Time for Ice Cream, Corn Dogs and Frozen Bananas

Independence Day has sneaked up on us again and we wish you a week filled with plenty of popsicles, cold beer and bbq! July 4th also means it’s county fair time, one of my family’s favorite summertime rituals. We love to see the ducklings, chicks and baby pigs… the quilts, model trains and tractors. I even like browsing the odd collection of whittled art and displays of week-old, once beautiful pies. We hit the fair a few days early this year and I can happily report that 2012 was very good indeed — there were baby animals galore, my son got to pet a snake, I got to paint my very own pet rock, and we saw some truly teensy, walnut-sized hamsters (and who doesn’t love an itsy bitsy hamsters?).

But of course for me it always comes back to food and no day at the fair could be complete without our annual intake of junky carnival eats. For my husband that means sauced-up ribs or a pulled pork sandwich, some buttery corn on the cob for my cousin Ali, ice cream with rainbow sprinkles for Luca and a slushy lemonade and a corn dog with mustard for me. But no matter your preference when it comes to fair food, every member of my family would agree that you’ve gotta wash it all down with at least one chocolate-covered, frozen banana.

make your own gif

make your own gif

You might also like this red white and blue-themed guest post from 2010 from our friend Erika which involves cake baking, fun-fetti and a cherished family tradition. If you haven’t decided what to bring to that backyard bbq yet, you might give this crowd pleasing dessert a try.

A Sweet Trip Back in Time: The Ice Cream Bar, Cole Valley

We made countless drives past The Ice Cream Bar in Cole Valley (815 Cole Street, at Carl) while it was still under construction —  drooling and plotting our first visit. It opened this month and we finally got our chance to stop in for a banana split and a twirl on the counter stools. The 1930’s ambiance alone (think wood, chrome, servers clad in white hats and aprons) gets a big thumbs up from both me and the kids. If you love vintage, trust me… this will be up your alley. But the menu is pretty interesting too.

The ice cream has it’s hipster moments, but it’s very traditional compared to what you’ll find at other hot spots like Humphry Slocombe, Bi-Rite Creamery or Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous. They showcase a short list of flavors among which you’ll likely find versions of old favorites like vanilla, milk chocolate and pistachio. The ice cream is solid, but I think this is much more of a sitting at the counter and having a sundae kind of place. We looked no farther than the banana split because it combined three flavors of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, tart cherry), hot fudge, butterscotch, tart cherries with syrup, whipped cream and toasted almonds. The best part was definitely the caramelized banana which the gal behind the counter bruleed to order, and it was all served up in a perfectly old fashioned stainless steel footed dish with long handled spoons. I can’t remember the last I had a banana split and in these days of olive oil splashed sundaes and bacon brittle, it was a nice return to the classics.

So you can go old school with the ice cream, but you can go, really, really old school at the soda fountain in back with turn of the century style sodas, frappes, phosphates, malts and the like. Their huge list of housemade extracts, syrups, and tinctures is kind of overwhelming with what seems like a hundred flavors ranging from sweet and dessert-y to medicinal — pineapple, pink peppercorn, rosemary, dill, and chicory coffee to name a few. You can get lost in the possibilities but luckily you can also just go with a tride and true made-to-order rootbeer or one of their signature creations. It’s a a really fascinating concept that starts the wheels turning about homemade soda experiments at home, and it’s  a great way to take the little ones on a mini trip back in time while discovering some new flavors at the same time.

The Ice Cream Bar place isn’t fast and it isn’t cheap, but that’s just part of the deal here. If you go in the evening or on the weekend, chances are you wont come by a seat too easily, so this is probably most do-able with kids in tow as a special afterschool treat. We hear they are going to be offering beer and wine, sandwiches, hot dogs and snacks in the coming weeks too.

Check out these other ice cream and soda fountain faves: Really Refreshing Fresh Lime Soda, We Love Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, Delightful Treats at the Twirl & Dip Soft Serve Ice-cream Truck , Smitten with Smitten ice Cream

Just Banana Ice Cream (1 ingredient, minutes to make, no ice cream maker necessary)

We saw this recently on The Kitchn and wanted to test it for ourselves. I was dubious — could frozen bananas in the food processor be anything but “frozen bananas in the food processor”? Turns out this is surprisingly ice cream-like while being healthy, easy and most importantly, super FUN. This could never replace honest-to-goodness ice cream, but it guiltlessly satisfies a sweet tooth and is a handy dessert to pull out of your pocket when your favorite vegan comes calling.

Just Banana Ice Cream (adapted from, The Kitchn)

  • Slice and freeze ripe bananas 1-2 hours, or until solid. One banana per person is more than enough.You may not believe it, but it tastes quite rich so a small scoop is all you need.
  • Blitz the frozen banana slices in a food processor adding other flavors if you like — maybe a spoon of peanut butter, a drizzle of chocolate sauce or honey or a splash of vanilla. (I think Ria would go for Nutella). Just keep pulsing until the banana starts to look crumbly, then smooth. Test with a spoon to see if it scoops like ice cream. If not, pulse it a little more.
  • You need make this right before you want to eat it and serve it straightaway. It’s not one to make ahead.

Giant Sundaes on a Sunday

I am surprised it took me so long to hear about Fenton’s Creamery in Oakland – it is supposedly a Bay Area institution.  And of course, once I found out I was on a mission to go on a food ‘venture.  Ria and I got ourselves all fired up by looking at the photos on Yelp and the Fenton’s website (do check out & drool).  The strategy was laid out – which sundaes we were going to eat and how we were going to share the entree so we would have plenty of room for ice cream.  The whole week was spent obsessing about the dream sundaes.

We begged and prevailed and Papa took us one Sunday evening across the bridge for our great ice cream adventure.  At Fentons, we were greeted by spectacular crowds and immediately the strategy changed.  Dinner at Little Shin Shin restaurant (supposedly the best Chinese restaurant in Oakland) down the street and takeout sundaes afterwards.

Finally the moment of truth came, we ordered a junior black & tan.  While we waited, Ria and I walked around and gawked greedily at other people’s cartoonishly large sundaes.  Ria even before eating a bite kept saying, “Let’s come back with (insert name of friend)”.   Ok, stop already.  She definitely possesses some of my more annoying traits.

It wasn’t great ice cream.  Maybe the giant expectations I had ruined it for me. Great to look at, but unfortunately not great in the mouth.  Maybe, we are spoiled by Bi-Rite and homemade ice cream.  I was so ready to be won over but wasn’t.  Ria, on the other hand had stars in her eyes and could not believe that she was being allowed to eat so much ice cream.  That in itself I think was enough for her.

As we drove away, I was thinking how Fenton’s is everything that is good and bad about America all in one sundae.  I swore never to eat ice cream again (yeah, right).  That brought to mind Berthillon in Paris where they give you such tiny scoops that you leave and 10 years later you are still dreaming about their ice cream.  While I was waxing philosophical on ice cream, Ria prattled on and on about how much she loved Fenton’s and wanted to go back, maybe for her birthday party.  I guess for some of us, size is everything.