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Better Than Chips

August 9, 2012

My plan this summer was to eat better. That does not mean to eat tastier food, but rather attempt to make more healthful choices. The CSA was a big part of that. It’s hard to have room for a bunch of junk when you’ve got pounds and pounds of vegetables to consume every single week.

Sure, that also includes a lot of olive oil, but that’s good fat.

Somehow the plan went astray. Because not only is this summer notable for the silly amount of traveling I’ve been enjoying. It will also go down in history as the summer where I ate an unreasonable amount of ice cream.

It started with the Tour de Hard Ice Cream and it will end with the Ice Cream Sandwich Showdown*. Midsummer I ate twelve bowls of ice cream from the Ice Cream Man in one sitting for the sake of science.

So when I was confronted with a six-pack of pints from Graeter’s that my brother-in-law drove down to the farm from Ohio, I had a significant breadth and depth of ice cream experience to draw upon as I sampled this regionally beloved product for the very first time. And let me say for the record, that this is really special stuff. My newfound love for Graeter’s is profound, but I also need to report that it’s limited.

Because more than anything else, what sets Graeter’s apart from other ice cream makers is its chips.

When I saw the styrofoam cooler full of this special ice cream, I immediately decided it was way too good for the kids. This goes right up there among the most selfish parenting decisions I’ve made of late.

Although in my defense I did run out and buy the kids a giant tub of cheap cookies and cream from a local Pennsylvania dairy, and they were thrilled. In my mind that’s a win win.

My brother-in-law’s wife (does that make her my sister-in-law?) has family in Ohio and she’s grown up with Graeter’s. So she was keenly aware of their glorious chocolate chips. As a result the pints in the cooler were:
– Mocha chocolate chip
– Coconut chocolate chip
– Peanut butter chocolate chip
– Toffee chocolate chip
– Chocolate chocolate chip, and
– Peach

Peach was a seasonal flavor that is one of my BIL’s favorites. But he also likes banana esters in his beer, so our tastes aren’t quite aligned in many of ways.

Why is everyone so crazy about these chocolate chips?

Because they are nothing like chips. The word chip in this context is horribly misleading. At some point chips must have been small broken off pieces of chocolate before they morphed into the miniature pyramids that we have grown to know and love. But Graeter’s chips aren’t chocolate chunks either.

I was told, and you can read on their website, how they pour liquid chocolate into the swirling, churning ice cream. Then as it hardens, the chunks are broken up into irregular pieces. When i imagined this process, I thought this might produce an effect much like stracciatella gelato. But that Italian version of chocolate chip produces something much lighter, more akin to crisp, shaved chocolate flakes.

What results from Graeter’s process is more like randomly sized blobs of chocolate ganache. And in the right ice cream base they are amazing.

Peanut butter was a bit too rich. Toffee was a bit too sweet. Chocolate was a bit too redundant.

Coconut was pretty darn good, with the flavor of coconut leaning more toward the meat and less toward the coconut cream; so it didn’t taste strongly of suntan lotion, which I find to be horribly unpleasant. Coconut and chocolate are good, classic foils for each other.

Just not quite as good as mocha.

The mocha was amazing. The bitterness of coffee brings out more of the deep flavors that lurk within chocolate, and the ice cream just made the chips sing. If you can only get one flavor of Graeter’s, the mocha chocolate chip is it.

Although I’ve still yet to try their straight chocolate chip or mint chip, both of which I have very high hopes for enjoying.

The best news about the whole thing is that I just discovered that the internet insists Graeter’s is carried by Price Chopper. That’s the most dangerous news I’ve received all day. And I was recently told that today we may sneak in a bunch of fried chicken in between meals.

What can I say. I live dangerously. But I eat well.

* For those of you who are wondering, this ice cream sandwich event will actually be taking the place of my regularly scheduled savory summer tour. I’ll tell you more about this soon,

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 9, 2012 8:41 am

    My brother-in-law’s wife (does that make her my sister-in-law?)

    Yes. :)

  2. Chelle permalink
    August 9, 2012 9:07 am

    I don’t know if Price Chopper carries Graeters, but Fresh Market definitely does. The black raspberry chip is truly amazing.

  3. August 9, 2012 10:43 am

    I just saw the stuff at the little Chopper in downtown Saratoga.

  4. August 9, 2012 11:39 am

    I’ve seen Graeters at the Fresh Market.

    Also, ice cream sandwich-off sounds like fun. :)

  5. Greg permalink
    August 9, 2012 12:04 pm

    You’re right that chip flavors are the way to go with Graeter’s — my favorite is just regular vanilla chip (I also agree with Chelle about the black raspberry chip). My favorite seasonal flavor, though, is non-chip: cinnamon — it’s usually available around the holidays (and might be hard to score around here).

    Graeter’s is now available in places like Fresh Market and (very recently) Price Chopper because the company significantly increased its production capacity two years ago. Before that it was only available in stores in the greater Cincinnati area (including such northern suburbs as Dayton and Columbus — yep, I said that).

    I was worried the new factory would compromise the quality of the ice cream, especially because the expansion had been prompted in part by a management consultant. Nothing against consultants — I just get a little worried when they start looking to make a time-tested old-school ice cream method more “efficient.” But the quality seems to have been maintained. My main issue with the stuff you can buy in Fresh Market (or wherever) is that the texture seems a little off. A big part of Graeter’s appeal is its dense-yet-pliable texture — a product of the “French pot” method. I wonder if the stuff shipped around the country just gets frozen too hard.

    If you ever have the chance to get the ice cream in one of their shops, you should. It’s even better that way. And you can also pick up some of their sour cream donuts (“dunkers,” as people in Cincinnati call them) — they’re fantastic.

  6. Jazzngas permalink
    August 9, 2012 9:06 pm

    It’s on sale at PC ($4.50 a pint). Picked up Mocha, Chocolate Chocolate Chip and Mint Chocolate Chip. All amazing. The Mint was the winner by a nose.

  7. August 10, 2012 10:51 am

    I want to try rasp chip, that’s my favorite type–fruit + chocolate. Mocha, too. I’m down for ice cream sandwich showdown if I’m not out of town.

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