If I can truly consider myself an expert on any one dish, it’s probably ice cream. We all have an unhealthy obsession with the summer treat (If you don’t, you either have a very disciplined diet or are a Communist), but I actually started making the stuff a few years ago. I even attended ice cream school at Penn State for one weekend as I contemplated opening my own ice cream shop.
Which brings me to my newest conquest: the best ice cream in New York. It makes perfect sense since I needed something to cool down all this heartburn from pizza and pastrami. And because summer is finally upon us. I mean, can you think of a better cooling treat to enjoy in the sticky, humid summer in the city? Can you think of a dish that has so many different flavor possibilities? Can you name a better beach song than that annoying Mr. Softee jingle?
Ice cream is universal. Everybody eats it in one form or another (from gelato in Italy to kulfi in India to mochi in Japan). The idea of a frozen treat was probably first concocted in ancient China from ice and flavorings. Or it could have been first enjoyed by Nero, in 62 AD Rome, who ordered his men to bring snow back from the mountains to mix with fresh fruits. Or maybe Ben and Jerry first put cream and sugar together in their kitchen in Vermont in the late 1970’s.
Okay, one of those is clearly wrong, but the true origin of ice cream is not completely known. We do know that at one time it was a treat enjoyed mainly by the upper class and the wealthy. It wasn’t really until 1774, when Italian Filipo Lenzi opened the first (public) ice cream parlor in this country (in New York City, of course) that the frozen confection began to catch on and become the American staple it is today.
There are also mysteries surrounding the invention of the ice cream cone, the ice cream soda, and the ice cream sundae. They may have all been invented in New York. The ice cream cone was patented to New Yorker Italo Marchiony who sold ice cream out of a pushcart on Wall Street. But rumors persist that it was first invented in Italy and finally Americanized at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
One thing that is not a mystery is why we love ice cream so much. Add some fruit or spices to cream, milk, and sugar, freeze it, while adding air and you get a fluffy, creamy, satisfying dish (or cone) that we all crave. And while other great American locales (Vermont, Wisconsin, Boston) are known for their ice cream, it’s clear that American ice cream culture started in New York City. And thanks to creative new recipes and an eager audience, ice cream continues to grow and evolve here.
And I’m going to immerse myself in that chilly culture. From gelato to custard to soft serve to the stuff we call good old fashioned ice cream. Whatever it is, as long as it’s cold, creamy, and delicious, I’m going to shut up and… Eat This!
Click here to see the ice cream reviews.