Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Search for the Next Favorite Ice Cream

If you keep up with ice cream news…and of course you do…you know that the current fad is trying out bizarre ingredients that nobody else would expect to find mixed into their frozen dessert. You can find a small ice cream parlor offering virtually any flavor you could imagine, from culinary creations (toasted pear and walnut, for example) to local oddities (be careful what you wish for in New England fishing towns!). The holidays bring out the most creativity, as would-be ice cream inventors try to incorporate favorite holiday dishes into their favorite ice cream base.

At Thanksgiving, for example, expect to find cinnamon, pumpkin pie, and cranberry. Look a little harder, and you’ll find the inevitable turkey ice cream. At least one ice cream shop seeks to provide an entire traditional Thanksgiving meal in sweet, creamy form.

Why do we have such a fascination with new, never-before-thought-of ice cream varieties? Why would we even think it’s a good idea to combine ice cream with turkey? Why can’t we just be happy with the selection in our grocery store’s freezer aisle?

The reason lies in the fact that we’ve been surprised many times before. Just ask Ben and Jerry, who have gained success by delighting customers with unusual combinations that hit the spot. Potato chips and pretzels are just a few of the ingredients that somehow complement Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but we probably wouldn’t have thought of throwing them into our favorite ice cream at home.

In the back of our minds, we know that one of our weird ingredient ideas is going to go just right with ice cream. The only way to discover it is by trial and error, and we are willing to taste some disasters if it means we can cross another possibility off our list.

So, keep inventing! Start with your favorite ice cream base—tried-and-true vanilla, for example—and raid your kitchen. Don’t leave any food out; spices, snacks, leftovers, and drinks all deserve your consideration. Somewhere in your house, America’s next favorite ice cream flavor is hiding. It’s up to you to find it!

Fortunately for us, Christmas is a little easier on the ice cream experimenter than Thanksgiving. Peanut brittle, honey roasted pecans, candy canes, sugar plums...better warm up the ice cream machine. A “eureka moment” is right around the corner.

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