If I ask you to tell me the flavors of your childhood summers, I bet you won't even hesitate. My formative years were defined by family barbeques, and I don't mean the 80-person lazy Sunday afternoon ones. No, more likely it'd just be my dad making barbequed chicken on the grill for an average family dinner, to be eaten on the porch. Sometimes it was flank steak. Sometimes it was ribs. The accompaniments were: Mom's potato salad or Mom's macaroni salad (NEVER store-bought), corn (on the cob only, obvi), and black-eyed peas. I'm sure we had a green salad, but I don't remember anything else. For dessert, my mother had 2 go-tos made special for visiting guests: Mint Chocolate Brownies, and Lemon Bars. Now before you even THINK they were anything similar to what you have eaten, guess again. The Mint Chocolate Brownie was a layered brownie, topped with a homemade mint layer made with actual Crème de Menthe, and then topped with a uber-rich chocolate buttercream made from scratch. Then all this was refrigerated. The Lemon Bars had graham cracker crust with a filling of vanilla ice cream laced in with lemon curd. Also refrigerated. Two perfectly cool, rich, indulgent combinations that still haunt my dreams to this day.
And sometimes my waking moments. Sometimes when I pass those guys grilling meat skewers from the food carts I am instantly transported back to summers by my grandmother's pool, anxiously awaiting dinner. I even tried re-creating the Lemon Bars with this Kraft recipe I'd found (turns out lemon curd is super expensive and also hard to come by), and a few years ago I became OBSESSED with Haagen-Dazs Five Ice Cream in Lemon (which they discontinued cause it all just turned out to be a cleverly spun marketing campaign). There is something very special and very unique to this blogger about lemon and creamy together. Not a sorbet. Not Italian ice. You may wrinkle your nose, but to me, it is the perfect blend of summer cravings. A quick glace through the freezer isle shows that lemon is a very neglected flavor when it comes to creamy applications, so it's no surprise that I went a bit gaga when I stumbled upon this:
LIMONCELLO GELATO by none other than Haagen-Dazs! Surely, another marketing ploy, right?? WHO CARES! It's so good, guys. It's astoundingly like heaven. And look!
Oh my god VODKA is listed as an actual ingredient!!! What! I guess if you really focus you'll be able to discern a little kick to it. To me that just reminds me even more of the bitter zest that the lemon curd created. This isn't like a syrupy-sweet lemonade. It's something different. Something more adult. [Fellow ice cream blogger Nick Rovo from www.onsecondscoop.com writes: To be honest, I think they only added [the vodka] to continue with their "Italian" theme. Lemon gelato would be too similar to the Lemon flavor they had in their 5 line so the inclusion of vodka makes it technically different. I could be wrong but I still feel like these gelato flavors are all just a re-branding of the 5 line they replaced.] [See: "Marketing," above.] [See: I'm OBSESSED with Haagen Dazs Five Lemon, also above.]
Now. Why is it gelato instead of ice cream? Cause it sure tastes like ice cream, if only that it doesn't come out of the freezer hard as a rock. And because one of the three reasons gelato is different than ice cream is the temperature it's served in, well, that just gets negated when I keep it in my freezer, right? Serious Eats says:
"Compared to today's American-style ice cream (that's one made with egg yolks, as is basically the new standard in home recipes and commercial products), gelato has less fat in the base and less air churned into it during the freezing process. American ice creams are heavy on the cream, and have a fat content, by American labeling law, of at least 10% (considerably higher in most homemade and many premium versions). Gelato, by comparison, uses more milk than cream, so it doesn't have nearly as much fat. Additionally, it usually—but not always—uses fewer (to the point of none) egg yolks, another source of fat in custard-based ice creams."
Ok, we get that. Notice in my vodka pic the saturated fat is at 25% as opposed to 50%, as it is in the Haagen-Dazs vanilla. But that still doesn't answer WHY an ice cream company like Haagen- Dazs made a gelato at all. This article in The Village Voice asks - and kinda answers - my very same question.
"That said, there's no real rule in the United States for labeling something gelato instead of ice cream, so it's not impossible to find gelato with a fair amount of air and butterfat, or ice cream that's quite thick and dense. In fact, that's what makes Häagen-Dazs "premium": the company makes its ice cream in a thicker style than many other brands, which makes it perceptibly richer -- much like, ironically, gelato. So how is the brand's actual gelato different? Per the company, it's "creamier and softer in texture than regular ice cream." Häagen-Dazs also specifically notes that it uses less butterfat in its gelato, à la traditionally made gelato in the Italian style. It also seemed sweeter, with the gelato coming up consistently a few grams higher on the sugar count, which also falls in line with traditional gelato. Overall, though? Not that different."
So, what have we learned about marketing, Boys and Girls? Zero. A lemon ice cream by any other name is still stupendously, breathtakingly transporting to me. And that's what ice cream is about: finding your bliss. I'll find you at the bottom of this pint about 2 days from now. :)
Got a flavor that rings bells in your ears? Tell me in the comments below! I'd love to know!