Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blue Bell's Birthday Cake Ice Cream

I love ice cream in ANY form. Häagen-Dazs shakes. Ben and Jerry's sundaes. Soft-serve Tasti D-Lite. Futuristic Dippin' dots. I mean, I cannot tell you the things I did would do for a vanilla ice cream square, coated in frangible chocolate, and wrapped in a silver-foil wrapper. Shameful! Yup, nothing gets me torqued like frozen dairy. But, I must say, being a native Texan, I think I am genetically programmed to prefer Blue Bell (not to be confused with Blue Bunny) over any other brand. I like to pretend I'm an egalitarian of sorts and don't discriminate, but when I have the choice, I go with the Bell.

One evening, after a typically long day at school, I decided to motor to the grocery store (Wal-Mart, y'all!) for ink cartridges and a few Top Chef Healthy Choice TV dinners. I tucked my little Honda Civic in a back row spot and jumped out of my car. My plan was to make this trip bandit-style quick since I was still uncomfortably dressed in business cas(ual): black dress pants, tailored button-down red shirt, ballet flats, and a vintage headband restraining my unwashed hair. I scurried to the entrance, glanced at my au naturale reflection in the glass doors, and went inside.
After flashing a toothpaste grin at the Betty White greeter, I grabbed a hand-held blue basket to shop. I weaved through the nondescript aisles and made a mental note to not make impulsive purchases. (For those of you wondering: I bought those detoxifying foot pads from Japan anyway.) I got some HP 61 ink in the electronics section and made my way to the frozen food aisle.
As I was picking my Healthy Choice dinners of choice, I felt a familiar chill. I peaked over my shoulder and noticed the frosted locker of Blue Bell ice cream was staring at me. I paused. I pondered. Yup, I most certainly do deserve ice cream.
And what kind did I deserve?
Birthday Cake by Blue Bell!
Let me tell you--and this might be my southern swag talking--but nothing can compare to this ice cream. I think it is quite possibly the best dessert in the entire world. It is so delicious that, when you put it into your mouth, a flood of flavor triggers the summation of eating brownie cake, topped with vanilla ice cream, glistening with chocolate icing and sprinkles. All. In. One. Bite. It's more scrumptious than a Christian Grey fantasy. (whoa. super kidding!)
I skipped over to the freezer like a kid in Dylan's Candy Bar. A blast of icy air tickled my cheek as I opened the glass door. The shelves were jammed with a Light Bright mix of different half-gallons and pints. I riffled through the frigid gold rimmed cartons and--- oh my God, you guys! I didn't find any birthday cake. Womp-womp. No one saw that coming, huh? Wrong.

Birthday cake is what the creamery has dubbed a “rotational flavor.” Which, I for one, find ridiculous; it's not like this novelty uses seasonal ingredients. Plus, after several google searches, I still don't know the exact rotation schedule of this time-sensitive ice cream! It's like trying to quantify the genealogy of a Melungeon, i.e. impossible.

My first impulse was to take my index finger and scribble something dirty on the ice-brushed glass. But, as a symbol of my love to the splendiferousness that is the Blue Bell brand, I made the decision to channel the urge into something productive. I picked three NEW flavors, threw them in my hand-held shopping nest, and fled to the self- checkout. That's right, you cool cats. It's ice cream review time!

I've never had any of these flavors. I just wanted to see if the novelties were worthy of the should-be-birthday-cake shelf time. These are my foodie opinions thereof:

Red Velvet
Eating anything red velvet-y instantaneously transports me to the days I would sit at my great-grandmother's kitchen table, read Highlights, drink hot tea, and eat five slices of red velvet in one go. Dee-licious childhood diabetes. So obviously, I had to try this flavor, both for the ice cream and the nostalgia.
Guess what? It is rather tasty! Blue Bell somehow extracted the essential flavors of the Jägermeister colored cake we all know and love and packed them in ice cream. It's a spoonful of vanilla infused with a sweet mélange of different sized red velvet bonbons and subtle nuances of cream cheese. Yes, a satisfactory dessert. But, for whatever reason, it does leave me wanting something more. Chocolate sauce? No. Sprinkles? No. Maybe I'm just missing the over-whelming aftertaste of cream cheese frosting.
Orange Swirl (Vanilla Ice Cream and Orange Sherbet)
I do love orange sherbet. And I do love vanilla ice cream. But, I just don't think they should be combined; the flavors interfere with each other's tongue tasting pleasure. It's as if the light freshness of the orange sherbet collapses into the ice cream and loses its integrity. The whole pint reminds me of when they slather Hawaiian shaved ice with condensed sweet milk.
Note: I think this flavor would be totally appropriate if you ever wanted the whipped version of an orange creamsicle.
Strawberry Banana Pound Cake
Honestly, this ice cream combination sort of confuses me. Pound cake is a stand-alone dessert; it has the rich and decadent taste of melted butter dusted with sugar. There isn't a need for additional ingredients...except maybe extra butter. So why would Blue Bell attempt to fuse the freshness of strawberries and bananas into this dense buttery concoction?
Answer: Because a weird blend can be good! It's like when Rachel screwed up the trifle on the Friends (Season 6) Thanksgiving episode and ended up with the beef-pudding. Everyone thought it would be disgusting. Then Joey takes a bites and is like, “What’s not to like? Custard? Good. Jam? Good. Meat? Gooooood.” Joey, I totally get you, dawg.
This tastes exactly like banana. It's a strong and foamy banana flavor that has been sprinkled with bite-sized hints of strawberry. I think the pound cake must have disintegrated or something.
Close-up shot of Birthday Cake
All in all, the new Blue Bell flavors made for a decent ice cream experience. Nothing too memorable, though. And most certainly nothing that trumps the greatness that is Birthday Cake. I think everyone, even the lactose intolerant folks, should tell ask Blue Bell to gift the world year round with birthday cake ice cream. We should all get to experience this holiday treat. It's not like it's 'Christmas cake' or 'Hanukkah cake.' It's Birthday cake! And everyone has a birth-day. It's not an exclusionary celebration, guys.
Oh, and Blue Bell, don't tell me it's impossible. Impossible would be me being mentored into writing shape by Mindy Kaling after dropping major coin on an authentic deckchair from the Titanic and playing 16 straight hours of Halo.

P.S. I'm now 14 miles wired from all of this ice cream and having a little too much fun pretending to be Lea Michelle, pretending to be Rachel Berry. WILL YOU LOVE ME FOREVERRR??

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Digestives- United Kingdom

Please forgive me for my super random blog entries. I really thought I would be better at balancing the food writer/PA student gig. But, it is a tricky task to STUDY medicine, attend class, read for pleasure and pain, sleep, eat, power nap, watch Gossip Girl/Revenge/Shameless and find time to blog about food. But, I promise, my lovely fans random readers, I'll get better once I begin rotations. Plus, I will be starting a new blog around that time. It is, in fact, about medicine! Pourquoi pas?!? So, favorite the google blogger homepage, darlings: is officially in the works!*
I understand many of you might not be familiar with these delicious chocolate biscuits. But, if you live in Texas, do yourself a favor and try some immediately! They are available at Central Market. Cookie aisle. On the end. Third shelf from the bottom. You. Are. Welcome.

Today I'm eating cookies/biscuits called Digestives.** In America or across the pond, it is something I can always count on to appease my cookie addiction.***
I guess you could say my love for Digestives started in the summer of 2006. I spent a college semester in London, and it was then I fell in love with the city's beauty and atmosphere-- and Chocolate Digestives.
Nearly every day after class, my friends and I sauntered to the local Sainsbury's for the food we would be eating for dinner. We got so much pleasure from walking the sidewalks together. What transpired was laughter, random conversations, deep discussions, coffee pit stops at Costa, and, inevitably, shopping for groceries. Sainsbury's time was celebrated! (Even though we were mostly just buying TV dinners. Livin' on my own, Freddie!)

The Sainbury's grocery chain branch we frequented was housed on the first floor of a modern-style building. The edifice screamed corporate climate. It was cotton white and had two sun-faded, red banners monogrammed with “ESPIRIT” lining the span of multiple windows. We would walk in, grab a hand-held basket, and immediately split up. The inside of the store was small but not cluttered; a coziness that I found quite nice. It reminded me of a super clean and English-y Gristedes.
As a customer, I was often dressed like an easygoing college student: tank top, torn jean shorts, disheveled hair salted with sweat (It was really hot outside!), au natural makeup and Old Navy flip flops. I liked to start shopping at the frozen food section on the left. I would trace the perimeter of the store and carefully pick out my TV dinner of choice before heading to the snack food.
One day, after picking up flash frozen manicotti and Laughing Cow cheese, I was perusing the bounty of carbohydrates in the center aisle of the store for bread and crackers. Then I became distracted. I looked down and saw a bright and colorful package of cookies called, “Digestives.” The brand name fascinated and disturbed me. I had to try them as soon as possible.
When we got back to our flat, I started up my Slow-As-Christmas laptop, re: Pre-Macbook stage of my life. Once you go Mac you never go back! Ya heard? A quick Wikipedia search explained how commonplace Digestives are in the United Kingdom. Digestives date back to 1876! They were believed to have had “antacid properties” when they were initially developed; this was due to the “sodium bicarbonate.” Today they are still prepared in a special manner (cathartic?) and served as a traditional tea time cookie.
So, how do they taste? I am so glad you asked.

The first time I bit into a Chocolate Digestive, I was instantly smitten. The flavor is a sweet kiss of milk chocolate and graham cracker. The graham is super thick and crumbly while the chocolate coating is thin and has a smooth texture. The two ingredients come together in one haute Honey Maid-y bite. Further bites cause the cookie/biscuit/cracker to turn into a mix of crunchification that, in a weird way, melts in your mouth. Yup, it is a splendiferous cookie. After you finish one, you are already looking forward to another. (Why I became an addict!) Maimmm!
Once I returned to the States, I had withdrawals from my British cookie fix. Years past without any Digestives in my life. I began to forget the taste. Then something fantabulous happened! I discovered them perched on a shelf in the over-priced section of my local Central Market. Bloody marvelous.
Yes. Digestives are amazing. They should totally be on every shelf in America! 
Hold on...

Scratch that...

These cookies would not be able to exist in Wal-Mart's across our fair nation. You see, in my opinion, the British get away with shit that would fly in America! If we had a cookie called a “Digestive” on OUR grocery stores shelves, it would cause uber-controversy and a crap ton of lawsuits. I can see the headline now, “Texas Woman Diagnosed With Colon Cancer, Blames Chocolate Cookie.” Dr. Oz would do a prime time expose! Kathy Lee would sympathize. And after a year or two, Court TV would feature Jane Velez-Mitchell working the court yard floor like an alpha-agonist dosed Chihuahua i.e. Casey Anthony style. Charges for the plaintiff. Bam! Digestives branded a carcinogen.

I hope this never happens.

*Seriously, please support/read the new blog. K, thanks. Loveeee. 
** I'm fairly certain these (and other 'cookies') are technically called, “biscuits” in the UK. But, whatever. That is really dumb.
*** Cookie rehab is for quitters. Plus, Digestives are necessary for my life!  

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Bagel Deli- Denver, Colorado

First, A fact: Please know that I love an authentic Jewish Deli. I have always been a huge fan. Something about the combination of cured meats, matzo balls and breakfast all day makes my goyish self want to blow up.

Second, A background: Like pretty much no one in my tiny east Texas town growing up, I went to a Catholic church. (It's all about the Baptist faith, son!) Every Sunday we would drive to an adjacent city for Mass, which started at 9:30 am, and was promptly followed by Sunday school. Due to the fact I wasn't allowed to eat breakfast before I took communion and the vanilla cookies in Sunday school tasted like blackboard chalk, I would be STARVING by the time I got home. So, while I circled the kitchen like a hyena, my dad would cook french toast for brunch.

To say that I ate an average amount of french toast growing up would be a joke. From the moment I could eat solid food, I killed about half a loaf of white bread every Sunday. I really am a huge fan of french toast. Not only is it delicious, I love how in one bite you can cover several of the basic food groups-- bread, fruit, eggs, and syrup!* Plus, french toast isn't as difficult to cook as pancakes. 

Ok... review time!

The Bagel Deli

I arrived in Denver, Colorado with one bulging suitcase, a four day reservation in Vail and a pair of black Nordica ski boots in hand. I was so excited. It was time, at last, for my family's annual ski vacation. I scampered off of the plane and checked to see when my kinfolk would be in the Mile High City. (Most families travel together. We don't.)
And of course, I had arrived 5 hours before everyone else. I was left to hangout alone.**

Being an efficacious daughter, I descended the second-tier stairs of the airport, weaved through the crowds and went to pick-up the rental SUV we reserved for the trip. I spoke with a charming Budget staffer named Courtney about how to drive in slush. Then jumped into a red Chevrolet Transverse, which features heated seats, XM radio and televisions in the headrests. Imported from Detroit!! As I pulled out of the lot, I decided to spend the remainder of the free time I had cruising around the city, checking out the sights and listening to the Bangles and Nicki Manaj.

Denver is an adorably bold and vibrant city. It reminds me of a punk/artsy version of Houston, Texas-- only more active and outdoor oriented. The road salt and dirt stained snowdrifts are lame but a longtime staple of the city during the winter. After an hour, I started to get hungry and pulled into a Starbucks to google all of the golden food spots around me.

It seemed like an injustice to the entire Food Network crew if I didn't check out some hip places they recommended. After searching 'Food Network Denver' on my iPhone, I noticed The Bagel Deli, a diner featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, was only 10 minutes away from my current location. I decided to Danica Patrick it to the deli.

The best places to eat are located in the worst spots. We should all know this by now. So, once I saw The Bagel Deli was sharing a wall with a Goodwill and the facade was more evocative of a government soup kitchen than a Jewish deli, I knew this spot was going to be solid.
I parked at the Goodwill and trudged through the muddy snow sprinkled parking lot to the restaurant. There was a gust of cold air as I walked to the entrance. When I opened the door, I suddenly realized I might be dressed like Angela Lansbury in Pirates of Penzance. I was in an over-sized red t-shirt with skinny black topshop leggings and black suede riding boots. I also had on a jangling necklace, composed of ashen discs, and my hair was secured in a high ponytail with the ends poorly curled. Arrgh, matey!

This deli is a fabulous relic of the pre-fast food nation. It is split into two separate entities partitioned off with a large fridge and wooden panels. The left side is reminiscent of a meat market and stocked with everything imaginable. Meats. Cheeses. Pastries. The works. Really-- I think I saw the Star of David. (It was in cookie form.) The right side of the diner looks like a Grandy's. It has small orange-y booths and tables. Plus, a faint feeling of southern hometown charm. I noted that on the wall separating the two areas adorned a huge map of the United States spattered with thumbs tacts. I pinned Texas.

A waitress, who looked like the perfect Jewish grandmother, gestured for me to sit at a booth in the back right corner. She was petite, with fluffy auburn curls and apple peel thick lips. A small pair of wire rimmed glasses were suspended from a gold chain around her neck and a black apron was tied around her waist. She pointed at the booth again.

“That table is clean,” she announced in a thick accent as she organized her money pouch. “How are you doing today? You OK?”
“Yes, thank you.” I said, as I slid into the booth.
“What can I get you to drink?” she asked, her eyes sharp.
“Water.” I said. I wasn't going to fill up on soda when I was at an actual Jewish deli!

I opened the menu and saw something astonishing: French toast made with Challah bread. At first I thought I was imagining things, but then I blinked. Yes, butter bread french toast. Oh. my. God.

Do you know what you want?” the waitress asked as she returned and set my water on the table.
“Yes.” I replied with a grin. “I'll take a bowl of matzo soup and two orders of french toast.”

“You waiting on someone to join?” She asked.
“No.” I said. 

Matzo Ball Soup***

There is something about this bowl of matzo ball soup that is comforting and safe. It tastes like a sharp chicken noodle, conveying the depth of authentic broth without the artificial taste. The matzo ball has the texture of stove boiled Cream of Wheat and the integrity of a meatball; it absorbs the broth.

When I'm sick there is nothing I want more than to cocoon myself in a down comforter, watch a marathon of 80's movies and sip on this soup. A soup so heart-warming and magical it can solve all the problems on earth. ( I know that you are thinking. Britt, can it even save those crying sea lions on the Arctic coast? Why yes, I believe it can.)

French Toast-

The french toast is thick and finished with the perfect harmony of melted ingredients. When I first bit into the victual, the texture was super-soft and the flavor was fresh and delectable. The syrup is surprisingly light and soaked in the bread like a distilled surprise of sweetness. The dish tastes like... butter! The best french toast I have ever had. Period. 

Even bad french toast is gold. But, the ultimate french toast is that which you will find at the Bagel Deli. The Challah bread topped with powdered sugar and syrup is beyond delicious. (Sidenote: It's pronounced like if you said HOLLA and simultaneously hacked up sputum.)

I don't know about you guys, but I think The Bagel Deli deserves a slow hand clap. Kosher times a zillion!

*Buddy the Elf says syrup IS a food group. Thanks, Buuuddy!! (Mr. Narwhal voice)
** This is just part of the middle child gig.
*** I admit it. When I looked up exactly how matzo ball soup was made, I may have got a smidge distracted. An hour later I was reading about Anne Hathaway's ex-boyfriend and watching the American Greed special. Raffaello Follieri, you are dumb. 

(Final disclaimer: I carelessly forgot to charge my phone at the airport so it died before I got my soup and french toast. Therefore, the food pictures were taken from the internet. Yay for the World-Wide Web!! )