My weekend of ice cream polarity: Old school vs. innovative

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I had ice cream TWICE this weekend - it's all for you, ice cream lovers - and the two experiences couldn't have been more different from each other.  First up was Eddie's Sweet Shop, located in Forest Hills, Queens.  This blog has a dire deficit of great ice cream in this borough, and, being that it's my new adopted home, I felt this needed to be taken care of stat.  Eddie's Sweet Shop had been mentioned once or twice to me in passing, but it wasn't until my friend Malini, long-time resident and devotee of Forest Hills, passionately told me to get myself to Eddie's Sweet Shop that I made a date (with her) to go.  The second was a return visit to the Dominique Ansel Kitchen because this weekend and this weekend only, the bakery was selling something called the Ice Cream Taco.  And I had to have it.  The two experiences could not have been further away from each other, geographically and also, um, in every other way possible.  And while both were great in their own way , it's up to you to decide which is more your style. Let's start with Eddie's Sweet Shop.According to the Queens Tribune, the Forest Hills-based ice cream shop has been a treasure since it opened in 1909, switching ownership four different times but still serving the same ice cream that many have come to love.Vito Citrano, the current owner of the shop, said they have maintained their longevity because they have kept all of the traditional flavors that people have come to know and love.  Citrano's father Giuseppe bought the shop in 1968 and since then the shop has added about 10 more flavors.  All of the ice creams, toppings, and syrups are made in-house.

Walking in is like stepping back in time.

There's a counter with ten wooden stools that spin (and nearly tip you over), candy being sold in dusty jars, an ancient wooden cash register nestled beneath a crucifix on the wall and a stuffed toy of Elsa.  It's so freaking charming.

The staff however leaves much to be admired, who needed three flags from us just to get a menu.  They are busy stuffing pints and refuse to make eye contact, let alone smile.  It's the kind of behavior befitting a stuffy Manhattan neighborhood, and seems out of place in a neighborhood haunt where an elderly couple sitting at the counter order with the air of an old regular telling a bartender "the usual."

I order a classic Banana Split Sundae, with Black Cherry and Strawberry ice cream, and Marshmallow topping.  Here are the before and afters:

It's a six year old's idea of what heaven looks like.  And while the ice cream isn't spectacular (you can see I especially wasn't a fan of the strawberry) it definitely wins points for being all-American.

For my Sunday ice cream, my friends Ari and Jessica and I hit up Dominique Ansel Kitchen to get our Ice Cream Taco on.  I have to thank Time Out NY for this one, which alerted me to this special release this weekend only.

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Ansel, along with pastry chef Alex Stupak of Empellon food group, created this mash up.  Comprised of sweet-corn ice cream, a masa-waffle cone “taco shell,” a swirl of roasted corn caramel, lime zest, sea salt, all accompanied by a smokey salsa verde. If it sounds insane to you, let me tell you: it is.  But does it work?  Absolutely.  The lime, salt, sweet salsa, and sweet corn of the shell hit you first, with the subtle corn of ice cream landing second.  It is SO different than anything I've ever tasted, and so delightfully weird (all I could think of was WHY??) but of course delicious, it's like a little tastebud adventure that your brain struggles to wrap its mind around.  Which is of course, what the best chefs love to do.

But to be perfectly honest, this was only the appetizer course (I split this one with Jessica, in case you are concerned for my health).  The main event is his soft serve, which last year blew us away and this year smacked us sideways with not just another sea salt caramel, but a Sea Salt and Pepper Caramel.  WHAAAT.

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Oh, and because he's Dominique Ansel?  The official flavor is called "Salt & Pepper Caramel with Crispy Potato Gaufrette (that waffle chip), Devil's Food Cake, and Maldon Sea Salt."  Not to mention that made-in-house cone, which we had to wait 15 minutes for a fresh batch for.  And it was everything we wanted.  So delicious, so unlike anything we've tasted before - all three of us finished every last morsel.  Perfection.

So which do you prefer?  Old school all-American, or food nouveau, combining flavors you'd never expect to go together in a new, Instagram-worthy way?  I like both.  Cause we couldn't have had the second without the first.  A toast to the story of the city itself.

Ice Creaming's Last Hurrah of 2013

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Friends, it's Fall.  I don't know if the 50 degree evenings have given it away, or that tiny little mention of the "Autumnal Equinox" on your day planner, but they days of ice creaming have come to an end.  SIGH. Despite the fact that I was MIA for nearly all of Summer it seems, we visited SEVEN new ice cream parlors and revisited three old faves!  We now have 21 NYC ice cream haunts that have made the Official List.  And even though we didn't get through my entire list this year, that makes ice cream season 2014 all the more exciting, with new adventures in store.

For this season's send-off I wanted to do something Epic, the way I trekked through Brooklyn and waited in Ample Hill's line for half an hour last year.  And boy did I find the perfect place!

Let me begin by telling you a little bit of history.  As in backstory and yes, actual history too.  Whilst leading student tours a few months ago, and having had my fill of the Natural History Museum, I meandered to it's oft overlooked neighbor, The New York Historical Society.  This is an INCREDIBLE museum, showcasing various artifacts from Washington's years to 9/11 and so much cool stuff in between.  If you haven't been, I seriously recommend it.  While browsing their (really neat) gift shop, I came upon a book listing all the shops in NYC that have been here for over a hundred years (I know, I nearly started frothing at the mouth).  And while it was too overwhelming to purchase, my heart started pitter-patting when I came upon this entry -

- about an ice cream shop in Queens called Jahn's that has been there since 1926, and established in 1897.  What a way to end ice cream season - to introduce QUEENS into the ice cream mix, and to visit this super historic shop.

Now.  Despite the fact that the book states that Jahn's is supposed to be remnant of a 1890's ice cream parlor, I was let's say, a tad disillusioned upon my arrival (and PS it took me 45 minutes to get here from midtown).  Although Jahn's clearly has a cool history amongst the earliest ice cream purveyors of NYC, it's lost a little of that glimmer.  Despite this adorably quaint looking menu:

- the restaurant had renovated the heck out of it's charm; it was remnant of a certain period in history but I'd maybe use the phrase retro kitsch instead.

That being said, all that remained was the ice cream, and I couldn't wait to try a 100 year-old ice cream recipe....

Cherry Vanilla at Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor
Cherry Vanilla at Jahn's Ice Cream Parlor

....even if it came in a coffee cup (no cones!? C'mon!).

Jahn's Ice Cream is unfortunately nothing to write home about.  I tried to engage one of the part-owners on the way out, who could only tell me that the ice cream comes from a distributor in the Bronx called Calip Dairy, but that they've only been supplying the ice cream for about 15 years.  Prior to that was another distributor by way of Brooklyn, who has long since gone out of business, and whose name he could not recall.  A Google search links Calip Dairy to "Big Apple Dairy and Desserts" (with the covetable domain of www.nyc-icecream.com), a city distributor who services hospitals, hotels, and retirement communities.  Among the products it distributes are ice cream-makers Haagen Daaz, Edy's, and the horrible sounding Bungalow Bar, a 3-gallon "value-priced" ice cream.

Which, let's be serious, is probably what I just ate.  Especially since Mr. Part-Owner couldn't even tell me the name brand of the ice cream he serves.  Le SIGH.  Sorry Queens - you still haven't brought the milkshake to the yard, although there's always next year.

And despite my love of NYC history, I sure am proud to be living in 2013, where small-batch, homemade, local-ingredient ice cream is back in fashion.

See ya next season, Ice Creamers.