The blazing sun of midday was hot enough on its own. Standing in suffocating lines with hundreds of people only made me hotter. My tongue was dry. Sweat ran down my forehead. All I wanted was a scoop of ice cream.
Boy, was I in luck. Instead of one scoop, I got 24.
I was at an ice cream tasting event on a sidewalk in St. Paul, Minnesota, outside Izzy's Ice Cream Café. Each spring, Izzy's asks people to submit their dream ice cream flavors. Then, for 3 hours on one day in June, the café makes 24 of the flavor ideas and invites everyone to come, taste, and vote. Winners receive "People's Flavor Awards," and Izzy's makes the top choice available for a whole year.
Submissions were grouped into 6 categories: Chocolate, Sorbet, Mix-in, Fruit, Specialty, and Kids (entered by kids who are 12 years old or younger). Tickets cost $10, which entitled each ticket-holder to an unlimited number of golf-ball-sized scoops. After the tasting, we voted for a flavor in each category and an overall winner, or "Best-in-Show."
The event, now in its fifth year, seems to grow more popular every year. This year, with brilliant sunshine and temperatures nearing 90 degrees, the lines snaked around the block. The wait for chocolate flavors was especially long. Sorbets were much easier to get.
My favorites included chocolate chip banana bread ice cream and a chocolate flavor with strawberries, peanut butter, and saltine crackers. I also appreciated Mexican vanilla poppyseed, rice ice cream with raisins and cardamom, and a cinnamon-based ice cream with chunks of minidonuts in it.
Some flavors were too weird for me. I didn't like the chocolate with tea combo, for one. Vanilla ice cream with jalapeño jelly and sesame crackers was too spicy. And I liked the first bite of mango salsa sorbet—until my tongue started to burn from the kick.
The overall winner was named "SpongeBob." It was vanilla ice cream with chunks of fruity sponge cake. A kid entered that one. It was too sweet for me, but the rest of the crowd must have liked it a lot.
I'm already dreaming up ideas for next year's competition. Banana ice cream with peanut butter cookie chunks, chocolate chips, and pretzels, perhaps. Or maybe I'll suggest chocolate with coconut, strawberries, and brownies.
If you could invent your own dream flavor, what would it be?—Emily Sohn