During summer, it might seem as though every year is the best year for ice cream. And it's certainly been a great season for superb new ice cream shops around the country. But perhaps lost in the midst of the hot weather is the fact that this has been an incredible year for ice cream since winter. Here are the highlights we've seen so far and a few we have to look forward to. Because ice cream season isn't over, even if summer almost is.
1 . The co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s, Ben Cohen, creates a flavor dedicated to presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. Called Bernie’s Yearning, the container promises a “political revolution inside.” Sure enough: It’s a pint of mint ice cream with a disk of chocolate on top that’s meant to “represent the majority of gains that have gone to the top 1% since the end of the recession,” according to the Bernie’s Yearning packaging.
2. House of Flavors, a long-standing Ludington, Mich., diner, announces that it will break the world's record for the longest ice cream dessert. Its road to success: a half-mile-long ice cream sundae. (The current world record holder was the city of Manurewa, an Auckland, New Zealand, suburb.) The dessert was forecast to include 12,700 scoops of ice cream and take up eight blocks. Spoiler alert: They did it and are waiting for their Guinness certification.
3. After creating a frenzy on both coasts, Thai rolled ice cream starts making legitimate inroads across the country. One of the notable spots is 8 Farenheit in Atlanta. To achieve the adorable, and photogenic, rolls of ice cream, a custard base (flavors include coffee and green tea) with mix ins (from peaches to Oreos) is slathered on an icy cold negative-eight-degree plate, then scraped up into rounds and arranged in a cup. Toppings run the gamut from bananas to gummy bears.
4. With hundreds of people lining up outside their two existing stores, the owners of New York’s Black Tap Burger announce that they’re expanding to the Upper West Side and Midtown. The burgers get great reviews, but it’s the outrageous candy, cake, and cookie-packed milkshakes that have have generated the gigantic following. Among the ones that dominate Instagram: The bright pink and blue, confection-studded Cotton Candy, and the Birthday Cake, which has an entire piece of cake on top. If you think you’ve seen these over-the-top milkshakes before, you’re right. Australia went through this moment last year with a phenomenon better known as the Freakshake.
5. That same month, Hillary Clinton pays a much documented visit to Mikey Likes It, a tiny ice cream shop in New York City’s East Village, to sample a sundae-cum-ice cream sandwich created especially for her by owner Michael Cole. The Victory Mac Daddy is a magnificent chocolate-on-chocolate number, comprosed of chocolate waffles, milk chocolate ice cream, crushed Oreos, and chocolate chips. Even the whipped cream is chocolate-flavored, and the cherry chocolate-covered.
6. And just in time for Coachella, burger chain Sonic Drive-In announces that it will create square shakes that are designed specifically for, and sold via, Instagram. The deconstructed takes are deliberately hipster-oriented on classic Sonic shakes, served in a square glass jar. Flavors include Vanilla Bean, Buttered Toffee, Bourbon Brown Sugar, and Dulce De Leche.
7. The founders of Salt & Straw, the ice cream spot in Portland, Ore., known for such delicious, bizarre flavors as pear with blue cheese and zucchini bread with chocolate freckles, introduce a new project. Their Wiz Bang Bar, a soft-serve ice cream bar, has questionable offerings, such as smoked ham in a black raspberry shell, plus more compelling ones, such as hot fudge hazelnut ganache and peanut butter and jelly with vanilla custard. One of their early signature dishes is the chocolate tacolate—a waffle shell stuffed with ice cream and coated in chocolate.
8. The Gelato World Tour hits Chicago. Sixteen artisans from all over North and South America compete to create the continents' best gelato flavor, with the top three winners heading to the Grand Finale in Italy in 2017. First place goes to Dolce Gelato, from Medellin in Columbia, with a mix of passion fruit and bittersweet chocolate. Winner of the Judge's technical award: the intriguing saffron pistachio with candied lemon peel from Dolci Gelati Cafe in Washington, D.C.
9. The supercool Los Angeles ice cream sandwich truck Coolhaus teams up with the amazing Korean BBQ joint Hanjip to create a selection of unconventional ice cream sandwiches, including Korean Chili Fries with actual shoestring French fries and red bean ice cream stuffed between Coolhaus's Snack Food chip cookies. There is also the semi-frightening Hawaiian Pizza, which includes pineapple ice cream and chunks of Spam sandwiched between white chocolate macadamia nut cookies.
10. In Cleveland, Mitchell’s creates a Donald Trump-themed ice cream in honor of the visiting Republican National Convention; the You’re Fired sorbet is made with passion fruit and jalapeños. Mitchell's also introduces Elephant Tracks (above), explaining that the chocolate peanut butter ice cream with Spanish peanuts has big tent appeal, and the Gipper Sundae, which is vanilla ice cream with a side of jelly beans. For a crowd, the Primary Ballot is a mix of 16 scoops of ice creams, chosen from a ballot-style menu.
11. A top candidate for the summer’s most deluxe sundae service is at Chicago’s fun new steakhouse, Maple & Ash. Featuring bowls of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice creams, it’s served with an array of homemade ice cream toppings (hot fudge, salted caramel, whipped cream, chocolate crunch, toasted nuts, candied coconut, sprinkles, chocolate pearls, maraschino cherries, and seasonal fruit) presented on a tiered silver tray.
12. A new phenomenon, the Museum of Ice Cream, pops up in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Within five days of opening, 30,000 tickets sell out. Besides every imaginable kind of ice cream art, there are edible sugar balloons, a construction of the world's largest sundae and, most famously, a giant pool of rainbow sprinkles that guests can wade into.
13. A New York City billionaire offers a reward for information leading to the arrest of ice cream thieves. John Catsimatidis, owner of the Gristedes supermarket chain, pledges $5,000 to find the people who are stealing cartons of ice cream from his stores and selling them to smaller bodegas. One of the most popular shoplifted brands is Häagen-Dazs.
Coming This Fall
An attraction at farmers markets around the Bay Area, Milkbomb makes pretty, colorful popsicles, some in a tie-dyed mix of yogurt and puréed fruit, others packed with chia. But the product that is making noise as the dessert of the fall is the opposite of a chia-seed popsicle: It’s their Donut and Ice Cream Sandwiches, coming to a brick and mortar store in San Francisco by end of the year. The hook is warm glazed doughnuts with ice cream oozing out the side (see below). Some of them have straight ice cream fillings, others are more dramatic, such as the one filled purple yam ice cream or the Elvis, stuffed with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter and jelly. and bacon and bananas.
And in the niche category of ice cream beer news: Ben & Jerry's is well-known for its outside-the-box ice cream flavors (see above). This fall, it will launch its second ice cream-flavored beer, with New Belgium Brewing. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale will be on shelves in the fall, and the team is donating $50,000 to the climate change project, Protect Our Winters.