Sunday, June 11, 2006

    I Scream, You Scream

    “My advice to you is not to inquire why or whither, but just enjoy the ice cream while it's on your plate” -Thornton Wilder

    “Ice-cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal.” -Voltaire

    Despite the fact that I have a bad cold and it's raining and 59 degrees outside as I write, the summer season is here (finally!), and along with watermelon slices topped with truffle salt; days at the beach that end by falling asleep with the sensation you're still riding the waves; that summer sexy feeling of wearing next to nothing and sleeping with a light blanket and a churning overhead fan; drunken picnics; dining al fresco or sur la rooftop; and reminiscing about summer camp, summer means ice cream.

    The New York Times just ran an interesting story on an ice cream brand I've never tasted, Blue Bell. Although it's only available in 16 states, the Times reports that Blue Bell trails only Dreyer's and Breyers in sales. While I won't pony up the $89 the article says they charge to dry ice and ship four half-gallons, I will cool myself off this summer with daydreams of tasting their Chocolate Covered Strawberries or Key Lime Pie flavors!

    Shell-shocked from signing a lease on our soon to be apartment in the East Village, Jon and I stumbled into Mario Batali's Otto for a late lunch last weekend. The eggplant caponatina and Pane Frattau (thin crust pizza with tomato, pecorino and an egg -- may sound odd, but it's divine...the sharpness of the pecorino combined with the egg, which is perfectly over medium and adds a slightly salty, not-too-eggy taste and texture, give a layer of depth and richness to the red sauce and crust) were really just formalities in preparation for the dessert that I knew I would order: a gleaming scoop of olive oil gelato. I've had other desserts at Otto, but for one reason or another never got around to ordering the fabled olive oil flavor.

    The gelato is simply made of olive oil mixed with cream and sugar, and it is a creamy dream of rich olive taste. While it looks like vanilla gelato with pieces of vanilla bean, those specks are actually bits from the oil that's mixed with the cream. The gelato is topped with a drizzle of more oil and sea salt, which counters the smooth taste just so. It's one of those incredible tastes that I didn't know I'd been waiting all my life to savor until I did. I will need more. Soon. Like maybe now. In the summer, Otto has a gelato cart at the northwest corner of Washington Square Park.

    Speaking of parks, I love that Shake Shack now sells their custard by the pint and has flavor calendars! Each month there's a new flavor of the day. Last Friday I sampled the root beer freeze. It too is creamy, flavorful, and has a hint of fizz mixed in. Oh the delight I will take in ordering a root beer float with "root beer freeze" custard next Friday! Also, when I tried the ginger custard, which is vanilla custard with ample chunks of candied ginger, I discovered that a kiddie cup was a perfect serving size and price ($1.25 with tax) for an after work snack.

    I haven't had enough Il Laboratorio de Gelato in my short life, and this summer, I'm determined to do something about it. The guy behind it started Ciao Bello, sold it, then did himself one better with Il Laboratio. I recommend mixing the cinnamon and dark chocolate flavors.

    Ben & Jerry's has been my pity party for one (as in the one of me readily eats one carton per sitting per purchase) since I was a freshmen in high school. Check out their Web site -- it's fun to read about the flavors that have bit the dust. Thankfully still in production are Chunky Monkey and Mint Chocolate Cookie. I actually mentioned their Brownie Batter flavor in a letter to the editor of Folio: a few years back (scroll below the ad for my letter) in response to a piece by media god Simon Dumenco.

    I recently discovered that I like the Likity Lite at Mary's Dairy better than Tasti D-Lite. It's richer, creamier, and supposedly only a little less light than Tasti-D. 'Member that "Seinfeld" episode about the non-fat yogurt?!

    Say it with me now: I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream (and custard and gelato)!

    Next week: A Slice of Variety

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