Tuesday, September 04, 2007

NY Ice Cream Tour 2007 - Round 1

You'll see that today's missive has two authors. e and n. e is still for eating, but n is for (e)nabler. Here's why...

e: Summer '07 shall forever be the summer of ice cream. It all began in New York, when n and I did our ice cream tour last May. We'd been in the city for exactly an hour when talk turned to food, as it inevitably does.

n: Indeed, talk had in fact turned to food three states over and on the train I had compiled a list of places e wanted to hit up so that we could best maximize our short time together. I divided them by borough so that we could see where we needed to go:

Joyce Leslie (I needed to introduce e to the joys of cheap clothing)
ice Ceam (just, you know, in general)
il laboratorio del gelato

*pinkberry (k-town) (this is starred, e REALLY wanted to go here)
Donut Plant



Jaques Torres

Kosher ice cream
Korean fried chicken

Clearly, Manhattan won.

e: Somehow from "where shall we have lunch" the conversation turned into how best we could manage our ice cream tour.

n: Incidentally, the place I had suggested dragging e to for lunch turned out to be closed for the summer. I wanted to take her to Roll and Dough on W. 3rd and 6th Ave. for delicious dumplings and fried bing to fortify us on our ice cream tour, but we were thwarted! I stopped by a couple of weeks ago hoping that it had re-opened for the fall only to find it gone, closed forever! I think I shed a little tear in memory of some of the most delicious dumplings in the vicinity of my school. They were always good for a quick bite before a show (I work in theater production). I have fond memories of sitting on the steps of the theater balancing a styrofoam container filled with delicious dumplings and shoveling them into my mouth with chopsticks while actors looked on enviously from over their tiny yogurt cups. There are reasons I'm not in a profession that requires me to maintain a certain weight.

e: I named seven stops. n's response was "do you want to hit them all today?" In my heat-induced delirium, I misheard her question, so I answered "yes" and n didn't even flinch. Using her knowledge of Manhattan geography she quickly calculated the most efficient way to stop at seven ice cream shops in mere hours. And then I realized my mistake. We laughed, but I knew I'd found a true ice cream warrior, the perfect ice cream tour buddy.

n: I come from a family of serious eaters. As a child, my mother once ate 7 ice cream sundaes in one sitting--after a full meal. I am my mother's daughter.

e: Within minutes of hitting the streets, we stopped at Tasti-D-Lite. I had a chocolate and vanilla swirl. I realized my mistake when I exited the air-conditioned store with dessert in hand. Not only was I melting, but so was the soft serve. My snack from there was light (or perhaps that should be lite). While nice, it didn't make a major impression on me. At least it provided respite from the burning sun.

n: In my notebook I have written "Tasti-D = Tasti-chunks!" I wasn't ready for ice cream yet (ok, so I don't quite live up to my mother's example), but I think I may have had a bite. Our verdict was fine, rather insubstantial, and full of ice chunks of some sort that were bizarre, but not untasty. It was my first experience with the ubiquitous NY franchise despite having lived here a year now, and I must say, I don't understand the fuss when there's so much better to be had in the city.

e: Just as I had finished the Tasti-D-Lite, we turned onto MacDougal Street where we spotted Yolato. The dilemma - stop for another treat, or have lunch first and then double back to Yolato. Efficiency won. We entered yet another air-conditioned haven. We tried the yogurt flavored yolato (yes, it seems a bit excessive) and also blackberry yolato. Apparently not all of the selections are yogurt-gelato hybrids. n busted out her notebook so no detail would go unrecorded. The verdict: both flavors had a refreshing tangy note, but we agreed it was probably only worth re-visiting if we were already in the neighborhood. n enjoyed the grapefruit sorbet. I found it refreshing, but was really so focused on the hybrid concept that I found it difficult to concentrate on anything else. We savored the air conditioning and then continued the search for lunch. And actually had a lunch.

n: In fact, unable to decide between the specialty yogurt gelato (it seemed wrong not to partake of the chain's main claim to fame) and the incredibly refreshing looking pink grapefruit sorbet, e and I divided and conquered one ordering the yoggi noir (blackberry yolato) and one ordering the pink grapefruit. It was a surprisingly good combination, the first being dense and creamy with a pleasingly smooth texture and faint yogurt tang. The other being sweetly tart and refreshing in a clear sort of way. The exact notes read:

"pink grapefruit - tangy, rind fresh
yoggi noir - dense, creamy, tang, smooth
shallow dishes, lotta goods, value!"

The portions were surprisingly generous and we found ourselves pleasingly full of frozen delights. The interior is sleek and colorful in a playful sort of way and they are oddly cult-like in their language describing their "Career Opportunities." There are entire flyers promoting opening your very own Yolato franchise. Also, the storefront boasts a trashcan in the shape of a giant ice cream cone. It's hard not to love that.

Lunch was disappointing by my book. We finally stopped at a random pan Asian noodle bar in Soho whose name I have only written down as "Noodle Bar." It is entirely possible that this is the only name it bears. I think we both decided on the Soto Ayam described as "Indonesian Chicken Soup." It came with an insipid side salad that was one step from being the kind of iceberg salad you find at tackier teppan-yaki (hibachi to some) restaurants only not as good, and two cold greasy fried appetizer things. The soup itself was alright, but a tad depressing. All in all, the only reason I recorded it was so that I could remember not to return.

(note: just looked this up on the internet. It does indeed appear to be named Noodle Bar and apparently is much beloved. It's possible we went on a bad day/ordered the wrong thing. It's also possible that all the people leaving reviews have never had real Asian noodles in their life)

e: While our lunch selections ranged from unmemorable to downright disappointing, I do recall with some fondness the jaunty red chopsticks they so graciously provided. Eating on the sidewalk (at a table) was also nice. As was the water. Ice cream makes me thirsty.

n: At this point I was starting to wane. e and I had just come from our 5th year college reunion which while full of fun, was not full of sleep and it was hot to boot.

e: (note: incidentally, I arrived at our college reunion bleary-eyed via the red-eye, wholly unprepared for east coast humidity. My friends took one look at me and said, "let's get ice cream." How well they know me.)

n: But we did manage to squeeze in one more stop at Cones on Bleecker. I wasn't up for a portion of my own having succumbed to a sudden wave of fatigue, but e manfully ordered up a cup of some sort of mocha flavor. I had a bite and we were both unimpressed with Cones' offering. It has a light, fluffy texture that was reminiscent of Tasti D-Lite and an overly sweet milky texture that was not unpleasant but uninspiring. Furthermore, the chocolate chips promised were more like chocolate specks than anything you could really bite into and were more distracting than anything else. I'm told by other ice cream authorities that we made an unfortunate choice in flavor, but even so, I have not been inspired to return.

e: I second n on her Cones assessment. The mocha chip was awful. Granted, it was ice cream and it was still hot, so there were minor merits. I felt duped since the storefront was covered in all sorts of seemingly reputable press about the shop. And in case you haven't yet noticed, n and I, being very serious about our tour, dispensed with niceties like cones and went straight for the cups all day. No sense in distracting from the main attraction. I can't remember if it was before or after our ill-fated Cones stop that we made a detour to Murray's Cheese where I not only spent some time happily perusing the cheese, but also stopped at length before the freezer which featured not only pints from Vosages (at the time I'd never tasted their ice cream), but also cute little rectangle containers from the hallowed ILDG (il Laboratorio del Gelato) and even selections from 5 Boroughs Ice Cream. The debate became, should we buy a pint here and if so, which one? But good sense in the form of n kicked in (no, she didn't actually kick me) and we exited the shop sans ice cream. I really don't know how we would have managed. Good call, n.

n: Heh, my memory actually has me living up to my name and trying to convince e to bring home a sampling of pints to ostensibly share with her host (but really to further the ice cream tour). Though I think I also made a case for Round 2 of the tour. I see both sides of situations.

e: Apparently all the day's frozen treats have interfered with my ability to remember. I shall defer to n's memory of this fine struggle between good and foolish.

n: Cones was about all we could handle that afternoon, especially as e had dinner plans in a couple of hours. We did however make it up to The Strand where I bought more books than I could carry home on the subway (factoring in my luggage--did I stress that we had just arrived on a train from another state prior to the ice cream madness?) thus necessitating leaving them at the apt. where e was staying and providing a handy excuse for me to pick them up the next day and going on Round 2 of NY Ice Cream Tour 2007.


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