National Strawberry Ice Cream Day (January 15). National Rocky Road Ice Cream Day (June 2). National Chocolate Ice Cream Day (June 7). National Vanilla Milkshake Day (June 20). National Ice Cream Soda Day (also June 20). National Ice Cream Month (July). National Strawberry Sundae Day (July 7). National Ice Cream Cone Day (also July 7). National Ice Cream Sundae Day (July 16). National Ice Cream Day (3rd Sunday in July). National Vanilla Ice Cream Day (July 23). National Hot Fudge Sundae Day (July 25). National Coffee Milkshake Day (July 26). National Chocolate Milkshake Day (September 12). National Sundae Day (November 11). National Ice Cream Box Day (I have no idea what the hell that is, but it’s
on December 3).
National “days” are absurd. They are the Hallmark holidays of food, more irritating than “Assistant’s Assistant’s Intern’s Day” and even worse than the worst of all, the monster that started this whole mess, Valentine’s Day.
I’ve always intentionally turned a blind eye to these abominations. I’d write them off as marketing tools by lobbyists and PR firms, and in some cases they certainly are, but who the hell would come up with “National Eat Anything You Want Day” (May 11)? How is that a thing?
This year I decided to look at the whole list of idiotic “days” to see if anything inspired me backwards. The only way Big Gay Ice Cream would ever celebrate “National Chocolate Milkshake Day” would be to either (A) quintuple the price of a chocolate shake or (B) have a vanilla milkshake give-away. But what about “National Pigs in a Blanket Day?” Is there something about pigs in a blanket that might inspire some sort of ice cream concoction? Probably.
National Blueberry Popover rang a bell. We Mariners are real sticklers when it comes to both popovers and blueberries- purists, some would say. Others might say jerks. There was no way I would screw with the majestic popover by tossing blueberries into the mix. Popovers should barely have a texture- you can't toss solid things in. Blueberry popovers SUCK.
I pulled out my blueberry ice cream recipe and tried pairing it with (regular, the-way-God-meant-them-to-be) popovers. It’s pretty great, really. Like a gigantic profiterole filled with purple bliss.
The recipes are below.
My blueberry ice cream recipe is over on my personal blog, The Fattening.
I’ve used Mark Bittman’s New York Times popover recipe for a few years. It’s pretty perfect but I’ve discovered a few things:
Make sure the milk and eggs are at room temperature.
The butter that goes into the mix should be melted but not smoldering hot.
The popover tins (with butter in them) need to warm up in the oven before you pour batter in. Remember, though, that you can’t leave them in here for more than a minute or two- three’s really pushing it. Too long and you’ll have tins of burned butter.
I put a pan on the lower rack to catch any butter drip that the baking popover pushes out of the tin.
Note: information on discounted tickets can be found at the bottom of this post.
Every so often we get an invitation we just can't pass up. I was offered two tickets to see "Party Face," a play currently running at City Center. The synopsis, director (Amanda Bearse) and cast all intrigued me so I asked my friend Patty Devery (who should be writing about Broadway and the show world for a major publication or website HELLO HIRE HER) if she wanted to be my date. She was in, so I was too.
There's always an understandable bit of "if you like the show we'd appreciate you letting people know about it" attached to these offers, which is totally fine. It would be different if they wanted to pay me to publicize crap. If I like something and it's appropriate, I'm good with using our social media channels to give followers a recommendation.
In this particular instance my wheels started spinning a bit. The cast of five includes Hayley Mills. HAYLEY MILLS, HELLO! The notion of HAYLEY MILLS eating our ice cream threw me into a delirium. I made an offer: can I throw the cast a little post-show ice cream party and take a few photos? Agreed! It worked out: we loved the show (or I wouldn't be plugging it) and they loved the ice cream (or I wouldn't be saying they did).
Seeing anyone enjoying the thing that we created from our own little brains is still an amazing feeling. When the person holding your pint is an icon, it's really... indescribable.
If you're interested in the show here is a discount ticket offer for ya. Tell them we sent you!
From the Party Face folks:
Academy Award-Winning Actress Hayley Mills (Pollyanna, The Parent Trap) returns to the stage in the new, unabashedly funny, Off-Broadway comedy PARTY FACE, written by Isobel Mahon (“Glenroe,” “Fair City”), and directed by Amanda Bearse (“Married…With Children”). Direct from a sold-out run in Ireland, PARTY FACE is the hilarious and bitingly honest play about the lengths we go to convince people we’ve got it all together. Use code MKTPARTY and save 30% off. Buy tickets today at www.partyfaceplay.com!
When I started playing the bassoon in 8th grade I thought that maybe it would take me places. For example, perhaps it would take me to Fort Kent for All-State band, or maybe down to THE CITY for Portland Youth Symphony.
What I didn’t expect what that at 17 my bassoon and I would be spending every weekend down in Boston, playing in the New England Conservatory’s Youth Philharmonic Orchestra. That group took me to Taiwan and South Korea then s few years later I made my first trip to Japan, to the Pacific Music Festival in Sapporo. For all of these Asia trips I was traveling with a jar Skippy peanut butter in my suitcase. It wasn't that the food turned me off- I wasn't getting near enough to it for that to be the case. I just wasn't eating it.
I don't think I was particularly scared of “different” foods growing up, it was just a function of geography. Our little pocket of Central Maine had an Italian restaurant, with lots of red sauce and Parmesan cheese in glass shakers. We had a normal restaurant in my town (at the time- it's long gone) called The Embers, named so because the restaurant that stood there previously burned down. I think. Every time we went there I had broiled haddock. There was a “Chinese” restaurant a few miles off, one of those gnarly faux-Polynesian places with Pu-Pu platters, tiki bowls, lots of breading and bowls of sticky corn syrups sauces. We didn’t have Mexican food, not even a Taco Bell <retch> and the nearest McDonald's was 25 miles off.
None of that explains why I was 14 before I realized pickles started as cucumbers.
During that trip to Sapporo, in 1993, I realized what god-damned fool I was. There I was, in Japan, and I’m eating peanut butter for lunch. I had the privilege of being on the other side of the planet but I was a bystander. I couldn’t speak the language and I wasn’t eating the food. That was that. I decided to start eating whatever, unless it truly and absolutely horrified me. Anything that seemed like a common food, I was going to try it twice.
So there. There are plenty of foods I'll never be fond of- foie gras is probably the one that people raise their eyebrows over. It is just too rich for me- two bites and I’m nauseous. I can’t go too “hot” (medium salsa is pushing it) or I break into a sweat and lose my appetite. Uni… not a fan. Other than that, I’m game to try anything. Raw? Fine. Crickets? Fine. Curdled? No promises that it will go down my throat but I’m willing to give it a taste.
I’m not really sure where this is all leading, so let’s just jarringly change gears. Five Spice Ice Cream.
Five Spice is a blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns. Any particular blend/brand of Five Spice will have it’s own essence/taste so cooking with Five Spice leads to individual results. For me, it’s all a matter of how much. It's a matter of “not quite enough, not quite enough, not quite NO WAIT STOP.” Too little and you don’t catch the essence, too much and it’s overwhelming.
The first batch was too powerfully flavored- part of the magic of Five Spice is how it gently touches every part of your palette and the amount I used gave me taste buds a clobbering, not a caress so I dialed it back on the subsequent batches. I thought I’d need to supplement the ratios in spice blend to accommodate the dairy. Nope. As is. Right out of the bottle I bought at Cub Foods.
FIVE SPICE ICE CREAM
5 large egg yolks
1.5 cups whole milk
1.5 cups heavy cream
¾ cups white sugar
1.5 teaspoons Five Spice (adjust at your own discretion)
Get your ice water stop-bath ready.
Whisk the egg yolks in a large non-reactive saucepan; set aside. Warm the milk and cream in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat; stir to prevent scalding. Add sugar, stir to dissolve completely. Add five spice and whisk into milk. Continue stirring the steaming milk/sugar/spice mixture for 10 minutes.
Remove the pot from heat and pour the milk mixture into the eggs in a very slow, steady stream while whisking vigorously and continuously. Once combined put the pot on medium-low heat and stir continuously, until the mixture begins to thicken. Do not allow to boil.
Place the pot into the ice water stop-bath and stir until steaming ceases. Pour through a fine strainer (to remove any teeny bits of scrambled eggs) into an airtight container. Refrigerate the mix- allow it to cool and cure for at least 6 hours, preferably 24.
Freeze the mix in your ice cream machine as per the manufacturer's instructions. When the freezing cycle finishes, transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and freeze for at least two hours to harden. The ice cream can be stored in the freezer for up to five days, after that it will get icy and bleh.
On January 25 1974 one of the most important moments in television history aired. That's the day the Brady Bunch brought Cousin Oliver to live with them. This Thursday- January 25- we will be celebrating the 44th anniversary of Cousin Oliver’s first appearance with a salute to all the Olivers out there.
Olivers are fighters. Olivers are determined to keep parties from fizzling out once they arrive. Olivers dive in, doing their best to help doomed scenarios. We need our Olivers.
If your first, middle or last name is Oliver come to any Big Gay Ice Cream shop on Thursday January 25 and let us pay tribute to you. Any soft-serve cone you want, on us. Free. You deserve a day of your own, Oliver.
You need to show an ID. Soft-serve cones only. Limit one cone per Oliver. Custom flavors, whipped cream- that sort of stuff is not free. Don't overstay your welcome, Oliver.
Like the title says! I went up to Toronto in late 2016 to guest judge on Top Chef Canada All-Stars. It was a blast. Up at 4:30am, make-up, hair... as you can imagine, styling my hair took hours. An earpiece in one ear with producers talking at me, my hearing aid feeding back in the other ear, and a spoon glued into my hand. The episode aired in February (I think) 2017 so I figure by this time I'm not going to be letting out any spoilers.
One of the things I enjoyed most was introducing hostess Eden Grinshpan to my (and most other pro ice cream eaters) taste-testing technique. Interested?
1 sleeve unsalted Saltines (oxymoron but yes, they exist)
1 pitcher slightly-warmer than room temperature drinking water
1 drinking glass
1 spit bucket
In order to taste each sample with the same sensory input from your mouth you need to follow a few steps. After each bite, do the following.
1. DON'T SWALLOW. A cold palate is not your friend. The colder your tongue gets, the less powerful tastes become. Spit the ice cream out.
2. SCRATCH THE FAT OUT OF YOUR MOUTH. Eat a saltine and let it scrape at your tongue and mouth. You need to remove the layer of fat that a bite of ice cream will leave coating your mouth. Again, you want to taste each bite with the same baseline senses so you need to de-fat your mouth for each bite. A coated tongue is less sensitive.
3. SWISH IT. Use warmish water to bring your mouth back up to your baseline temperature.
Be mindful of your choice of spoon. Plastic can be a taste of it's own. I'm good with a decent metal spoon. Some people like wooden tasting spoons.
I seriously have a titanium spork... maybe I'll take that along next time.
I took a bunch of photos that morning but they all seem to be lost. Bummer. In case you're interested, here's how the shoot progressed.
Arrive Toronto 10pm, car to hotel, wake at 4:30, car to studio. Get pretty and meet the producers and of course chat with Eden, the host of the show.
1. Before any contestants are called to set, film the walk-in several times. Some takes with Eden, some without- just me strolling down along and trying to act as though I'm being greeted while checking out the invisible contestants.
2. Do the opening "monologue" a few times for the cameras. Producers chime in through my ear to help me tighten up the speech and to help make sure I cover all the bases they need hit.
3. Go hide from the incoming contestants.
4. Listen to contestants film the opening of the show and cackle silently as they discover the horror of what's to come.
5. Do the walk-in with the contestants in place (a few times).
6. Do the opening monologue again. There's a weird edit when I suddenly blurt out "I've made beet soft-serve." It was in some other context... no big deal, obviously, and wouldn't strike anyone as odd but it made me wince.
7. Film "TIME STARTS NOW" a half-dozen times. My fingers got gayer each take. Note this when you view.
8. Leave the set- head back to watch the camera feeds and eat breakfast while the contestants start cooking.
9. Walk around the kitchen set with Eden and look at the delicacies and horrors that are in creation.
10. Back to watch the camera feeds. I yelled at the monitors a lot because they were doing everything backwards and inside out (according to me).
11. Time's up. Go eat everything with Eden.
12. Say some stuff that's so bitchy it gets completely cut.
13. Have a weird seemingly one-sided conversation with the producers... they can hear me whispering questions at them through my lavaliere microphone and they reply comes through my earpiece. Get a few facts straight then let them know who I've chosen to win.
14. Film bitchy evaluation of each dish.
15. Annouce the winner a few times. Enjoy the contestants having to act surprised even though they know they've lost.
16. Grab a soda, change, get in a car with a production assistant.
17. Make the car stop at a pharmacy so I can pick up some Tylenol + Codeine.
18. Airport. Bye Toronto! Next time hopefully I'm there more than 20 hours.
It was really a great time. Big thanks to Insight Productions, Lisa S, Eden and all the folks on the set. ALSO thank you to the hair stylist who slapped some pomade on my head then gave me a 5 minute back rub because he felt like he need to do *something* for me. The best!
I'm still laughing about "Connie's Corn Surprise"...