The cow says moo

Did you know?

[Milk can also come from goats and sheep (and, as my husband pointed out, people; well really, any mammals) but let's not quibble about this with a kindergartner.]

Ice cream comes from cows too, for the most part.

Many dairy desserts in the freezer case at grocery stores are loaded with high fructose corn syrup and artificial ingredients.  I try to look for products with as few ingredients as possible and ones that I can recognize. For good old vanilla ice cream to accompany fruit pies / cobblers / crumbles / crisps, my favorite national brand ice cream is Breyer’s Natural Vanilla.

Keep an eye out for product labeling; some products in the store are labeled “ice cream” and some are labeled “frozen dairy dessert”.  I have to admit, I feel vaguely disturbed by seeing the term “frozen dairy dessert”on a package in the freezer case or at Dairy Queen. (Mind you, that doesn’t always stop me from buying the Oreo or peppermint bon bon flavors for my kids, but I do feel like I might be stopped by the food police on my way out the store.)

What’s the difference between ice cream and frozen dairy dessert? It’s related to USDA labeling restrictions.  Basically, a product can only be labeled “ice cream” if it contains at least 10% milk fat and a minimum of 6% non-fat milk solids.

So there you have it, a bit of trivia that you can use to astound your neighbors and friends at summer events.

***

Buy local dairy products if they’re available in your area and you can swing it.  Some of our family’s current local favorites are Hope Creamery butter, Cedar Summit Farm milk, any of the cheeses eaten during the recent spring cheese tasting, and Izzy’s ice cream. 

June is National Dairy Month, so if you’re a dairy-imbiber, drink (or eat) up!

What’s your favorite ice cream, milk, cheese, or butter?

La creme de la Crema

Part of my self-imposed mission during the Eat Local Challenge was not only to make dinners from local ingredients, but also to sample local cheeses, local beers, local chocolate and local ice creams. Hey, it was my way to get buy-in from my husband and kids for the challenge; the end justifies the means after all, does it not?

(Oh, who am I kidding, I just wanted to pig out on these things under the guise of my “research”!)

As you’ve already seen if you were reading this blog during August, I’ve visited Izzy’s a couple of times, Grand Ole Creamery a couple of times, and eaten Sebastian Joe’s ice cream via Sea Salt. But the last major Twin cities ice cream outpost was Crema Cafe, home of Sonny’s ice cream and sorbets, on Lyndale Avenue in South Minneapolis.

I tried stopping there once early in the month, but I’d already indulged quite a bit that day (a bad food day – chili cheese Fritos and saltwater taffy from Candyland in St. Paul) so I couldn’t bring myself to order any ice cream. Truth be told, I had a bad food stomach ache. I stepped into the cafe briefly to admire the ice cream & sorbet assortment, then split.

Because I wasn’t sure if I’d make it there again before August was up, I bought some Sonny’s raspberry chocolate chip ice cream from Kowalski’s and cherry zinfandel sorbet from Byerly’s to console myself. Poor, poor Amy.

But then I was back in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood again towards the end of August for my hair appointment, and was gravitationally pulled like a planet into Crema Cafe’s orbit. I had a little buffer time on this Saturday afternoon before I had to report back to kid duty, and so why not?

Earlier in the week, I’d returned from my Milwaukee-Chicago trip and been to the MD for my annual allergy check-up where they weighed me.

Ouch! I wasn’t mentally prepared for the raw news, after all of the local beer-cheese-ice cream-chocolate I’ve consumed in August. After the visit, I publicly declared, no more ice cream for me for a while!

Well, I had some wiggle room with Crema Cafe, as they’re known for their wide assortment of sorbets. Sorbet doesn’t count as ice cream, right? Right.

Feeling like Bill Clinton in my parsing of pledges, I sidled over to the Lyndale cafe.

Once in the cafe, I gazed upon the wonderful array of flavors. There were at least eight or nine varieties of sorbets, including lemon, raspberry, cantaloupe lime, honeydew watermelon, Merelo cherry, blood orange, passion fruit and lychee lime. How to decide? How to decide?

The Crema staff told me that they no longer sold pre-packed pint containers at the cafe, but they did sell 4-scoop containers, and the scoops could all be different flavors. Now, this simplified my decision. Or complicated it? It was hard to tell.

Since it was a little slow at the time, the staff was happy to give me samples of many of the sorbets. I finally chose a passion fruit sorbet cone, but was so absorbed talking to the staff about food finds that I forgot to take a photo of the cone until after I’d already eaten half of it. Oh well.

(BTW, they said the best places to get gelato in the Twin Cities are Jackson’s Gelato on Lake Street and Fat Lorenzo’s.)

I wanted to bring some of this amazing stuff home but it was another one of those sizzling hot August days, and I fretted about being able to make it from SE Mpls to NE without the sorbets completely melting. The Crema staff came up with an ingenious solution – pack the container in a bag of ice. Such customer service.

Like an ice cream hoarder, I threw it in the deep freezer next to the other Sonny’s specimens.

Opening up the container later that evening, the sorbets had melted a bit and the scoops blended in to each other, but it was all good.


In fact, it was like my own custom-blended rainbow sherbet; instead of orange-lemon-lime, I had a melange of Merelo cherry-blood orange-passion fruit-lychee lime. Nice!

I cut the hunk into four wedges and served it for dessert after dinner. Everyone got sections of each of the flavors.

We went to bed that night dreaming rainbow sorbet dreams…

Too much of a good thing

Be careful what you wish for.

It’s been scorchingly, brutally, mind-numbingly hot here in Minneapolis this August. Hot enough that it not only fries eggs on sidewalks (well, just on cars I guess), it’s also hot enough to fry your brain.

On a 95 degree Sunday afternoon earlier in the month, my family joined some others for a picnic at Minnehaha Park’s splash pad.

As I stood in the kiddie pool chatting with a friend, I fantasized about the park’s outdoor eatery, Sea Salt, having a little satellite kiosk by the pool that would serve icy Summit Hefeweizen and cool cones of Sebastian Joe’s local ice cream.

Alas, it was not to be. So, instead we piled into the car and trekked over to the park pavilion near Minnehaha Falls where Sea Salt is located.

Feeling strange and out of sorts from the extreme weather, I still insisted on going, because this could be my only chance to get local Sebastian Joe’s ice cream since I wasn’t sure if I’d make it over the actual store location in south Minneapolis before the Eat Local Challenge month was up.

Dazed and confused from the heat, like a zombie from Dawn of the Living Dead, I lurched across the grassy park fields and wove through the trees to Sea Salt. Must….have…local beer…Must…have…local…ice cream….

My husband, who offers the common sense that I sometimes lack, cautioned me against drinking beer when I was feeling so hot and disoriented.

I settled for just the Sebastian Joe’s ice cream. A single scoop of chocolate amaretto, but even that was too much for me.


Like this photo, my brain was out of focus at this point.


In the end, it was good that I didn’t have the beer, since we managed to lose my car keys in the open field.

Oh no!
It took another 20 minutes of searching, first by me, then by my husband, before the keys miraculously turned up.

We pushed it too far that day, and paid the price, albeit temporarily. It was too much of a good thing.

Forecast calls for drippy cones

Another day, another local ice cream shop. Life is good.

This time, off to Grand Ole Creamery on Grand Avenue, the other ice cream powerhouse in St. Paul.

When I walked in the door with my work colleague in tow, I breathed in the toasty, vanilla-scented aromas wafting through the air from the freshly made waffle cones in the front corner of the store and was instantly transported back to my first job in high school working at Bo Jangles Ice Cream Shop in Fridley.

Grand Ole Creamery felt like more of an old-fashioned style ice cream establishment than Izzy’s, with hand lettered signs and and a homey atmosphere.

I tend to gravitate towards ice cream flavors that I can’t get in stores, so I quickly honed in on the Mexican chocolate ice cream with pralines.

Waffle cones in hand, my colleague and I headed back out the door to bask in the warm sunshine before returning to the office. Of course, in the warm August temps, the ice cream started dripping immediately.

It was a massive cone, but I was up to the task. I even managed to hold a conversation at the same time as dispatching this dripping avalanche with a series of steady licks (now, that’s multi-tasking).

It was a pleasant surprise to run into the malted milk ball at the bottom of the cone, which I learned was placed there to stop the ice cream drippings from leaking out.

***

I knew I had to get my kids in on this action, because they had never been to Grand Ole Creamery either. So I took them there later in the week. But this time, I wasn’t quite up to the multi-tasking ice cream management challenge.

The kids and I went into the shop and selected our flavors, with me holding up my three-year-old around his waist because he was too short to see into the case. They were able to choose their flavor – bubble gum for both – quicker than me, as I was dazzled by all of the flavors. What to pick, what to pick?

I finally settled on Black Hills Gold, a caramel ice cream with crushed cookies and pralines (gotta have those pralines). I was wiser about the portion size this time and selected the kiddie size sugar cone. This was still more than enough, and more than it turned out I could handle in the heat.

All of the cones immediately started drip, drip, dripping, running down our hands and arms, dripping onto our clothes, the bench where we were sitting, the sidewalk.

Some diners eating their pizza at a sidewalk table nearby took pity on us and offered us their napkins, but it was like trying to put a band-aid on a gushing wound.

I managed to click a couple of quick pics with the iPhone before having to perform ice cream triage for myself and the kids.

My kids haven’t quite grasped the lick-around-the-ice-cream-sides-to-contain-the-drips method; they continued to eat at the top of the ice cream ball, oblivious to the impending ice cream armageddon.

I tried to coach them how to contain the mess, but it was of little use. By this point fed up with the soupy deluge, both kids attempted to hand me their cones to hold at the same time.

Oh, no, wait a minute there, kiddies! You know that advice that you get on airplanes to put on your own air mask before assisting others? It felt like that. I had to take care of my own sinking ship before I could help, since I was still trying to finish my own melting cone.

Finally, we decided to throw out the remaining cones; it was just too much to deal with. Fingers glued together and desperately thirsty, we trudged back to the car.

I think Grand Ole Creamery could make some additional moola offering training sessions for young ice cream eaters to help hone their licking techniques. Preferably scheduled for mid-August. Ya think?

Block rockin’ treats

Baby, it’s hooooootttttt outside….

I needed a little pick-me-up earlier this week to get me through the work afternoon. Since I don’t drink coffee, the next best wake up for me is sugar and loud, loud music.

But what kind of sugary treat??? Well, ice cream of course! Then I thought of IZZY’S Ice Cream shop, located on Marshall Avenue near Cleveland in St. Paul. I can’t believe that I’ve worked in St. Paul for over a decade but I’ve never made it to this local ice cream shop.

Everyone raves about this place. Last August, local food e-magazine Heavy Table did a tasting of chocolate ice cream from Twin Cities area ice cream shops, and Izzy’s came out on top.

What I think is super cool is their Flavor Up feature on their website; you can see a listing of available ice cream flavors in real time, powered by RFID technology (if you’re interested, you can read more about this innovative system on local food blog Simple, Good and Tasty.) The ice cream list is automatically updated every 3 minutes, so you can check ahead to see if they have any flavors you’d like.

I checked out what they had, then hopped into the car, cranked the A/C, dialed up the iPod to the new Chemical Brothers album Further and sped down the freeway to meet my icy bliss.

Flavors continually rotate through the shop. The website noted which flavors they usually have available, which ones are less frequently offered and which were seasonal flavors only. A couple of the selections were noted as “Certified Local”, including the Summit Oatmeal Stout and the Norwegian Chai.

I tried a little taste of the Norwegian Chai at the shop just to check it out since it was made with tea from a local tea shop, Tea Source, and Norwegian cardamom toast pieces from Wuollet’s bakery in St. Paul, another locally owned establishment. I thought the flavor was too heavy for such a bright summer day though so I decided to get something else.

While I wanted to BUY IT ALL!, I had to rein myself in and just bought two pints to take back to the office to share with my colleagues – Izzy’s most popular flavor, Salted Caramel, and Cherry Water Ice. I also picked up some Izzy Pops for my kids to eat on the drive home.

When I got back to the office, my colleague and I sampled both treats.

The salted caramel ice cream blanketed my tongue with a decadent, cool creaminess, something that normally I’d be totally into. The flavor tasted as I expected, with a rich caramel depth similar to the Salted Vanilla Caramel sauce that you can get at the Golden Fig specialty foods shop in St. Paul or the Salted Caramel crepes at Bar La Grassa in Minneapolis.

But on a sultry day like this one, I crave anything with water: cucumbers/iceberg lettuce/jicama/watermelon/lemons/lemonade/iced tea/other icy drinks/heck, just ice cubes alone.

The Cherry Water Ice was just the right thing for the moment. As the Izzy’s website notes, there’s no added sugar or dairy. The light, bright, clear taste was like eating fresh cherries, crossed with the cool crispness of crunching into a ripe watermelon, crossed with shaved ice.

This cherry ice tasted like an adult version of a Popsicle or Icee, but without the icky, cloying sweetness or high fructose syrup mouth feel.

It’s also a seasonal offering, so the time to get it is now. Carpe diem!

Oxygen restored to the brain and taste buds sated, I settled back in to gaze at more Excel spreadsheets.

Now, each workday at 11:01 am, I experience my Zen moment contemplating the Izzy’s ice cream flavors of the day.

I leave you with one of my favorite tracks from the Chemical Brothers album so far. If this bouncy tune and exuberant video doesn’t wake you up and make you happy, then, well, I just can’t help you today.

P.S. You’re going to have to score your own ice cream yourself.

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