Saturday, May 18, 2013

"Get me the rum raisin!": on eating local

-If you get two different beer-flavored ice cream in the afternoon (the small - and this is a coastal-elite small, if not a Manhattan small, but rather small - allows you to pick two), you will be judged. The woman behind the counter (I want to say girl, given her apparent age, but if she was serving "alcohol"...) won't know that this is the only "drink" you've had in the past week, nor that Friday afternoon is your "weekend" because of odd scheduling constraints.

And I'm thinking, wouldn't it seem that if I wanted a beer, I'd go to one of the multiple establishments nearby that sell beer, not ice cream with a hint of beer? And isn't it the place's choice to add alcohol to their special flavors (which regulars, such as myself, will want to try after exhausting all the regular-flavor possibilities), a tendency that once led me to order a bourbon vanilla, when I'd thought "bourbon" was just modifying "vanilla," but no... and that one did have quite a kick... unless I was imagining it?

The question of drink-infused ice cream is one I can't figure out. Are these or are these not alcoholic? Are they or are they not served to children? I've never noticed any carding, but nor have I much noticed what others were ordering - maybe parents are discreetly steered away from ordering beer-infused s'more ice cream (which, delicious as it was, would have been even better without he beer aftertaste). I suspect recovering alcoholics would want to avoid these flavors - note the "Seinfeld" reference in the post title - but that could be as much about the flavor as the presence, or not, of more than a trace amount of drug. I guess when the local news first announces a DUI and the driver's mistake was getting the large, we'll have our answer.

-This morning, I came to terms with the fact that I'm now one of those people who drives to the farmers market. In what was no doubt a net loss for the planet, I more or less retraced the trip I'd made an hour before, dropping my husband off at the train station. The loot: one bunch green garlic ($3), one dozen eggs from a local farm I have, alas, visited ($5), and one bag of arugula ($1.25). I plan to infuse all of these ingredients with beer, as one must all foodstuffs.

In all seriousness, not sure what to do with any of it. It's that exciting moment when the fridge has almost too many spring vegetables (Wegmans had ramps!) that you need to somehow incorporate them into all your meals, but so they don't turn into an undifferentiated pile of hopefully not overcooked green-ness to put on top of pasta, with lemon and parmesan.

16 comments:

Andrew Stevens said...

The freezing point of alcohol is much, much lower than water's. So alcohol-flavored ice cream is usually just flavored with no alcohol in it. However, it is possible to stabilize the alcohol with gelatin and actually make ice cream with real alcohol in it. For legal reasons, you almost certainly can't buy this except at a place licensed to sell alcohol and they would surely card.

Phoebe said...

That's conventional wisdom, but one hears these days that alcohol doesn't cook off as much as we think it does. It could be that desserts cooked with alcohol aren't regulated. It could also be that people with an unusually low alcohol tolerance notice amounts that most would not.

Andrew Stevens said...

Got nothing to do with cooking off; the stuff just won't freeze. Alcohol freezes at -173 degrees Fahrenheit. Ain't nobody got a freezer cold enough for that. Too much alcohol in it and the ice cream won't freeze at all. A little alcohol and it will, but the resulting ice cream is much softer than is typical. Gelatin helps, but even then I think the resulting ice cream is extremely soft with no ice crystals at all.

Phoebe said...

You may be right re: the chemistry (although all kinds of things are frozen into ice cream that might otherwise be difficult to freeze, such as marshmallows, so), but the legal aspect of this probably is such that a food product containing alcohol - cooked, say, and not frozen - would not be subject to the same laws as alcoholic beverages.

Moebius Stripper said...

alcohol doesn't cook off as much as we think it does. It could be that desserts cooked with alcohol aren't regulated. It could also be that people with an unusually low alcohol tolerance notice amounts that most would not.

I can attest to all three (well, I can only speak to the regulation of desserts in Canada; don't know about the US). I can't tolerate alcohol in any quantity (something I learned after three bites of chocolate amaretto cheesecake left me vomiting and so weak that I could barely move for two days), and for a few years took to asking waitstaff whether their desserts contained alcohol. They were confused, but obliged me and asked the chef - and a good portion of the time, the answer came back as a yes. These days, though, I play it safe.

Petey said...

"Got nothing to do with cooking off; the stuff just won't freeze. Alcohol freezes at -173 degrees Fahrenheit. Ain't nobody got a freezer cold enough for that."

You can't freeze grain alcohol in consumer equipment, but if you lower the overall proof to something that can still get you quite buzzed, you can certainly create frozen alcoholic treats.

I've sampled alco-popsicles a couple of times, and can verify that they can be pleasant on a hot summer day.

Here are a few recipes...

Andrew Stevens said...

Petey: But the alcohol content has to be low enough for it to freeze. The recipes you link to show just how much the alcohol has to be diluted in order to freeze properly. You're going to need to eat a lot of those popsicles to get buzzed.

Andrew Stevens said...

One of those popsicles has a little more than a third of the alcohol in a 12 ounce bottle of beer. (Light Vodka is 30% alcohol by volume and there's only 1 1/2 ounces in the popsicle. Your average bottle of beer has about 1.2 ounces of alcohol compared to 0.45 for the popsicle.) So six popsicles equals two beers. Better eat them fast.

Phoebe said...

We need to look at what Moebius is saying - if you're someone who notices even small amounts of alcohol, you notice it when someone who starts getting buzzed around the end of the first six-pack does not.

My own tolerance these days is near-zilch, thanks to various factors (the need to drive everywhere and for me always to do the driving for practice, the lack of anywhere interesting to go out even if someone else is driving). I will sometimes - man does typing this make me feel ancient - have a glass of wine with dinner at home, so the Mormons aren't recruiting me just yet. But a third of a beer? That would get me, if not drunk, a good part of the way there.

Britta said...

If the woman was selling the stuff and judging you for buying it, then you should have judged her right back. Also, how puritanical do you have to be for judging someone eating beer-flavored ice cream? Whether or not there's any alcohol content, diluted *beer* is going to be very weak indeed. Even the amount of undiluted beer in an ice cream scoop wouldn't be enough to get a small child drunk.

In other worlds, the first time my boyfriend got drunk was off of ice cream, at age 11. He ordered an ice cream sunday with among other things liqueur poured over it, and forgot to ask them to hold the liqueur. Of course, this was Italy, where people don't bat an eye at serving children things with liquor.

Phoebe said...

Britta,

Here's what happened: After I ordered, the girl/woman behind the counter said something like, "You know those both have beer, right?" I can't remember if she said it in a way that suggested beer-flavor (as in, this would be redundant - unlikely, though, given that one was a fruit sorbet, the other a chocolate-based ice cream) or beer-as-in-alcohol. She did then, to be fair, spontaneously hand me a (substantial) spoonful of one of the flavors in order to taste it. I then made a joke about needing a designated driver, kind of to see if this was actually a concern, and she laughed, which would, I suppose, indicate that she did not think this ice cream counted as an alcoholic beverage.

Did it get me drunk? Not quite - I had some vague sense that there was alcohol present, but I may have imagined it. With the bourbon vanilla flavor whenever that was, there was no mistaking it.

And first-time-drunk stories are so cultural. While I never got drunk from this, I do remember that it was very much the thing to have a bit of extra Manishevitz at bat mitzvahs, where cups would just be sitting there, and it was all, like, ceremonial. Of course, looking back on it, that I, at 12, was not intoxicated from this suggests we may have gone with the grape juice.

Petey said...

"I will sometimes - man does typing this make me feel ancient - have a glass of wine with dinner at home, so the Mormons aren't recruiting me just yet."

A glass of wine with dinner is not alcohol consumption, (for everybody but folks like Moebius, of course). A glass of wine with dinner is food. I'm not sure on the precise theology here, but I suspect even Mormons can have a glass of wine with dinner. Otherwise, the whole religion would seem kinda silly, no? What would be next? No coffee?

And given my own experience, and the experience of those who I grew up with, I have certain doubts of the validity of the whole Ashkenazi Alcohol Tolerance thing. I've always assumed it's a cultural, not biological, phenomenon, though I have no zero scientific evidence to back me up, only a multitude of anecdotes.

But if one does feel that one is subject to the whole Ashkenazi Alcohol Tolerance thing, what's the excuse for never even trying Ashkenazi single malt scotch - aka heroin?

Phoebe said...

Ashkenazi alcohol tolerance, who can say? Well, scientists have looked into it. My impression growing up was that 'Jews don't drink' referred to something cultural, and that had already disappeared with my generation. I mean, who knows. When Mark Bittman announced that Jews are lactose intolerant, I was kind of surprised, given that I'm not sure I've ever met a Jew who was lactose intolerant. But anectata=/= data, so I'll just enjoy my lactose tolerance. As for alcohol, I know that I'm capable of tolerating it (unlike Moebius), but wouldn't discount the possibility of a genetic component in the fact that I can give or take the stuff. Not sure what the genetic component is of my need for Italian food all the time.

Petey said...

"When Mark Bittman announced that Jews are lactose intolerant, I was kind of surprised, given that I'm not sure I've ever met a Jew who was lactose intolerant."

Bittman is just a vaguely entertaining clown, which is why I'm always sorta taken aback when you routinely group him with Pollan, who's actually kinda wise.

"Not sure what the genetic component is of my need for Italian food all the time."

Askenazis are really smart. And Italian food is quite objectively the bestest stuff in the whole wide world. So you can do the math on how the genetics function here...

(The Japanese food routinely served up in Japan is probably superior, but it doesn't travel as well outside its local ecosystem as Italian.)

-----

That Ashkenazi genetics link was most interesting to me in confirming my long-held tentative hypothesis that Ashkenazis are about a 50/50 Euro admixture. I've always enjoyed playing the Russian? Ukrainian? Polish? German? game with purebred folks I meet, and humored myself that my guess results were good enough to indicate significant admixture.

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano said...

If the place knows what they're doing (which, if they're making multiple beer ice creams, I'm guessing they do), the way they make the base is to boil down a large quantity of the beer in question to a very small quantity, in order to make it super-concentrated so you can add more of it in order to get a noticeable flavor without adding so much water-and-alcohol mix as to make the ice cream either A) too icy, or B) unable to freeze properly. You're reducing it for so long that the alcohol really does cook off--we're talking reducing it down to something like 1/8 of its original volume, which can take an hour. So if you're reducing a 12 oz. bottle of beer, not only are you boiling off 75% of the alcohol contained (according to the chart linked to above), you're getting a 75% reduced alcohol content on 1.5 oz of beer. Basically, you're getting more booze from residual mouthwash. To judge is preposterous.

(And virtually all desserts have "alcohol" in them. Vanilla extract has an alcohol base, and it's used in most things.)

/formerpastrychefdiatribe

Phoebe said...

Autumn,

We have a winner! (And all this time, I've been making "alcoholic" muffins, brownies, etc.)