Day 30: Finale @ Big Gay Ice Cream.
I’d sampled more than 80 trucks/carts thus far, but much to my sweet tooth’s discontent, only 14 were in the form of dessert. For my StreetGrub finale, I wanted nothing more than to oblige to the beckoning of Mr. Softee tunes singing gracefully in the sweet summer air, but in the tradition of my challenge, I needed a truck unfamiliar, so I found refuge from none other than the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. Started by Doug Quint (classically-trained bassoonist) and Bryan Petroff in 2009, the duo sought to bring NYers a delicious departure from your plethora of vanilla-plain soft serve trucks. With classic chocolate or vanilla as a base, BGIC shakes things up via the pairing of highly unlikely toppings. For BGIC-newbies, think gourmet – like Dulce De Leche & sea salt and more out of the box flavors like Wasabi Pea Dust and Toasted Curried Coconut.
The truck normally anchors on 18th and Broadway, but had recently found its way (much to the delight of midtowners) hovering around Bryant Park on weekends. I was met by Genevieve on 40th and 5th, and when told about my challenge and grand finale, she decided to close out my 30 days with an official bang, gracing my palette with a very unofficial concoction – the PimpZilla – a blend of their famous Salty Pimp and Godzilla. The Pimp claims the throne as BGIC’s single best seller- at a rate of 20 times that of their second most sold. It starts life as your typical wafer cone & vanilla base, but gets super fancy quickly when they line it to the brim with Dulce De Leche & a sprinkling of sea salt, and top it all off with a delicious shell of chocolate. To top that all off, my PimpZilla got a dusting of Wasabi Pea Dust, and at first site, the green bits looked a lot like crumbled pistachio.
At first bite however, it tasted worlds different, and sent my mind on a roller coaster tumbling through layer after layer of unexpected yum. The Pea-shell was crunchy, spicy and nutty, yet didn’t clear my nostrils like I’d imagined. With the sweetness of the chocolate, it felt balanced, and had almost a chocolate covered peanut consistency and taste. The vanilla center was creamy and ultra smooth, and the Dulce De Leche I found suspended within was velvety in both texture and flavor, with the sea salt actually enhancing its inherent sweetness. This was not your typical Mr. Softee – it was at once foreign, yet familiar, and I felt downright luxurious eating it.
I have to admit that before today, I felt perplexed about all the hype of BGIC – and began to chalk it off as nothing more than it being a novelty item – with most of its charm coming from the addictive personalities of Doug and Bryan. It is a simple soft serve after all, with two ingredients – ice cream and cone, so little needs to be done to produce the inherent nostalgia that’s sure to ensue. But after my fabulous PimpZilla – with flavors so far from the box it begins to resemble a spec of pea dust – I’m beginning to see that the charm comes also from the happy marriage of a classic with unlikely toppings that somehow work. I’m just happy that the pair stopped short of throwing on tamari – but knowing them, I wouldn’t be surprised if it worked.