Clippings: Big city gets creemee-d by county
Remember that old song about New York City from “On the Town,” the 1944 musical? “The Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down/The people ride in a hole in the groun’/New York, New York, it’s a helluva town!”
Well, my wife and I traveled to the big city a couple of weeks ago and it turns out that the song’s lyricists, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, are right on. By golly, the Bronx is up and the Battery is down. The people really do ride in a hole in the ground (It’s called the subway and we rode it ourselves!). And the last line is true, too. New York, New York, is a helluva a town (or a “wonderful” town for those of you more familiar with the sanitized 1949 movie version of the song).
We packed a lot into a couple of days. We walked forever one afternoon starting down near the Flatiron Building, up through Times Square, past Columbus Circle, along Central Park West and down brownstone streets straight out of the movies. We took in a Broadway show that could not have been better on any level, from the sound and lights, to the wow-moment sets, to the talented cast (one thing that didn’t impress was the $15 bill for a water and a diet soda at the lobby bar). We hiked the High Line, the elevated freight train tracks that were converted a few years ago into a park that winds through the city for about 25 blocks and provides fantastic views and beautiful landscape design. We ate Thomas Keller’s indescribably delicious pistachio French macaroons. We sampled doughnuts at the Doughnut Plant in the Chelsea Hotel (get the tres leches doughnut), and we rode to the Top of the Rock for unbeatable early evening vistas from Rockefeller Center’s observation deck. Everything was incredible. Even our hotel room bathtub had a million dollar view of the Empire State Building!
Yesiree, New York, New York, has got a helluva this and a helluva that. There are superlatives around every corner, but there is one thing New York ain’t got. What it ain’t got is creemees!
OK, you can find soft serve ice cream, but it is hit or miss at best. One night in Times Square — night being a relative term as it is so lit up it passes for day (bring sunscreen) — we stopped at a Mr. Softee truck and got a small vanilla and a small twist. After a couple of licks we scrunched up our noses, gave a two pfffft! salute and declared them airy and flavorless.
The next day we had better luck at Momofuku Milk Bar. The little sweet shop from celebrity chef David Chang and dessert guru Christina Tossi gets a lot of inspiration from the milk that is left in the bottom of your bowl after you eat your breakfast cereal. You can buy whole bottles of milk there that have been steeped with the flavor of Corn Flakes or Cap’n Crunch. You can also get a cereal milk soft serve. Ours was definitely unique. It was very creamy, but it was not, you know, creemee.
As I strolled down Fifth Avenue sucking the last drips of corn flake creemee from the cone, dodging the teeming masses, feeling the heat from the pavement sink up into my tibias and shielding my eyes from the glare off Trump Tower, my mind wandered to the cool breezes, rolling farmland and delicious creemees of Addison County. I realized that New York City’s best creemee is no better than Addison County’s worst creemee and it got me thinking: Who does serve the county’s best creemee?
If you had asked me that question a dozen years ago I would have known the answer. Back then I published in this newspaper the “Creemee Chronicles.” I took four kids to eight creemee stands in three days and reported our findings. Every place was good, but the clear favorite was CJ’s Mickeys, Shirley and Harold Giard’s Bridport mobile home stand that was painted like a cow. The cow trailer still sits on Route 22A, but much to the dismay of creemee connoisseurs it has been vacant for several seasons.
I still remember the first time I stopped at CJ’s. It was an early summer evening. I had an assignment in Addison, but I took the long way through Bridport just to try the place. Taking my order I first noticed the size of the cone. It wasn’t a thumb-and-two-finger cone, it was a whole-hander cone. The ice cream was firm and hefty. And the first lick was a revelation. Buttery rich, dense and creamy, it elevated creemees to a new level. I ate the creemee in the car as I drove up 22A and its deliciousness piqued all my senses. The sun, the sights and the smells were slowly infused with the mouth-watering goodness, the singular sensation, of the new king of creemees. My memory of the moment is so quintessentially summery that despite never owning a convertible I am convinced I was driving that evening with the top down.
Over the next few years I not only ate creemees at CJ’s, but I talked creemees, too. The Giards knew their stuff. If you want to know about butterfat content, chill levels or aeration rates just ask Shirley and Harold. Just don’t ask them if you actually want to have a creemee. That sad fact leaves me thinking that it is about time to search for a new king.
The four kids I took on my first adventure are all grown up, but I have a feeling it won’t be hard to find four new kids willing to go along for what I might call “Creemee Chronicles II: Electric Boogaloo.” Look for it soon in these pages, and if you have a favorite creemee stand in the county that you think I shouldn’t miss, just email me at [email protected]. But if your name is Mr. Softee, don’t bother.
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