A cone by any other name

by Brian Clarey

We go through thisevery summer, the subtle and not-too differences between all of thevarious frozen treats. And here it is again – the pantheon of ice cream. Asno-cone (or a snowball) is shaved or crushed ice with syrup flavoring.Sorbet is made from water (not ice) and fruit or other flavorings.Introduce a bit of milkfat or dairy to the mix, and you’ve got sherbet.As the milkfat percentage climbs, the nomenclature changes. Gelatointroduces milk to the process. Ice cream uses – you guessed it -cream. Frozen custard has eggs in it, is served a few degrees warmerthan ice cream and is also more dense. And on this hot afternoonwe head to Blue Ridge Ice Creams uncertain of which species ofdelicious treat we will enjoy; they seem to have them all. BlueRidge makes everything in-house, every day: 13 ice creams, sevengelatos, a sherbet and a sorbet – that’s in addition to a menu full ofshakes, malts, smoothies, sundaes and floats. The flavors changeaccording to the whims of the ice-cream makers and extend far beyondthe pale of the garden variety. Ever had honey-lavender gelato? Tomy uninitiated colleague I suggest a bowl of dulce de leche gelato,with the flavors of sweet cream and vanilla, and a generous ribbon ofreal caramel laced throughout. They keep the gelato in a separatefreezer here, a bit warmer than the ice cream freezer for the perfectconsistency, and the product is light and smooth. My colleague becomesan instant fan. But for me, today, the decision is clear- I needan ice cream cone. And not one of those cake cones, either. I want awaffle cone. A real one. The story of the ice cream cone – oneof America’s few enduring contributions to the world of cuisine – isrife with controversy. But most food historians trace it back to the1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Thisfair, the world’s largest at the time, was a watershed event inAmerican history. The grounds encompassed more than 1,200 acres and1,500 buildings, some of which are now part of Washington University.City planner George Kessler designed the fairgrounds. Teddy Rooseveltintroduced the opening ceremonies by telegraph. John Phillip Sousa,Scott Joplin, Thomas Edison and Helen Keller were there. And thousandsof visitors from the States and abroad saw for the first time hot dogsand hamburgers, peanut butter, cotton candy and iced tea. Dr. Pepperwas introduced at the fair, as was Puffed Wheat brand cereal. There were also human zoos. But I digress. Asthe story goes, a waffle maker and an ice cream man were stationed nextto each other in a vending lane on a hot day. Naturally, the frozen icecream outsold the hot waffles, but the ice cream man ran out of plates.The waffle maker came to the rescue with a rolled cone and the rest washistory – disputed because seven different people claim to be eitherthe waffle maker or the ice cream man. At any rate… that’swhat I want: a big, honking ice cream cone that I’ll have to eat realfast before it melts all over my shirt. I go with the classics. Butterpecan. Chocolate almond. No mash-ins, no toppings, no sauces, nojimmies. Old school. The ice cream is smooth and delicious, madethat morning right here in the shop. Chunks of nut meat, velvety smoothchocolate and flecks of vanilla bean all make appearances. Thewaffle cone could probably hold a pint of ice cream, and I wish I hadordered a third scoop as I dig in. Maybe something with coffee.