Saturday, August 15, 2009

Damn FIne Ice Cream

Summer's Best Stuff

When I was a kid in Oakland we had Williams dairy. Williams ran a fleet of those snub nosed white trucks with real milkmen. They delivered whole milk in glass bottles sealed with pogs twice a week. They had the key to half the houses on our street and dropped off fresh milk directly into the frig. They picked up the empty glass bottles for reuse.

They sold heavy cream, butter, and sour cream that was superb. It had to be, they were in competition with Berkeley Farms, Challenge, and Dreyers.

My dad grew up on farms and milked cows each day. So I grew up believing that there should be a milkfat ring on the top of any good bottle of milk.

To this day I despise 2% milk and consider nonfat milk a complete abomination. Dad used to call it "bluejohn" milk (no idea why). So, If you send me to the store for milk don't bother specifying anything because I always return with whole milk.

If you want to really light me up ask me my thoughts about margarine.

With that background I have always believed a good day starts by walking the dogs and ends with with a dish of ice cream. Ice cream is my primary food vice. I will never give it up. I really don't care if it is summer or the middle of the coldest day of winter (although it somehow feels more morally justifiable to eat ice cream in summer).

Gelato in Siena

So when I travel I seek out the best ice cream everywhere in the world. I will veer off course to acquire a deep, dark, chocolate Tartufo on the Piazza Navona in Rome (one of those little dudes can set off a complete mood swing).

But my perfect sundae is made at Fenton's Creamery on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland, California. If you saw the animated movie "UP" the ice cream store used in the movie was clearly based on Fenton's.  If you ask they will make a Jersey Sundae (it is no longer on the menu, but they still make it if you ask). A Jersey is sublime. Simply, the best ice cream confection in the world. They take rich vanilla ice cream and cover it in alternating layers of heavy whip cream and whip cream that has been whipped with milk chocolate and malt. A Fenton's sundae leaves you with "slick lips" a condition which verifies the amount of butterfat in the ice cream.

Drop me in any American city no matter how obscure, within hours I will know where every Dairy Queen is. In Illinois I likewise note every Oberweis shop (I even ignore the owner's goofball politics).

When ice cream is really good I eat it neat and savor each bite. If it is "everyday" quality I eat it in sundaes. And root beer floats in summer, well they are just a miracle. Especially when the root beer is Richardsons (Elmhurst Illinois).

World's Best Gelato
Grom in Florence

Now everyone has their hometown favorites whether it is Elena's Blueberry Pie at Graeters in Cincinnati or Chocolate Chewies' N Cream, Huckleberry Cheesecake, or Tutti Frutti at Leopolds in Savannah.

Here in Phoenix we have some local ice cream treasure's: Mary Coyle's Ice Cream has flavors like fresh honey banana and, with notice, will build you "The Mountain" their seven pound sundae that serves 10 (or more) people.

Then there is my favorite: Berto's homemade ice cream (available in local specialty stores like AJ's). Berto's flavors (like blood orange and prickly pear) are just wonderful. There are now at least a couple "G-spot" gelato shops in metro Phoenix as well. In Scottsdale there is the "Sugar Bowl". And Tempe is home to the Cold Stone chain which (I feel) has upped the ante of quality ice cream nationally.

Lately my list of "ice cream that I want to to try" has been growing steadily. Here are some I have on my list to sample as upcoming travel permits:

Bi-rite in San Francisco (Brown Sugar with Ginger Caramel)
ICI in Berkeley (Rose flavor)
McConnell's In Santa Barbara

So let the kid in you come out. Eat some ice cream - every day!

Roadboy's Travel's © 2009

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