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Wrong About Ice Cream

April 2, 2018

Man, I hate to be wrong. When I’m wrong, I start to question everything.

The Fussy Little Tours are a good idea. That said, it has become clear that the findings of the tours cannot be too broadly applied. When it comes to figuring out who makes the best apple cider donuts, the tours are great. After eating five of what are ostensibly the same thing over the course of a few hours, one realizes how different each place makes them, and one orchard rises to the top of the heap.

This also works for egg and cheese sandwiches, fish fry, and New York style pizza slices. But what it cannot tell you is which place is the best diner, fried fish joint, or pizza shop. Because to answer those larger questions, you need to go deeper than just an evaluation of one dish.

Even when we look back on the soft serve tours, it’s really just about vanilla and chocolate. A great seasonal soft serve ice cream stand can really be about so much more.

What I have come to realize is that the Tour de Homemade Hard Ice Cream is fundamentally flawed. And I think part of the problem has to do with how I’ve been thinking about what makes a place great in the Capital Region.

Before we get into ice cream, let’s talk about that last sentence.

One of my favorite places to eat in Albany is Ralph’s Tavern. Surely, there are a lot of people who don’t like the restaurant, and for good reason. The hit rate on the menu is low. What I mean by that is that if you blindly picked something from the multipage menu, your chances of being impressed by this classic tavern aren’t good.

However, if you get the mozz and melba, an order of hot, crispy buffalo wings, and a tavern-style pizza with double pepperoni, you’re going to get something super delicious, and walk away with a taste of the Capital Region.

Maybe you won’t love it. But you should be able to recognize it as being a special place.

Over the years, what I’ve learned to do is evaluate restaurants based on the best items they are able to produce, and largely ignore everything that falls beneath a certain threshold of quality. In part, that has been a matter of necessity, as precious few places can deliver excellence across their full menu.

A big part of the problem is that menus are just too damn long. And that encourages places to take inadvisable short cuts with key items, be it foodservice grade bread, the prefab frozen bao shells, or the cannoli filled earlier in the day, just to name a few.

Where am I going with this?

So the Tour de Hard Ice Cream was pitting flavor against flavor. To me, this made sense at the time. Samascott came out ahead, with four tasters putting its ice cream on the top of their list, compared with two at The Dutch Udder.

Later I found out some back story about the day of the tour. The Dutch Udder was just coming up to speed on a new machine, and some of the inclusions weren’t being evenly distributed. We experienced that first hand, and it may have cost the shop a couple of votes.

But each participant was judging their ice cream on just one flavor category. Nobody was looking at the totality of each shop’s offerings.

I still love Samascott for what they do with their farm grown fruit. That blueberry is amazing.

However, over the past few weeks I’ve found myself trying a lot more ice cream from The Dutch Udder. Some of that was at an Official Yelp Event. But some of it was before the event when the shop opened for the season. Some of it was after the OYE when I was craving another taste of their unique flavors and remarkable texture.

What I’ve come to realize is that The Dutch Udder is my favorite ice cream shop in the Capital Region. Even worse, I feel like their product has ruined me for other ice cream. Seriously, Mrs. Fussy brought some Stewart’s ice cream home this week, and more than anything else it tastes like ice cream fluff.

Now, I can’t stop thinking about the ice cream at The Dutch Udder. The Thai iced tea flavor is gone, but it was amazing. I loved the first batch of lavender, lemon, and poppy, but apparently that’s being retooled to make it even better.

Which is one of the things I’ve learned about this little Troy shop as well. It is in a constant state of improvement. They are always fine tuning their product, and despite its excellence, are rarely satisfied.

I love that. And I don’t love much.

But I do also love their root beer float. If you want to read a few hundred more words on this, I’ve got you covered. But if not, feel free to follow DU on IG so you can stay on top of all the flavors available at the moment. Just remember, if you ever see Thai Iced Cream… run, don’t walk.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2018 10:31 am

    Daniel, come on now.

    Comparing Stewart’s ice cream to Dutch Udder is like comparing Domino’s to Pizzeria Bianco. The two don’t belong in the same sentence.

    You’ve fallen victim to the false hype about Stewart’s ice cream. The stuff just ain’t very good (to put it succinctly). And I am generally a fan of Stewart’s, I don’t have an ax to grind against the company.

    • April 2, 2018 10:35 am

      It wasn’t meant as a comparison. One can enjoy brilliant coffee and tolerate crappy coffee. I know I do. Just like a few months ago I could enjoy great craft ice cream, and still eat the stuff available at every corner convenience store in the Capital Region.

      Except now I can’t. Well, I mean I can. But eating the Stewart’s ice cream causes me to wince a little and question my life choices.

  2. chrisck permalink
    April 2, 2018 12:14 pm

    Oh, man, Stewart’s ice cream is the worst. I can’t believe the love for it in this area and that supposedly it wins awards.

  3. Ewan permalink
    April 2, 2018 12:30 pm

    I don’t tolerate crappy coffee :).

    But that’s not the reason for being here. Which is: what’s with the love for root beer floats? I am sure that the Dutch Udder had a supreme example of the genre… which only solidified my thinking that I saw no point to them. Seems like a way to spoil excellent icecream.

    I am a bit amazed that I have not yet made it back to DU. This week..

    • enough already! permalink
      April 3, 2018 12:11 am

      Root beer float with excellent vanilla ice cream and not your father’s root beer (5.9%). Heaven.

  4. April 2, 2018 3:33 pm

    I liked the thai better than the matcha. But the matcha has that ‘punny’ name attached!

  5. fifthavesam permalink
    April 4, 2018 2:09 pm

    Very well said. I enjoy small menus because the hit rate tends to be very high and I know that the ingredients are being used. It also shows me that people are trying to put their best foot forward because flaws can’t be well hidden in only a few dishes. As a couple, we have a rule to always try an establishment twice. You never know if you caught someone on a bad day; we all have those.

    And I love The Dutch Udder. As I explain it, their ice cream is more “adult.” It tends to be less sweet and the flavors are much more complex. Wit had me hooked from day one.

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