There’s been a lot of controversy lately in the food blog and media world revolving around free food. There’s no mystery here: it’s one of my favorite things. But stemming from an article in the Times about food writer Josh Ozersky’s wedding that was catered by some big time NY chefs at no charge, many people are questioning the legitimacy of free food. Especially when it goes to starving, but critical food bloggers like myself.
I couldn’t help thinking about this when the girls at Screme Gelato Bar, upon seeing my camera and discovering I’m writing about the best ice cream in the city, offered me free samples of every single flavor in the shop. Now, it’s a bit different here because I was going to be buying something and from what I understand, these Screme girls are always enthusiastic and generous with the samples.
And while I sensed I was being buttered up to write a good review, I do genuinely feel these young employees love their job and fully believe in their product. Where the owners of Screme got such dedicated and loyal employees, I have no idea. When I visited Best Buy down the street, I received the complete opposite experience.
The good news is, I don’t have to agonize over whether I should give them a good review just because I got free samples. The gelato is actually really good. Even after spending close to five bucks for the small portion, I still can recommend their ice cream! It’s worth the expensive price tag.
The samples came at me fast and furiously. I started with Chocolate Brownie Whiskey, which was the most unique flavor they offered. It was silky and smooth, but I didn’t get a strong liquor flavor. I moved on to Butter Cookie (rich buttery goodness – I could taste the dough), Caramel Brownie (a bit sweet for me), the Blood Orange Sorbet (tart and refreshing), and on and on from there.
I finally settled on the Nutella Chip (which the girl was amazed was the only one I didn’t sample). This is a classic gelato flavor and Screme got it just right. It wasn’t too sweet, but it was creamy and thick and rich. There was a lot going on, but there wasn’t too much milkfat that it would coat my mouth. This is an important quality of gelato.
I also like the chocolate slivers that were mixed throughout. They were very thin bits that reminded me of a hard chocolate dip. The only thing this dish could have used was something crunchy and it would have been absolutely perfect.
The girls told me that all of Screme’s gelato is made daily at their other store (inside Madame Tussaud’s in Times Square) so the flavors change all the time. And while I’m excited by a more convenient location and the chance to view their churning process, it’s in Times Square, so I don’t know if I’ll ever actually brave the tourists to check it out.
The Upper West Side location has its own issues: it’s tiny (literally just a storefront) and the prices are steep ($5 for just a single!). But the ice cream is great, the staff is genuinely sweet, and you might just get a handful of free samples. Even if you’re not writing a blog on the best ice cream in the city.
UPDATE: Only one Screme Gelato Bar remains in NYC and it’s on the Upper West Side at 176 West 94th Street on the corner of Amsterdam Avenue.
Is Screme’s ice cream the best in NY? 8 out of 10 because the energetic service, interesting flavors, and perfectly textured gelato make me want to scream – but out of ecstasy not pain.