6.05.2007

Ice Cream 101


It may sound a bit silly, but ice cream has played a very big roll throughout our 7 year relationship. In the summer of 2001 Ali and I discovered Cold Stone Creamery. At the time the national chain was new to the Portland metro area, and the only two retail locations in the area were on the outskirts of the City. The chain had become famous because of the fact that it allowed its customers to literally invent their ideal ice cream flavor on the spot by offering a wide variety of ice creams, any of which could be mixed with a dizzying selection of candy, syrups, fruit, and cookies. Given the infinite number of possible combinations it can take one quite a while to develop the precise combination of ingredients that’s right for them.
Ali and I worked very hard. A few days a week we made the long drive out to Clackamas or Hillsboro. Each location was an equally inconvenient distance from our home, and as our trips became more frequent we would alternate retail destinations in hopes that the store employees might be slower to notice what frequent customers we had become. After of few weeks of taste testing we had both created a flavor we felt comfortable branding as our own. I discovered that I was a purist. I chose Sweet Cream as my base, a flavor that I had first fallen in love with as a child at the now closed Roberto’s Creamery that was once located on NW 23rd and Flanders. Not quite vanilla, Sweet Cream is a thick and rich ice cream that relies upon a disproportionate amount of heavy cream compared to its more well-known French counterpart. The result is an ice cream that is sweet and straightforward on the palate, and has an overwhelmingly creamy texture that melts oh so slowly on the tongue. In my opinion this flavor is about as close to perfection as ice cream can get, and to add too many secondary ingredients will only detract from its excellence. It being summer when we began our expedition, I capitalized on the abundance of fresh seasonal berries. And so it was that Sweet Cream with fresh strawberries and blackberries became my signature ice cream.
After seven years of dating I now know that Ali has a very complex palate compared to my own. Upon reflection it is of no surprise to me that she would create a signature ice cream flavor that would utilize a number of different ingredients. When we go out to eat, Ali often reads a menu as though it is a list of ingredients, and when ordering her food she utilizes her beautiful smile to coax her server into allowing her to create a unique entrée distinct from anything else that comes out of the kitchen. Fans of secret menus take note, to Ali every restaurant has an off-the-menu list of options, one simply has to know how to ask. Also utilizing sweet cream ice cream as her base, Ali mixed in with her ice cream, in a very particular order, sweetened coconut flakes, fresh blackberries, crumbled Oreo cookies, and coconut syrup. The result was a unique combination of textures and flavors that, when eaten, developed successively on the tongue much like the experimental three course meal gum from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
By the end of summer ’01 Ali and I both displayed visible, uh…physical commemorations to the hours we had spent trying to discover groundbreaking new ice cream flavors. Though we have not come close to duplicating the effort put forth that wonderful year, the years since have brought us many other wonderful moments spent enjoying that one of a kind desert treat. Whether it was our first time sampling authentic Italian gelato, or the time Ali put the entire contents of her ice cream cone on a single spoon in order to avoid bearing the consequences of a movie theatre’s no outside food or drink rule, we have been very fortunate to have enjoyed so many refreshing memories with perhaps our most favorite sweet treat.
Early last week we decided that it could be a lot of fun to make our own ice cream for our forthcoming restaurant. As though it was ordained to be so, Ali remembered that she been given a small ice cream maker when she was a young child. Sure enough the machine was still around, collecting dust in her mother’s basement. Over the past few days we have put this machine to work in order to test out recipes that we might serve one day in our restaurant. The results thus far have been nothing short of divine, each batch tasting better than the last: oven roasted banana caramelized in brown sugar butter, strawberry-sour cream, cheesecake, French vanilla, and chocolate-raspberry...at the rate we have been going we are making more ice cream than even we can eat. Anyone know an available taster?

4 comments:

Madeline said...

Yuuummmmm....I'm ready and willing to taste it all (well, almost anything). Beautiful pics - love the vanilla bean shot and you guys! Where are the tats? xxoo

Metolius Mark * Computer God said...

Evan your mother (and Ali, your mother-in-law-to-be) Used to go every evening (almost) from our college apartment in Eugene to Gantsey's Ice Cream parlor for a treat. Or to Baskin and Robins to lie to them that we wanted 'doggie' ice cream for Minka (that stuff that they save that falls between the containers?) when we knew full well, and probably they did too, that we wanted it for ourselves... point being, Ice Cream played a big role in our earlier history, too.

Ali & Evan said...

Well, 30+ years later we must say we take this as a good sign :)

Tim said...

Wow, just in case I wasn't already drooling over your other potential menu options, this array of ice cream did it. Lindsey and I felt inspired and slow-churned ourselves some vanilla coconut frozen yogurt, which was—quite simply—nonfat vanilla yogurt and cream of coconut. It tastes great, especially when topped with coconut flakes.

We definitely need to get together. We are still trying to get fully settled in our new place, but our kitchen is good to go. We can have you guys over for dinner or drinks and whatever else. I'm sure our culinary skills would be totally underwhelming, but perhaps we could have a potluck or something?

Let me know, you've got my number, so call anytime!