Toscanini’s eccentric ice cream flavors tantalize taste buds
Published: Monday, October 22, 2012
Updated: Monday, October 22, 2012 22:10
Does anyone dislike ice cream? (Sorry, lactose-intolerant folks.) I don’t think I’ve ever run across such a person. If you have, I have just the place in mind that could cure them of their strange inhibition.
Once you’ve secured your ice cream patient, get on the BranVan to Harvard Square. Next, take the Red Line one stop to Central Square (or, if it’s a nice day, take a 30-minute walk down Massachusetts Avenue). You will be within three blocks of your destination, just off Mass. Ave., 899 Main St, the home of the ice cream shop called Toscanini’s.
Looking at the blackboard of ice cream flavors inside the cozy shop, I was intimidated. Here’s a sampling of the flavors available when I went (they rotate them): Hydrox cookie (similar to Oreos); ginger snap molasses; Grape-Nuts; rum raisin; bourbon flake; Khulfee; burnt caramel; Belgian chocolate; tea and biscuits; and B3 (brown sugar, browned butter and brownie). I wanted to try something exciting, but I also wanted it to be tasty. Both my ice cream companion and I got two scoops—any more and we wouldn’t have been able to move, any less and we would have missed out on a whole flavor.
I selected Khulfee and tea and biscuits, neither of which you could pick up at the grocery store. Khulfee was a mixture of nuts (mostly pistachios, I think) and cardamom-flavored ice cream. The flavor was deep and multifaceted. The crunchiness of the nuts added to the smooth, rich texture of the ice cream to make eating it interesting not only for my palate but also for my tongue.
My other flavor, tea and biscuits, was a little overpowered by the Khulfee, but it was still very tasty. Large pieces of plain cookie (like a Nilla Wafer) were mixed through ice cream infused with Earl Grey tea. While more subtle than the cardamom-nut ice cream, the tea flavor tasted vibrantly like actual tea.
My companion selected ginger snap molasses and B3 (brown sugar, browned butter and brownie) as his two flavors. I, in the spirit of a true (hog, ahem, I mean) reviewer, sampled some of these flavors as well. The ginger snap molasses was perfectly balanced between those two strong flavors, with both the bite of ginger and the deep sweetness of molasses. The B3 flavor was brown sugar and browned butter-flavored ice cream containing chunks of perfectly cooked brownies. The process of browning butter involves cooking the butter until just before it starts to burn, which gives it a deeper flavor. B3 provided a nice chocolate component paired with the lighter taste of browned butter. The B3 surprisingly wasn’t overwhelmed by the strong flavors of the ginger snap molasses; instead, the two flavors combined well and were a perfect match.
The ice cream is definitely cult-worthy, but the shop’s atmosphere is also noteworthy. The area of comfy couches and a large table well-supplied with a retractable bunch of extension cords hanging above it make it a great place to hang out or get some work done. The shop’s art is rather odd; one of the pictures is of a Victorian-era woman who informs the viewer via superimposed text that she enjoyed standing in the bushes outside peoples’ windows, watching them undress and touching herself.
Keeping with the theme of peculiar, the shop’s television showed a seemingly random stream of YouTube videos without sound (a Japanese synchronized swimming routine, a clip of Singing in the Rain and a video of ice cream cones being mass-produced). All this was to a soundtrack of indie pop, which worked surprising well for the man’s dance in Singing in the Rain. When I went on a Friday evening, it was hard to snag a seat, but at a less busy time, I would definitely bribe myself to write a paper by holing up there for several hours with some ice cream. While two scoops for $5.50 was a little pricey, I can’t wait to go back to try more of Toscanini’s innovative flavors. 10/10