There is ice cream. And there is gelato. And there is pistachio gelato, my all-time favorite, especially if it is two scoops from Sant Ambroeus, the high class restaurant on Madison Avenue in Manhattan which, somewhat incongruously, also dispenses gelato for take-out at the front of the white-tablecloth establishment. The pistachio flavor is guaranteed to take me back to the wonderful Tuscany town of Lucca, where my husband and I and a group of friends experienced the Italian win of the World Cup in 2006. What a blast! Everyone in that town, regardless of their true nationality, was "Italian" that night and we reveled in the win as if we were home-towners.
All ice cream, that is, except for Jeni's. Have you heard of it? Jeni's is the brainchild of Jeni Britton Bauer, who together with her husband Charly and his brother Tom has turned a little neighborhood ice cream business in Columbus, Ohio, into a superstar dispenser of the best cream anywhere. Bar none. I'm serious. They use fresh local farm ingredients to do crazy stuff to ice cream,. It's not just the salty caramel--ok, probably the best thing ever to happen to ice cream. It's also the Bangkok Peanut, and the gorgeous Wildberry Lavender and the amazing Whiskey and Pecan. And all the others.
I was in Columbus this past weekend and we made the obligatory stop at one of Jeni's stores there. These home town Columbus people stood in line as if it was just another trip to the ice cream shop. No biggie for them.
Not me. I was transfixed by the flavor board, eagerly running the various taste possibilities over and over in my head for inspiration as to the very best one. I tried a few tastings of new flavors, using those little bitty plastic scoops they give you for checking our just how loyal you are to your favorites, just how willing you are to break with your habit and be tempted by a newcomer.
But when all the tasting was done, I had to remain loyal to salty caramel. And then, well, I added another scoop, this one of Brown Butter Almost Brittle. Oh my gosh, what a combo. Could possibly be illegal it's so wildly good.
Conversation is pretty predictable at Jeni's. It's mostly oohs, aahs, and "isn't this the best?" In other words, all conversation stops as you take in the best of all ice creams. They do sell Jeni's at Dean and Deluca here in New York. I understand they told Jeni it was the best ice cream they found and it is the first--and only one--they carry. In fact, Jeni's people tell me there are other places in New York that sell Jeni's, too. But then, paying for ice cream that they had to ship here from Columbus...that's just too much carbon footprint for ice cream. And, besides, it doesn't taste the same as when you can watch it get scooped in front of you right at the counter.