10 Below ice cream

Instagram-worthy ice cream

HELLO ICE CREAM FANS!!!!!!  It's that time again! Welcome back to Summer, everyone.  And with Summer comes ice cream season - seemingly out of nowhere, amiright??  A mere 7 days ago I was keeping the windows shut tight against chilly nights; we were wearing jackets and long sleeve shirts and jeans and it seemed as if the rain would NEVER go away.  And then - BAM!  It's 90 degrees.  Summer came on suddenly and suddenly it was not just nice Summer but gross, hot summer, and ice cream was on everyone's mind.

Here at The Ice Creaming people are always telling me about new places to go check out.  Well I went a wee bit mad for ice cream this hot Memorial Day weekend, and visited not one but FOUR new ice cream places.  (Not sure I'm gonna love that decision once it's time to hit the beach, but for now, we party.)  Two of these new places have buzz-worthy talk built around them.  The first is video-bait 10 Below in Chinatown, and the second is part of our FOMO-inducing line culture, Black Tap.

Before I go further, a word on where we are at in our social media culture.  A lot of articles have been written lately about how Instagram has changed our culture.  According to this article,

"A 2013 survey found that 54% of 18-24 years olds have taken a photo of their food while eating out, while 39% have gone on to post it online. 90 new photos hashtagged #foodporn are uploaded to Instagram every minute. The idea of sharing food photos online has begun to dominate the world of participatory technology.

“Social media is where a lot of us document and curate our lives,” says Virgin Mobile Digital Communities Manager Jordan Kerr. “Meals are often a time when people come together to celebrate life, culture and human relationships. Mobile phones are at the heart of this because they allow people to capture their experiences wherever they are and share them.  Snapping photos of your meal before you eat is completely commonplace everywhere from the fanciest restaurants to your local café. We even heard of people who order one meal to eat immediately and a spare on to photograph.”

But it's not just food culture; it's fashion, and music, and entertainment all around.  In any industry courting attention from the masses, everyone is curious:  Is success still defined as something of exceptional quality?  Or something worthy of the zeitgeist, impressing the masses, breaking the mold, breaking the internet, creating the most buzz and likes and shares (eg, the Cronut)?

10 Below

I'd never heard of 10 Below until a month or two ago, when my friend Sean showed me a video on his phone of them making his ice cream.  Yes, I said making.  You see, 10 Below employs this genius idea of taking raw ingredients (including a pre-mixed cream base) and tossing them on a cold plate kept at 10 degrees below zero (see what they did there) and having your ice cream solidify before your very eyes.  (It's also at 10 Mott Street, in the basement of the building....chicken or egg?)  According to the company's site, "The ice cream produces smaller ice molecules to make it naturally smoother and creamier, eliminating the need to add in additional fat and emulsifiers to create the same rich, creamy texture we love in ice cream."  This mixture freezes in a single sheet in just under two minutes, and then the staff assigned to making "your" ice cream scrapes it into curls, or "rolls" of ice cream.

The rolls are then packed end-on into a large cup (it made me think of cinnamon buns in a pan, to be honest), and then you are shuffled off to the toppings counter, where you can get an unlimited amount (cause this ice cream costs a whopping $7).

I ordered Monkey Business, with banana and Nutella.  But here's the thing to note, aside from the bazillion people inside:  every single person there who has ordered ice cream had their phone out.  Some were taking photos, but mostly everyone, captivated by this fascinating new creative process, was videotaping (can we still call it that?) them, no doubt to be adding to their social media account later, and undoubtedly tagging in @10Belowicecream.

Black Tap Craft Beer

My friend Allison told me about this one.  Actually, it was less of a "tell" than a text with a photo of a RIDICULOUS looking sundae.  "Have you heard of this place?" she texts.  I had not.  Now - sundaes aren't really a thing of The Ice Creaming here, cause we focus on good ice cream and can't be distracted by chocolate sauce and whipped cream and M&M's and Reese's Pieces and.... wait, where were we?  Oh, right.  But at the same time - how chagrined was I to not know about this ice cream that everyone was talking about (cue: "FOMO").

My friend Ari is a big ice cream fan and kept asking when we would be getting ice cream WEEKS before it was even 70 degrees out, so when I hashed a plan to open Ice Cream Season with this absurd concoction from Black Tap, I reached out to him.  He did not know that the wait for this place could be up around 3 hours - Surprise! - and was a little alarmed when we got there at 12:45 and was informed there was a 1.5 hour wait.  FOR WHAT?  He asked me, as did five other passerbys.  "What are you all waiting for???  Is it really that good???"  People walked away shaking their heads.

Here's the skinny, if this latest craze of the food crazes is news to you.  According to Foodie website Eater, "Black Tap is barely a year old, but its elaborate milkshakes topped with cookies and cakes spread like wildfire on Instagram. People stand in line for hours to buy the shakes, which cost $15 and can boast more than 2,500 calories. Despite the focus on the shake, Isidori says all food sales have gone up at the restaurant. Most people also buy a burger, which Eater resident carnivore Nick Solares named one of the best of 2015."  That's right:  WHY exactly is everyone talking about it?  Because everyone else is talking about it.  Social media fever.

Ari and I waited 1.5 hours to get in.  Allison also told us to get a burger before our calorie bombs and we did, which we were actually super impressed with.  Then these arrived.

And we took pictures of them.  (We had to!  My shake came with a fully wrapped Sugar Daddy candy and a M&M covered pretzel and Ari's came with an actual ice cream sandwich ON TOP of his shake!!!  GLUTTONY!!!)  Which we then put on Facebook.

So friends, here is the moral of the story.  In both situations the set up - the gimmick, if you will - outshone the ice cream.  I found both treats to be tasty as expected, but in truth I was distracted by how cool the whole experience was.  Or is it that I was distracted by how cool I was, now that I could humbly hashtag, in our Have-you-been-to-Hamilton culture, #Ivebeenthere.

Have you "Been There?"  Tell me what you think in the comments below!  And, er.......spread the word.  On your network of choice.  *Blushes.*