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Beach Party

Beth here.

It’s really cold in Indiana right now, which makes me very sad. I am still soldiering on and eating copious amounts of ice cream, but I feel slightly (only slightly) silly standing outside of Bruster’s in 5 degree (F) weather ordering a frozen, creamy, dreamy concoction while jumping up and down repeatedly to make sure that I don’t freeze to death.

But never mind the cold! We decided to thumb our noses at the frosty heavens, crank the heat up, and have a beach party this weekend. With piña coladas, mojitos, and painkillers galore, we took decadence to a new, Caribbean high. Just the sight of my dad in bermuda shorts, a crazy tropical print shirt and goofy sun hat was enough to get me laughing hard enough that frozen rum drink came out my nose–which made me forget all about the winter blues. With the help of Annette Funicello (who, it turns out, canNOT sing), Frankie Avalon, and the rest of the gang, we were able to escape the bleak Indiana winter for the brief respite of one evening of magic. Magic that will (hopefully) buoy our spirits until it stops being so freaking cold.

P.S. Where can I get a fringe dress?

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Cold Stone Creamery

Beth here.

Continuing my explorations for quality ice cream within the narrow confines of Indiana (you gotta work with what you got…), I went with a trusty friend to the Cold Stone Creamery last week. Generally, I think their ice cream is overpriced, but it *is* pretty darn tasty–and they’re open late, which is why I ended up there in the first place (sometimes you need ice cream at 10pm–in those instances, it’s good to know you have someplace you can go). I had the Dark Chocolate Mint flavor with Oreos mixed in. No complaints here! Their ice cream does tend to be a little too… elastic, is perhaps the right word, but is very rich, creamy, and the mix-in format allows for creativity, which is fun. They’ve also got a bunch of “Signature Creations” in case your muse is taking a nap–and every single one of those that I’ve tried has been pretty fantastic. I think “Chocolate Devotion” and “Cheesecake Fantasy” may be among my favorites, but there are so many still to try…

Speaking of cheesecake, I just made my first attempt last week–a chocolate cheesecake with a layer of caramel and pecans on the bottom and drizzled with caramel and dark chocolate on top. I think there’s kind of too much going on for it to really taste like cheesecake–it sort of tastes more like the best candy bar EVER. Melting caramel aside (pain in the butt!), it’s a pretty easy recipe if you’re looking for something decadent… More on my further adventures in cheesecake when I have them.

 
 

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Bruster’s

Beth here.

Whatever.  It’s never too cold for ice cream.  You just have to crank the heat up and eat it indoors–preferably while sitting around in your underwear.  And maybe with a mug of hot chocolate.

However, I did manage to take advantage of one of the last warm-ish days of autumn last weekend and took a trip with a trusty, like-minded (read:  ice cream-obsessed) friend to Bruster’s.  It’s a small ice cream store chain that’s scattered randomly around the States–you may or my not have one in your area, but you can find all their store locations at http://www.brusters.com.  Highly recommended.  They make all their ice cream fresh in the store and it’s about the best I’ve been able to find in the States–certainly the best in a chain-type store.  Add to that the fact that they have lots of nifty seasonal flavors (I had pumpkin pie ripple and caramel apple crunch since it was such a lovely crisp fall day…) and fun promotional ideas (like show-up-in-your-pajamas-and-get-a-free-cone-day, or a standard policy that if it’s raining or snowing at the time of purchase you get a second scoop free), and you’ve got a really world-class operation.  The #1 flavor so far:  Chocolate raspberry truffle.  I’m drooling just thinking about it.

Anyone else experienced the glory that is Bruster’s?  Or do you challenge my assertion that it’s the best ice cream chain in the States?  Because if so, I’m going to have to go into the trenches and research the competition, which would be really awful.

Hoping for some dissent,

-Beth

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2007 in chocolate, food, ice cream, travel, Uncategorized, writing

 

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Ah, Florence…

Beth here.

Thanks, Mom. Now I’m all nostalgic and sad because I’m stuck in Indiana and I want to be wining and dining on the Arno… Was that the same night that I ended up drunkenly bursting into operatic song at the market on the Porta Rossa? I know that there was a lot of fabulous wine (and grappa… and limoncello…) consumed at dinner, so it might have been…

If I could hear myself now, I’m sure that I’d be embarrassed, but at the time, I thought I was sounding GREAT (isn’t alcohol wonderful?)! But at least a few (possibly drunken) tourists seemed to agree with me. I think it was you who had the idea to put out a hat when a crowd started to gather and we ended up making enough to cover gelato expenses for at least a few days.

Which is funny, since I’ve tried singing on the street in downtown Chicago only to be met with confusion, glares, people staunchly trying to pretend I’m not there, and the occasional furtive “pity change” thrown my way without making eye contact, which is SO not the point. In Florence, I think most of the people who gathered were American tourists, people who might have been annoyed if I were singing in *their* hometown. But because it was Florence…it was charming; they gathered, they actually listened, they enjoyed.

::shrugs:: If I have to go to Italy to find Americans responsive to opera, that’s fine by me. I still have fantasies where I just run away and live as a high-class bum singing opera on the streets of Florence… Any takers? I could use a guitar player…

 

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Ice Cream on the Cape

Beth here.

As promised, here’s an accounting of the ice cream I discovered while spending the summer on Cape Cod with the College Light Opera Company. First a note on *that* insanity. It’s a fantastically crazy little company–we put on nine shows over the course of the summer–one show a week–nothing was pre-cast, and we had a week to put each show together, rehearsing during the day for the next week’s show while performing the current week’s show at night.

Free time was at a premium, but thankfully, there was ice cream to help me keep my sanity.

Eulinda’s, less than a fifteen minute walk from where we lived and rehearsed in West Falmouth was really quite good–the ice cream was homemade (though not made fresh daily) and included some interesting flavors like blueberry (made with fresh local berries) and ginger–which became my favorite summer combination. The chocolate was good (is there such a thing as bad chocolate?), but certainly not up to European standards.

Even more fortunate for we players was Ben and Bill’s Chocolate Emporium on the main drag in downtown Falmouth, five minutes from the Highfield theater where we performed every night. We loved B&B’s because they were open later than anything else in Falmouth, which meant we could hit it up after a show when we were too jazzed up to go to bed and had serious ice cream cravings. And, being a chocolate emporium, their chocolate flavors were all superb. My personal favorites came to be “KGB”–Kahlua, Grand Marnier and Baileys and the Kahlua Brownie Sundae flavors. They also had a great blueberry flavor (though I preferred Eulinda’s), chocolate raspberry, and a triple chocolate concoction that worked quite well. For the more adventurous (or as a rite of passage), they also have lobster flavored ice cream with chunks of real lobster in it. ‘Fraid I can’t quite recommend that flavor, however…

Cape Cod is a great place for ice cream because they’re so very into *quaint* there. As a result, there are lots of cute little mom and pop places that make their ice cream fresh and use a lot of local ingredients. One more reason to summer on the Cape…

If anyone has other New England ice cream stories to relate, please share!

-Beth

 

Ice Cream Lover strategies

We received this comment today, so I thought I’d answer here.

“Good to hear all of your European ice cream adventures. What I would like to know is how the cultural differences impact the taste of the ice cream. Do you find that there is a difference, or vanilla just vanilla everywhere? Is there one flavor that you followed across countries? Is that even possible? Do you find you are gaining weight with all this ice cream tasting? What is your process between tastes (do you gargle with water or bite into crackers)? Have you had all three of you taste one flavor to compare, or do you all each get a different flavor for variety of opinions? Can you give advice for choosing ice cream for those stuck with American flavors? Of course I have never had anything better than Blue Bell, but it is only the best ice cream in the country (maybe not the world).

Joel”

To begin, there are differences in the same flavors, not only country to country, but even shop to shop. The one flavor we followed everywhere (and plan to continue following) was chocolate. Where available, it was dark chocolate. You really can’t go wrong with chocolate, after all! As you can see from my Top 3 post (and Bethany’s comment) Florence was the winner here, as it was in general. For one thing, dark chocolate was more widely available there than elsewhere, but it was also richer there than anywhere else.

Our usual method was for each of us to get a cup of two flavors, then for all of us to sample every flavor. Bottled water was our preferred palate cleanser, as we had it with us at all times. Occasionally there would be disagreement as to which flavor was best, or which shop’s chocolate was best, but overall we were in remarkable agreement. I’m not a huge tiramisu fan, while Bethany and Dawn are, so they’d rate that flavor higher (I believe they gave high honors to Gelateria Millenium in Rome for that one) while I was a particular fan of chocolate-cherry (amarena). That’s why we needed one flavor as a standard–good old chocolate!

One lovely thing about Europe, when it comes to massive ice cream tasting, is all the walking!  We discovered that the walking we did more than compensated for the additional calories, once we got home to the dreaded bathroom scale. Who would have predicted that gallivanting around Europe eating ice cream could be so healthy? We highly recommend it!

As for ice cream in the US, we haven’t done nearly as extensive research (yet). I have to agree that Blue Bell (available only in Texas, alas–unless someone knows otherwise?) is the best store-bought ice cream I’ve had here. Hand-dipped is generally better than store-bought, of course, though quality can vary enormously. Bethany is a fan of Cold Stone Creamery, where you can have your ice cream customized with add-ins. Maggie Moo’s is another, similar chain.  Until we can get back to Europe for more research on the book, we’ll content ourselves with researching (and posting about) local favorites.  Watch this space!

–Brenda 🙂

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2007 in chocolate, europe, food, ice cream, italy, travel, writing