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Albany’s Best Ice Cream Sandwich

August 13, 2012

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.

45 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2012 11:18 am

    What time will the tasting be? I’m intrigued. (Also, I can’t vote, apparently… I’ll be rooting for Team Saratoga.)

  2. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    August 13, 2012 11:22 am

    I’m voting for the (Saratoga) Wine Bar.

  3. August 13, 2012 11:37 am

    I didn’t realize Ric Orlando’s would have blue cheese (yum) until your secondary description. I can prove my Albany residency and cast my vote as follows:

    *City Beer Hall* (because I’ve had it and know it rocks. That’s not just the beer talking, Marge)
    *New World Bistro* (because I trust him and I know HE rocks) – while this entry is pricier than the rest, I would argue it’s still a good value considering the quality of the ingredients.

    Let’s go Albany, let’s go!

    • August 13, 2012 11:52 am

      FUSSY LITTLE CLARIFICATION: As hard as it may be to choose just one, that’s what I’m asking for. Your one top choice from all the contenders. Thank you.

      • August 13, 2012 12:49 pm

        I misunderstood – by “two” champions I thought I’d get two votes. Silly me. While I do love the City Beer Hall one and will eat it every time I go there, my vote goes to **New World Bistro’s** since I think it will do very well in the “kick ass” category. Thank you and sorry for the confusion!

  4. August 13, 2012 11:39 am

    Wow, $6 and $9 ice cream sandwiches?

    This whole thing seems to have veered way off from the original challenge to Saratoga restaurants

  5. Stevo permalink
    August 13, 2012 12:01 pm

    These are really disappointing. Savory ingredients are decidedly not ‘kick ass’. (God I hate that juvenile term.) And the “savory ingredients in a dessert” thing has been done to death.

    My vote is for The City Beer Hall.

  6. -R. permalink
    August 13, 2012 1:29 pm

    I’m going with Creo’s entry on this one. I’ve never had it, but the description seems like a series of delightfully harmonious flavors (despite my reservations about the use of Kahlua). While I have great respect for NWBB’s entry, $9 seems a bit steep for an ice-cream sandwich, despite my fascination with fresh figs as of late – an excellent breakfast fruit!

    The Beer Hall’s entry is simply too autumnal for the time of year (for me…cold weather will be here soon enough). I’ve recently consumed gobs of gelato and semifreddo based desserts, and no offence to AGB’s entry, but it can’t possibly compete with what I’ve eaten in the past 4 weeks. To clarify: we traveled throughout the region of Puglia in Italy, with a special emphasis on the Valle d’Itria and the Salentine peninsula. Ultra fresh and local, and (ironically) extremely affordable. The best food (of any type) I’ve ever consumed in my life, and we are very seasoned travelers. Seriously amazing.

  7. August 13, 2012 2:09 pm

    I think we should all go to Westwood near UCLA and for $1.75 get an ice cream sandwich on two freshly baked cookies from Diddy Riese.

    I vote for CBH.

  8. August 13, 2012 4:06 pm

    I’m voting for City Beer Hall, because I’ve had that ice cream sandwich and LOVED It (its featured in my blog header, actually). Although I’ve had Ric’s sandwich before and thought it was the best I’ve eaten, its not the same as the one he’s making for this, so I’m not going with that one.
    Where is this showdown happening? I want to go!

  9. Eric Scheirer Stott permalink
    August 13, 2012 4:15 pm

    I;m gonna have to pass on this one. I’ve got a culinary tin ear, and to be honest no matter how good an ice cream sandwich might taste it can not and will not be worth $6 to $9 bucks. For that I could buy a pint from the Ice Cream Man and a variety of cookies.

  10. August 13, 2012 4:32 pm

    I kind of think most of these entries are stupid. The tem “Ice Cream Sandwich” conjures up a very specific image in my mind. I would much prefer if someone tried to really nail the concept with quality ingredients as opposed to making some sort of tomato sauce thingy.

    • August 13, 2012 10:28 pm


    • August 14, 2012 2:25 pm

      Hear, hear! All of these gourmet, tarted-up, $9 options … where’s the simple, sweet cookies with ice cream in the middle for a couple of bucks? Where’s the thing we know and love as an ice cream sandwich, done with care?

  11. August 13, 2012 5:00 pm

    Voting (without tasting) for Creo’s Orange/Fennel Ice Cream in Pistachio/Chocolate Cookie, because it made me smile.

  12. August 13, 2012 5:35 pm

    New World Bistro’s concoction looks awesome! Where can you purchase tickets? I’d hate to miss out on a throw-down as cool as this!

  13. Kate H permalink
    August 13, 2012 6:18 pm

    I’m voting for Creo’s because the commbination of orange, fennel, pistachio and chocolate made my tummy growl.

  14. Jenna C. permalink
    August 13, 2012 6:45 pm

    Voting for City Beer Hall. It’s the only one that I didn’t have to figure out and just sounded delicious. Oftentimes simple is best (at least for me).

  15. August 13, 2012 10:20 pm

    I just posted this on the Idiots blog and I’m re-posting it here because I think there needs to be a distinction about what makes an ice cream sandwich.

    “OK, full disclosure- I work at Comfort Kitchen so this isn’t a vote per se but we (the BF and I) are on a mission to taste all of the ice cream sandwiches on offer in Saratoga.

    Tonight we decided to try the ice cream sandwich at the Wine Bar. Since we were casually dressed and on our way from the library, we decided to get it to go. We approached the hostess in a friendly manner and explained that we wanted to try the ice cream sandwich but we wanted to eat it at home. She grabbed a waiter and the waiter advised us that it wasn’t meant to travel. But it’s an ice cream sandwich, it’s supposed to be portable, no? The waiter said it’s more of a plated dessert. After some wrangling, we finally convinced him to let us take the sandwich to go. The guy was completely nice and we got our sandwich and headed home. We live two blocks away so we wanted to eat it on the way home. We opened the box and inside was a hot cookie with melting ice cream covered in hot fudge. I managed to pick it up and get one bite of the sandwich before all of the ice cream oozed out into the container.

    That is not an ice cream sandwich. That is a plated dessert and unfortunately, it didn’t work. The small amount of strawberry basil ice cream I was able to try was good. Summery tasting. But the hot cookie was not. Chocolate and balsamic are not a harmonious pairing and the cookie tasted sour.

    I don’t care who people vote for. Obviously I have a bias. My point is that I wish the ice cream sandwich makers would make an actual ice cream sandwich that could be eaten like an ice cream sandwich. Walking home on a hot summers not. Is this a plated dessert challenge or is it an ice cream sandwich challenge?

    (My thoughts are my own and in no way endorsed by the Comfort Kitchen.)”

  16. August 13, 2012 10:28 pm

    These all sound a bit overwrought, and they (except City Beer Hall) smack of trying too hard to be unusual and precious, especially AGB.

    I vote in the Saratoga contest, so my vote doesn’t count here, but these sound pretty ridiculous and not keeping in the spirit of the original Saratoga Idiots challenge.

    • August 13, 2012 11:01 pm

      I need to step in here and clarify something. The restaurants participating in this showdown are all responding to instructions that I wrote, and then showed to the Saratoga Idiots for approval.

      It was a synthesis of the original post that focused on the idea we were, “Looking for a kick ass, interesting, and inexpensive ice cream sandwich. Something other than the norm.” You’ll see those words in the above post and in the original post by The Idiots. The restaurants were also provided with the judging criteria posted above.

      Portability might seem implicit, but it wasn’t explicit.

      Would I like to see a brilliantly simple and stunningly delicious ice cream sandwich for under $3? You bet. I had hoped we might get something like that from Crisan, but despite going there in person, and sending multiple emissaries to do the same, I couldn’t get them to participate. And after talking to Katerspie I’m not sure if they picked up the gauntlet they would have delivered on that ultimate goal.

      We asked some of the top chefs at some of the better restaurants in the area. Some of whom have ice cream sandwiches currently on their menu which are beloved by their patrons. Will they be judged on their plating? No. How it looks isn’t in the criteria. Will they be dinged for making it look beautiful? Certainly not.

      It’s fascinating to watch this unfold. Each sandwich has its fans. Those who like it simple can vote for The City Beer Hall. Those who like it a little fancier have a variety of options. For those who wish everything would be a good bit cheaper? Welcome to the club.

      But personally, I am really excited by what our Albany restaurants have put up in this contest. They are definitely interesting. Whether or not they kick ass will ultimately be determined in the tasting.

      • August 13, 2012 11:17 pm

        OK, fair enough. I guess I just prefer simplicity in an ice cream sandwich. That’s what makes horse races. (Go Saratoga!)

  17. August 13, 2012 11:17 pm

    “Portability might seem implicit, but it wasn’t explicit.”

    The fact that an ice cream *sandwich* should be portable doesn’t have to be explicit because it is implicit. It is what it is. You know very well what an ice cream sandwich is and what it is not.

    It would be like me bringing you a piece of cake and insisting that you put it into your cupcake challenge because it’s my interpretation of the form. Chefs can interpret what an ice cream sandwich is however they want but unless it is in the form of a portable sandwich, they will be wrong.

  18. August 14, 2012 8:55 am

    A lot of you Albanians are implying you are going to vote a certain way because you like the sound of it, vs actually having tasted it. Isn’t consumption part of the voting criteria down your way?

    Here in Saratoga, the question would never need to be asked. Our palates are as committed as our motives are pure.

  19. August 14, 2012 10:33 am

    My vote is going to City Beer Hall. Why?

    1. It is the only one of the four I have tried (and I loved it).
    2. CBH is committed to using quality, local ingredients, and this is no different.
    3. As someone else noted, if I am eating dessert, especially ice cream, I am not psyched about savory. I don’t necessarily want it sugary sweet, but not savory.
    4. As much as I adore EVERYTHING AGB does, and I can’t wait to try their ice cream sandwich (I will take their word for it that it is actually sweet), like Daniel I am a purist, and if it doesn’t have dairy, it is not ice cream. I don’t even like referring to frozen yogurt as ice cream, and that’s less of a stretch. Doesn’t mean that it is not a delicious frozen treat, but regardless.

    (OTOH, it would be interesting to see how it stands up to the more traditional competitors. However I maintain it is comparing apples to oranges. Well, OK. Maybe not oranges. Maybe pears.)

    Note to the Profussor – please please please say this will be a daytime activity. I have plans I cannot change that evening, but they are local and therefore am free until about 7pm. :)

    • August 14, 2012 1:34 pm

      The semifreddo is virtually all dairy! Just eggs and heavy cream (separated, beaten and re-combined in a particular way – it’s technically a frozen mousse but the texture reads like very creamy, real ice cream), plus the Brandywine sweet tomato Jam and real vanilla beans. We knew everyone might not go for our sandwich idea and that’s fine. When we tasted the jam, the flavor very closely resembled berries, so that’s why we thought it would work, and potentially score some points for being unusual. Ya win some, ya lose some. I’m going to make a regular vanilla bean semifreddo this week and pair it w/ my chocolate chip oatmeal cookie. Back to basics.

  20. Hollie permalink
    August 14, 2012 11:12 am

    I’m voting for City Beer Hall. A bunch of us got the ice cream sandwiches when they were at the Harvest Fest last October. It was a pleasant surprise to see them officially on the menu. They even made me one at brunch time after asking very nicely. It’s so simple and so good.

    it goes very nicely with a half pint of Liefmans Goudenband

  21. August 14, 2012 11:16 am

    While I don’t necessarily eat my candybars with a fork and a knife, I am klutzy and prefer to eat while sitting, and plates or napkins are always a must. It would never occur to me that there’s an assumption that an ice cream sandwiches would be portable. There are plenty of foods you can eat with your hands that I don’t relate to being portable like pizza, sushi, burgers, fried chicken, etc. Also, I’d point out that a good percentage of regular sandwiches aren’t portable either. I can’t imagine eating an eggplant parm sub, a reuben or egg salad on the go.

    I can’t walk around with a popsicle without the threat of it going up my nose and even ice cream cones require concentration to keep drips off of my clothing. So portability with an ice cream sandwich isn’t a deal breaker for me; although I can now see that it may be for other, less klutzy folks. :-)

  22. Emily permalink
    August 15, 2012 3:12 pm

    Creo :)

  23. Kendra permalink
    August 15, 2012 3:25 pm

    His is a blood orange and fennel ice cream with a salted pistachio cookie dipped in dark chocolate Kahlua.

  24. August 15, 2012 8:56 pm

    I vote for Creo for their Ice Cream Sandwich. Sounds awesome.

  25. chris permalink
    August 16, 2012 11:01 am

    I really want to see creo in this competition. I love the idea of a blood orange and fennel ice cream. WOW!!! What a great, and unique flavor profile.

  26. Chris permalink
    August 16, 2012 11:06 am

    Creo! Salted pistachio cookie dipped in dark chocolate Kahlua!

  27. August 16, 2012 11:55 am

    Ugh. I can’t be the only one really turned off by the taste of fennel. Creo is great and all and the sandwich sounded ok until I saw fennel. Yuck. I’m afraid it might end up being a flavor that polarizes judges. We want Albany to win, right? :-)

    • chris permalink
      August 16, 2012 12:07 pm

      I’ll agree that fennel is a taste not everyone likes. It has a lite liquorice and earthy flavor. But my guess, and its just a guess, is that the fennel is there dilute the tartness of the blood orange. I think they will complement eachother nicely. Lets get creo in this competition and find out. I eat at creo often and the desserts have never been better.

  28. August 16, 2012 3:08 pm

    Mark one down for Creo for me.

  29. August 16, 2012 3:10 pm

    If NWBB’s doesn’t get enough votes, do you think that those of us who are dying to try it could arrange a little tasting event at New World? It would be tragic if that concoction never hit a menu.

  30. Eddie permalink
    August 17, 2012 3:55 am


  31. Chaz permalink
    August 17, 2012 5:58 pm

    I vote Creo! The combinations based on the dark chocolate Kahlua helps the three complementing flavors of Fennel (licorice), citrus (orange) and salt with the nutty flavor and crunchy texture of the pistachio come together in a vision of gastronomical delight. I think a rich Espresso is the finishing touch.

  32. mark permalink
    August 17, 2012 7:44 pm

    I believe chef Robert Wolfe has a good idea on his ice cream sandwich

  33. Chip permalink
    August 17, 2012 8:56 pm



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