
One of my all time favorite ice cream creators has opened a seasonal pop up shop in SoHo where they are making carnival themed frozen treats which are literally wrapped in fun.  Oddfellows Carnival is only swirling up soft serve; they've got the machines loaded with Caramel Popcorn, Chocolate, Tangerine, and Vanilla.  While you can get any flavor topped as you wish, they are featuring three ice cream carnival creations that are silly and sophisticated and sweet all at once.  

What I got: The Concession Stand - Chocolate and Caramel Popcorn ice cream swirled (this is intended to be made with just the Caramel Popcorn, but they were happy to give me a twist) topped with salted caramel popcorn and chocolate pearls.

What Brianna got: The Pink Dip - Chocolate ice cream dipped in a pink chocolate shell topped with freeze dried raspberries, gold dust, and Pop Rocks.  

What we have to go back for: The Cotton Candy Creamsicle - Vanilla and Tangerine ice cream wrapped in cotton candy (it was a rainy day, and moisture and cotton candy don't mix).

This store finally answers the question, "How much fun can you put on an ice cream cone?"  Turns out the answer is, "All the fun!"  I'm glad that I got my ice cream swirled for two reasons; I really love chocolate, and this might have been a little too salty for me otherwise.  You have to pay close attention while eating The Concession Stand, the popcorn and chocolate pearls will go jumping off of your cone if you aren't careful.  The caramel popcorn was tasty but didn't have the crunch I was expecting.  Joyfully the chocolate pearls stepped in to add a nice texture to the whole creation.

I might have enjoyed Brianna's ice cream more than she did.  The flavors all worked perfectly together; on that we agreed.  The chocolate and raspberries and shell made a sweet, tart, crunchy, smooth concoction of ice cream goodness.  Where our opinions divided was over the Pop Rocks.  I was giddy feeling the crackling on my teeth breaking up the silky sensation of soft serve.  Brianna didn't seem to appreciate the shocking invasion of her otherwise relaxing and pleasant ice cream experience.  To each their own. 
Bonus; they have a photo booth for all your ice cream photo needs.  Take that selfies!
The Rundown:
Where: Oddfellows Carnival 
62 Spring Street
New York, NY 10012
What they're known for: Carnival themed soft serve
A single cup or cone: $6.00
Most Extreme Menu Item: Any of the three creations for $7.50
Non-ice cream menu options: Candied peanuts, salted caramel popcorn, cotton candy

Magnum NYC
Yes, it's a national brand.  Yes, it's mainstream ice cream.  It's also anything but ordinary.  This summer Magnum NYC popped up in the Meatpacking District bedecked in bling and branding.  There are giant bedazzled ice cream bar sculptures "inspired by the surrounding area" (I don't get it), photo ops for the most Insta-inspired food photographers, and the store's hashtag is absolutely everywhere.  Once you get past all the shine and step up to the counter, you leave the mainstream and enter into a unique culinary experience.  
The whole beautiful process and photo-ready results
How it works
Step 1: Pick your ice cream.  Your choices are chocolate or vanilla.  Yes, it's just a normal Magnum ice cream bar... so far.
Step 2:  Pick your toppings.  This is where it gets interesting, and gourmet, and delicious.  Choices include offerings such as organic dark chocolate covered chia seeds, sorbet chocolate curls, pink Himalayan sea salt, and culinary rose petals.  You pick up to three toppings, and they all get spooned into a shaker to be properly mixed.  
Step 3: Choose your dip and drizzle.  Your options are milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and white chocolate.  You may choose different flavors for the shell and the drizzle on top.
Step 4:  Watch the magic.  The ice cream bar gets dipped into the chocolate of your choosing.  Before it has a chance to harden, your toppings are quickly and expertly sprinkled onto both sides of the bar.  Then everything is covered with a drizzle and finished with an "M" medallion.  

What I got: Chocolate ice cream, a dark chocolate shell topped with amoretti cookie crumbles, dried raspberries, and orange chocolate crispy pearls, with a white chocolate drizzle.

What Eric got: Chocolate ice cream with a white chocolate shell, Greek yogurt buttons, chocolate cookie crumble, chocolate covered sunflower seeds (they are blue), and a milk chocolate drizzle on top.
Our tasty creations
You really feel like you are eating something special as you bite into these custom ice cream masterpieces.  Each flavor and texture makes its way into every bite.  My toppings gave me crunch, saltiness, and a little tart from the raspberries to go with the rest of the sweet.  They also gave me a delicious mess; I was glad that the ice cream was served in the little box it was created on.  

The Rundown:
Where: Magnum NYC
875 Washington Street
New York, NY 10014
What they're known for: Custom crafted ice cream bars
A custom bar: $8.00
Non-ice cream menu options: They may have cold drinks.  I don't know.  I was distracted by all the shiny objects.
NOTE: I might have the close date wrong.  The website says through September.  I found an article that says through October.  The date listed is what one of the workers told me.

My final stop for this catch-it-while-you-can ice cream tour brought me to Gotham Market at The Ashland in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, where they have a rotating pop-up space for Brooklyn based business owners to get their delicious wares to the public.  Here I was introduced to the rich, creamy, delicate, and yet intense flavors of Malai Ice Cream.  They offer a soft serve and four hard packed ice creams, all in flavors inspired by an Indian spice palate.  I started by sampling the Coconut-Cardamom soft serve which was rich and creamy and delicious, but with the cardamom I personally could not eat more than a little.  Then I shifted my attention to the hard ice cream and was blissfully whisked away by every flavor.
What I got: Split cone (two flavors) with Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds and Turkish Coffee Ice Cream on a Coconut Cone.

What amazing flavors!  I usually do not like floral ice creams; I find the aroma overpowers the flavor and I can't taste anything else.  The Rose with Cinnamon Roasted Almonds ice cream was delicate and extremely well balanced.  The almond mellowed the rose so that it didn't take over my senses.  The floral and the nuttiness and the spice from the cinnamon all played together beautifully.  The Turkish Coffee ice cream was everything you would want it to be.  It had a well balanced, never bitter coffee flavor, nice and sweet, and similar to the rose, not one flavor overpowered another.  By that point I had also gotten well into enjoying the Coconut Cone which delicately complemented both ice cream flavors.  I could have eaten a few of these cones just as a treat on their own.  
Cone flavors from right to left: blue corn, five spice, cinnamon, and coconut
While I was blissfully enjoying my cone I saw another customer order the Turmeric Ice Cream.  I didn't get to try it, but I have never seen a more beautiful yellow ice cream in all my adventures. 

The Rundown:
Where: Malai
Gotham Market at The Ashland
590 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
What they're known for: Indian inspired ice cream flavors
A single cup: $5.00 A single cone: $7.00
Most Extreme Menu Item: Hand Packed Pint $11.00
Non-ice cream menu options: While there is only ice cream at Malai, Gotham Market is full of a wide variety of food.  Go hungry.  And with friends. 

Enjoy these last warm days of summer and some of these delicious frozen treats while you still can!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Jahn's Family Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor; Birthday Edition!

Jahn's Family Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor is a special place.  I mentioned Jahn's to my mother, who instantly started reminiscing about her childhood in The Bronx.  Jahn's opened 120 years ago and used to be a local franchise with locations all over New York City.  Now the only remaining one is in Jackson Heights, Queens.  They serve typical diner fare, and many of the locals just stop in for a meal without any dessert at all.  It is when you turn to the back of the menu that you discover the magic and nostalgia that gives Jahn's its legacy.  It is also where you will find the creation that inspired the most epic ice cream adventure yet.  You see, Jahn's sells a sundae known as The Kitchen Sink; a monumental ice cream creation that they will not serve to fewer than 8 people.  Of course, this meant it was time to rally the troupes for

Ice Cream Adventure; Birthday Edition

And so it was that on a fine June day my loved ones and friends made a pilgrimage to Jackson Heights, to the last standing Jahn's where, to this day, they still make all their own ice cream and toppings.  Once we were assembled and had thoroughly colonized the back of the restaurant, we placed the order: "The Kitchen Sink, please."
If you look to the right of the spoon handle, you can see the flame on what we can only guess was a graham cracker they lit on fire and stuck into the sundae.
So what is in a kitchen sink under all that homemade whipped cream?  It starts with two scoops of every flavor of ice cream Jahn's offers; Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry, Coffee, Butter Pecan, Cherry Vanilla, Pistachio Almond, Cookies & Cream, Vanilla Fudge, Chocolate Chip, Mint Chip, and Sherbet.  On top of that they add fudge and caramel sauces, banana, pineapple and nuts, mountains of fresh whipped cream, and enough sprinkles and cherries to fill your heart's desire.  There might have been more in there; it was hard to keep track of everything.  No two servings and no two bites were the same.  Once a layer of flavor was uncovered a new one emerged below.  It would take a team of dessert archeologists to pick apart the delicious madness that is The Kitchen Sink, and they would need to work fast!  As it was, our last few scoops were a wonderful ice cream soup. 
I begin the excavation, I mean serving, of the ice cream.
Everyone loved it!  We enjoyed digging through, looking for new flavors, and guessing what we had each gotten in our bowls.  I went for some green ice cream that I was assuming was the Mint Chip and wound up with Pistachio Almond instead.  I'm not usually a fan of pistachio ice cream, but this one, with almond mixed in (which I love), was absolutely luxurious.  All the ice cream at Jahn's has wonderful flavors and a creamy texture that lets you know it's the real deal.  We kept digging, eating, and enjoying all the way to the bottom of the bowl. 
Mission thoroughly accomplished!
Even with its behemoth size, a Kitchen Sink alone was not nearly enough to sate the ice cream appetites of these adventurers!  Sundaes and sodas were enjoyed all around.
Reita and Mike "split" a Banana Royal.
Jenny and her Root Beer Float
Kirin went for the Orange Sherbet Soda, which she discovered was "perfect for a hot summer day."

Beautiful sundaes for all!  I lost track of who had what after a while.
I also discovered that people tend to make this face when photographed with ice cream.  Sky has no clue what danger her sundae is in.
If you think this kid looks excited about his ice cream, you should have seen the dance he did when the fruit salad he ordered showed up!
Ron might have had to share his ice cream.
All in all it was a beautiful, tasty celebration.  I was surrounded by the amazing people who make my life sweet and rich every day, even when there is no dessert to be had.  The staff at Jahn's were incredible hosts and brought dish after dish of delicious ice cream, leaving us all refreshed and satisfied.  What a perfect way to start my next trip around the sun.

The Rundown:
Where: Jahn's Family Restaurant and Ice Cream Parlor
8104 37th Avenue #1
Flushing, NY 11372
What they're known for: Homemade nostalgic ice cream
A single cup or cone: $3.40
Most Extreme Menu Item: The Kitchen Sink $55.95
Non-ice cream menu options: Full diner menu

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Scooper Bowl New York

Did somebody say "all-you-can-eat ice cream"?!?!?!?!?  As soon as Scooper Bowl New York was announced my Facebook news feed sprang to life with friends tagging me in links to press releases.  The event's page promised endless ice cream from national and local vendors and, best of all, proceeds would go to support The Jimmy Fund (http://www.jimmyfund.org/).  You mean I can eat myself silly on frozen treats and support an amazing cause?  I secured my tickets instantly.
The big day arrived and, joined by friend and fellow ice cream lover Justin, we headed out to Bryant Park.  After scanning our tickets we each received a silver star hand stamp and a sampling spoon with instructions to hold onto it, and then the world was our ice cream dish!  We headed straight to the Vice Cream (http://www.eatvicecream.com/) tent.  None of us had heard of this creamery before.  I'm glad I know of them now.  They are starting to show up in grocery stores, so if you see them on the shelves grab a pint.  Apart from their sinfully tasty ice cream, Vice Cream had a station set up where you could write a letter to a cancer patient, which would be delivered with ice cream to kids in the hospital.  A visit to their website taught me that supporting cancer patients, their doctors, families, and support organizations, is a big part of Vice Cream's mission.  Seriously, buy a pint.
Justin and I attempted to eat all the ice cream we could see.

Vice flavors: Afternoon Delight, Bourbon Mash, L'Orange a Trois, Higher Grounds, Minted

Every flavor brought something special.  I was thrilled that they had varieties of my two favorites.  Minted is Vice's newest flavor and features a mint base with both mint chocolate "coins" and cookie pieces.  Higher Grounds isn't just a coffee ice cream.  It's coffee with chunks of mocha fudge, chocolate cookies, and espresso, which they somehow manage to make sweet.  Like creamsicles?  L'Orange a Trois is the most sophisticated deconstructed creamsicle you've ever had.  Afternoon Delight is a fusion of three classic ice cream flavors with cookie dough, ribbons of fudge and caramel sauce, and salted caramel.  The mix of sweet, salty, chocolate, and cookie dough makes a wonderful snack.  The star of Bourbon Mash ice cream is the bourbon caramel sauce that is laced through it.  The flavor of bourbon is there, but without the burn.
Vice Cream flavors for all!

Next we found our way to DF Mavens (http://dfmavens.com/), where they were scooping as fast as they could to keep up with the crowd.  We waited patiently, as there were promises of some really amazing flavors coming our way.  They were very much worth the wait.  The big surprise?  Every one of these amazing flavors is VEGAN.  So if you are looking for a delicious dairy free treat, not only does DF Mavens deliver, they convinced this lactose lover that an enjoyable alternative exists.

DF Mavens flavors: Raspberry, Red Bean, Key Lime Creme, Madagascar Vanilla Bean, Alphonso Mango

The Raspberry turned out to be a very pleasant sorbet; sweet, smooth, and cool.  I found the Red Bean to be too mealy.  The texture of the beans overtook the texture of the base ice cream.  The Alphonso Mango reminded me of drinking a mango lassi.  It was smooth and creamy and full of ripe mango flavor.  It took me back to the mango ice cream I got as a child at my family's favorite Indian restaurant.  The star at DF Mavens was the Madagascar Vanilla Bean.  I don't order vanilla ice cream often; it's simple and classic but not very exciting, so I go for the bigger flavors.  The Madagascar Vanilla Bean was the most delicious vanilla ice cream I've ever had.  It was one of the best flavors at the Scooper Bowl across the board.  There was a sophistication in the simplicity, a smoothness, and a fullness that made every bite luxurious.  It was only after singing the praises of Madagascar Vanilla Bean that we discovered it is a vegan ice cream, and that makes it an even grander accomplishment.
Then I saw people walking around with mini ice cream cones and made a bee line for a local favorite.

Our third stop was to a table featuring a New York favorite; Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (https://www.brooklynicecreamfactory.com/).  I will go on a separate adventure to visit them soon, but I'm so glad they brought their flavors and fun to the Scooper Bowl.  Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory absolutely gets top marks for presentation. 

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory flavors: Strawberry, Chocolate Chocolate Chunk, Vanilla, Pistachio

...Or at least those are the ones they listed.  All of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory flavors were being served on tiny ice cream cones.  Ice cream is always more fun on a cone!  It gives you a little extra treat at the end and gave my tiny spoon a rest.  We each grabbed a flavor; Greg got Pistachio, Justin took Strawberry, and I went for Chocolate Chocolate Chunk, as I hadn't had any chocolate yet.  All were as fresh and fun as ever.  And then we saw it... open face ice cream sandwiches.  Ok, so it was really vanilla ice cream atop a giant Oreo cookie, but it was good!  I had to eat it fast to keep the ice cream from melting off the cookie.  Later in the day I went back to the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory booth, thinking I wanted to get Strawberry this time.  I instead had a wonderful surprise; they had started scooping Blueberry!  I got myself one last cone with the blueberry goodness and thoroughly enjoyed every lick.

Open face Oreo
Surprise Blueberry

Next to Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory was Graeter's (https://www.graeters.com/).  This is the first I had tried the fourth generation Midwest ice cream brand. Their ice cream was rich and creamy.  The flavors were not too fancy, but knew what they were, and what they were was good.

Graeter's flavors: Black Raspberry Chocolate Chip, Double Chocolate Chip, Madagascar Vanilla Bean

After having thoroughly sampled the creamy cold commodities of the first four vendors, we filled up what space remained with the national brands that were present.  Ben and Jerry's will always have a special place in my heart, and I love that they are environmentally and socially responsible (learn more here: http://www.benjerry.com/values).  I went for a taste of The Tonight Dough Starring Jimmy Fallon (caramel and chocolate ice cream with cookies, chocolate chip and peanut butter cookie dough) and found the caramel/chocolate/peanut/salty/sweet/smooth/goopy mix to hit the spot. Breyers, who makes the Neapolitan of my childhood, was the next tent over. I sampled their Cookies and Cream, which is simple and smooth and satisfying. Just so we could say we had tried everything we headed over to Baskin Robins. Generally I avoid Dunkin Donuts' frozen sister, but it was part of the experience. Love Potion #31 was cloyingly sweet with a tang to the flavor which can only be artificial. I guess the chocolate hearts were cute. Honestly, in a city with so much great ice cream, why would anyone waste their time? Hรคagen Dazs was our last stop of the day. They were giving out single serving containers so I took my mint chocolate chip to go, leaving the Scooper Bowl and all its cold, creamy, child-helping, world-changing goodness behind. 

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Blueberry Ice Cream Alert! The Inside Scoop!

I have received special communications and am here to alert the public to something wonderful happening in our fair city.  Now until June 18th ONLY special Josh Pond (http://joshpond.com/) Wild Maine Blueberry Ice Cream can be found at some of New York's, and this blogger's, favorite ice cream destinations.  Make your way posthaste to the following locations for tasty, creamy, cool, refreshing blueberry treats:

  • Morgenstern's Finest Ice Cream - 2 Rivington Street, NY, NY 10002 (The location of my first ice cream adventure: http://nycicecreamadventure.blogspot.com/2017/04/morgensterns-finest-ice-cream.html)
  • Chinatown Ice Cream Factory - 65 Bayard Street, NY, NY 10013
  • Davey's Ice Cream - 137 1st Avenue, NY, NY 10003 -or- 201 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211 (Coincidentally the location of my second ice cream adventure: http://nycicecreamadventure.blogspot.com/2017/04/daveys-ice-cream-williamsburg.html)
  • il laboratorio del gelato - 188 Ludlow Street, NY, NY 10002
  • Melt Bakery - I'm not sure which location, but here's a map of all of them https://www.meltbakery.com/pages/locations
  • 10 Below - 10 Mott Street, NY, NY 10013 -or- 132 Allen Street, NY, NY 10002 -or- 42 1/2 St. Marks Place, NY, NY 10003 (Manhattan locations only)
  • Mikey Likes It Ice Cream - 199 Avenue A, NY, NY 10009
I will attempt to try as many of these as possible before the week is out and report back to you as soon as possible.  Please note; all of the creameries listed that I have not yet blogged about will each receive their own day in the sun.

This message will become delicious in 3...


Blueberry Mint Vegan Swirl from Morgenstern's

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ample Hills Creamery

What is it then between us?
What is the count of the scores or hundreds of years between us?

Whatever it is, it avails not—distance avails not, and place avails not,
I too lived, Brooklyn of ample hills was mine,
 - Walt Whitman "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry"            

Ice cream with a view... from the rooftop of Ample Hills Creamery
Founders Brian and Jackie took inspiration for the name of their business from Walt Whitman's poem which explores the connection New Yorkers share with one another.  And what can unite the great diversity of people, the pulse of New York, across time and space better than ice cream?  Ample Hills Creamery creates thoughtful, funky ice cream that is perfect for bringing people together.  I journeyed to Gowanus, Brooklyn (Ample Hills has other shops in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and should you be on a magical vacation, Disney World) to try some of their original creations.  And what a taste I got...
I have had my share of ice cream flights through the years.  They are typically three or four flavors served to sample a variety of what that shop has to offer.  At Ample Hills, a flight is your choice of SIX flavors!  That's half a dozen scoops of cold, creamy concoctions to dance across your palate.  I still had trouble narrowing down the choices to pick only a hexad of Ample Hills' unique flavors to make up my flight.  With my selection in hand, we headed upstairs, where there is both indoor and rooftop seating available, to enjoy ice cream with a view.  New York is known for its rooftop bars where you can sip expensive cocktails high above the bustling streets, but only if the bouncer feels you meet the dress code.  I'll take refreshing ice cream, a friendly environment, and a view of downtown Brooklyn over that any day.  

What Greg and I got (because not even I am going to attempt six scoops of ice cream alone, this one's for sharing): Flight - Salted Crack Caramel, Butter Pecan Brittle, The Munchies, It Came From Gowanus, Snap, Mallow, Pop!, and Cookies Au Lait.
I had to go for the flight... but check out that sundae!

Just like when I was taking my first bite, I don't know where to begin.  I wound up diving into the Salted Crack Caramel first out of practicality; it was melting faster than its friends.  The flavor of the ice cream was almost savory, with a slight smokiness to salty caramel ice cream.  The crack caramel is hard and gives a crunch to the smooth base.  Ample Hills makes the crack caramel in house, and you can buy it as a treat on its own.  In fact, they make most of the mix ins themselves.

The Butter Pecan Brittle was the least complicated of the scoops we got.  Many of Ample Hills' ice creams have a lot going on, but I found a simplicity in the butter pecan.  It doesn't take things too seriously.  It knows that sometimes ice cream can just be ice cream, and even when surrounded by crazy combinations, that's a good, pure thing.  The base is a gentle brown sugar cinnamon, with the two flavors well balanced and subtle.  The pecan brittle gives a little crunch but still manages to keep things smooth.  

And then came The Munchies. This is one funky flavor.  It is a pretzel ice cream with chips, crackers, pretzels, and M&Ms mixed in.  It is sweet, salty, crunchy, creamy, and due to the candy, colorful.  The Munchies is everything you want from snack food, turned into an ice cream.  I was not able to identify the chips and crackers specifically, but found the salt and crunch from them for sure.

If there's something you can only get in one place, you can bet I'm going to order it.  It Came From Gowanus is only available at the Gowanus location, and it is as unique as its neighborhood.  The base flavor is a salted dark chocolate ice cream, and I realized that I have never had a dark chocolate ice cream before.  Why does nobody make dark chocolate ice cream?  It's really good.  Mixed in with that is Ample Hills' hazelnut crack cookies (more home made goodness), white chocolate pearls, and orange scented brownie pieces.  It all works; it's sweet and a little salty and rich from the dark chocolate.  I couldn't say for sure that I was able to taste, or is it smell, the orange in the brownie, but I enjoyed it without that element. 

Cookies Au Lait was a great coffee ice cream base, not too strong or bitter, very flavorful and sweet with pieces of sandwich cookies mixed in.  This is a rotating flavor, so get to Ample Hills quickly to try it. 

The unexpected star of this ice cream sextet was the Snap, Mallow, Pop! ice cream.  It was surprising and unmatched in its originality, and truly fulfilled the promise of being "a deconstructed rice krispie treat".  The ice cream itself is marshmallow flavored.  I was expecting maybe a vanilla or milk flavor with marshmallow pieces or sauce mixed in.  No.  It is in fact truly a marshmallow ice cream.  It even has a texture to it of an ooey gooey marshmallow treat.  With the rice krispie clusters mixed in, it was a cold, refreshing version of what you would make at home, if you went heavy on the mallows.  Great texture, great flavor, great ice cream. 
After all that, still don't see something that interests you?  That's ok.  Ample Hills is open to suggestions.
All in all, Ample Hills Creamery provides a relaxed, fun environment and creative flavors to let your imagination run wild.  I highly suggest checking out any of their locations for a very unique treat.  Oh, and if you are reading this, lovely Ample Hills Creamery creators, please do another run of The Dark Side and The Light Side.  I am heartbroken that I missed it.

The Rundown:
Where: Ample Hills Creamery
305 Nevins Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
What they're known for: Original flavors of home made ice cream
A single cup or cone: $4.95
Most Extreme Menu Item: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry (banana split) $13
Non-ice cream menu options: Cold and Hot beverages

P.S. Ample Hills Creamery has master ice cream making classes!  I'm going to have to try one.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Holey Cream

This is no ordinary ice cream adventure. This ice cream adventure takes us to a magical place where ice cream and donuts live together in harmony.  A place where the choices are dazzling, the combinations are delightful, and the resulting flavors are delicious.  A place where sugary dreams are brought to life with care.  A place in Hell's Kitchen called Holey Cream.
I also had no ordinary special guest with me on this adventure (or was I a special guest on his?).  For this ice cream and donut extravaganza I was joined by my friend Jean-Tae who was one of my inspirations for starting Scoops, Sundaes, Sprinkles, and Shakes in the first place.  You see, in 2015 Jean-Tae took on a "100 Days of Ice Cream Challenge" in which he ate a different flavor of ice cream every day for 100 days straight.  Photo evidence went up on Facebook every day with the number, flavor, and those of us who joined him along the way.  This spring Jean-Tae announced that he was taking up another challenge.  This time, donuts.  When I heard about Holey Cream, I knew a crossover was called for.  So it was that on Day 46 of the Donut Challenge we met up at this ice cream and donut mecca. 
I think I had this look on my face the whole time I was at Holey Cream.
We walk up to the counter and are greeted by the friendly staff.  I inform them that I want the ice cream-donut-sandwich-thing, but I don't know what that means.  Well... They start with a plain donut, and you pick your ice cream flavor, glaze flavor, and topping.  I can't decide what flavor of ice cream to get; there are over 30 to choose from.  I am told I can pick two.  Then I choose from about half a dozen glaze flavors.  Then I'm taken over to the topping selection where there are more than 20 options.  THEN I'm asked to pick a drizzle for the top.  The smile on my face and wonder in my eyes must have gotten bigger with every step.  The employees noted my joy and found it to be contagious.
There were too many ice cream options to capture in one image, but behold the beautiful toppings!
What I got: Donut Ice Cream Sandwich - a plain donut with two scoops of Holey Moley Ice Cream, one scoop of Coffee Mud Pie Ice Cream, Nutella glaze, Heath crumble, and marshmallow drizzle.

What Jean-Tae got: Donut Ice Cream Sandwich - a plain donut with two scoops of Holey Moley Ice Cream, one scoop of Brownie a la Mode Ice Cream, Nutella glaze, Oreo pieces, and marshmallow drizzle.

What Greg got: one scoop of Outrageous Caramel Pretzel Ice Cream in a cup.

Please do not mistake the similarity of our sandwiches for a lack of options.  There are literally thousands of combinations you could make.  We just have similar tastes when confronted with such a smorgasbord.
Behold the beauty!
We feasted with gusto!  The Holey Moley Ice Cream is a cookie dough base with M&Ms and fudge mixed in. The candy in it added even more fun to a treat that I could not stop smiling about.  I have mentioned before that I am a fan of coffee ice creams, and the Coffee Mud Pie was perfect!  The coffee flavor mixed with chocolate was just what I wanted and the gooeyness of the brownie pieces brought a fun texture to the party.  All three toppings, the Nutella, Heath, and marshmallow sauce, came together to feel like I'd created sophisticated s'mores on top of a sundae.  The donut itself was the perfect platform for all of the flavors, being soft and fluffy and soaking up ice cream as it had a little time (but not much, I ate this fast) to melt.  It wasn't too heavy, as I find donuts can sometimes be.  The cake of the donut was tasty but not overpowering, creating a sandwich where everything could be enjoyed in harmony. 
This is a simplified version of the process.  It does not mention that you get THREE scoops of ice cream, which you can split between two flavors, and that after you add toppings, the whole thing is crowned with a drizzle.
I highly encourage you to head over to Holey Cream and compose your own heavenly donut ice cream creation.  There is so much to choose from that everyone will be able to make their own version of the perfect sandwich.  Holey Cream is right outside the Theatre District and open late, so you can stop in for a treat after a show.

The Rundown:
Where: Holey Cream
796 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10019
What they're known for: Donut Ice Cream Sandwich
A single cup or cone: $5.50
Most Extreme Menu Item: 12 Donuts $24.50, but most extreme ice cream is their selection of sundaes, which include 4 scoops of ice cream each at $9.00
Non-ice cream menu options: Donuts, cupcakes, brownies, cookies, smoothies, hot and cold beverages

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Tipsy Scoop

There is a brand new ice cream "barlour" in Kips Bay serving up boozy ice cream, and it's creating quite a buzz.  Tipsy Scoop started out making ice cream for wholesale and catering, and now you can purchase their alcoholic treats by the scoop at their just opened brick and mortar location.  When I was there Tipsy Scoop had only been open a week, but word has clearly gotten out.  I rely on rainy days to beat the rush at popular ice cream parlors, but on this soggy day, the place was packed to the pint!  I guess customers are more likely to brave the rain when they all have to be 21+ to enter.
While I was taking this picture, someone headed in asked me if I was even 21.  Greg responded with "are you?"
Bird's eye view of the crowd courtesy of special guest Brianna.
We squeezed in the door and waited a long time in a very slowly moving line.  The menu board indicated that three flavors, including the Chocolate Stout Pretzel that I had been looking forward to trying, were sold out.  No problem there, I still had a hard time narrowing down my choices, as so many of the flavors sounded delicious.  I decided to order a flight so that I could sample four.  When I got to the counter, I was told I couldn't get a flight, because they were just too labor intensive to make.  "But I see other people with them, they look beautiful, I was really looking forward to one." I tell them.  Nope, too much work.  Instead they will serve two scoops in two cups each.  The good news is that they only charged me for a 2 scoop ice cream, which is less than their flight.  The bad news is that while we were eating, I saw another beautiful flight walk by me.  What's that about? Good to know I'm not worth the effort. 
Here is a picture of a flight from the Tipsy Scoop Twitter page.
This is what I was served.  You can understand my disappointment.
What I got: Boozy "Flight" - Tequila Mexican "Hot" Chocolate, Spiked Hazelnut Coffee, Spiked Mint Chocolate Chip, and Raspberry Limoncello Sorbet

What Greg got: Sandwich - chocolate chip cookies with Spiked Hazelnut Coffee Ice Cream

What special guest Brianna got: Spiked Mint Chocolate Chip and  Dark Chocolate Whiskey Salted Caramel in a cup

Please note: All of the listed flavors have real booze in them and contain up to 5% ABV.  The menu says that they do have non-alcoholic ice cream available.  We didn't ask.  The menu also says that sprinkles and cherries are complimentary.  I didn't notice that until we were already eating, and the servers didn't offer.

Everyone's favorite was the Tequila Mexican "Hot" Chocolate.  The flavor was spot on.  You can taste the tequila and a little bit of spice, but neither are overpowering.  As delightful as the flavor was, the ice cream itself was super melty (the one on the right in the above picture) and that made it goopy and difficult to eat.  I didn't want to rush my eating to prevent making a mess; I wanted to enjoy it! The Raspberry Limoncello Sorbet was also very enjoyable.  It would be a perfect summer backyard party cool down treat, if anyone in NYC had a backyard.  The flavors were balanced, the booze was present but again, not overwhelming, and it felt good to eat. 

The other flavors were all underwhelming.  The Spiked Mint Chocolate Chip had a very mild mint flavor and I couldn't taste the booze, let alone tell you what it was.  The Spiked Hazelnut Coffee clearly wanted to evoke the flavor of Baileys, but again was very mild; neither the hazelnut nor coffee flavors particularly had a chance to shine.  As for the Dark Chocolate Whiskey Salted Caramel, the first two elements were definitely there.  You could taste the chocolate and the whiskey, and it was quite good.  The salted caramel was, however, completely lost.  If they had left that out of the description, this would be a perfectly fine flavor.  As it is, if you think you are getting salted caramel and you can't find it, that can be disappointing. 
Greg biting into his ice cream sandwich brilliantly photobombed by Brianna
Greg's ice cream sandwich also didn't measure up, and that I mean literally.  It was a very small treat, for a not very small treat price.  The cookie-to-ice cream ration was way off... too much cookie and and not enough cream.  Or maybe it was not enough cookie and really not enough cream (did I mention it was small?).  The cookies were hard, which lends itself to shattering while eating, which as anyone who has eaten an ice cream sandwich knows, just means a mess. 

All and all, I don't think I will be heading back to Tipsy Scoop.  While some of the flavors were quite enjoyable, there was a bit too much disappointment in this ice cream adventure, and I just don't like being made to feel that I am a second class ice cream consumer. 

The Rundown:
Where: Tipsy Scoop
217 East 26th Street
New York, NY 10010
What they're known for: Alcoholic Ice Cream
A single cup: $4.50
Most Extreme Menu Item: Cake $75 (takes 5 days)
Non-ice cream menu options: Coffee (iced or hot) and bagged toppings

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Eddie's Sweet Shop

Nostalgia Alert!  This ice cream adventure takes a wonderful wander down memory lane to a street corner in Forest Hills, Queens.  Eddie's Sweet Shop is an old school soda fountain where everything - the ice cream, syrups, toppings, and whipped cream - are all hand made.  Ice cream has been served here for over 100 years.  The store has had a few different names and owners in that time, but the spirit remains.  What makes Eddie's a success is a commitment to quality.
Eddie's Sweet Shop has all the classic ice cream flavors you love.  While you can just get a scoop of ice cream, I've never actually seen anyone do that.  Once you walk in and see what everyone else is enjoying, you will want to order big.  I highly encourage it.  The toppings really help take things - well - over the top.  A few tips on ordering:
  • Sauces like hot fudge or caramel are considered toppings along with sprinkles, fruit, nuts, etc, but syrups are their own category
  • Since Eddie's makes their own syrups and has a real soda jerk, you can order a soda in any combination of flavors, and you should.  
  • Eddie's uses different definitions for ice cream drinks then you might be used to.  They spell it all out in the menu, but beware before you order:
    • An ice cream soda is soda (any flavor, remember) with a scoop of ice cream
    • A milkshake (which they have different thicknesses of depending on how many scoops of ice cream you want in it) is ice cream, syrup, and milk; blended
    • A float is a MILKSHAKE with a SCOOP of ICE CREAM in it... just let that sink in

Ok, now that your mouth is watering....
What I got: Banana Split with Chocolate and Strawberry Ice Cream, Chocolate Syrup, banana, whipped cream, sprinkles, and a cherry, and a cherry lime soda

What Greg got: 1 Scoop Sundae with Coffee Chip Ice Cream, butterscotch, whipped cream, and a cherry, and a chocolate egg cream

All of the ice cream creations at Eddie's Sweet Shop are served on little metal plates.  This is crucial, for you will have an overflow of toppings and ice cream tumble down from their pedestal as you dive in.  The dishes add to the nostalgia and let you know that you are about to enjoy something special.  Not to worry, napkins are well supplied. 

Have I mentioned that everything is handmade at Eddie's Sweet Shop?  Everything is handmade at Eddie's Sweet Shop.  It is such a treat to have real whipped cream, floating on top of genuine chocolate sauce, drizzled over simple yet rich and fulfilling ice cream, and in this case, resting on bites of banana.  I couldn't decide between chocolate and rainbow sprinkles, so they were kind enough to give me both.  Yes, I could have gone with different flavors, but everything about this place calls for a classic and it was about time in this adventure for me to order a banana split. I dove in with enthusiasm, and it was quite a while before I came up for air. 

I was really glad that Greg went for the Coffee Chip in his sundae.  I love coffee ice cream!  If I had only slightly less self control you would probably only read about 3 flavors of ice cream in this blog.  I enjoy trying new things, but a favorite is a favorite and to me a sweet, creamy coffee ice cream is just about perfection.  Eddie's adds chocolate chips, and Greg added the butterscotch, and that right there is a decadent, satisfying, flavorful treat. 

Order a soda with your ice cream.  Maybe if you are getting an ice cream soda you don't need to, but otherwise go ahead and get one.  It's a wasted opportunity not to.  How often are you going to be somewhere that makes all their own syrups and lets you pick any combination?  I asked for a recommendation this time and wound up with a Lime Rickey (cherry and lime syrup) which was fruity and fun and went really well with my fruity sundae.  Greg went for the chocolate egg cream.  Yes, it is a real egg cream.  No, there is no egg in an egg cream.  Yes, it will satisfy even the most nostalgic of New Yorkers (I know you're reading this, Mom). 
Even the menu over the counter is about as old school as it gets.
Head out to Forest Hills, Queens for a cool treat that will take you right on down memory lane.  Your taste buds will think they've been cast as the star in an old movie, your fingers will be sticky, and your heart will happy.

The Rundown:
Where: Eddie's Sweet Shop
105-29 Metropolitan Ave.
Forest Hills, NY 11375
What they're known for: Old school homemade ice cream, syrups, and toppings
A single cup or cone: $3.50
Most Extreme Menu Item: Banana Royal or a 3 Scoop Sundae, $9.00
Non-ice cream menu options: Sodas, hot beverages, and there's a candy display, but I've never actually seen anyone buy anything from it.

p.s. Want to know more about the Lime Rickey?  Check out this article by Jaclyn Einis on the subject: http://www.seriouseats.com/2015/04/lime-rickey-soda-fountain-history.html

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Soft Swerve

It's time for ice cream to meet umami!  Soft Swerve keeps it simple and sweet.  They offer four Asian inspired flavors of soft serve ice cream, Ube Purple Yam, Macapuno Coconut, Matcha Green Tea, and Black Sesame, which can be enjoyed solo or twisted in a cup or cone.  The Swerve Specials menu offers unique and well balanced combinations of ice cream and toppings.   Customers are also welcome to order their own creations.  And boy, do they make it look good.
We walked right in and up to the counter.  The staff was friendly and happy to make alterations to their suggested creations.  They do offer samples (if you are unfamiliar with these flavors and feeling wary, this is a great opportunity to get to know them), but we went straight for our treats.  As soon as we had ordered and collected our dessert a huge line to the door formed.  Clearly word has gotten out about this place.  Sometimes it's all about good timing.   
Photo Credit to my dad, who is tall and could take a picture over the heads of the forming crowd.
What I Got: A modified version of the Broadway Special - Ube and Macapuno Coconut swirled with Fruity Pebbles, and marshmallows in a chocolate cone.

What Greg Got: Brooklyn Bridge - Black Sesame, Skor Toffee, mochi, and caramel drizzle in a cup.

Let me say first that the staff here takes great care in creating their ice cream concoctions.  The ice cream is expertly swirled into a cup or cone so that it looks picture perfect every time.  For my creation, they sprinkled some fruity pebbles into the bottom of my cone before filling it with ice cream so that there was a little extra treat waiting at the end for me.  For Greg's they started by drizzling the caramel into the cup in a pattern, then added the toffee and shook it to have the pieces stick in place.
Ok so it looks pretty, but how does it taste?  Just right.  The ice cream is smooth and creamy and cold enough that it doesn't melt while you enjoy the toppings.  I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor and purple color if the Ube.  If you've never tried it, ube is very similar to taro.  The closest comparison on the American flavor pallet might be red velvet, in the sense that there is a flavor that reminds you a bit of chocolate, but isn't.  Try it.  The coconut flavor got a little lost the sweetness of my toppings.  I did not realize when I placed my order that the marshmallows were Lucky Charms.  I don't typically eat sugary cereals, but this was a fun way to have an ice cream.  There was a crunch from the Fruity Pebbles that was really satisfying.  Everything about my dessert, down to the chocolate cone with its subtle flavor was full of joy.

Greg's treat was on the more sophisticated side.  Black Sesame has a gentle sweet flavor with a slight woodiness that comes out of the seeds when they are roasted.  The toppings just kept lifting that flavor up with the sauce and toffee bringing caramel and chocolate to the party.  Where the toffee gave a little crunch, there was the delightful smoothness of the mochi pieces.  Mochi is a rice paste treat that is a bit like a gummy but softer, and is one of my favorite toppings.

If these flavors inspire you, I highly recommend taking a trip to the Lower East Side.  I will need to make another visit myself to try the Matcha Green Tea.

The Rundown:
Where: Soft Swerve
85B Allen Street
New York, NY 10002
What they're known for: Asian inspired soft serve
A single cup or cone: $3.99
Most Extreme Menu Item: Swerve Specials $5.99
Non-ice cream menu options: None - they keep it simple and do it well