Dominique Ansel Kitchen

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 cream is better with friends

I've been cheating on you.  You see, I've been eating ice cream all summer, I just haven't been posting about it.  To date I have a backlog of seven ice cream shops I went to - 2 of them new! - but instead of telling you about them, I have a to-do list about them.  Sigh.  I blame this on: 1) an insane summer that involved producing a web series, 2) crowdfunding said series, and 3) moving from Brooklyn to Queens (do you even KNOW how many of my ice cream faves are in Brooklyn???), and 4) [the TRUEST] Not having a Story.  When I can't think of a good angle on a shop, I tend to procrastinate writing about it.  But now that Summer is almost ending, so I thought it'd be fun to write about ice cream I got with friends this summer!  After all, who hasn't heard of an Ice Cream Social? FIRST UP:  VAN LEEUWEN

Earl Gray at Van Leeuwen
Earl Gray at Van Leeuwen

It was one of those first gorgeous Summer-is-Here weekends, and I met two of my girlfriends, Marie and Jessica, in Brooklyn Bridge Park, just to chill.  (I also wanted to check out the nifty Jeppe Hein exhibit, "Please Touch the Art.") We sat lazily on blankets and watched people catch a Frisbee, and rarely picked up our phones.  It was lovely.  And then none of us wanted the day to end, so we wandered into Brooklyn Heights to get a burger.  And then wandered into Cobble Hill, to catch the F train of course - but we should also get ice cream.  Fortunately this one's RIGHT BY the train, with the line to prove it.  I love me some Van Leeuwen, and this was the first time I hadn't gotten it from the truck.  It was WAY funner however to introduce it to my two girlfriends.  Welcome to the VL club, ladies.  :)

SECOND ROUND:  SUNDAES & CONES

Green & Thai Tea
Green & Thai Tea

This one came on the tail end of a rough morning:  a Saturday shoot that had to be rescheduled (after just 6 hours of sleep).  On my way home to a nap (and on 3 cups of coffee) I called my friend Allison to see if she wanted to get lunch with me before I passed out.  She said sure, and she, along with our friends Staci and Stacy, sat at Coffee Shop in Union Square on a perfect NYC Saturday.  It was exactly what the doctor ordered, so I invited them to get ice cream with me afterwards.  Allison had been before, but it was Staci's first time, and it was such a treat to see her wide-eyed at the Taro Root and Black Sesame flavors.  The Thai Tea was the biggest winner, but getting ice cream with girlfriends after a crummy day was the best part.  :)

THIRD TIME'S A CHARM:  SANT' AMBROEUS

Mint Chip at Sant' Ambroeus
Mint Chip at Sant' Ambroeus

I was getting dinner at a DELIGHTFUL French restaurant in the West Village called Buvette with my friend Ari a few weeks ago, and instead of getting dessert we decided to hit up the Big Gay Ice Cream Shop, buuuuuuut......everyone else did too.  So I suggested we go to Sant' Ambroeus.  I forgot that they give you woefully small portions in gelato flavors that don't exactly get the blood pumping, and I'm even more regretful to learn that I got this very same flavor last year (rookie move), but the charming part was that Ari didn't care!  And that's what makes getting ice cream with friends the best!

NUMBER FOUR:  MIKEY LIKES IT

The Wash @ Mikey Likes It
The Wash @ Mikey Likes It

Okay, so this is a new stop.  My friend Shayla told me about it.  We were in the East Village catching a Fringe show, and she was craving ice cream.  I consulted my list but everything was dismissed ("Vegan ice cream?  That stuff shouldn't be allowed!") or too far away.  She asked me what I knew about Mikey Likes It.  I said I'd never heard of it.  So we went.  It's RIDICULOUSLY silly and gimmicky, with an 80's and 90's-icon face clock, and flavors named "Ice Ice Baby" (a triple vanilla) and "Pretty in Pink" (strawberry, balsamic vinegar, black pepper).  I ended up ordering The Wash - Crown Royale Apple ice cream with Apple pieces and cinnamon streusel.  Sounds amazing, right??  Truth be told, I couldn't finish it.  It was so unbelievably sweet.  Maybe it's just that particular flavor - everyone else seems to love love love it, and here is a really frickin cool story about how they got started and what they stand for in the Huffington Post.  But for me this was the very best part:

Shayla as Herself, Miss 6 o'Clock
Shayla as Herself, Miss 6 o'Clock

Friends:4, Ice Cream: 0

BIG WINNER NUMBER 5: DOMINIQUE ANSEL KITCHEN

Burrata Soft Serve
Burrata Soft Serve

Now this one is ALL Ari.  In fact although I knew of the famed chef's new bakery/shop, the ice cream window entirely escaped my radar, and it was Ari that brought ME!  Trust the inventor of the Cronut to re-invent soft serve altogether: the Burrata soft serve comes with drops of balsamic caramel (the dark spots you see in the pic), a strawberry confit that hides at the bottom of the cone like a little treasure, and comes served in a dark-chocolate-lined tuile cookie (UMM, BEST IDEA EVER!!!!!).  They even put that little microgreen on in lieu of a cherry.  I mean......if I say I devoured it in 5 minutes, I might be exaggerating.  It's REALLY GOOD.  The Burrata is mixed with goat cheese, so it has a distinct goat-milk-ice-cream taste to it, but it's still the best damn soft serve I've had ever, and the trappings - strawberry confit, chocolate, that un-freaking-believable tuile cone - just make it a one-of-a-kind treat.

So which one will you bring a friend to?  The best friendships are the kind where you can catch up as you stroll down the sidewalk and talk about ice cream, and have them tell you you've got a little shmootz on your face.  Do you need a napkin?  'Cause I brought some for you, too.  :)  Happy eating!