Ice Cream Tasting:A Different Food Experience

By Rosalie E. Leposky

For a different way to celebrate a birthday or other occasion, try an ice cream tasting party following the general rules and traditions associated with wine tasting.

Select your testing sample from premium ice creams and other frozen desserts made by national and regional companies, and fresh-packed ices, ice creams and yogurts from ice cream shops. We tasted premium products of three companies -- Ben & Jerry's, Edy's and Häagen-Dazs. When you can add new product lines to your tasting experience. One new line of sorbet's is Natural Choice "certified organic" sorbet's.

John Harrison

Each taster received a rating sheet and spoons. "Silver spoons are preferable to wood and plastic spoons that have a resin and leave an aftertaste," says John Harrison, Edy's Grand Ice Cream official taster. A fourth-generation ice cream taster who uses a gold spoon, he spends four or five hours a day tasting about 60 different batches a day, taking four or five seconds for each taste. Three rounds of samplings of similar products took my family about an hour.

We tasted three vanilla ice creams, three chocolate ice creams, and one raspberry sherbet/sorbets. "Vanilla is still the favorite flavor in the United States, and makes up 80 percent of all ice cream sold. Chocolate, in second place, hold 10 percent of the market, with Rocky Road the favorite chocolate flavor. In third place is butter pecan. Strawberry used to be third but now is fourth. Fifth place is held by Neapolitan (chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla) ice cream."

For each round, I placed the tasting samples in the same order on fresh sampler plates. Harrison tastes the most complicated combinations of flavors last, but we modified his approach, moving from vanilla to chocolate to raspberry sherbet/sorbet. As with wine tasting, we followed each tasting with a group discussion and cleansed our pallets with salt-free Melba Toast.

When we finished the three official tasting rounds, we each built an individual banana split or sundae with our own favorite selections from the products we had just tasted.

Tasting Steps

Harrison says "the 9,000 taste buds of a participant's palate should be clean before tasting begins, and free from the lingering effects of alcohol, spicy food, and tobacco." Taste buds detect basic taste -- bitter, salt, sour/acid, and sweet -- but taste is only one of the five key senses we use to judge ice cream. The others are smell, sight, temperature, and texture.

Harrison recommends the following 11 steps of ice cream tasting:

Rosalie E. Leposky is managing partner of Ampersand Communications, a news-features syndicate based in Miami, Florida.

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