A Jew reviews Jeni's Everything Bagel ice cream
For me, it could be even saltier.
This is what people too often forget about the everything bagel. You've got the poppy and sesame seeds, the onion and garlic, and of course the bagel itself (reasonable Jews can, and will, argue about what size and consistency that celebratory circle might take). On top will go shmear and, if you want to get fancy, lox, a little red onion, maybe a slice of tomato and some capers.
But it's the salt that holds everything together. Delicate crystals of flaky sea salt that shatter between your teeth, dissolve on your tongue, demand another bite. Salt is no sidekick— saltis everything.
How could ice cream, even from Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams, ever hope to match, let alone surpass, this most sacred of savory rituals? Is not simply proposing such a prospect sacrilege in itself? For Jeni Britton Bauer's empire, there are no sacred cows— save the Holsteins that produce milk for ice cream.
"It’s schmear! The flavor you never knew you wanted," Jeni'sannounced on Monday at noon, the temporal boundary where most respectable people agree it's acceptable to start eating ice cream. (Bagels, on the other hand: appropriate for every meal.) Here's how the company described the new flavor: "Buttery streusel laden with sesame, poppy seeds — and yes, onions and garlic — woven throughout cream cheese ice cream."
Seeing this declaration, I was excited, then aghast, then excited again. As a person who loves desserts that are "not too sweet," and even expressed at multiple junctions that I possess a "savory tooth" rather than a sweet one, this felt like targeted advertising. It also felt inevitable: Trader Joe's "Everything But The Bagel" seasoning is so vocally loved by Jews and goys alike that it's almost surprising it took this long for a dessert icon to capitalize on the trend.
I didn't waste time. As soon as I got off work, I drove down to their Clintonville location to purchase a $10 pint, returned to my apartment and stuck a spoon in.
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Before I tell you how it tasted, here are my credentials: I am Jewish, and I've eaten a bagel for breakfast about half of the days this month — mostly everythings, some blueberry, usually with cream cheese and smoked salmon (not on the blueberry, although I've tried). My mind on bagels is open: Though I'm now a devotee of Columbus locales such as Blocks and Sammy's, I grew up on and will always love Bruegger's. (Thomas is fine, I guess, and that's all I'll say about that.) I don’t keep kosher, but neither does this ice cream.
On first taste, you may briefly think, "This doesn't taste much like bagel at all." The cream cheese ice cream is delicately textured but subtly flavored, not unlike Jeni's other non-vanilla flavors such as Cream Puff or Sweet Corn. More New York cheesecake than New York bagel, lacking the light twinge of sourness that awakens cream cheese. The crumbling pebbles of streusel, much like dust from a cheesecake crust, agrees.
Then everything else arrives, crisp flecks of onion and garlic urgently pushing against the palate. A moment of cognitive dissonance: Whatarethese spices doing in ice cream? What amIdoing eating this?
I could luxuriate in that moment forever.
This is what people too often forget about garlic and onion: Both possess a natural sweetness, if you cook them the right way. Bite into either when raw and you'll scorch your taste buds and frighten away bystanders with spicy breath. Tenderly cook them in oil — beginning in a cold pan before gradually letting the heat rise — and they'll melt richly into submission.
By my second full bite, I forgot to be confused. By my third, I was a convert. Alliums belong in ice cream, full stop.
Only one thing stopped me from devouring the rest of the pint in one sitting: A lack of salt. I sought that dance between the seasonings, the cycle of craving from which you can't escape. Maybe that's a peace offering to the regulars, a hesitation before slipping too far from dessert territory. But I urge you, Jeni, do not be afraid. Take the step. Cross the Jew-bicon.
Undeterred, I crossed it on my own, sprinkling more flakey sea salt over top and tasting it once again. Now it was undeniable:Thatwas the everything bagel I knew and loved.
Next time, I might even try it with lox.