The great ice cream caper

In the carpool on the way home from work on a sunny and warm Wednesday back in April, my friends Betsy and Dan and I decided to go out for burgers. Snow had crept back in the forecast for early the next week, and we needed some ground beef and some sunshine to make ourselves feel better about the impending weather.

Mint chocolate chip

Mint chocolate chip

Over dinner, Dan and I fell back into our running argument about regionally- and locally-made ice cream: I maintain that Heyn’s is better than Whitey’s, and Dan is a Whitey’s guy through and through. We’d been fighting about this for weeks (because, really, what else would a couple of foodies fight about?), and finally Betsy called us on it.

“Why don’t you do a taste test tonight?” she said. “I’ll be the impartial observer.”

“It’s on,” I said.

We agreed to the terms: mint chocolate chip and chocolate chip cookie dough from Heyn’s, Whitey’s and Blue Bunny, a more commercial brand, yes, but still an Iowa-made product. (I should note, here, that when I wrote about locally-made ice cream for Edible Iowa River Valley, we left Whitey’s off the list—it is actually made in Illinois…) Dan and I would sample each flavor and try to identify which sample belonged to which ice cream maker, and then we would also rate which one we thought was the best.

The rating was less the issue, in this contest, than the fact that we both swore we could pick our favorites out of the line-up.

Ice cream acquired, Betsy readied our samples.

“Are you guys going to have a full scoop or just a bite?” Betsy asked.

“Scoop,” I said, and I thought, what else would we eat in a freaking ice cream taste test Imeancomeon.

“Uh, scoop,” Dan said. (I remember this because I wrote it down at the time. I am all about recording intelligent conversation for future blog purposes.)

“What’s the winner going to get?” I asked, very focused on my impending victory over Dan and his assertions.

“I think it’s really what the loser should have to do,” Dan said. “Maybe the loser should have to pay for all the ice cream. Or wear a sign at work tomorrow that says, ‘I lost the ice cream taste test. Ask me how.’”

“Maybe they should have to run outside and run around the house naked,” I said. “Or go to work … NAKED.” Again, I say: I was focused on victory, people. Victory.

Contemplating the chocolate cookie dough

Contemplating the chocolate cookie dough

But it turns out that was not the case. “You’re going to be very disappointed with my picture-taking abilities,” Betsy said when she returned from the kitchen with the first round: mint chocolate chip.

“It’s OK,” I said. “I’ll just tell everyone that the pictures were taken by a” (and here, I used finger-quotes) “Masters-degreed artiste.”

And so the tasting began. Cold stares flew across the living room. There were more cackles than talking. And, to be honest, after we tried the chocolate chip cookie dough and I decided that not only was I sure which one was Blue Bunny, but that I liked it the best, as well, I had lost a lot of confidence in my ability to pick out good ice cream. I could smell a loss, so I tried to cut back—a little—on the trash-talking.

When all was said and done, we both correctly identified who made each of the chocolate chip cookie dough variations, but I misidentified the mint chocolate chips. Dan, however, got that one right as well, garnering himself a win. He also took great glee in knowing that I chose a Blue Bunny flavor over two more locally-made options.

Evidence of my favorite...

Evidence of my favorite...

“Sometimes the best cook doesn’t have the best palate,” said Dan.

“Being a winner doesn’t mean you get to be mean,” said Betsy.

I sat there quietly, hoping they had forgotten my suggestion that the winner go to work naked.

Then they both turned to me with expectant looks on their faces. My stomach sank. Were they going to ask me to strip down and run around the house?

No. Much worse. They were expecting me to expose this loss to the world.

“What are you going to write when you put this on the blog, Genie?” Betsy asked. “That you failed? That you chose Blue Bunny?”

So yes, World. I failed. I chose Blue Bunny. And Dan never really got a trophy out of the deal, so today, his 30th birthday, seems like the appropriate day to mark his domination as an ice cream taste tester. Dan, I hope you’re able to put that skill to good use in future endeavors. And happy birthday, dude. Wish I was there to raise a glass—and an ice cream bowl—in your honor.

Dan, enjoying this

16 Responses to “The great ice cream caper”

  1. 1 Dan "The Ice Cream King" July 5, 2008 at 7:34 am

    What a great post to wake up to this morning!

    I’m glad this event has now been recorded & documented for all to see. :)

    Oh, and can you please start selling Inadvertent Gardener t-shirts with “Being a winner doesn’t mean you get to be mean.” across the front? It would totally rule and I’d buy at least 6 of them!

  2. 2 inadvertentgardener July 5, 2008 at 8:35 am

    Dan, I think that’s a brilliant — BRILLIANT — idea. I’m off to the t-shirt shop right now. Have a great birthday, and enjoy the public victory!

  3. 3 Jess in MA July 5, 2008 at 10:01 am

    Hahaha! That cracked me. This is so something that would happen to me. As an ice cream fiend I would talk smack about it and then wind up running naked around the house when I lost. This is a good warning that I should never engage in any sort of risky ice cream competition. So noted.

  4. 4 inadvertentgardener July 5, 2008 at 10:15 am

    Jess, I’m glad you’re going to heed my cautionary tale. Just say no to trash-talking that could potentially lead to nudity!

  5. 5 deb July 5, 2008 at 10:19 am

    The monkeys like blue bunny.

  6. 6 inadvertentgardener July 5, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Deb, I bet they do! There’s really nothing wrong with it — it’s quite good ice cream, after all. This was just a random act of utter and ridiculous food snobbery…locavorism taken beyond the pale.

  7. 7 David Perry July 5, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Here, I’ve been making my own. And this summer’s best discovery has been the substitution of lowfat buttermilk for about half the half-and-half. OMG. Cuts the fat content way down and adds an entirely rich, yummy buttermilk element. Definitely worth a try. All the neighbor kids rave. As do their parents.

    Thanks for a big smile. A very fun read.

  8. 8 wes July 5, 2008 at 8:24 pm

    Hmm, first time I think I’ve seen a photo of you on here where you were recognizable. Not that that really has any significance.

    I like BlueBunny ice cream, and always buy it when I visit Iowa. It’s not readily available here in Texas; instead, we have Blue Bell. I’ve wondered, at times, whether the similarity in names is intentional or whether the products are really the same, only relabeled.

    And here’s something else: down here, we don’t have those half-gallon box containers that BlueBunny uses. We have fat cylinders with tight-fitting round lids on top. Something to do with the heat, maybe — less leakage.

  9. 9 debroby July 5, 2008 at 9:15 pm

    My spouse is a Whitey’s guy from childhood. Me? Ice cream is one of the few forms of dairy that I really miss.

  10. 10 inadvertentgardener July 6, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    David, um, YUM. Homemade ice cream wins against everything made commercially, locally-made or not. Hands down. No question about it.

    Wes, that’s interesting about the containers — I bet you’re right — those boxes probably do leak more than the cylinders, although I know there are certain brands that only use the cylinders and nothing else. Who knows.

    Deb, I don’t eat ice cream often, but when I do, I will admit that I, um, quite enjoy it. :-)

  11. 11 Michael July 6, 2008 at 3:13 pm


    This story is CRAZY. But so is Dan.

  12. 12 inadvertentgardener July 6, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Michael! Yeah, he totally is crazy. But, at least for now, he is the Crazy Ice Cream King.

  13. 13 betsy July 7, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    heen! LOVE this. i especially love how i’m portrayed as the moral compass. :)

    i think we need to get a soft serve contest going. i would like to participate this time. you hand-dippers can sit this one out!

  14. 14 inadvertentgardener July 7, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Betsy, I’d be happy to be in charge of a soft serve contest. Perhaps, this time around, *I* could be the moral compass. Or something. ;-)

  15. 15 Jeanne July 8, 2008 at 10:13 am

    OK…. so, no one got naked????? Man!

    Very funny post! But, now I’m craving ice cream! And the only store near here (work) is a health food store with no dairy ice cream!!!!!!

  16. 16 inadvertentgardener July 8, 2008 at 5:25 pm

    Jeanne, aack. If one must eat non-dairy ice cream, is one actually eating ice cream? What if they get hit in the head with a tree in the forest? ;-) And no…no one got naked. I promise.

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