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Kingspoint
07-06-2008, 06:03 PM
America's Best Ice Cream

Cool off with these sensational scoops

By Jennifer MurphyPhoto Courtesy of Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

Whether you’re craving a scoop of burnt-caramel ice cream from Cincinnati-based Graeter’s, a go-to favorite of celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Sarah Jessica Parker, or devouring a scoop of Southern black-bottom pie ice cream at Toscanini’s in Cambridge, Mass., nothing screams summer more than the sweet, decadent taste of ice cream.


Legends abound when it comes to this favorite dessert’s origins. Some historians credit the Chinese for creating the first ice creams circa 3000 B.C.; Marco Polo, they say, then brought the recipe back to Europe. Long before the onslaught of commercial manufacturers, ice cream was a luxury item made in small batches by a labor-intensive process. The dessert was fashionable among the royal courts of Europe and once served by Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.


Today, a growing number of makers have returned to producing ice cream the old-fashioned way: by hand and using fresh, local ingredients. “People are moving away from the ‘bigger is better’ approach and enjoying more respectful quantities of premium brands, rather than jumbo scoops,” says pastry chef David Lebovitz, who trained at the world-renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley and authored "The Perfect Scoop," touted as the ultimate guide to ice cream. Lebovitz says he’s seen “an explosion of handcrafted ice cream and gelato places opening up that use fresh, pure ingredients.”


With its temperate climate and abundance of farm-fresh dairy and produce, it’s no wonder California has the market cornered on some of the best ice creams in the country. Bi-Rite in San Francisco serves small-batch ice creams in flavors like salted caramel and honey lavender, with honey that comes from hives less than a mile away from the store. Cones are made with organic ingredients and seasonal desserts like the springtime sundae, made with crčme fraiche ice cream, strawberries and sugar cookies, are impossible to resist.


In Santa Barbara, Calif., family-run McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams uses fresh cream from local dairies. “Our family has been making and selling our super premium ice creams — 17 percent milkfat, 15 percent air content, all-natural — for 60 years here in Santa Barbara,” says Jimmy Young, McConnell’s president. Cocoas come from Guittard Chocolate Company in San Francisco, sugar from Hawaii, pure vanillas from Paso Robles. Several of McConnell’s flavors, including Brazilian coffee, pumpkin, macadamia nut and vanilla bean, among others, are available by the pint, so you can devour your favorite flavor at home.


Indeed, homes are where most ice creams in America are being consumed. Marti Pupillo, assistant director of communications with the International Dairy Foods Association, says that “more than 90 percent of American households buy ice cream,” and “manufacturers closely monitor and react to changes in consumer preferences.”


“Consumer interest in health and wellness is driving many of the ice cream innovations you see on the market today,” notes Pupillo. “Companies now offer a variety of products that fall into the ‘better for you’ category. Low-fat, reduced-fat and no-fat ice creams continue to grow in popularity, especially with the introduction of new ‘churned’ formulations that taste like traditional ice cream but have less fat and fewer calories.”


Calories aside, when it comes to creating an unforgettable ice cream, the quality of ingredients is what matters most, according to Lebovitz. “It’s one of the few things where the less you add, the better. I mean, in the old days, the best ice cream was heavy cream, peaches and sugar all churned up by hand. Purity is another thing. An intense, bittersweet chocolate or unctuous butter pecan ice cream is wonderful and doesn’t need much embellishment.”


For purity, nobody does it better than organic ice cream entrepreneur Sue Sebion, who runs Sibby’s Organic Zone Ice Cream Parlor in Viroqua, Wis. Made on her family’s homestead farm with organic milk from local sources, it’s not hard to see why Sibby’s has become synonymous with good, old-fashioned wholesomeness. This is ice cream at its best: pure, simple and made with love.


Graeter’s, another Midwest treasure, has been churning out the sweet stuff since 1870. The company uses a labor-intensive process that involves making the ice cream just two gallons at a time in a chilled, spinning French pot. Liquid chocolate is then poured in to create mammoth chocolate chips, one of Graeter’s trademarks. Flavors like tangerine cream and strawberry chip are available seasonally, with traditional ice creams such as butter pecan and mint chocolate chip served year-round.


In addition to the resurgence of handmade ice creams, many gelato parlors have cropped up across the country, prompting many consumers to wonder what the difference is between the two desserts. Pâtisserie chef Rachel Khoo, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu, says “the difference lies in the percentage of fats and the production process.” Like ice cream, gelato is made with milk and sugar, but has less air than ice cream, making the flavor more intense. Gelato is also made with whole, non-homogenized cow’s milk rather than milk solids, and therefore contains less butterfat than traditional American ice creams. Because the milk is not homogenized, gelato melts faster than ice cream. “In a nutshell, gelato is a more flavorsome, less caloric and slightly more sophisticated version of ice cream,” Khoo says.


On the East Coast, it’s easy to stroll past Ciao Bella, the tiny gelato store in New York City’s fashionable Nolita neighborhood—but the line of patrons devouring scoops on the sidewalk should tip you off. With flavors like key lime to graham cracker swirl, there’s no better way to cool down on a hot summer afternoon in the city. Ciao Bella’s gelatos have become so popular they are now distributed by the pint to specialty food stores throughout the country. Although a trip directly to the source is always worthwhile.

Degenerate39
07-07-2008, 11:57 AM
America's Best Chili too if it's not it should be. Can't go wrong with Cincinnati Chili.

reds1869
07-07-2008, 04:34 PM
Cincinnati is one of the great food cities in America. Very few places can match the breadth and depth of truly local food in this town. I've lived in a lot of cities and been to many, many more, and can say that nowhere has a food culture as unique as The Queen City. Even when I'm only gone for a week I get homesick for the food--and I'm not a native son, either.

klw
07-07-2008, 10:37 PM
No mention of Thomas Sweet means no credibility for this article for me. :)

OnBaseMachine
07-08-2008, 12:16 PM
Cincinnati is one of the great food cities in America. Very few places can match the breadth and depth of truly local food in this town. I've lived in a lot of cities and been to many, many more, and can say that nowhere has a food culture as unique as The Queen City. Even when I'm only gone for a week I get homesick for the food--and I'm not a native son, either.

I agree. I love going to Cincy not just for the Reds but for the great food. The cheese coneys, LaRosa'a pizza and calzones, UDF ice cream (I've never tried Graeter's, Montgomery Inn ribs, White Castle. I love it all. I'll be in Cincy in August for a three game series against the Astros and I'm looking forward to some good eating.

Kingspoint
07-08-2008, 08:49 PM
The only time I ever made it to Cincy, I went to "ChiliFest".

improbus
07-08-2008, 08:52 PM
I miss LaRosa's and Goetta more than anything else. Graeters is good, but I'm more of a local soft serve kind of guy.

Roy Tucker
07-09-2008, 09:54 AM
Cincinnati doesn't have chili, it has Cincinnati chili.

I love my coneys and 3-ways, but Cincinnati chili is a odd little branch off the main chili tree that is unique to this area. A variation on a theme.

When I talk about good chili, I don't mention what we have around here. Cincinnati chili is good on things like spaghetti or little hot dogs, but I can't imagine having a bowl of it.

westofyou
07-09-2008, 09:59 AM
I go to San Francisco for the food, I go to Cincinnati to visit friends and family.

Hearing Cincinnati mentioned as a great food city is funny (to me)... especially when franchised food is part of the equation.

Kingspoint
07-10-2008, 07:32 PM
I go to San Francisco for the food, I go to Cincinnati to visit friends and family.

Hearing Cincinnati mentioned as a great food city is funny (to me)... especially when franchised food is part of the equation.


My favorite Ribs are in South Bay.

fearofpopvol1
07-12-2008, 12:04 AM
Penn Station is a sometimes overlooked Cincinnati original too. I'm a big fan. UDF is overshadowed by Graeter's sometimes as well. The malts are very underappreciated.

Also OBM, White Castle is actually a Columbus original, but it's still Ohio all the same.

Cincinnati is a GREAT food city. There are so many great options.

improbus
07-12-2008, 08:03 AM
I'm more of a Putz's guy...

MWM
07-12-2008, 03:07 PM
I go to San Francisco for the food, I go to Cincinnati to visit friends and family.

Hearing Cincinnati mentioned as a great food city is funny (to me)... especially when franchised food is part of the equation.

Not really. I've heard people from all over say the same thing about Cincinnati. For a city the size of Cincy, it has a lot of really good restaurants and some interesting and unique food options. It's one of the things the city if known for.

KronoRed
07-12-2008, 03:26 PM
I'm more of a Putz's guy...

Agreed, Graeter's tastes like generic bryers.

reds1869
07-12-2008, 03:31 PM
Not really. I've heard people from all over say the same thing about Cincinnati. For a city the size of Cincy, it has a lot of really good restaurants and some interesting and unique food options. It's one of the things the city if known for.

Absolutely. I've never understood people that put down Cincinnati and totally ignore its reputation within the culinary world (hint: its a good one, even following the closure of a certain 5 star institution). The quality and variety of food for a city this size is staggering. Though I have to agree with San Fran's food greatness; many of the best meals I've ever had were in the Bay Area.

westofyou
07-12-2008, 05:45 PM
For a city the size of Cincy, it has a lot of really good restaurants and some interesting and unique food options. It's one of the things the city if known for.

Such as?

I'm listening.... but all I'm hearing is people missing chains like Skyline and LaRosas (food I consider equal to Burger King and McDonalds)

reds1869
07-12-2008, 05:57 PM
Jean-Robert at Pigall's was named one of the 11 best restaurants in the country by Zagats, so I'd say that's a pretty good place to start. I've also dined at The Palace and enjoyed it immensely; it is routinely reviewed as an excellent place to dine. The Celestial in Mt. Adams is also very good and has won awards such as AAA's 4 diamonds and was name one of the most romantic restaurants in the country by multiple publications.

guttle11
07-12-2008, 06:07 PM
Such as?

I'm listening.... but all I'm hearing is people missing chains like Skyline and LaRosas (food I consider equal to Burger King and McDonalds)

So if there were only one Skyline, would it taste better?

Good food is good food, no matter the establishment.

westofyou
07-12-2008, 06:40 PM
Jean-Robert at Pigall's was named one of the 11 best restaurants in the country by Zagats, so I'd say that's a pretty good place to start. I've also dined at The Palace and enjoyed it immensely; it is routinely reviewed as an excellent place to dine. The Celestial in Mt. Adams is also very good and has won awards such as AAA's 4 diamonds and was name one of the most romantic restaurants in the country by multiple publications.

Thanks, I'll check into them.. I have heard that Celestial is good.

But I think French food is over rated tremendously, and after looking at the Palace menu I didn't see one thing without meat, so I''ll have to pass on that.

westofyou
07-12-2008, 06:45 PM
So if there were only one Skyline, would it taste better?

Good food is good food, no matter the establishment.
Sorry, fast food is fast food in my world and Skyline has always been fast food.

Not that it's not "good" per se but I also missed the Red Barn once upon a time.

And for the record I liked Gold star better when I ate meat.

*BaseClogger*
07-12-2008, 07:31 PM
Such as?

I'm listening.... but all I'm hearing is people missing chains like Skyline and LaRosas (food I consider equal to Burger King and McDonalds)

I know what you mean about Skyline and LaRosas (both are franchises) but their ingredients are much fresher than Burger King and McDonalds (again, not saying much, but they are not nearly on the same level as those chains, but I think you were just making a point)...

Red in Chicago
07-12-2008, 07:45 PM
Such as?

I'm listening.... but all I'm hearing is people missing chains like Skyline and LaRosas (food I consider equal to Burger King and McDonalds)

LaRosas is quite possibly the grossest pizza I've ever tasted. Simply aweful.

*BaseClogger*
07-12-2008, 07:57 PM
LaRosas is quite possibly the grossest pizza I've ever tasted. Simply aweful.

Ever had a Hot-N-Ready pizza from Little Caesar's?

reds1869
07-12-2008, 10:38 PM
LaRosas is quite possibly the grossest pizza I've ever tasted. Simply aweful.

You've obviously never had Pizza Hut.

westofyou
07-12-2008, 10:40 PM
Ever had a Hot-N-Ready pizza from Little Caesar's?

Little Ceasar's was the first pizza I ever had many years ago..... as an adult it might have been the worst pizza I ever had.

As for LaRosa's and Skyline, both are chains and both probably get most of their ingredients from Sysco, which automatically makes it iffy IMO.

*BaseClogger*
07-13-2008, 12:03 AM
As for LaRosa's and Skyline, both are chains and both probably get most of their ingredients from Sysco, which automatically makes it iffy IMO.

The cheese at Skyline tastes pretty fresh IMO and according to a franchise owner I spoke with once it is "Wisconsin cheddar", whatever that means...

reds1869
07-13-2008, 05:40 AM
As a non-native, non-partisan, I have to say Gold Star is a bazillion times better than Skyline. But if you really want to enjoy Cincinnati chili hit up some of the small local parlors like Blue Ash Chili or Camp Washington.

It's not fine dining by any means, but the northern suburbs (particularly Hamilton and the Tri-County area) have a growing number of VERY good Mexican joints due to the booming Latino population. I've been to the southwest many times and some of these places rival anything there. If you are not a vegan many of them have great vegetarian dishes. Disclaimer: their quality can swing drastically overnight if one cook quits!

DoogMinAmo
07-13-2008, 03:15 PM
FYI, the Skyline cheese is shredded daily, and it is a specific LandOLakes Wisconsin mild cheddar. There is a guy who works there whose entire responsibility is picking the correct cheese for Skyline.

Best meals I have had recently in the city were at Boca in Oakley, Nectar in Mt. Lookout (formerly Aoili downtown), and Honey in Northside. Brown Dog Cafe in Blue Ash was surprisingly good. I cant wait to try Nada and the Oceanaire that recently opened downtown.

I have not been to Pigalls, but will gather the nerve soon enough.

Red in Chicago
07-13-2008, 06:37 PM
You've obviously never had Pizza Hut.


Ever had a Hot-N-Ready pizza from Little Caesar's?

Unfortunately, I've been to a Little Caesar's ONCE before...never again. As for Pizza Hut, the last time I was there I was in little league and the coach brought us there. It gave me the runs and I've never been back. That must have been 25 years ago?!

Chains like Pizza Hut, Little Caesar's, Dominoes, Papa Johns, etc are pretty much expected to be gross, aren't they, so that's why I excluded them from my initial comments. I mean, how many more places within the dough does Pizza Hut need to add cheese? Every commercial it seems there's a new "creation":eek:

I meant no disrespect to the Cincy locals, but with all the hype I hear on LaRosa's, it was very disappointing to say the least.

For what it's worth, even though I'm from Chicago, I detest Chicago "deep dish style" pizza. It's really bad. That's not to say that we don't have some excellent pizza parlors here, just that deep dish pizza is not my thing.

Give me a slice of mama's Margherita pizza anytime, and I'm all set. No need to add all that extra garbage.

DoogMinAmo
07-13-2008, 08:15 PM
I still swear by Adriaticos in Clifton, although Deweys is also yummy. My favorite pizza of all time is from Pizza Za in San Francisco, Russian Hill. Amazing cornmeal crust and topping combos that make your mouth water.