Morganstern's

Black is the new black. Or, everyone's talking about Morganstern's. Again.

Being that I was feeling a little bummed about my weekend of disappointing ice cream, I was SUPER excited to be going to Morganstern's tonight for an ice cream date with my friend Patrick, which is what happens when you write an ice cream blog - your friends call you and say "When can we get ice cream together?"  Patrick ended up having to cancel, but I wanted this ice cream so bad I decided to go anyway:  Time Out (of course) had informed me that they had a new flavor this summer that was called Black Coconut Ash, and I thought:  I MUST HAVE IT.  AND I MUST HAVE IT NOW.  Which - if you take a quick look at Instagram?  Everyone else thought too. Now coconut ash is probably not something that sounds familiar to you, and maybe not even potentially appetizing.  Coconut ash is simply the charred remains of the coconut husk, or shell.  The shell is obtained after the coconut oil and water is removed, so it retains little moisture, and easily ignites.  Why reduce it to ash at all? you might ask.  Well, supposedly the charcoal in the ash attracts toxins and gas and helps remove them from the body quickly.  These toxins are often found in processed foods, which is why we feel icky after eating them, but this charcoal is also used multiple applications:  in Brita water filters, in oder removal, in face masks, even in engineering concrete.  Yay science!

And then Nick Morganstern decided to remix the coconut ash back in with coconut cream, coconut milk, and coconut flakes to make ice cream, effectively, um, rebuilding the coconut....

.....and it's DIVINE.

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Now, a quick search for "black coconut ash" - not even using the words "ice cream" - will bring up NINE web articles about THIS ice cream (my tenth hit was for a company selling coconut ash from China.  Who knew!)  All the images are of Morganstern's ice cream too.

One of the articles is by Oddity Central (ha!), which says that Morganstern was simply "monkeying around with coconut ash for a while”, and then had a fancy chocolate bar which also used the ash as an ingredient. So when he finally decided to include coconut as a flavor in his new ice-cream menu, it all came together."

.........WAIT, YOU GUYS?

MORGANSTERN AND I LOVE THE SAME CHOCOLATE!!!!

Here's why I chose to pair my Coconut Ash with Banana:

vosges
vosges

I am obsessed with this chocolate bar.  It doesn't hurt that I am also obsessed with coconut, but this chocolate bar is not sweet or cloying like Hershey's Coconut Kisses.  It's very subtle and satisfying.  And it's a superfood, so yeah, it's okay to finish it off in a week.  Right?

I am pretty sure this is what Morganstern was talking about when he said "fancy chocolate bar."  Pairing the two flavors for my cone was pretty much the smartest thing I've done all year.  The Coconut: subtle, shy, reminiscent, slightly ashy in flavor.  The Banana: Like the BEST Banana Cream Pie you've ever tasted.  Bright, full of flavor, almost tangy to cut down the sweet.  The two together was MAGIC.

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It did not occur to me that Morganstern's could become a bigger deal than it was last year.  But in addition to basically taking over the press, FIVE collaborations are happening with restaurants in August alone:

And the lines?  Still 35 minutes to get my ice cream on a Tuesday night at 9:30pm.  One confused British couple, who had the misfortune of standing behind me since I listened to their entire conversation, was delightfully unaware of the whole mania around it.

GIRL: "I don't want to wait 20 minutes for ice cream."

GUY:  "Well let's see how far we get in five minutes."

GIRL:  "There's loads of people waiting... do you think it's famous or something?"

GUY:  "Obviously it's famous, people are taking pictures of their ice cream.  And they sell T-shirts."

GIRL:  "You never know.  Maybe there's Pokémon here."

But what summed up my experience best was this couple, passing by:

GIRL:  "Whoa!  This must be, like, the best ice cream on the block!"

NY GUY:  "Nah, not really.  I've had better."

And so the circle of New York goes around and around.  I don't know where better exists.  But I'm sure there will be others out there trying to make it.  And next year, Morganstern's will be even more astounding.  I can't wait.

See you on line.

I finally went to the place everyone was raving about. And it was goooooooood.

Salted Caramel Pretzel at Morganstern's
Salted Caramel Pretzel at Morganstern's

Okay so Morganstern's was on my MUST list of ice cream this year.  It seemed that every time I spoke of something ice cream, or searched the internet for something ice cream, or opened up a new issue of Time Out New York, all I kept hearing about was Morganstern's .  Oh, and Oddfellows.  But hopefully more on that later.  What on earth was the big deal??

Well, as the New York Times put it last year:

"At a time when many ice cream makers in New York are eagerly exploring newfangled riffs on old-fashioned toppings or building a rigorous crop-to-cone supply chain, Morgenstern’s Finest Ice Cream is offering something slightly different: a scoop of the experimental spirit — equal parts innovation and pursuit of technical perfection — that is already de rigueur in other parts of the culinary world."

From Artisinal we now adventure into Innovative.

Call it the Cronut effect.  Chefs are not just being given freedom to experiment, but are being rewarded - with crowds, press, new restaurants - for their thinking-outside-the-box efforts.  Morganstern is not the only one to be doing this, but his story of coming-into-his-own is also intriguing.

It started when Mr. Morgenstern was working as a pastry chef 11 years ago.  A European ice cream machine that had been collecting dust at Nice Matin (the Provençal bistro on West 79th Street where Mr. Morgenstern was working), so the restaurant’s executive chef, Andy D’Amico, encouraged him to use it.  Since then he gained quite a pedigree with stints at Gramercy Tavern and at Gilt, later moving on to General Greene and Goat Town, until launching his solo endeavor.  But he separates himself from the pack in several ways.  First, he is a "perfectionist who never stops tinkering" [New York Times]; secondly, he is specifically a flavor perfectionist, not wanting to use a base too high in butterfact, too high in sugar, too low in salt, or even a few degrees too cold, because those conditions mask flavor.  Third, his recipes do not use egg, creating a purity of texture.

That perfectionist, flavor-purist nature reveals itself in something I found truly fascinating:  not just chocolate and vanilla, but different kinds of chocolate and vanilla.  After all, have you ever tried to buy vanilla extract?  A gourmet chocolate bar?  If we have such variety in flavor of the original ingredients , WHY DO WE have just ONE type of Vanilla or Chocolate ice cream?!?  Why not have a Szechuan Peppercorn Chocolate, or an Angel Food Vanilla?

CHOICES!
CHOICES!

I love this.  I LOVE this.  I mean, talk about a gold mine.  I tried the Cardamom Lemon Jam just for kicks (real Cardamom, real lemon rind, very unique, very intense) but I also went with what was recommended to me:  The Salted Caramel Pretzel.  I know, I know, it's almost cliché.  Which is why I got it.  Cause if it's good - and I mean REAL GOOD - I've had enough salted caramel ice creams at this point to know the difference.  And this was PHENOMENAL.  Perfectly balanced, wonderfully addictive with crunchy little pretzel pieces that honestly felt like bonuses the ice cream was THAT GOOD.  Sweet, salty, creamy, with those three things sometimes hitting you at once and sometimes in different waves.  It sent the pleasure center in my brain into overdrive.

I was there on a chilly, overcast weekday around noon; I'm seeing on Yelp that the line can be all sorts of Big-Gay-Ice-Cream-insanity during peak hours (Morganstern estimates 1,000 customers a day!) but go.  GO!  I want to try every single flavor they have.  And this summer, I just might.  See you there!