A scoop of cinnamon and a scoop of caramel in a gingerbread cookie dough cup (the recipe: just drape any cookie dough over a Pyrex custard cup, make “hospital corners,” and bake). Drizzle the plate with caramel and add a few toasted or candied walnuts or marrons glacées. Photo by Marcin Bania | IST.
Graeter’s Ice Cream
Page 2: Ice Cream Flavors
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Graeter’s Ice Cream Flavors
Graeter’s hovers at the edge of potential greatness. Some flavors are superb, some are over-the-top (which is good are bad depending on how you like it), some are just average, like a good supermarket ice cream. Not being a local, we were forced to make a choice of a ten flavors—we wish we could have had all twenty-three. But we saw enough in each group to be able to see the clear delineations.
The line consists of:
Perhaps the most differentiating feature of Graeter’s are the “chocolate chips” in the Signature Flavors. Chocolate “chip” is a misnomer: these are not even chocolate chunks. We would call them chocolate slabs. As you can see in the photo on the previous page, liquid semisweet chocolate is poured into the ice cream as it’s being churned. The chocolate freezes and is shattered into large, irregular pieces—some thick, some thin, some as large as a quarter. A common result is to find yourself with a mouthful of ice cream and chocolate, as if you had popped a piece of chocolate bar in your mouth along with your favorite flavor and are chewing on the chocolate as the ice cream melts.
This is certainly the most memorable chocolate chip ice cream we’ve ever had. Mint Chocolate Chip was like a chocolate nugget field. At first, we were enthralled, but four pints of Signature Flavors later we were tired. Perhaps it was too much of a good thing—most people don’t eat four pints of ice cream in a week. But we had signed up for ice cream, not chocolate bar and ice cream. We love excess, but this excess is...excessive. We think if we lived in Graeter’s territory, we would prefer it as an occasional rather than a daily treat.
Like an actor who sometimes turns in a great performance, sometimes an enjoyable performance, and sometimes just phones it in, Graeter’s doesn’t play with consistency. Some flavors, like Black Raspberry Chip Ice Cream, chew the scenery; some like Cinnamon Ice Cream and the Apple Cider Sorbet, are elegantly articulated. When we first had the Egg Nog Ice Cream, it used artificial flavor and so crossed over from artist to artist manque (we are assured that the company no longer uses artificial flavor); and Chocolate and Vanilla Ice Cream are so ordinary as to not belong in the same troupe. The variability can be summed up as follows:
Graeter’s pursues small batch production and expensive, labor-intensive techniques and hand-makes chocolate chips, adding a ton of them to the Signature Flavors; yet it eschews basic artisanal techniques like infusing its mint flavors with fresh mint, opting for ordinary peppermint. Thus, it ends up with flavors that are half-there. Peppermint Ice Cream, a seasonal flavor, had large chunks of candy cane but lacked real mint oomph; the beautiful pink color was smoke and mirrors. Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream had an over-generous amount of chocolate “chips” but the mint ice cream was undistinguished.
Where do we stand on Graeter’s? Ice cream lovers should definitely get to know it. After all, it has been called “the best ice cream in America” by some reviewers. While we think such absolutes are silly (and products so touted rarely if ever make our own list of favorites), every company does some things very well. Graeter’s has proven that it can create truly sublime flavors. We just need to catch the actor in the right roles.
For our next Graeter’s outing, we’ll check out the highly-recommended Caramel Ice Cream, as well as the Butter Pecan Ice Cream—Oprah and Steadman’s favorite flavor. And a few more on the program we haven’t yet decided upon. We hope to be able to add more bravos! at curtain call.
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