big gay ice cream

eater's digest: indulging in the east village

Since my last post was an uber-healthy recipe for a veggie breakfast smoothie, what better to follow with than an ode to indulgent junk food?

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know I'm really excited about my summer discovery of the nerdy, hilarious food lecture series, Masters of Social Gastronomy (MSG). The first of their talks I attended was on gelatin, which inspired me to go home and make a beautiful jello mold. (Beautiful, that is, until I flipped it upside down, and the half-firm cream layer reminded me that sometimes I should follow a recipe instead of my typical DIY cooking-on-the-fly. The good news is - it was still absolutely delicious!)

I returned to MSG this month for a lecture on ice cream, (which was packed! with delicious samples!) which of course led me to crave the 'cream, hard. So my friends and I devised an ingenious plot to hit up one of the most happening froyo spots in the city - Big Gay Ice Cream.

Of course, it's not really healthy to have ice cream for dinner, is it? (Say no.) Right, agreed. So what just happened to be around the corner from Big Gay? Crif Dogs - the infamous East Village purveyor of hot, salty meat on a bun.

Now, both of these stops on the oh-so-delicious-and-bad-for-you tour were first-time eats for me, making them all the more delightful. In anticipation of an ambitious dessert, I opted for a simple Crif Dog with sauerkraut and mustard - which was, frankly (pun intended), an amazing choice because you could really taste the meat. The Crif Classic, a smoked beef and pork dog, is an ingenious combo of all the things you love about both high- and low-end 'dogs. The meat doesn't taste like "mystery" - it tastes like a smoky, salty, sweating-with-flavor delight on a bun. (Except the bun was much too dry/bland for me. Probably holds up well to the wetter/wilder Crif combos, however).

So after enjoying the tried-and-true NYC meal of hotdogs on a sidewalk, we headed to Big Gay to join the line of eager patrons.

Something I have to give Big Gay major props on,  from the start, is the people in their line seem excited - not miffed, not cynical, but genuinely eager to be in line. I might attribute this to the unicorns and fairy dust that seem to emanate from the place. It really is special, from tip to toe. Also, newbies get a sidewalk menu consultation with a staff member (which is really reassuring and helpful, because when you get inside you will be overwhelmed). I, of course, asked many probing questions about the must-have cones and alternative combinations, and recommend everyone else take full advantage of the very happy staff's expertise at that point.

...Because once you get inside, you need to order - fast. Salty pimp is a classic, you absolutely cannot go wrong with salt, caramel injected soft serve, and chocolate dip. But I was craving the smashed pretzels of the chocolate globs cone (also salty and dipped in chocolate) and I wanted some caramel - so after a bit of back-and-forth, the hilarious man at the counter told me exactly what I needed to have. Chocolate globs, twist soft serve, bourbon caramel. A cone so ripe with all-that-is-right-in-the-world (see: toppings) that it literally needs to be laid down in a little plastic cradle so you can attack it without it exploding into delicious bits.

And you know what? I did not feel disgusting, over fed, or bad about myself after that double-duty indulgence in the East Village. I felt victorious. (Even though now, writing about it, I kind of feel like I'm on speed. Which is actually how my sugared-up friend Gillian sounded when expressing her excitement about Big Gay on the walk home.)

The moral of the story is:

1) Don't go to food lectures hungry, unless you want to be "inspired". 2) Big Gay Ice Cream shop is amazing. Literally magical. And has a higher buttermilk content than most soft serve around. 3) You could do far worse than a plain 'ol juicy dog chez Crif. 4) If for some reason you do get a junk food hangover, I've still got your back in the morning.