Blue Marble

It sucks being disappointed by ice cream.

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Maybe it was the rain, but I had a rather disappointing ice cream weekend.  It started off well - or what I thought was well: my friend Shayla had alerted me to the Ice Cream Museum, a new, temporary event created as an ode to all things ice cream, and we got tickets for opening weekend. The museum is a love child of Maryellis Bunn and Manish Vora, a creative strategist/ investment banker couple, both of whom we met on our visit.  There's little info on their website (or elsewhere, for that matter) about what inspired this "passion project" - an obsession with ice cream, for example, or, I dunno, an ice cream blog - and this NY Times article addresses the fact that it's little more than dressed up social media bait.  As for us, after we waited 1 hour outside (yes, in the rain) despite having bought timed tickets, the whole darn experience took us only 45 minutes.  There were six rooms in total - a cone room, a scoop room, a chocolate room, a sprinkle room, and a, um, art room? - and the article will take you through why the rooms were lame in detail.  And the ice cream?  I'm glad you asked.  Yes there was a sample.  As in single.  Of Blue Marble Vanilla.  With Fruit Loops and a Passion Fruit glaze.  The toppings were fun and different but overall?  The museum was exactly that - a disappointing vanilla.

Next up was the NYC Blizzard Festival.  An Event advertised on Facebook at the UWS Grand Bazaar space to benefit "local public school children" - no information as to exactly how - it boasted FREE entrance + 12 Artisanal Ice Cream Vendors + 60 Flavors!!  The lineup was:

- ICE & VICE - Victory Garden NYC - melt bakery - Jawea Frozen Desserts - Mochidoki - LifeIce - Lezzetli Mediterranean Ice Cream - LizBeth's Dessert Boutique - The Paleo Factory - Enlightened - Citysticks - KINGLeche Creme Bars

Sounds AMAZING, right?!?!  The hours were listed as 10-530.  Now granted we did get there at 3:30.  But even still, by 3:30 only 7 of those vendors remained, and of those 7, only 4 weren't sold out, and of those 4, only 2 were actually ice cream, LifeIce and Citysticks being popsicles.  And of those 2?  The lines were INSANE.

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These silly people are waiting for ice cream sandwiches at Melt.  I want to tell them to get on the subway and go downtown to Melt's actual shop in the LES where there is never any line!!

So we left without any ice cream.  Aside from my sample at the museum, my weekend is still ice creamless.  So, since I found myself in Brooklyn tonight after said "festival," and now that I live in Queens that is a rarity, I decided to treat myself to ice cream from the REAL Blue Marble in Prospect Heights.  They have since closed down both of their prior Brooklyn locations, and despite the fact that they seem to be everywhere, I really do love visiting an ice cream shop when I can.

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Yyyyyyeah, I've had better looking ice cream myself.  From Blue Marble.  And that gross, sad looking panda teddy bear in the kiddie corner?  Don't even get me started.

Granted I DID walk in fifteen minutes before they closed, and so did four other couples/ families, but the lady behind the counter was NOT having it.  She gave us her best they-don't-pay-me-enough Starbucks barista impression.  So needless to say we didn't chat it up . I didn't get to ask her her favorite flavor.  So I chose the two most interesting - Blueberry and Sweet Corn - without testing them first.  Because, this ain't my first Blue Marble, people.

First of all.  There is NO EXCUSE for half melty ice cream.  Did she turn off the cooler at 8pm??  My blueberry was goo by the time I reached the corner.  Which was fine cause it was sickeningly sweet, more squeezy yogurt than refreshing organic berry ice cream.  I dumped it into a trash can.  A TRASH CAN, people!!!  What a waste.  The Sweet Corn was interesting but by then dear lord I was OVER IT and was so disappointed by what used to be one of - if not my first - my most favorite ice cream shops in NYC.

So, everyone.  It's not all fun and games here at the Ice Creaming.  My work is hard.  You know my hashtag, #igetfatsoyoudonthaveto.  Save your money and go to Morganstern's.

This is the part where Blue Marble takes over the globe.

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Is it me, or is Blue Marble Ice Cream everywhere??  At first I thought it was cool, like seeing your favorite hip Australian coffee purveyor  in your hotel when you're out of town, or when your grocer starts carrying your favorite, hard-to-find granola.  But at some tipping point, "cool" gives way to a weirder feeling.  Not so much like Starbucks-moving-in-to-your-neighborhood fear, but just a kind of general what-the-fuck curiousity.  What exactly IS going on?? This summer I started seeing Blue Marble everywhere.  At first it was just in about, oh, EVERY ice cream case I came across in the city.  And then it spread to little carts in parks.  I found them at Brooklyn Flea, All Good Things in Tribeca, SummerStage, Pier 25, and Beach 97 Concession at Rockaway Beach.  I hate to be that guy, but at some point, it stops being special and unique.  It just becomes. . . ice cream.

Blue Marble Ice Cream was founded in 2007 by Jennie Dundas and Alexis Miesen, two ladies living in Brooklyn with a passion for quality ingredients, a premium product, and to nurture their community around them.  (We've heard this start-up once-upon-a-time story before, haven't we?)  The eco-friendly eatery (the "blue marble" reference takes its name supposedly from a 1972 photo of earth from the moon) makes its ice cream in small batches on a farm in Hudson Valley, NY, using organic grass-fed dairy and organic sugar.  They have eco-conscious elements (biodegradable cups and spoons and reclaimed and otherwise "green" building materials) and a focus on supporting sustainable, responsible agriculture.

Their first shop opened on Atlantic Avenue in Cobble/ Boerum Hill back in a time when this blogger could still afford to live there, and Atlantic offered little in terms of oh, I dunno, fun (unless you like antiquing, in which case, I do apologize).  My ex and I were THRILLED to have a super duper cool ice cream shop in walking distance of our apartment!  On our first venture, I had for the first time - before Red Mango took over my heart - their Yogurt Culture flavor.  It tasted like actual yogurt!!  How cool was that!?  All the same, I remember that I went with Classic Strawberry.  It had REAL strawberries in it!  I thought it was the best freakin stuff I'd ever tasted.  Blue Marble may have been the reason I'm writing this today.

In 2010 the Atlantic shop closed, but they had already moved to Court Street, wooing children all through the nabe, and had a second prosperous location in Prospect Heights.  So what happened?

WINTER.  According to the New York Business Development Corporation (NYBDC), "Busy summers would give way to slow periods during cold weather months, leaving Dundas and Miesen with no staff and having to scoop ice cream, without taking salaries.  To offset slow winter sales, Blue Marble entered the wholesale scene in 2010.  Soon after, sales to restaurants and retailers in the New York metro area exploded and included prime placement at foodie favorites Bareburger, Harlem Shake, and Danny Meyer properties including Gramercy Terrace.  "Business is so much about the relationships and building partnerships," said Dundas. "Launching the wholesale division was so exciting and seemed the next natural stage in Blue Marble’s evolution."

With wholesale came distribution deals, loans for larger machinery, and a new plant in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in a historic industrial complex originally built in 1895.  From a workforce of four, they now employ 30.  A quick look at their website offers a whole lot of generic corporate company speak, but not a whole lotta personality.  ("We’ve worked hard to grow in responsible, sustainable ways and to offer our wholesome, super premium organic ice cream to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. Over the years, this mission has driven and defined us, as a business and as people.")

The NYBDC website claims that the company has its eyes now on ecommerce, a new flagship retail center, and is possibly looking to open up outlets in other Northeast cities.

So I'm curious:  how's your stomach feeling?  Queasy?  Everyone has a different opinion on this type of growth, especially New Yorkers.  As a tour guide, I way prefer showing people things they can't get back home: Katz's pastrami, John's pizza, Ferrara's cannoli, a hot dog from Gray's Papaya.  But perhaps I'm spoiled that way; I live in a city that can support mom-and-pops, and unique, one-of-a-kind food destinations.  But we are simultaneously a city of growth and big dreams, we root for the underdog to grow from rags-to-riches (see: R.H. Macy).  It's a precarious line.  All eyes on you, Blue Marble gals.