If not for being in Italy six weeks this summer, I would have consumed 300 pints of Haagen Daz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream in 2013. Even with the trip, the storied 300 figure was attainable, but in early December I bought a pint of Steve's Salty Caramel and the Chocolate Peanut Better (CPB) consumption dropped dramatically. I'll end 2013 with about 285 CPB pints total or .780 ppd*. At 1,190 calories per pint, that's over 1/3 million calories for the year. These stats are certainly good enough to make a local ice cream team, but hardly Hall of Fame numbers.
Before I get into the Steve's Salty Caramel, here's a recap of my recent ice cream career.
It was Fall of 2012 when Haagen Daz Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream became, in a newly booze-banned life, my new drink. And like Jack Daniels and Smirnoff Red before it, it became a problem.
It seemed no different than my addiction to alcohol. I had to have it. I began to make excuses to the woman I lived with, Nancy Silverton, why I had to go back in the house as we were pulling out the driveway. I forgot my wallet, my cell phone. Before, I'd rush back for a gulp of wine from the bottle. Now, it was a forkful of ice cream from the carton.
And I had fallen for a very popular flavor. Too many times CPB would be sold out. There'd be 14 goddamn flavors of Haagen Daz and no chocolate peanut butter. Still, when it was available, I would buy only one at a time. That was my so-called discipline, even knowing I'd be back at the store the next day. To ward off the frequent dreaded "none-available" situation. I rift off a classic tactic of the drunk: Stashing.
I used to stash bottles of vodka, or cheap syrah in the garage or guest bedroom closet. Now I was stashing CPB. Not in the house, in the supermarket. I soon became aware that the Haagen Daz Green Tea was always available. So I would place a CPB about four or five pints back in the green tea line up. Maybe you saw me. I was that guy with his arm all up in the cold cases.
That brilliant tactic came through four, five times at the Ralph's at 3rd and La Brea and the Pavilion ( a Vons with less black people) at Vine and Melrose.
I'd watch "The Wire", (my favorite work of art) or "Breaking Bad" (my second favorite TV show) with the ice cream and I was content.
So one November day, I'm at the Gelson's on Hyperion and I randomly get a Steve's Salty Caramel. What the hell, try something different. Caramel and salt. Good combo, right? Plus the price tag was intriguing, too. $6.75 a pint.. Not like this brand called Jeni's Splendid which is $10.95 a pop, but still about three bucks more than Haagen Daz.
Back at the house. I put on some Breaking Bad (the one where Hank gets shot) and took a forkful on this Steve's Salty Caramel. Sensations sped to Taste Buds Mission Control Center. Yeah. That first mouthful and I knew this was some special. The white caramel ice cream. swirled with salty caramel veins was so luxurious, so creamy. And what a good mouthfeel. I rolled it around my mouth like it was '82 Pichon Lalande.
I didn't admit it to myself at first, - it took nearly a week - but, I started to crave the Salty Caramel more than the CPB. Perhaps damaged by too much frozen cream traveling near my brain, I felt my loyalty was being tested and that loyalty was losing. It was like I had dropped a dear old comrade for a flashy newcomer.
I went to San Francisco for a week in early December and did without Steve's. but not willingly. I called two Whole Foods (who, along with Gelson's, stocks Steve's), but they didn't have Salty Caramel. Looking to others for relief, my nephew and I packed his Twin Peaks freezer with more pints than I have ever seen in a home kitchen. Bi-Rite Creamery's Salted Caramel, Three Twins' Sea Salted Caramel, Mission Hill Creamery' Salted Caramel Strauss' Egg Nog, Three Twins' Dad's Cardamom, Haagen Daz's Pralines & Cream and some others. They were all good. though none matched Steve's Salty Caramel's lusciousness.
Then, back home, just a few weeks in as the new Sir Scoop, Steve's faced a new challenge. On December 23, I stopped by that Gelson's and saw that pricey Jeni's. Jeni Britton Bauer is a ice cream maker out of Columbus, Ohio, who won a James Beard Award for her cookbook, Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream At Home http://www.jenis.com/jenis-splendid-ice-creams-at-home-signed-copy/ and who is perhaps better known for the high price of her ice cream. I mean $11 a pint? It had to be good. But, how good? I'd been seeing it all year, but never went for the splurge.
So on this winter day, wallet plump. I bought a Jeni's Salty Caramel and a Jeni's Brown Butter with Almond Brittle. And two Steve's Salty Caramels. But, no Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter. In my cold, ice cream world, it was kinda like "Taps" had played for CPB.
At home, I put on Breaking Bad (By now Hank was on to Walter) and started with the Jeni's Brown Butter, mainly to test the ice cream itself. Would it be ultra creamy as Steve's. It wasn't. It was very tasty. Very good and very sweet. With large pieces of Almond brittle, what, it should be sour? But it, wasn't as good to me as Steve's. Yeah, I know it's a different flavor.
Then, now batting, Jeni's Salty Caramel. I even took a photo of the two salty caramels. You'd a thunk it was Ali Frazier. So I dig in, a heaping forkful. It hits the mouth and you know what? It's really, really good, but I'm not running for cover. It's not like a knockout. And after several back and forth bites. I decide Steve's is better for me. It's flavor, it's saltiness that hits at the right time and place, and, for sure, it's creaminess.
Then, get this, Nancy comes home. She has to go and put doubt in my mouth about the reason for the creaminess of Steve's. There';s something called gum gauer, or some such shit, listed in the ingredients. I hold up a forkful and part of the ice cream hangs over the side, like a cat hanging off a fire escape in a poster, and stays suspended.
"That's the guar gum," said Nancy using the correct term for this questionable ingredient. That why its doesn't fall. I guess a thickening agent. (Are all agents devious?) . I start to not only doubt Steve's. but my own taste buds. Was I fooled by this gaur gum shit?
Did this fuckin' gaur gum account for the rich mouth feel that earned a 9. 7. at the Taste Olympics. I start to give Jeni's more credit for not using gum guaer of whatever that junk is called. Guar gum. It's definitely not something that grows on a tree in Madagascar. What is it? A stabilizer? What would happen without it? Jeni's doesn't have it and while it might not have the luxuriant mouth feel of Steve's, it's not falling apart. It's not unstable. I don't even want look at my dear CPB's ingredient list for fear gaur gum is there..
Regardless, Steve's won a very controversial decision over Jenis. Though some say, like the Aaron Pryor-Alexis Arguello fight, it wasn't fair with the involvement of gaur gum, the steroids of the ice cream world apparently.
It doesn't matter. Without a doubt the ice cream of 2013, probably of all time, is and will be Haagen Daz CPB. I'll never have an ice cream season like 2013. Almost 300! I can boast about my 2013 ice cream season for the rest of my life. So many satisfying moments CPB and I had together with Stringer Bell and Omar Little, with Walter White and Tuco Salamanca.
But, then, as the 2013 season winded down, an ice cream shocker! I get solid word a new super ice cream is in the works. A zultra premium brand. Yes, zultra. Make that Zultra.
It's top secret, but Krikorian Writes has been able to intercept highly classified documents
Classified Communique #1 : It will be made in California and a pint is going to be 10 dollars or more.
Classified Communique .#2 : The people behind this proposal make a premium brand of ice cream, but are looking to go McLaren P1 with this Zultra project.
Classified Communique# 3 They want Nancy to develop the Zultra premium ice cream. She's got a lot in her cone right now, but she is seriously considering it.
Unclassified Conclusion (Not, repeat, not prediction) : If Nancy S starts making ice cream in pints, it will be the best ice cream brand in America.
And it won't have that gaur gum That's for sure. If I can just get her to make Salty Caramel or maybe even Chocolate Peanut Butter.
Nah, just the Salty Caramel. I want CPB, I'll get my boy.
*ppd = pints per day
The Last Scoop - If you want to read about ice cream from a real fanatic, check out this guy Steve ( no relations to Steve's), The Ice Cream Informant at http://www.theicecreaminformant.com/ This guy appears to be heading for the Ice Cream Hall of Fame.
Last Drip of this story. : Those 339,150 Chocolate Peanut Butter calories in 2013 were almost all savored, but they put me over 200 pounds. As I "save & publish", Dec. 30, 2013 , 7:59 a.m., I haven't had any ice cream for 34 hours. I might be on another wagon.