When I opened Ice Cream Season in May - June - I announced that I had a few goals for this year. One of which was Morganstern's, and the other was to address the new Foodie craze that's happening to ice cream, incorporating ingredients like "peppercorns, manchego, beer, fig, and maple syrup." One of these places is Oddfellows. It felt like every time I opened up Time Out, Edible Brooklyn, or Bon Appetit, someone else was name-checking Sam Mason as if he had started a revolution. Had he? First of all, try googling "Sam Mason." (Make sure you add "chef" or you'll get a lot of Revolutionary War hits about Bunker Hill.) Star Chefs, Food and Wine, Huffington Post, IFC, Food Network, TV.com - just for starters. Star Chefs calls him "one of the most progressive culinary voices working in America today." After training in Paris, he eventually landed at wd~50 as a pastry chef, and in 2005 he was named New York Rising Star Pastry Chef and won national recognition for his hypermodern pastry. Then he left that position to open (and close) a cocktail-centric restaurant in downtown Manhattan called Tailor, then he hosted a food show on IFC called Dinner With the Band, and then he opened bar called Lady Jay's in Williamsburg. And THEN he opened a store in Williamsburg that only sold mayonnaise, which was so wildly pretentious, so inanely Brooklyn that this happened. According to Huffington Post,
"The new venture was an outgrowth of a small mayonnaise business he'd been running out of food festival Smorgasburg in Brooklyn all summer. The business was called Empire Mayo, and was a collaboration with fashion designer Elizabeth Valleau. Flavors for the high-end mayo, which came in cute little jars, included parmesan, mushroom, foie gras and coffee."
Then, in 2011, a friend's wife became pregnant and apparently inspiration struck when she was talking about her desire for salty ice cream. According to their story on their Indiegogo page (wait, what?!? I know), this friend, a real-estate financier, approached Sam with the idea for the shop and Oddfellows was born. (Sidebar: Did you take a look at the page? Only $15,000 needed to open up an ice cream shop?? And they didn't even make it 50% of their funding?! What on earth!??) Anyway, a whole giant story loophole later, Oddfellows opened up in Williamsburg in 2013, with the idea to mash up wacky flavor pairings (hence, "Oddfellows"). A few of the originals included Miso Cherry Butterscotch, Purple Rice and Grapefruit Jalapeño. Definitely different enough to attract the attention of all those food magazines I apparently devour, but was it enough to keep the masses interested?
Apparently, yes. In 2014 they announced a second shop in the East Village, which is what I visited first (silly girl!) in early July.
It was empty save a mom and a (very) indecisive boy (Wrong ice cream shop, I thought to myself). There were only 8 flavors, and I had REALLY been wanting to try the Burnt Marshmallow I'd heard a lot about. But the only one that sounded kooky-cool enough (and not reminiscent of Harry Potter jellybeans) was Black Pepper Strawberry. I got it without sampling it and........I hated it. I hated it so much that - GASP! - I didn't even finish it. This is epic, guys. What in the world was the big deal here???
Fortunately for me, the mom, overhearing my inquiries about where the ice cream was made and sourced from, told me to go to the "original," which was bigger and had better flavor options. So I held out on blogging about it. I thought I'd give them a second chance. I went on Sunday, and was relieved (strangely) to find a line outside - and inside - the door.
I got VERY excited. The flavors seemed more approachable here; I was torn between Cornbread, Absinthe Chocolate Chip, and Caramelized White Chocolate with Toasted Almonds, so I asked the server and she recommended the latter.
First of all: that's a wimpy-ass serving for $4.50, is it not?? Second of all: the ice cream was good. It tasted like Caramel with bits of white chocolate and toasted almonds. Which made me wonder if I was a sucker. How DOES one caramelize white chocolate anyway? Isn't that just. . . caramel? And the S'mores sounded good but....I've had smores gelato before. And the Cornbread tasted ALOT like Cereal Milk soft serve that Momofuku invented years ago. Here I was expecting something jaw-dropping and revolutionary and instead I was left with something just plain interesting, if not awful. I'll give Sam Mason credit for the hype. It's not easy getting hipsters to line up outside an ice cream store on a hot Sunday night to try Lime and Tarragon Sorbet.
Or wait. For a hood that's eating coffee-flavored aioli, maybe it's the simplest thing of all.