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).
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!