Category Archives: Food

Schweddy Balls

One of my all-time favorite sketches on Saturday Night Live is the Schweddy Balls bit, with Ana Gasteyer, Molly Shannon and Alec Baldwin. Beyond the obvious joke which they get plenty of mileage out of, the sendup of NPR is pretty great. There have been tons of Weekend Edition Sunday stories that operate at about the same pace.

It was a bit of a surprise this fall when Ben & Jerry’s announced that they would be releasing a limited batch flavor this fall called – what else – Schweddy Balls. I could hardly believe they’d do it, only because that sort of thing tends to get quashed by the no-fun set. It’s totally within character for Ben & Jerry’s. But, as could be expected, people are outraged and it’s not easy to find because of outrage. I’m glad that the most important problem facing our society these days is a limited run ice cream with a tongue-in-cheek name.

Pete Schweddy had a lot of balls. In the interest of large-batch production Ben & Jerry’s must have had to simplify down to the best Pete had to offer. The ice cream is described as “Fair Trade vanilla ice cream with a hint of rum [...] loaded with fudge covered rum and milk chocolate malt balls.” So if you were hoping Pete’s popcorn balls might have made the cut, you’ll be disappointed.

I’m always a sucker for a strange ice cream flavor, even if it doesn’t work. This didn’t strike me as being too strange. As a regular flavor without the name, I might have passed it by. Given my surprise in finding it on a store shelf (Bristol Farms on Westwood Blvd. for my Angelenos), I had to give it a try even though I previously had no real plans to ever hunt it down.

Schweddy Balls is pretty pale, slightly off-white with a small amount of the malt balls visible. My carton is distributed with more a little lower; the first bit of ice cream is mostly just that – ice cream.

At first taste, the rum is very distant and the vanilla takes a lot of precedence. The balls are crunchy with a nice malt flavor and some good texture and a faint hint of rum, but again, not much. There’s a nice, if slightly bland and straightforward chocolate taste at the end of things. It’s about as chocolatey as, say, Magic Shell.

After a few spoonfuls, the rum in the ice cream builds up and becomes a little more pointed and direct. I don’t think I’d go so far as to call it boozy. It’s nice and pleasant and not overboard. Some of the malt balls wind up being just chocolate balls with a hint of rum to them. When you get the full taste of a ball, though, it’s just salty enough to provide a good counterpoint to the rum flavor of the ice cream.

I also noticed a few moments where there’s a distinct tang of Juicy Fruit gum. For me, this isn’t a bad thing. It kind of reminds me of the egg nog yet to come in the next few months.

Schweddy Balls, unfortunately for Pete Schweddy (and Ben & Jerrys) isn’t quite as irresistible as they would have you imagine. In my opinion it’s certainly worth a try and is coming out at the right time of year. If you see a pint and you like malt, rum, and maybe a hint of egg nog, pick it up.

If I were going to rate this on a scale similar to the whiskey scale, this would be a B- – worth trying.

At Last, Ice Cream: The Ardbeg Ten Experiment

As my good friend and local whiskey spirit guide (pun not intended, but I’m not editing it out, so let’s all enjoy it for what it is) Sku noted on his excellent blog, Sku’s Recent Eats, I’ve been lax in addressing the ice cream content this site promises. Well, I’ve actually been working on it. Since he called my bluff, I think it’s time to make good.

But first, a word on the origin of the name. Several months ago, after a great serving of Macallan 18, I knew that a little vanilla ice cream would perfectly settle things down and complement the flavors of the whisky. My wife recoiled in horror at my (serial) pairing of scotch and ice cream. Some days later, we were talking about blogging and I’d mentioned my desire to a blog. She said I should name it “Scotch and Ice Cream”. The name stuck, and when things finally launched, I couldn’t deny it.

I’m sure we’ve all tried — or at least seen — several whiskey-influenced ice creams by this point. One of my favorites has been Jeni’s Ice Cream, who makes a really good whiskey ice cream that balances bourbon flavors nicely. My wife also recently made a Bushmill’s ice cream for her coworkers that was great. This all pointed in the obvious direction: Ice cream made from scotch whisky.

I’m a firm believer that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, and this was one of the best things to overdo. Instead of some dull, middle of the road, bland whiskey, this called for one of the biggest, baddest, boldest whiskies out there: Ardbeg Ten. The pure peat attack of Ardbeg seemed like an interesting and challenging whiskey to tame.

My wife (who has her own blog that I enjoy reading and is vastly less nerdy than my own) worked from the following recipe:

  • 1/3 corn syrup (used due to our lack of honey in this case)
  • 1 & 1/3 cups whipping cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup Ardbeg Ten
All are combined and run in the ice cream maker for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until it’s creamy.

The end result: a slightly yellow and light, airy ice cream…. that just happened to smell like a fresh pour of Ardbeg Ten. The first bite was surprisingly dry – a not altogether pleasant mix of dairy and peat. The smoke is quite intensely strong and dry against the creamy ice cream base. It’s so dry that at times it verges on being slightly chemical in taste. There’s a slight leather taste after a while.

If you’re guessing that this wasn’t a successful experiment, so far, I’d agree. This is not an ice cream as is that you’d scarf down half a pint of.

The next experiment was to try and pair it with two other sweet tastes. The first was simple: honey. After making the ice cream, we happened to have enough honey on hand to complement a small scoop of the Ardbeg cream.

The mix was much more promising: a light mix of sweet, almost floral honey and the Ardbeg peat that couldn’t be missed. The first spoonful was a very solid mix: there was a sharp kick of the Ardbeg, but it was almost immediately balanced by the rich, straightforward sweetness of the honey. The two elements were almost a perfect complement. At moments, one of the flavors would be dominant, but it was quickly balanced by the other.

This seemed to be a much better compliment.

The final test was to use a light spread of the Ardbeg over a chocolate cake. The chocolate cake in question was an old standby: Five minute chocolate cake in a mug. A small amount of ice cream was added to the top of it; not at all unlike the amount you’d get if you ordered a small chocolate cake a la mode. As you’d expect, the smell was dominated by the scent of fresh-baked chocolate.

The mix of chocolate and Ardbeg was a good one. The strength of the chocolate cake dominated the palate; the bittersweet flavor of the chocolate being offset dramatically by the Ardbeg. As things settled down, the chocolate and Ardbeg tastes became less integrated and the more chemical flavor of the Ardbeg became a little more present. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a great change in things.

Ultimately, it’s an interesting experiment. If I were to alter the recipe, I would likely make sure we used honey instead of corn syrup; I’d also use slightly less Ardbeg in hopes of cutting the extreme dryness of it.

I can’t say it was a successful experiment but it was definitely a fun one.

Stay tuned for more experiments. They’ll come around from time to time. If you have any suggestions; I’m all ears. I will note that Usuikyou is strictly off limits in this case.