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.

Sometimes the best ice cream is unplanned.

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It was one of those gorgeous Summer Saturday nights in New York, not the oppressive icky kind we get in August, but the nights people dream about:  quiet.  A small breeze.  Dinner in the West Village on an outdoor sidewalk preferred over the air-conditioned inside. I'm trying to meet my friend Scott for dinner, and we did this all wrong, started talking about where to go far too late in the day, couldn't agree on a spot, this one's too expensive, this one doesn't have reservations left, etc etc etc.  As you do, when you're 30-something in New York and you have 25,000 restaurants to choose from.

So we meet in the West Village and figure we'll land on a spot.  En route I pass Café Cluny, with its draped outdoor ice cream cart, and I eye it longingly, thinking Chartreuse ice cream.

As it so happened, we ended up eating dinner there, since they had tables and they had "amazing ice cream" (which is not a hard sell.)  We ended up having kinda the perfect night out, because we came in with zero expectations, and were met by fantastic food, great service (we're those people that have a million questions about the menu), good wine, and oh did I mention the ice cream yet?

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Scott and I both order ice cream because we can't agree on flavors (we're kinda like the Elaine and Jerry of Seinfeld).  I can't remember what he orders, but I remember we were arguing over Butterscotch vs. Rum Raisin.  He hates Rum Raisin and Cappuccino-flavored ice cream; I had the Coconut last year and I thought the Butterscotch would be too much like the Butter Pecan.  {Please read that last sentence in Jerry Seinfeld's voice.}

NOW.  I've only had their ice cream once.  I remember it being a little bit of an out-of-body experience, but I could be remembering wrong.

I wasn't.

Their ice cream is PHENOMENAL.  And what makes it phenomenal are these INCREDIBLE, unique, ingredient-popping flavors.  Of the three, the Rum Raisin literally made me stop mid-sentence and close my eyes for a moment.  And it's not even a flavor I particularly enjoy.  I just felt like I'd tasted the most amazingly fresh raisin soaked in the best rum of my life.  In an ice cream.

We each devoured all 3 of our scoops.  We felt disgusting afterwards.  But in the moment it was oh-so-sweet.

Go treat yourself to this off-the-radar spot, cart or seated, you're destined to have a great night.  I can't wait to find out what flavors they have for me next year!! :P