Don’t hate me just because somebody dropped off six little sample-size containers of Caramela ice cream and sorbet at my door last week. I just got around to tasting them last night when some friends were over to ease the burden. Salty caramel was the winner, though that seemed almost like a cliche when you consider that the combination of caramel and sea salt is so wildly popular—Starbucks and Wal-Mart have caught on to the no-fail pairing—that it was the subject of a feature story in the New York Times last December. I had no interest in the sorbets. Not that they were bad, just that I’ve never found a good reason to eat sorbet when I could have ice cream instead. (I don’t go for the “less fattening” thing firstly because I know how much sugar is in sorbet, and secondly, because it’s a stupid reason to order your second choice.) Spicy strawberry would have been better without the spice (not to mention the addition of heavy cream). A basil infusion was a nice attempt to do something to otherwise ordinary lemon. (But it’s still sorbet.)
Moving on to the good stuff. The ice cream flavors were as follows: salted caramel, honey lavender, chocolate cocoa nib, and brown sugar vanilla. My friends, it is fair to say, scarfed down every single flavor except one. Brown sugar vanilla. “It’s just vanilla,” one friend said, shrugging his shoulders, like that should explain everything. But that isn’t fair. Since when did vanilla become synonymous with “plain” or ordinary? “Since when did “vanilla,” become a “base?” Vanilla, I might remind you, is a flavor. A flavor that people (who? have no idea) go to great effort to extract. And it happens, when it comes to ice cream, to be my favorite. Brown sugar? Why not? Stick your neck out. Get creative. No harm no foul. It’s the vanilla I’m after.