Wednesday, September 05, 2007

NY Ice Cream Tour 2007 - Round 2

e: Using her books as collateral, I managed to lure n back to Manhattan for Round 2 of our ice cream extravaganza the very next day. I'd already spent far too much time reading People magazine, so I knew that pinkberry was a favorite among the glitterati. Therefore I had to go. In order to find the nearest location, we hopped online and soon found ourselves on the official pinkberry website. As I type, I've once again loaded up the site so that I can be indoctrinated (intoxicated?) by the official song. P-I-N-K-B-E-R-R-Y....pinkbeeeeeerry! Curiously, they seem to have updated the soundtrack. I find myself missing the catchy apology to ice cream. But I digress.

n: I too looked up the site and it sort of sounds like they've replaced the song with a karaoke version of the original. Which while still infectiously viral, is nowhere near as entertaining as the above mentioned apology to ice cream. Fortunately, I had the forethought to download a copy of the original song for my very own personal enjoyment. It may be playing in the background as I write at this very minute.

e: n and I set out for the pinkberry on 8th Ave. with high expectations. We were feeling high. We attributed it to the official song, which we attempted to sing, but somehow only the chorus stuck in our brains. We arrived to find the storefront shiny and cutesy. The interior was all white with bright splashes of orange and green everywhere. We got in line behind soccer moms and paid attention as people ordered. I'm often dazzled by operational prowess, and this place was a delight to watch. As you order, everything is punched into a machine that spits out a label that is pasted onto your cup. And so your order (should be) perfect every time. Mine was. I opted for the plain yogurt with one topping - blueberries. I took my first bite and it was bliss. Super cold frozen yogurt, that was tangy and tasted like yogurt, but better yet, there was something indescribably delicious about it. n and I were at a lost for words. And then it came to us...cracktacular! As I finished my cup, I already wanted more. It was downhill from there. We sat in the happy shop eating our happy treat, feeling rather happy. The happiness turned to giddiness. And then to silliness. And when we left the store, we were hardly able to navigate ourselves to stops # 2 and # 3 on our tour that day.

n: The store was filled wall to wall with hip young moms and expensive baby strollers gathering for a girl's afternoon out, it was a little creepy. e and I were also initially startled by the massive portions available, pinkberry is pricey, but you also get small mountains of frozen dessert in exchange. It's ok though, because it's so light and airy, it doesn't really fill you up or weigh you down, perfect for trekking around on those sticky summer days in the city where the air is thick and wet and the subways like ovens.

The giddiness was almost alarming in its insidiousness. Viral like the song, we toddled about Chelsea trying to find our way to the lower east side, only to pay to go into the uptown side of the subway, walk up and down the entire platform before realizing that there was no crossover to the other side, then having to pay again to enter the downtown side. I have no explanation for this beyond what we deemed the "pinkberry effect" which apparently consists of extreme giddiness to the point of madness and an inability to navigate familiar spaces. All afternoon we would exclaim, "Pinkberry ate my brain!"

e: Lazy and a bit alarmed at our state of happy, but unable to navigate, we took the subway to the lower east side for our next tasting. I'd forgotten about our platform woes. I'd been reading a lot about Grom, a new gelateria on the upper west side, and in every article ILDG was mentioned as its rival. Would Grom dethrone ILDG as top gelateria? I decided a comparative tasting was in order. The shop was obscure and we nearly passed it. The ice cream case was also small. We tasted several samples, and shared a really lovely cup consisting of peanut butter and vanilla chocolate chip. It was a treat to have something so rich and dense and smooth, with the perfect balance of sweet and cream. I was a happy customer. I wondered how Grom could top ILDG.

n: To get to ILDG you must walk down Orchard St. (where I convinced e to buy a reconstructed vintage dress, score one for the (e)nabler!) with its gauntlet of cheap clothing vendors calling at you to buy their 99 cent t-shirts. But if you persist, you are in for something exquisite. We both split a small (almost tiny) cup of gelati, half vanilla chocolate chip, half peanut butter. The texture was rich and creamy. I found the sweetness a little much, and the flavorings a little faint. The peanut butter was beautifully delicate but I like something a little more robust myself. The chocolate chips in the other were miles above the specks offered by Cones, real, dark chocolate chunks, just the right size to be small enough to not overpower, but large enough to have a good tooth to them. Unfortunately, the vanilla while excellent, was something of a blank canvas. A vehicle for the chips as opposed to a strong flavor context in its own right. I attribute it to the fact that the flavoring was again truly subtle and delicate. ILDG would probably appeal most to purists who like tasting the cream base of the gelato itself as opposed to the flavors layered on top of it.

e: And then it was time to visit Australia. We hopped a plane from JFK and hours later we had our next treat. Not. Instead, we skipped over to St. Mark's Place and hit up Australian Homemade Ice Cream. We didn't actually have ice cream though. It was time for a palate cleanser, and a lemon basil sorbet danced happily upon on tongues. It was a good way to finish our second day of triple tasting. I don't think we'd yet recovered from the pinkberry delirium. Then I rushed off to dinner.

n: Australia was my one contribution to the list of ice cream hotspots. I'd been there once before with a friend who ordered the passionfruit sorbet and was bowled over by the sweet tartness and its incredible fidelity to the flavor of the actual fruit. This is probably because as the proprieter informed us, the passionfruit sorbet is something like 95% fruit and all flavors are compounded fresh daily. Knowing e's love affair with the most passionate of fruits, I insisted that she go. Sadly, passionfruit was not on the menu that day so we opted for a lovely lemon basil sorbet instead. It was the perfect palate cleanser after the decadence of ILDG. Light and tart with the fragrant counterpoint of the basil to keep things interesting. All in all, a fine end to the most ice cream I have ever consumed in such a short period of time.


n: I have always known that I'm not a true ice cream girl at heart (blasphemy!) and that I prefer tart to sweet and sorbet to creamy. So my preferences lean towards the two frozen yogurt places, pinkberry and Yolato. I like the yogurt tang and that's the main reason pinkberry wins out for me as the tang is more distinct (also, cracktacular), though I think of them as the sorbet and gelato counterparts of each other. One is watery when melted, the other creamy. I also like the fresh fruit toppings of pinkberry while the Yolato stands on its own. For stuff closer to actual ice cream I'd pick ILDG which was delicious and rich and has unusual flavors to tempt the inner gourmand. Looking back on it, our ice cream tour included very little actual ice cream and was actually so varied that to compare the various establishments is like comparing apples and oranges. Most places had their own unique niche or hook and I could see myself re-visiting most of them depending on my mood. Though since the tour I have only re-visited pinkberry (twice). My only regret of the whole experience was in not convincing e to buy the black t-shirt we found at joyce leslie bearing the word "delicious!" over a ground of holographic ice cream cones. I felt it summed up our time together nicely.

e: I'm already looking forward to my next ice cream tour with n. It was truly a "treat" to make a mad dash for six shops in two days with her. Believe it or not, between tastings we even got to catch up with some non-ice cream fun. I learned that red shoes actually do go well with aqua and that we share a fondness for cheesy dance movies. As for my final thoughts on NY Ice Cream Tour 2007 - I'm going to delay them for a day because I indulged in Round 2.3 without n the very next day. I'll admit it was a bit disorienting, but it had to be done, and n was certainly there in spirit. Also, to (e)nabler's credit, I seriously considered the holographic t-shirt as a souvenir of our journey, but apparently would have had to give up ice cream in order to wear it. I like irony, but not at the expense of a food group. And yes, ice cream (and its frozen dairy and non-dairy associates) is definitely a food group in my books.


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