Food, Personal Projects

31 flavors of ice cream in 30 days

For the month of June, I gave myself the silly challenge of doing a Baskin Robbins: eating 31 flavors of ice cream. To count, I had to eat at least three spoonfuls of the flavor. I couldn’t cheat by standing at a counter in an ice cream shop and ask for a taste test. Plus, the person behind the counter would get annoyed. They get annoyed if you ask for two taste tests.

I learned quite a bit in my pursuit of testing my tastes in ice cream. Ben and Jerry’s, on the whole, sits heavily in stomach. Häagen-Dazs slides smoothly across the taste buds. Perhaps it’s the bias of my Texas childhood, but Blue Bell brings about a comforting feeling with a spoonful. Flavors of ice cream have gone corporate sponsored, combining other popular products or even famous brand names. Oreos, Butterfingers, Stephen Colbert, Starbucks. Jumping food mediums seems to be the norm, causing an exponential assortment of choices in a frozen food aisle. Also, conveniently, where the pint used to be the guilty pleasure size for all midnight snack runs, serving containers can be carried away by the armful at three ounces. A pint of ice cream in a Texas summer inside a car can increase unsafe driving speeds.

Godspeed, I ate ice cream for all three meals one day. I threw a mini ice cream party for snack day at work. The sales clerks at various Walgreens knew me as I rolled in, heading towards the frozen food section. I could have continued this dessert trip for a long time, perhaps six months or more with all the unique flavors of ice cream, and that’s not including the overlap of basic chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, etc. flavors or the assorted vanilla flavors that Blue Bell alone sells. And, potentially, with the advent of Coldstone or Marble Slab, where you can add mix-ins, you can up your flavor count considerably with the permutations and combinations of Heath crunch and a dozen flavors.

Stats:

  • 7 Ben and Jerry’s
  • 8 Blue Bell
  • 1 Braums
  • 2 Coldstone
  • 1 Dryers
  • 5 Haagen Dazs
  • 1 Marble Slab
  • 1 Starbucks
  • 1 purchased at Trader Joes
  • 4 from restaurants

The full list is below, and I made note if there was anything interesting related to it, be it by flavor or experiential.

  • Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia: overrated, flavors too subtle.
  • Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie
  • Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Butter Cup: like a lead weight in my stomach.
  • Ben and Jerry’s Stephen Colbert Americone Crunch
  • Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough: the flavor to kick off the month.
  • Ben and Jerry’s Envision World Peace
  • Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey: Surprisingly good.
  • Blue Bell Cookies and Cream.
  • Blue Bell Red Velvet: Surprisingly good; enjoyed outside while 4 Fort Worth PD officers arrested someone across the street from Sweet Sammie’s.
  • Blue Bell Dutch Chocolate: Mini ice cream party flavor number one.
  • Blue Bell Cotton Candy: frozen torture that didn’t even taste like cotton candy.
  • Blue Bell Crazy Cookie Dough
  • Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla: Mini ice cream party flavor number two.
  • Blue Bell Mint Chocolate Chip: a classic.
  • Blue Bell Moo-lineum Crunch: interesting mix of flavor.
  • Blue Sushi Green Tea: heavy on the green tea; I’ve had better.
  • Blue Sushi Raspberry Vanilla
  • Braums Peppermint Ice Cream: for a birthday.
  • Coldstone Pine-berry: like a gelato; ate in the company of a 31 year old and a 3 year old.
  • Coldstone Cheesecake: definitely needed a mix in, which I did not do.
  • Dryers Butterfinger
  • Haagen Dazs Dulce de Leche: delightful; Walgreen’s sales clerk was impressed I knew how to pronounce it.
  • Haagen Dazs Chocolate Chocolate Chip
  • Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan
  • Haagen Dazs Rum Raisin: I’m not a rum fan, so why I picked this horrible choice is beyond me. Pirate, maybe?
  • Haagen Dazs Blueberry Crunch: Amazing.
  • Lanny’s Brown Butter: eaten in the company of an engagement celebration and a graduation celebration; also, the last flavor for the month.
  • Marble Slab Coffee
  • Shinjuku Station Red Bean: I love Shinjuku Station. Enjoyed with a swizzle stick and Yamazaki whisky.
  • Starbucks Java Chip Chiller
  • Strawberry mochi: a Japanese style of ice cream I picked up from my first trek to Trader Joe’s.
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Food, Personal Projects

How to have a whiskey tasting

Whiskey bottles in my collection

Whiskey bottles in my collection on display for a whiskey tasting.

How to host a whiskey tasting

1. Know the difference between the types of whiskey.
2. Decide which whiskies you wish to share.
3. Be able to talk about a) whiskey in general, b) each individual whiskey.
4. Serve food.

Recently, I held a whiskey tasting for a small group of friends. Over the past several months, I’ve amassed a small collection of whiskies, and decided to share them. I announced a date far enough in advance to make sure enough could plan and attend. Prior, I asked around, casually, if people would be interested. There were, with several admitting their lack of whiskey knowledge.

In between the booking of the date and the tasting, I did research. In order to get a history of the drink, I ordered a copy of Kate Hopkins’ [easyazon-link asin=”B00375LMUM”]99 Drams of Whiskey: The Accidental Hedonist’s Quest for the Perfect Shot and the History of the Drink[/easyazon-link]. 99 Drams tells of Kate and her friend in search of what would make someone spend $10,000 on a rare bottle of whiskey. As they search, Kate tells of how whiskey and the various types—scotch, scotch whisky, Irish whisky, bourbon and other variants came to be. Like all alcohol, sordid political games influenced the making and evolution of the drink. The book provided enough insight and clarity to cover the distinction between the different kinds. It’s like a travelogue for whiskey.

I also picked up two coffee table books, which were basically the same. [easyazon-link asin=”0756654432″]World Whiskey[/easyazon-link] and [easyazon-link asin=”0789497107″]Whiskey: The Definitive World Guide[/easyazon-link]. Both contain many of the same pictures and same basic facts. World Whiskey is newer, and I feel, better organized. Lastly, I purchased a whiskey tasting guide, [easyazon-link asin=”0955472954″]Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible[/easyazon-link], an odd, legal envelope shaped book with a plethora of tasting notes for thousands of whiskies. It’s hard to read but interesting guide.

All books were purchased used on Amazon for a total of less than $20. Wikipedia helped with some minor details and pictures. I browsed whiskey maker websites to learn their story. One thing Kate Hopkins talks about in 99 Drams is, how much a maker’s story is true, or marketing embellishment. A good story doesn’t affect taste.

For the tasting, I chose a sampling of the 3 main types—an Irish, a scotch (whisky) and 2 bourbons, for a total of 4 tastings. They could then have a drink of any of the 4 they tasted or venture into my whiskey collection. Before deciding on the four tastings plus one drink menu, I debated how many to serve. With everything at least 80 proof, I was going to have to minimize the serving size, number of servings and be up front with everyone showing up having eaten a hearty meal.

To serve the tasting to a large group, I ordered two ounce plastic cups. They’re large enough to be held easily, distributed quickly and to pour small amounts evenly in. Given that you’re supposed to wait one hour per alcoholic drink consumed, I wasn’t going to serve full shots of whiskey. Each two ounce cup would contain about a half an ounce. The half ounce would suffice to see the color of the whiskey, smell it, and taste it and its finish.

To finish out the tasting, I researched food pairings. Dark chocolates go with most scotches, pecans go with most bourbons, gouda, brie and water crackers go with most Irishes. I filled out the party plate with deli meat and pretzels. Several whiskey sites suggested fried chicken and bourbon (or American whiskey). Perhaps next time, I’ll get some Babe’s Fried Chicken to go and share an assortment of bourbons.

Lastly, I made a slide deck in Keynote, transferred it to the iPad and used my iPhone to control the presentation. I made the deck to keep everyone on the same footing, and with a noisy room of drinks being passed, the slides would set a bearing to what was being said. Plus, the pictures or words would trigger what I needed or wanted to say. Afterwards, I made notes in my head about how to rearrange the slides if I were to do this again.

People arrived, and I offered water to everyone. We began.

All the tasting articles suggested to start with the lightest whiskey first. This is akin to wine tasting. Similarly to wine tasting, you use four senses to fully taste the whiskey—sight, smell, touch (with your tongue, is the whiskey thick, thin, oily) and taste (for flavors and the finish which can leave different flavor notes). Dissimilarly to wine tasting, you add water to whiskey for a tasting. Debates rage about this practice and about how to drink whiskey in general. The water opens up various compounds from the alcohol and lessens the bite of the alcohol. High proof whiskies should be watered down to get their full flavor. For a drink, a splash of water will do. For a tasting, a few drops will work.

We started with the Powers Gold Label Irish whisky.

(Trivia: typically, Scotch and Irish whiskey varieties spell whiskey without the e, and the US does. There are exceptions but it’s a general point.)

Then we moved to a bourbon, Basil Hayden’s.

Third, Maker’s Mark.

Lastly, Johnnie Walker Black.

In between tastings I would go through a few slides about the history or the process of making the drink. Whiskey is just as diverse as wine or beer, but with most spirits containing at least 40% alcohol, the barrier to entry is higher. Personally, I’d like to see smaller bottles to lower the risk of trying a new whiskey, however, for most distillers, such a practice isn’t viable. I’ve surmised that to find what you like, take risks, ask the folks at the liquor stores, research whiskey. A devoted contingent of whiskey bloggers and tasting sites and magazines do exist. Have friends pick a bottle for a party. Different bars serve different spirits, especially four or five star hotel bars in different parts of the country. Like all subcultures, there are passionate people of all types. What’s exciting, is that Fort Worth will soon have a distillery, Firestone and Robertson.

And, did you know, that if you distill beer, you get whiskey?

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Food, Metroplex

Lanny’s Alta Cocina

Lanny’s Alta Cocina Mexicana, located at 3405 W. 7th St. in Fort Worth, provides a welcoming, relaxed and upscale dinner experience. Inside an old, one story World War II era house, only a dozen or so tables are available for seating. I saw about ten tables of various sizes, small tables for couples, tables seating four and larger set ups of either round or rectangular for bigger gatherings. An inviting waitstaff never rushes your menu choices and seem keenly observant as when to approach for another drink or additional water or when to offer to take your plate away. A full bar is stocked with top shelf liquor and the wine cellar is on full display behind glass doors. In a sense, it’s comfortably trendy, removed from the pretentiousness some upscale places offer–warmly lit with music quiet enough to share an intimate conversation over good food.

The food is a unique take on gourmet Mexican with several fish entrees. First, the bread. Lanny’s bread is amazing. Hearty wheat bread, flavored with herbs they probably pick from the garden growing outside is served fresh from the oven and comes with an oil and chile garnish. I split a tapas of Kobe carpaccio and light greens. The raw beef was light and flavorful and melted richly upon first bite. For my main course, I had the potato wrapped sea bass. Paper thin and fried potato slices wrapped the large server of meat, holding in the juices. It came served atop a bed of rice with olives, cheery tomatoes and a thin, light sauce.

Lanny’s is a place where you go and spend the entire evening. It’s high dollar, but you’re paying for one of the more unique restaurants in Fort Worth that provides a slow, relaxed and friendly atmosphere to enjoy company and food.


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