I know I’ve been terribly remiss in posting here. Bethany is away for the summer, performing at Festival 56 in Princeton, IL, and traveling around sampling ice cream just isn’t as much fun alone. But today’s Indianapolis Star had an article (Cool Scoops) that has lit a new fire under me! I’m determined to try as many of these places/flavors as possible and report back. Since most of them are practically in my back yard, I can’t make excuses. And who wants to make excuses to NOT eat ice cream, anyway?
After a week in Japan, touring Tokyo and Kyoto, I think we can definitively say that Japan has many wonderful things–kai ten sushi, karaoke, Buddhist temples that are over 1000 years old–but ice cream isn’t its strongest suit.
We started tasting in Kyoto with some Sakura (cherry blossom) and matcha (green tea) hand-dipped ice cream near the Kiyomizu-dera temple. Nice, but nothing to write home about. A day later we tried another place nearby (we were staying at a bed & breakfast near that temple) and it was better. The black beans and mochi are an interesting addition. I liked it better than Bethany did. (I’m not naming these places because the names were in kanji and even Dawn couldn’t tell me what it meant–sorry!)
After seeing lots and lots of soft-serve places, we finally decided we’d better try that, since that seemed to be more of a specialty. And yes, that was quite good! If you go, do try the soft-serve. The place we tried in Uji (a short train ride from Kyoto) was particularly good. Uji is famous for its green tea, and the matcha-flavored soft-serve was excellent.
We only ran across one place that advertised gelato, the coffee shop at the top of the government building in Shinjuku (in Tokyo). Fabulous 360 degree views, but the gelato? Um, let’s just say the strawberry cake was much better. Ice crystals and not a lot of chocolate flavor.
In summary, if you visit Japan, make sure to visit a kai-ten sushi place. That’s where little plates of sushi travel all around the restaurant on a long conveyor belt. You sit on a stool and snag whatever strikes your fancy, then pay at the end according to the plates you’ve accumulated. Fun, inexpensive and very tasty! And do try Japanese karaoke if you’re with a group. Unlike American karaoke, you and your friends get a private little room and only embarrass yourselves in front of each other, instead of a room full of strangers. Tip: Nomi Houdai means “all you can drink.”
And if you get to Uji, try the matcha soft-serve ice cream!
I’d been hearing good things about FARMbloomington, a locally-owned restaurant in downtown Bloomington that boasts a diverse menu of organic and locally grown foods. But not until last week did I finally have the chance to check it out for myself. Five of us stopped by after a show (Beth’s show, which was fabulous–but that’s a different topic) for drinks and dessert. Beth had been there once before and said the ice cream was wonderful. (Yes, she should have blogged about it then!) With five of us, of course we ordered five different desserts and everyone tasted everything.
Oh. My. Goodness.
I’ll start by saying that ice cream does not have to be gelato to be outstanding! Okay, we already knew that from Berthillon’s in Paris, but FARMbloomington’s chocolate ice cream is every bit as good and a whole lot more accessible from the midwest! For vanilla lovers, the vanilla was just as exceptional. Smooth, creamy, very, very flavorful.
Moving beyond ice cream, the apple pie (okay, with ice cream) was fresh, warm and excellent. The carrot cake was one of the best I’ve tasted. The coffee ice with vanilla ice cream was something different, but also very good. And the red velvet cake was as velvety as the name suggests and very chocolatey.
This place isn’t cheap, mind you–desserts ranged from $6 – $9 and the drinks from $5 – $9– but taken in the light of an experience instead of just “drinks and dessert,” well worth the price and the drive. Highly recommended!
Yes, it’s true! We heard about it a little while ago, but scarcely dared to believe it. Finally, this weekend, we drove up to Clay Terrace in Carmel to check out Gelato Da Vinci ourselves. And it’s twoo, it’s twoo! Perhaps not up to Florentine standards, but perfectly passable gelato, right here in Indiana. How exciting is that?
We had to try the chocolate, of course, as that’s our standard. Not the best we’ve had, of course, but not the worst, either (and this is compared to gelato around Italy, so “not the worst” is actually pretty high praise). We also tried the rose (not as intense as Fenoccio’s, but not bad at all), the “love affair” (Tia Maria and coconut) and the “Italian kiss” (bacio, which is basically nutella). But the standout was the creme brulee. Excellent! Definitely a flavor to go back for.
Afterward, we tried a scoop of the blueberry sorbet, mostly out of curiousity, and it was okay, but if I hadn’t seen the sign, I might have guessed it was raspberry.
Clearly we’ll need to go back for further research–though if anyone knows of any other gelaterias in Indiana, please share!
The Beach Party was great–so much fun that I think we’ll have to make it an annual event! I saw someone with a camera (not me, alas–blame the mojitos) and if I can track him down and get him to send some to me, I’ll share, as long as they’re not too terribly embarrassing.
Meanwhile, it’s unfortunately still winter and if the groundhog sees his shadow tomorrow, spring could be a long time coming. Which means we need a new project until prime ice-cream-travel season rolls back around. It may be kind of lame compared to sampling gelato across Italy, but I believe Bethany and I need to do a thorough comparison of store-bought ice cream and report back. If nothing else, it will pass the time, and who knows? Maybe we’ll find a winner or two that can let us pretend it’s summer for a brief, blissful while.
More to follow, after appropriate research…
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?