Monday, May 10, 2010
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams really are splendid - even with a $50 parking ticket
For a year, she’s been taunting me about it.
“Jeni’s ice cream is soooo good.”
“I just picked up a pint of the Salty Caramel...”
“It’s the best ice cream EVER.”
Coming from someone whose palate is as discerning as mine, these were bold statements – not just meaningless dribble like a five-year-old’s analysis of anything containing sugar. I knew that if Erin of Dishwasher Ready said Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams from Ohio was the preeminent frozen dessert on the market it had to be worthy of a few licks.
The only problem was getting my hands (and tongue) on some.
While I knew that A Restaurant in Newport Beach carried the ice cream – including the salty caramel flavor that Erin is so fond of – I wasn’t exactly fond of the idea of dragging a pint on ice back to LA. I could have bought one to enjoy at my parents’ house, but for some reason that option seemed equally unappealing. (Probably because it meant I’d have to share it with them.)
So I held out. Because the ideal ice cream should be enjoyed in the ideal fashion -- just me, a bowl and my sweatpants with no one around to judge me if I consumed the entire pint in one sitting and then spent the rest of the night groaning in pain.
It’s been known to happen. (I was considerably chunkier in college.)
So even though the ice cream continued to taunt me from the pages of magazines, Serious Eats and other food sites throughout this past year, I waited patiently for Jeni’s to come to me.
This past weekend, it finally did.
Earlier in the week Cube Marketplace & Cafe announced to its Twitter followers that it was going to be carrying Jeni’s ice cream. Then, on Thursday, they announced that they were going to be scooping up free samples of the premium product between 11 am and 2 pm on Saturday. A dear college friend was coming into town to visit me for the weekend, but I knew I had to find some way to sneak it into our itinerary of basically eating and more eating.
I couldn’t wait patiently any longer.
As Ali and I drove by the cafe after a hearty brunch of French toast at Canelé in Atwater Village, I slyly turned to her and said, “Let’s just stop for a minute.” She made no objections (she also has an open-door policy when it comes to her stomach), so I idled my car at a meter in front of the restaurant, popped in a few coins and led my friend inside.
While Cube is selling a dozen different varieties by the pint ($11 each), they were only offering four flavors to sample on this particular day – Gravel Road with almonds, Riesling Poached Pear sorbet, Wildberry Lavender, and Cherry Lambic sorbet. I was slightly dismayed that the Salty Caramel wasn’t one of the sampleable flavors, but as soon as I put a spoonful of the intensely creamy Gravel Road in my mouth, I fell silent.
The smoky almonds and salty finish were almost overpowering to my palate – in a good, utterly satisfying way. I eagerly dug into the other flavors – all equally stunning in their complexity and purity. Because the ice creams and sorbets are not overburdened with sugar, the flavors are immediately discernable. There is no way to mistake the Wildberry Lavendar for the Cherry Lambic – and vice versa.
I was so caught up in my enjoyment of the free samples – which also included delightfully chewy macarons from XTpatisserie that Cube is also now selling in assorted packages of 12 for $20 – that the 15 minutes I’d allotted for our stay passed by far quicker than I imagined. I glanced out at the street to check on the status of my meter and was horrified to see a portly meter warden accosting my vehicle. I sprinted outside, arms flailing as I yelled, “I’m here! I’m here!”
The warden looked me up and down stared back in disgust. “Too late.” He hissed, slamming the $50 parking ticket onto my windshield.
“Please sir!” I pleaded, my eyes moistening as I fumbled in my wallet for more coins.
“It’s done.” He growled and turned away to accost his next victim – the SUV in front of me.
I deposited my quarter into the just-expired meter, and trudged back into the restaurant, spirits completely deflated.
The ideal ice cream had not been enjoyed in the ideal fashion.
Fortunately, there’s plenty of time for that in the future. Regardless of the sordid circumstances surrounding my initial ingestion of Jeni’s ice cream, I still fancy myself a convert. I know I’ll be stopping by Cube again soon to pick up a pint of Salty Caramel or Bourbon Buttered Pecan to saver at home in a pair of sweatpants. I’ll just be bringing a piggy bank full of quarters with me next time.
Cube Marketplace & Cafe
615 North La Brea Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90036-2013