The first round yesterday was our largest elimination, cutting down 12 flavors to four. Ultimately, Brooklyn Bell, Blue Marble, Uncle Louie G and Ample Hills moved on to Round 2.
Here’s the rub of the bracket system. According to the scores, Ample Hills’ only just eked out a win over the competition, and their overall score was less than that of, say, Davey’s. (“It was that Vanilla Bean,” Morawa said. “I rated it really high.”) But it was best in the quadrant, so it moves on to the next round. Look, I don’t make the rules, that’s up to the NCAA.
In Round 2, the ice creams start with a clean slate and judges can change their scores from round to round. For example, if Eric Silver gave Blue Marble’s vanilla an 8 in the first round, he could use the new ice cream expertise he gained in the last 20 minutes and rate it a 10 in Round 2. As a reminder, we rated the shops on their vanilla and their most popular flavor. Only four will survive this round! Let’s dive in.
186 Underhill Ave, Prospect Heights
220 36th St. ground floor, Industry City
Popular Flavor: Sea Salt Caramel
Hershberger: The Salted Caramel is really butterscotchy. It’s butter buttery. Man, this is interesting.
Silver: It’s got a Dulce de Leche taste to it too.
Hershberger: You know what’s nice about this vanilla? You don’t see any flecks.
Silver: It’s a very smooth, straightforward vanilla. And it’s a good vanilla because it would complement anything you put in it. It would be a good base for a sundae. It would be really good for a milkshake.
Hershberger: This caramel would be great for a milkshake because it’s basically a butterscotch milkshake. It tastes like butter to me. It tastes like buttered popcorn.
Silver: I had been eating all the other things and I was like, OK, this is OK. And then when I had this I was like whoa. This was the first crazy flavor I had.
Hershberger: The wow factor.
Popular Flavor: Salted Crack Caramel
Morawa: This vanilla bean has vanilla flecks in it and that’s such a staple for me liking vanilla and not liking it – the vanilla bean.
Morawa: I should have taken more bites of the Salted Crack Caramel when I first did this. I didn’t realize there was cookie in it. This just changed everything. I was a fool.
Hartnett: I just wrote “yum” and underlined it three times. I love the burnt taste in the crack caramel.
Morawa: The salted crack – it’s like a whole new world to me now. I’m really sad that I judged it so quickly with that one bite I took the first round. I took one bite and was like, I don’t like this. I had to take another one and I didn’t realize there was cookie in it, because the whole time I was thinking, I wish there was like pretzel or chocolate in it.
Brooklyn Bell’s The Local
843 Classon Ave, Crown Heights
Popular flavor: Black Lava Caramel
Silver: What did you think of the vanilla?
Hershberger: I loved it.
Silver: Really? I did not like it. It’s too icy. It didn’t have any creaminess to me. But maybe that’s a thing that you like.
Hershberger: I know what you mean. I think the taste is really crisp and clean, but it didn’t seem watery or icy to me.
Silver: The Black Lava Caramel is interesting. It’s very dark caramel. I feel like I’m eating, like, when you take brown sugar and try to caramelize it, and maybe leave it on a little long. It’s got a real burnt taste, more than the other one [blue marble]. It’s good, but…
Hershberger: I think I kind of like that. I like it a little burn-y. Because for me the blue marble one was a little too buttery. It almost tasted like I was eating popcorn.
Silver: Yeah. I guess it’s going to come down to taste. I like this one, it’s an acquired taste, the Black Lava Caramel.
The Brooklyn Bell Vanilla actually has a richer taste, it’s a pretty rich vanilla. It’s better in taste what it lacks in the consistency for me.
Hershberger: What it loses in consistency it makes up for in flavor.
Uncle Louie G
Popular Flavor: Cookies and Cream
Morawa: I’m not crazy about the cookies and cream. I like the vanilla by itself. It’s light.
Hartnett: It feels like Vanilla but it’s kinda sorbet-ish. The cookies and cream is just super standard. I’m like, oh yeah that tastes perfectly fine.
Morawa: I’m really weird about cookies and cream. When I was a kid and I’d eat it, I’d be like, “this tastes like a fucking stale cookie.”
Hartnett: I’m keeping my scores for the great Uncle Louie’s. She’s with me on the vanilla, by the way.
Morawa: Yeah, the vanilla is really good.
Hartnett: I know! I was a little trepidatious, like maybe I forgot [how it tasted from the first round].
Morawa: I don’t know if I like it more than the vanilla bean from Ample Hills.
Hartnett: See, I do. I definitely like that but I feel like that one tastes store-bought.
Morawa: That is true, though. It’s like a domestic beer of ice cream.
Hartnett: I’m lobbying really hard for this vanilla.
And lobby she did. Our scores for the Final Four are…
Brooklyn Bell’s the Local and Blue Marble move on to the finals! Check back on Monday to see our reviews in the semi-finals, and if our stomachs can actually handle this much dairy.