All posts by Amy

Retro Space Saka, Sapporo’s museum of vintage and oddities

I spotted Retro Saka in a tourist brochure picked up from New Chitose Airport, and knew immediately I had to visit. Billed as a “vintage museum,” it seemed like just the kind of unique local attraction I favor over regular ol’ art and history museums. The brochure didn’t list the address or operating hours, and googling it didn’t provide a lot more information. Apparently it’s been open since 1994, but it’s still quite under the radar. It has no website, although it does seem to have a Facebook page (liked by 125 people, as of this writing), and it’s ranked #129 of 350 attractions on TripAdvisor (none of the reviews is in English).

But, my fellow Americans and other English-speaking people, you should visit this place if you go to Sapporo. For one thing, it’s free! And photos are allowed, and there are a lot of things you’ll want to get photos of.

Some background, according to the Facebook page and one of the two English articles on this place: the museum is the personal collection of Kazutaka Saka, director of the Saka Biscuit company (Saka Eiyo Shokuhin K.K.). The company was founded in 1950, and it’s crackers are well known in Hokkaido. As far as I can tell, Mr. Saka is still alive and adding to the museum. Most of the items are everyday objects from the 1940s through the 1970s.

I walked from Maruyama Park (about 30 minutes) but you can take the Tozai line to Nijuyonken Station and walk about 10 minutes. There is no English signage, and the building has little to indicate it’s an attraction, so memorize what the outside looks like before you go or you might walk right past it.

Seems legit.

Looking from the outside, you can tell that calling it a “museum” is a bit generous. Step inside, and it feels more like a cramped old shop. Or a perverted grandfather’s house. That’s because the first “exhibit” you’ll see is this:

At this point, you might be asking yourself if you’ve made a huge mistake coming to this place.

 

What appears to be a picture of Kazutaka Saka, in front of a birdcage of dolls.

There was no one else, either visitor or staff, inside. This was around noontime on a Friday. I guess they really trust people to not touch or steal anything. Most of the items are simply set out, not behind any barriers (again, it was like being in a shop or home).

There are no plaques or explanatory texts anywhere, and the displays are basically a random assortment of collections. In one room, most of the items seemed to be from the 1950s–a collection of those perfume bottles with the squeezy balloon thing, trays of cigarette packs, shelves of cameras, a corner with half a dozen geisha wigs, etc. In one hallway, cases of creepy dolls. A shelf of gas masks. Mannequin limbs. And all throughout, vintage erotica.

Geisha wigs. They’re huge. They seemed to be made out of real hair.

 

Gas masks.

 

Saka luchador mask.

 

Bunch of rotary dial phones.

 

The panty nook.

 

Here’s a blender and a mannequin head.

 

A fat “Millennial pink” phone.

 

Random knick knacks.

 

A nice collection of lamps. And instruments. And erotic plates.

 

Vintage cigarettes.

 

Not sure what these are.

 

Icky “Sambo” merchandise.

It took maybe 30 minutes to get a look at everything. To exit, you can go out the way you came, or you can walk into an adjacent room where Saka products are sold. There are a few shelves with different kinds of crackers, and it’s all incredibly normal and disjointing, considering the preceding weirdness. I bought a bag of their most famous product, the Sapporo Beer Crackers (around ¥100, or $1), and ate them as I walked to the train station.

Retro Space Saka
レトロスペース・坂会館
3-22, 3-7 Nijyuyonken
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan

Cuabing/Baobing (剉冰/刨冰), Traditional Taiwanese Shaved Ice

I still haven’t had the heart to unfollow Ample Hills and Davey’s on Instagram even though I simultaneously cry and drool whenever I see Ooey Gooey Butter Cake…

But when it’s out of sight it’s out of mind, because Taiwan has its own cult of cold desserts, and I’m a convert if not a true believer.

I was at a friend’s house last week when she served us with small bowls of shaved ice on top of a few taro balls, mung beans, peanuts, red beans, sweet potatoes, and aiyu jelly. We spooned black sugar syrup over it and then filled the bowl half-way with milk.

This is the sort of dish that since I was a little kid I’ve seen my mom eat. It’s also the sort that made me turn up my nose. I remember my mom using our popsicle mold to make red bean or peanut soup popsicles, and I remember never being even a little bit tempted to try one.

To my American tastes, everything about many traditional Taiwanese desserts was all mixed up and weird. Taro, sweet potatoes, beans? These foods should be salty and hot, not sweet and certainly never cold. Desserts should be rich and toothsome, not aqueous and slick. Peanuts should be salty if not honey-roasted/embedded within a candy bar; they should be crunchy unless boiled (in which case they definitely need to be salty). The only Q food is Jell-O, and that should only be eaten if you are in a hospital or a public school cafeteria. Actually, even then you probably shouldn’t eat it.

Assimilating is fun! It’s also a proven coping strategy when you’re a foreigner who has had strong opinions about dessert. This dish I had at my friend’s house—I’ve since hunted down a vendor near my house so I can eat it all the time.

It’s called cuabing (剉冰). Apparently “cuabing” is a Taiwanese word; in Mandarin it’s called baobing (刨冰; bàobīng). Both literally translate as “shave ice.” It consists of unflavored shaved ice similar to the texture of a snowcone. It’s sweetened with black sugar syrup and is topped with at least a few ingredients such as:

  • Red beans (紅豆; hóngdòu)
  • Mung beans (綠豆; lǜdòu)
  • Grass jelly (仙草; xiāncǎo)
  • Aiyu jelly (愛玉; àiyù)
  • Konnyaku jelly (蒟蒻; jǔruò)
  • Tapioca pearls (珍珠; zhēnzhū)
  • Tofu pudding (豆花; dòuhuā)
  • Taro balls (芋圓; yùyuán)
  • Sweet potatoes (地瓜; dìguā)
  • Peanuts (花生; huāshēng)
  • Lotus seeds (蓮子; liánzi)
  • Fruit (水果; shuǐguǒ)
  • Milk (牛奶; niúnǎi)

Stands serving cuabing and other traditional cold snacks are very common near street markets.

Small stand inside the morning market on Minxiang Street, Yonghe District.
Cuabing toppings.
Taiwanese ice shop
Shaved ice shop at the end of the evening market near my house.
From right to left: mango shaved ice, xue hua bing, burnt sugar bao bing (cua bing), hand-made douhua (tofu pudding). 45 NTD (roughly $1.50 USD) for a giant bowl of cuabing with four toppings.
Cua bing.
A drizzle of burnt sugar ,or black sugar, syrup.
Cua bing toppings.
Toppings underneath the ice. From top left, clockwise: tapioca pearls, grass jelly, peanuts, taro balls.

Cuabing is a traditional preparation of  shaved ice that contrasts with xuehuabing (雪花冰; xuěhuābīng), which often also gets called “shaved ice” when named in English.

Xuehuabing’s shaved ice is a water-milk mixture, resulting in a smooth ice cream–like texture and a milky flavor. It’s usually topped with sweetened condensed milk, fruit (Taiwan is especially known for its mango shaved ice), and ingredients like tapioca pearls, tofu pudding, and ice cream/sorbet. Xuehuabing is the more modern, sexy style of shaved ice that’s popular with younger people and people outside Taiwan. It’s infinitely more Instagrammable and way sweeter, so I feel certain it’s only a matter of time before it becomes mega trendy in the U.S. (outside of California, I mean). Is Ice Monster franchising yet? A summer pop-up in New York City would be an absolute coup.

Monster Ice.
Monstrous xuehuabing from Monster Ice. I’ve got a coffee flavored one, my friend’s got a milk tea flavor.

I’m crazy about xuehuabing, but I love cuabing too for all the ways it’s not like xuehuabing. I love that it’s stubbornly unphotogenic and drably colored. That it’s a dessert topped with ingredients that wouldn’t be out of place in a healthy dinner. That it’s dirt cheap and often found in a tiny open-air shop with zero amenities. Unpretentious and refreshing, it’s the perfect cap to my weekly fruit/vegetable shopping trips to the market.

Hug Cafe: My Favorite Neighborhood Spot

I ran across the Hug Cafe while doing one of my very favorite things: walking around the streets aimlessly. It’s a hobby that’s served me well in Taipei because there are a million small alleys that branch off the larger roads. They tend to be residential but it’s not at all uncommon to find a lode of food/market vendors or a cute cafe. Hug Cafe is tucked away on a short lane right off the very busy Yongzhen Street (永真路), near Baersanpaozhan Park (八二三紀念公園). It’s hard to see the cafe itself from Yongzhen Street except for the small but bright white sign.

Hug Cafe sign.
Hug Cafe sign. “喝個咖啡” is literally Hē Ge Kā Fēi (pronounced “Huh guh kah fay”).

The facade of the cafe is glass and there’s a small front porch area with a bench. It makes me a little sad that the place is in an alley that doesn’t allow much sunlight to shine in. Instead, the front porch is mostly for customers to take a smoke break. And a place for the resident cat (not pictured) to chill.

Hug Cafe Front
Front of the cafe.

Inside you can seat yourself if a table is open. There are a good number of two-tops, a short bar, and a couch area that seats about four people. I tend to go on weekday afternoons (~2 p.m.) and late evenings (~7 p.m.), and early evenings (~4 p.m.) on the weekend. There have always been open tables during those times, but the one time I went around noon on a weekend, the place was packed with a long waiting list. Brunch time should be avoided if you’re wanting to study or work. Any other time there’s the right amount of other people to enjoy “being alone together.”

Hug Cafe Interior
Two-tops up front, four-tops and couch in the back.
Hug Cafe Bar
View of the bar from the back of the cafe.

Hug Cafe is my favorite place in Yonghe District to study and work. There’s free wi-fi, plug outlets, and as far as I can tell, no time limit on tables (obviously you should be courteous and not camp out for hours if there are people waiting to be seated). It’s not too loud or too quiet. I even like the music playing on the speakers most of the time—English/Chinese/Japanese pop punk and indie rock. There’s a Radiohead poster in the bathroom and a little bookshelf with what looks like Chinese-language indie band CDs for sale, so I’m guessing the owner has cool taste 👌. They must be into toys too, because tons of them are hanging out on the counter.

Toys Hanging Out
Toys on the counter. They probably come to life when the cafe is closed.

The service has always been polite and the right amount of attentive. I love that they offer a basket to set your things in. I’ve been to several cafes in Taiwan that do this and I think American cafes/restaurants should take note. It’s a small thing that makes a big statement about your hospitality and a huge improvement in customer comfort and convenience. In the dead of winter earlier this year, Gothamist rightfully railed against “winterspreading,” but New York businesses need to do better a job than a hook or two on the wall. I understand that space is tight, but I’m not asking for a damn coat/bag check. A wicker basket under the table or chair will do!

Basket for Your Things
Basket for your things. This needs to become a thing in the U.S.

I digress.

The Hug Cafe menu features coffee and espresso drinks, tea, milks, juice, and some small dishes. The coffee is good; the espresso drinks are decent. In the U.S., I would think the barista doesn’t know their craft if they gave me a cappuccino with as much foam as the drink pictured below has, but I’m starting to think that Taiwanese people simply prefer a lot of milk foam on their espresso drinks. This foam was the smooth, melting, micro-bubble foam that is the hallmark of a quality cappuccino, not the nasty stiff unmixable foam of lousy Starbucks cappuccinos. There was just a lot of it.

Hug Cafe Cappuccino
Hug Cafe cappuccino, milk foam 很多.

The milk tea is house-made, and I continue to prefer the stronger flavor of powder-mix milk tea like that of CoCo. It’s the same way I felt about house-made chai in the U.S.—I appreciate the effort, but the pre-packaged mix/concentrate will always have a stronger flavor. The Japanese matcha milk, though, I really enjoyed. I hadn’t expected it to have milk foam art, so when the server set it in front of me I about died of delight. This drink made me smile like an idiot.

Japanese Matcha Milk.
So. Much. Cute. Then I drank its face.

I haven’t tried any of the light meals yet. Waffles, sandwiches, and some rather random hot dishes (Mexican chicken, New Orleans wings—what?) can be had for 140-250NT. I’m kind of skeptical about the hot dishes, but I’ve seen the waffles and they look and smell really good.

Hug Cafe is exactly the type of coffee shop I hope to stumble upon when I’m wandering around a neighborhood. Now I’m there almost every week. I definitely recommend it as a place to study/work, read, or hang out over cute milk foam art.

Hug Cafe (喝個咖啡吧)
No. 2, Lane 282, Yongzhen Rd.
Zhonghe District, New Taipei City, 235
hugcafe2010.blogspot.tw

Sugar Hunting at Le Hua Night Market

It only took me exactly one month to finally go to a night market, and like many delightful evenings, it started off with a quest for shoes. Night markets attract lots of other stores outside of their designated streets, so I happened to be in the area to pick up some everyday kicks that Taipei’s rain will inevitably destroy. I would have looked for beaters within the actual market except none of those Asian mystery brand shoes will fit my gigantic American feet. I’m 100% serious. Sizes top out at one size below what I wear, so I’m stuck with Nikes, Vans, and other American brands as long as I call Taiwan home. Things could be worse.

Fresh Roshes. Need some waterproofing spray.

Nearby was the Le Hua Night Market, which as far as I can tell is the only night market in Yonghe District. How lucky that it’s only a 10 minute walk from my apartment!

Zhongshan Road entrance to Le Hua Night Market.
Inside Le Hua market.
Inside Le Hua market.

It was raining a little and only 6 p.m., so it wasn’t too crowded—exactly how I prefer it so there are fewer people staring when I take 15 minutes to type menus into an app on my phone and then order in broken Chinese. The language barrier makes any kind of self-serve situation really appealing because I don’t have to talk to anyone. But I think I was also drawn to this candy store because of the visual appeal of a big pile of candy:

Sugar! Yay!

Lots of fruit jellies and milk candies. I picked maybe 20 different varieties weighing around a quarter pound. It cost 55 NT (~$1.50).

I had jiǎozi (餃子; dumplings) for dinner because they’re easy to order. There are lots of stands that have foodstuffs on display, and I guess you’re supposed to choose what you want cooked. But I can’t tell what a lot of the foods are and how they’re prepared, so I’m going to hold off on trying any of those until I’m accompanied by a native.

The shaved ice stand, though, méiwèntí (沒問題; no problem). There are two shaved ice stands in Le Hua, so I will try the other one another time.

Shaved ice stand.
Shaved ice stand.

I ordered a mango shaved ice and tried to say “no milk,” but the lady topped it with sweetened condensed milk anyway. Like bubble tea, I think it was something that I actually liked all along.

Mango shaved ice. A dessert you can eat and not hate yourself afterward.

It also had a mango syrup (very good) and a comically weak smattering of sprinkles. Of course this is not half as rich, creamy, sweet as the American ice cream I know and love and am no longer seeing (see the this post’s footnote). But I shouldn’t compare because they’re wholly different things. i.e., shaved ice is not ersatz ice cream. Taiwan’s take on cold+sweet+creamy dessert is light in texture and sweetness, which matches fruit flavors and flavors like green tea and red bean. These are flavors that don’t need to be delivered via tongue-coating fat.

Other shaved ice flavors.
Other shaved ice flavors.

Food is the main draw, but you can also find clothing, shoes, jewelry, home goods, and toys at the night market. While I can’t fit the shoes, I can fit the clothes. But most of it isn’t really my style. Let’s just say that from my American perspective, most of the women’s clothing strikes me as ultra girly and excessively kěài (可爱; cute). OR, it features hilarious Engrish:

“Satiety”?? Someone’s been using a thesaurus.
I thought this was a cool design ruined by really uncool English.
I thought this was a cool design ruined by really uncool English.
Gslfw sdgmz qpues sljgrt? Ywqca lpmfd ytmzn mmwzg ghwk.
Gslfw sdgmz qpues sljgrt? Ywqca lpmfd ytmzn mmwzg ghwk.
It's obvious what happened here. The designer was inspired by a
It’s obvious what happened here. The designer was inspired by a “Baby On Board” sign.
“Stools” never, ever belongs on a shirt.
I guess "COMPUTER" and "CONVERSE" look pretty similar when printed on a T-shirt.
I guess “COMPUTER” and “CONVERSE” look pretty similar when printed on a T-shirt.
lnd_160a056a-9fbc-465d-b245-9f3dcc49a760-1
Lunkers.
No Engrish here. I just thought this was a cute pattern and wanted to share.

I couldn’t stop laughing while I was browsing the racks. Is this how Chinese people feel when non-Chinese people use Chinese characters for tattoos and other decorations? Engrish isn’t new to me but it never fails to amuse.

One Month Anniversary in Taipei

Today marks exactly one month in Taipei. I can’t believe it’s gone by so fast. Between school and work, I hardly have time to explore the city, but I’m hoping at least my weekends will free up soon.

My big and small observations for the past 30 days:

  • One should never, ever, drink the tap water. My first week here, I got very sick from doing so. Filter it and boil it thoroughly before drinking.
  • It rains in Taipei a LOT. I estimate it has rained 85% of my 30 days here. Days and days go by without seeing the sun or keeping my shoes dry. It’s a real drag and I’m hoping April forward is drier. Carry an umbrella always and invest in waterproof shoes.
  • Studying Chinese at NTU is as effective as you want it to be. I want to be fully fluent in reading/writing/speaking by the end of 2016, and I think it will take a lot more studying and practice outside of class/homework to get there.
  • There are not nearly as many Americans in the NTU Chinese language program as I thought there would be. It’s incredibly diverse. My four classmates are Japanese, Kyrgyz, French (New Caledonian), and Thai. In the class I switched out of, my five classmates were Japanese (2), Korean, Slovakian, and American.
  • New York City’s on-demand economy spoiled me. Push Button, Receive What You Want doesn’t really exist in Taiwan. Time to re-learn brick-and-mortar shopping.
  • International cuisine should be viewed with much suspicion. I’ve not tried any American, Italian, Indian, Mexican, etc. food here, and that’s because everything about it screams ersatz. “American-style breakfast” usually means hamburgers, McDonald’s-style hashbrowns (the fried ovoid-patty kind), and other extremely salty, greasy, heavy foods. Google image search “taiwan+american style breakfast” to see what I mean:

    "American-Style Breakfast" in Taiwan
    Looks like McDonald’s is actually America’s most effective ambassador to Taiwan.
  • Pleco is a(n  inter)national treasure and I can’t believe it’s free. I would gladly pay big bucks for this app. It’s indispensable for learning Chinese.
  • In the U.S., I thought I didn’t like bubble tea. I was wrong all along and I actually love it. Enjoyment of tofu and bean curd still elude me.

Destroy Everything in a Calm and Orderly Fashion

I began dismantling my life in earnest about two weeks ago. In another two weeks, I will begin reassembling it 7,000+ miles away.

I’m leaving New York City for Taipei. It’s been a slow-motion exit, where the inkling to leave flitted across my mind nearly two years ago in 2014.  I can recall seeing a vision of my future that was not taking place in the city. It’s scary to see such a thing, because you can’t know how that vision will be realized. You only know that it means your current situation and any settled-ness and comfort that you have presently will somehow dissolve.

I felt that the least I could do was investigate how I might live in other places, so I traveled to San Francisco, Portland, and Los Angeles. Portland was the frontrunner, but I still didn’t have any idea how to get there. It’s extraordinarily hard to escape the inertia of your life, even when you have the desire for change. Fear of uncertainty and fear of hardship can keep you humming along the same track for a long, long time.

So sometimes it’s a real blessing when your hand is forced and the uncertainty and hardship come directly to you. In July 2015, I was laid off from my job. When an executive at the company broke the news to me, I immediately, reflexively began crying. Then I walked out of there and felt a surreal freedom to finally pursue a number of goals that were never going to be met as long as I worked at that company.

One of those goals was to visit Taiwan, which I did for one month over September and October. It had been a decade since my last visit, and it was the first time that I went by myself. The language barrier and the cultural differences were challenging, but rising to those challenges invigorated me. I was learning constantly, even if it was just sitting on the bus trying to read the stops or trying to order a cup of coffee.

When I returned to New York, I found that absence had not made my heart grow fonder. The growing sense that I was no longer suited for the city escalated into an urgent impulse to go somewhere, anywhere else. I looked at apartments and job listings on the West Coast and even toyed with the idea of moving back to Alabama (I was that desperate). I also applied to the Chinese learning program at National Taiwan University.

When I got the acceptance letter, I thought “OK, this is an actual possibility” but still balked at what it would take to get there. What kind of paperwork do I have to do? Will my job allow me to go? How am I going to find a place to live? What am I going to do with my apartment in New York? Will I lose the friendships and community I so love and rely on? Is this a huge irreversible mistake that is going to ruin me financially, professionally, and personally? I waffled on making a decision until after New Year’s Day, at which point I had less than 2 months to prepare for leaving New York/the country, if that was indeed my decision.

Or, I should say it felt like my decision was being made for me as everything slowly fell into place. I basically hopped onto a Gantt chart that started January 1 and leads up to February 22, registration day for the program and the latest day I absolutely have to be in Taipei in order to enroll. Housing, job, plane ticket, visa, moving arrangements, all of it fell into place. There were definitely moments where I was given over to despair and panic–“I’m ruining my life! I regret this decision!”–but really, there was divine providence in the speed and smoothness with which each task was accomplished.

I couldn’t have asked for a more calm and orderly way to dismantle life in New York. Let’s see how the rebuilding process goes in Taipei.

P.S. This blog is no longer about ice cream. I broke up with ice cream around November 2015. We still hang out sometimes.

Summer Scenes in Old New York

The wave of superpremium, creatively flavored ice cream we’re enjoying now is relatively new, but New York has been an ice cream city since the 19th century. By the late 1800s, technology had advanced far enough to turn ice cream from a rare, expensive dessert for the elite into a traditional summer treat for the masses.

In honor of celebrating all the treats of summer, here are a few scenes from New York summers past, courtesy of the New York Public Library’s digital collections. Let them inspire you to savor the remainder of the ice cream high season before—sigh—pumpkin spice latte season sets in.

Washington Market, 1868. Before there was the Union Square Greenmarket, there was the Washington Market in what is now TriBeCa.
Washington Market, 1868. Before there was the Union Square Greenmarket, there was the Washington Market in what is now TriBeCa and the Meatpacking District.

 

A Summer Scene in the Streets of New York
Street vendor serving up ice cream, 1885.

 

Rockaway Beach, 1901. Fortunately, social norms about modesty no longer require women to swim in full-length bathing dresses.
Rockaway Beach, 1901. Fortunately, social norms about modesty no longer require women to swim in full-length bathing dresses.

 

A young boy making ice cream
Boy making ice cream cones, 1912. Child labor is wrong and all, but this seems like a pretty sweet gig.

 

Luna Park in Coney Island, 1917.
Luna Park in Coney Island, 1917.

 

nypl.digitalcollections.5e66b3e8-b580-d471-e040-e00a180654d7.001.w
Rudy Vallée and women in an ice cream eating contest in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, at the New York World’s Fair, 1939.

 

Actors and audience members cool off with ice cream in the Theatre District's Shubert Alley, 1937.
Actors and audience members cool off with ice cream in the Theater District’s Shubert Alley, 1937.

 

nypl.digitalcollections.7b07ea5c-622b-6b59-e040-e00a18065a4d.001.w
Shaved ice vendor, 1948.

 

Macbeth in Washington Square Park, 1966. An early production of the New York Shakespeare Festival, now known as Shakespeare in the Park.
Macbeth in Washington Square Park, 1966. An early production of the New York Shakespeare Festival, now known as Shakespeare in the Park.

Toasted Milk Ice Cream with Taiwanese Pineapple Cakes and Sesame Candy

A couple of weeks ago I borrowed a friend’s ice cream machine, a basic Cuisinart with freezer bowls, and I’ve been churning out ice cream on the regular. At this point, I have a good feel for the basics and I’ve learned that ice cream is pretty forgiving as far as recipes go. Every batch I made varied widely in ingredients and measurements, and now I don’t feel a need at all to follow anyone else’s recipe. Let the experimenting begin!

My first experimental flavor was toasted milk ice cream with sesame candy and pineapple cakes. There’s an obvious Asian influence here. Many Asian treats, such as milk toast, shaved ice, and bubble tea, incorporate milky flavor. Ice & Vice, which is Asian-owned, lists a “Toasted Milk” flavor on their website that I thought sounded delightful, but pairing it with chocolate ganache sounded a bit boring. Why not keep the Asian influence strong? There are tons of ingredients and flavors from Asian cuisine that have yet to be developed for and applied to ice cream; it’s novel territory that’s begging to be mined. It’s time we innovated beyond green tea and black sesame.

Ice & Vice's Milk Money $$$ has toasted milk ice cream.
Ice & Vice’s Milk Money $$$ has toasted milk ice cream. (via Ice & Vice)

 

It took about two seconds to decide on what I wanted to mix into this ice cream. First: Taiwanese pineapple cakes. Dense, chewy, sweet pineapple paste covered in a crumbly milk-powder crust, a childhood favorite. Second: sesame candy. Crunchy little slabs made of toasty sesame seeds and sugar. You can get both of these items at any grocery store in Chinatown (I went to Hong Kong Supermarket on Hester Street).

Traditional products of Taiwan.
Made in Taiwan.

 

To make the toasted milk in toasted milk ice cream, I toasted non-fat milk powder in the microwave, a technique I learned from Ideas in Food.  The authors of that blog said it took them 10 minutes, but I think it took me more like 30 minutes! I also overheated our microwave in the process. Anyway, the end result was perfect, a heap of fragrant crumbs that should be sprinkled on everything.

Toasted non-fat milk powder, aka magic dairy dust.
Toasted non-fat milk powder, aka magic dairy dust.

 

My go-to ice cream base is whole milk, heavy cream, sugar, and eggs. To ensure a really strong milk flavor, I swapped in condensed milk for some of the whole milk. Whole milk and condensed milk have about the same amount of fat, but condensed milk has more non-fat milk solids (the stuff that gives milk its flavor—it’s basically what non-fat milk powder is).

Milky milk milk milk.
Milky milk milk milk.

 

I ended up dumping in the milk powder all at once right before adding the eggs. Next time I make this flavor (and I will definitely be making it again), I’ll make sure to sift out all lumps in the powder, and gradually whisk it in to the rest of the milk earlier in the process. I’ll also decrease the amount of added sugar, since the lactose in milk powder naturally amps up the sweetness.

Wouldn't it have been funny if I'd dropped my phone in there while trying to get a picture?
Wouldn’t it have been funny if I’d dropped my phone in there while trying to get a picture?

 

The dark spots are the toastier bits of toasted milk.They get strained out before refrigerating.

 

So there are a few things I would’ve done differently, but I knew I had a winner when the base finished cooking. It turned out a light, warm brown color, with an intensely milky flavor similar to caramel/dulce de leche. “Like Werther’s,” according to E.S.

The finished base.
The finished base.

 

I chopped up the pineapple cakes into one-centimeter cubes and broke the sesame candy into little pieces. I felt sad when most of the crust on the pineapple cakes sheared off as it was mixed in, but it turned out that the crust was the best part. After a night in the freezer, the pineapple filling was chewy but a bit too hard for comfort, while the crust retained it’s dry, crumbly-yet-rich texture. Next time I might add a milk-powder crust only, or chop the pineapple filling into even smaller pieces. The sesame candy stayed crispy and toasty—such a perfect ice cream mix-in that I’m shocked no one else seems to be adding it to their ice cream.

Pineapple cakes are a specialty in Taiwan. I used cheap ones for this ice cream ($1.25 for a whole sleeve) but you can spend a lot more on fancy ones.
Pineapple cakes are a specialty in Taiwan. I used cheap ones for this ice cream ($1.25 for a whole sleeve) but you can spend a lot more on fancy ones.

 

The chunks of pineapple filling need to be even smaller if mixed into ice cream.
The chunks of pineapple filling need to be even smaller if mixed into ice cream.

 

Sesame candy is also called sesame brittle. The kind I used is made in Taiwan.
Sesame candy, sometimes called sesame brittle. Sesame seeds, sugar, maltose.

 

It's easier to break up by hand than to use a knife.
Break it up by hand.

 

Well, actually I can guess why scoop shops aren’t adding sesame candy to their ice cream. It’s really difficult to scoop out smoothly! It complemented the ice cream flavor and added awesome crunchy texture, but it’s an ice cream scooper’s nightmare. It also doesn’t make a great photo-op. I have no perfectly round scoops of ice cream to show for my efforts. Oh well. In real life I’m not scooping this stuff into a bowl; I’m eating it straight out of the pint.

A lumpy, ugly, delicious mess.
A lumpy, ugly, delicious mess.

Fun Things That Happened in Ice Cream This Week

Happy Saturday! We’re one week out from National Ice Cream Month, but my ice cream Google Alerts haven’t stopped buzzing, not even a little bit. Here are just a few fun things that happened this week:

OddFellows supplied boozy ice cream at Bon Appetit’s Thirsty Thursday, definitively proving that being a magazine editor in New York City is as glamorous as movies/TV make it seem. A braggy Bon Appetit employee Instagram’d the goods, which included “Frosé,” a float made from rosé sorbet and rosé, and White Russian, vodka milk sorbet topped with Kahlua crispies.

 

Food Baby NY aka Matthew Chau fully leveraged his Instagram celebrity status by celebrating his second birthday at Mikey Likes It. Fans showed up to coo over Chau and “Sesame Street,” the special flavor created for the occasion. Sesame Street was black sesame ice cream (a rather grown-up flavor—perfect for the adults behind Food Baby NY, i.e. Chau’s parents) with birthday cake and dulce de leche.

A photo posted by Food Baby (@foodbabyny) on

 

August 6 was National Root Beer Float Day, and ice cream shops wielded the obligatory hashtag, #NationalRootBeerFloatDay. Premium ice cream must float in premium root beer—Ample Hills used Sprecher, Blue Marble used Virgil’s. MilkMade went the distance and made an available-this-weekend-only root beer flavored ice cream. Made-up food holidays aside, floats and affogatos are really trending in this summer.

 

The Williamsburg location of Davey’s opened on Friday, and promotions included free ice cream, an exclusive flavor, and—this escalated quickly—a chance to win an ice cream tattoo.  It’s located in the old Williamsburg Creamery space, on Bedford Avenue between N. 6th and N. 7th streets. This is the second Davey’s location; the original shop is in the East Village.

 

And… I tried vegan ice cream at Blythe Ann’s, the East Village shop formerly known as Lula’s Sweet Apothecary, and I didn’t hate it.

Have a great weekend and eat some ice cream!