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I scream, you scream…

IcecreamballToday is Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s, so be sure to swing by your local parlor and grab a lick. There must be quite a run on this, cuz their site is down this morning.

Growing up in upstate New York, not far from the Vermont border, we had a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlor long before they went national. Being the rabid teenagers we were, our favorite pastime was to descend in a large group and order the Vermonster — a huge punch bowl with one scoop of each flavor and a dollop of each topping. We would start out with spoons and end up with straws, sucking up the cool brown soup that resulted from the blending of dozens of flavors.

In the last decade or so, though, I think Ben & Jerry’s has lost its way. They seem driven to incorporate as many and as bizarre ingredients as possible, overwhelming the ice cream itself. Personally, I like ice cream for ice cream’s sake. I’ll take Häagen Dazs Dulce de Leche or a good vanilla any day. I do love me some Mitchell’s, and really want to hit them up for the once-annual durian creation. I’m also planning to check out La Copa Loca, on 22nd at Mission, when the weather turns warmer. I hear it’s the best gelato in town.

Last year we bought a Cuisinart ice cream maker. At first we attempted only sorbets, as we assumed they would be easier than ice creams. Turns out that’s not the way it works. If you don’t get the balance of sugar just right, you end up with either a syrupy goo or giant popsicle. The fat in ice cream helps prevent overfreezing. We’ll try it again as it warms up. Once we master that, I’ll go all Iron Chef and start making ice cream out of foie gras or salmon roe or something.

If you prefer to go more old-school, but with new-school design, check out the Ice Cream Ball (pictured), available at L.L.Bean. Just add your ingredients, and rock salt and water in the chamber, and roll like a gerbil for ice cream in just 20 minutes, allegedly. I like the iMac v.2 colors — maybe they should call it the iScream?

And for the vegans and lactose intolerant, there is hope: Tofutti Cuties are soy-based miniature ice cream cookies that, I swear, are better than the real thing. And at just 100 calories a pop, they make for a satisfying and diet-friendly dessert. Best of all, I’ve seen them cropping up in more and more stores.

Now if it would just warm up outside…

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