Albany’s Best Ice Cream Sandwich
Despite the first signs of Fall that are beginning to appear, some of us will hold on desperately to the last vestiges of summer. A few of my trees are starting to shed their leaves. On the drive up from Long Island there were sporadic yet distinct hints of red in the green canopy of trees flanking the highway. And sunset continues to creep earlier.
All the same, it’s still warm. And as long as I can leave the house without a jacket, it’s summer, dammit. Let’s hope it holds out until the end of this month. Because that is when I’ll be spearheading the Capital Region Ice Cream Sandwich Showdown with the Saratoga Idiots.
Mark your calendars for Saturday, August 25. The event is going to be open to everyone, but like the top secret cupcake tasting from earlier this year, you will need to buy a ticket in advance (that will cover the cost of the food). Fair warning, tickets will be limited.
However, before any of that happens, Team Albany needs two champions: two local restaurants that will put whatever Team Saratoga creates to shame. The problem is that we’ve got a bunch of great creative chefs who have stepped up to the challenge. And now is your chance to vote for the one you think is best–who can bring the honor of Best Ice Cream Sandwich home to Albany.
Voting is on the honor system. Some of you, I know, hail from north of the Mohawk in Saratoga county and beyond. If you are on Team Saratoga, please do not vote here. Shimmy on over to the Saratoga Idiots and vote your conscience over there. The Idiots may be a little rough around the edges, but they don’t bite. On the off chance that you are easily offended by salty language, then you might want to sit this one out.
Still, you are more than welcome to see what Team Albany is putting up in this contest.
Before you vote for your favorite, it’s important for you to know how the event is going to go down. The Idiots were looking for a kick ass, interesting, and inexpensive ice cream sandwich. Something other than the norm. And that’s what we asked the restaurants to submit. The participants in the August 25 evaluations will be scoring all ice cream sandwiches on the following basis:
- The cookie (5 points max)
- The ice cream (5 points max)
- Is it interesting? (5 points max)
- Is it a good value? (5 points max)
- And does it kick ass? (10 points max)
Albany. Meet your champions.
From The City Beer Hall chef Dimitrios Menagias has submitted his tried and true ice cream sandwich which can be found on the menu every day. That’s not to say it’s not special. People love this thing, and it pulls in one of the Capital Region’s culinary masterpieces, the apple cider donut. His is a cinnamon raisin cookie from All Good Bakers filled with apple cider doughnut ice cream from Bowman Orchards. $6
From Creo we have its brand new pastry chef Robert Wolfe. In my recent conversations with chef Brian Bowden, he was very excited to have chef Robert on board. So do not judge him based on Creo’s past desserts, which have been decidedly lackluster. His is a blood orange and fennel ice cream with a salted pistachio cookie dipped in dark chocolate Kahlua. $6
At the New World Bistro Bar chef Ric Orlando’s ever changing ice cream sandwiches are one of their most popular desserts. They aren’t inexpensive, but value is only five out of thirty potential points. Chef Ric isn’t pulling any punches with this bold submission. His contains Valdeon-fig ice cream, pine nut cookie, and choco-PX sherry-fig sauce. $9
The team at All Good Bakers, which includes Nick, Britin & Lauren, have concocted something totally fresh and seasonal. Cookies will be made with Britin’s handmade butter, churned fresh from Meadowbrook Dairy’s heavy cream, cinnamon basil from their hydroponic garden, organic brown and cane sugars, and NY organic flour. Lauren’s semifreddo will be prepared with Meadowbrook’s cream, organic evaporated cane sugar. local, small-flock, backyard eggs and local heirloom Brandywine tomatoes. It all comes together in a Brandywine semifreddo with brown butter & cinnamon basil cookie. $6
All Good Bakers is banking on its interesting choice of tomatoes, since after all they are a fruit. The tomatoes were made into a jam after being pickled in sugar and vinegar for three days. I’m told it tastes like a berry jam with a bit of a tomato kick. Tomatoes and basil, in ice cream sandwich form? Yes, please.
New World Bistro Bar is being equally daring by including blue cheese in its ice cream and pairing it with classic complementary dried fruit flavors: Pedro Ximénez sherry, Spanish blue cheese and figs. It’s a heady combination, bolstered with buttery pine nuts and chocolate.
Creo is going with the bright fresh flavors of the Mediterranean. I love the interplay of dark chocolate with zesty citrus. And sweets are even better when they are served with something salty.
The City Beer Hall is keeping it simple. They aren’t overthinking it. Pair a classic cookie made from the best local ingredients by All Good Bakers, and use it to bring cider donut ice cream into your mouth. The intrinsic interplay of this combination makes me wonder why everyone hasn’t been doing this forever.
It’s a very tough choice. That’s why I’m leaving it up to you.
If you are on the fence, call ahead and see if you can buy one of these ice cream sandwiches in advance of the official tasting. I just need to have all votes in by noon on Saturday, August 18.
The top two vote getters in Albany will go against whatever the Idiots in Saratoga decide to put up. So choose wisely. Now leave me your number one pick in the comments below.