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Berger’s Burg: Ice cream lovers unite - it’s summertime!

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In the year 62 AD, the Roman Emperor, Nero, sent runners to the mountains to collect ice and snow. It was then flavored with fruit juices and honey. In the year 1200, the Italian explorer Marco Polo brought back from the mid-East a sherbet recipe made with ice and fruit. In the year 1500, sherbet spread to France when a French king married a member of Italian royalty. In the year 1786, ice cream was first advertised and sold in the U.S.

America produces more ice cream than any other country, over 13 quarts for every man, woman and child. – Edy’s Golden Cone Club Newsletter.

In the year 1950, sister Annie brought baby-brother, Alex, to a Howard Johnson Restaurant for his first taste of coffee ice cream.

I always enjoy the summer. It is a time for trees, bees, and ease. But for me, it is the time to seize a dish of my favorite coffee ice cream “freeze.” I simply love, adore, worship, revere, and extol ice cream. Nobody likes ice cream better than I do, except perhaps… no, I can’t think of a one who likes it better. Never a day goes by without my swallowing a portion of this potent potion.

Did you know that 75 percent of the men and women surveyed in a University of Illinois study on comfort food named ice cream as No. 1? Since comfort foods trigger associations with past happy times, the survey indicated that a scoop of ice cream is more than a tasty treat. It is a moment of respite, a peaceful pause, and something to share with others. (Are they kidding? I would never share my ice cream with any man, women, beast, or insect).

Last week, I was on assignment. It was a hot and muggy day, and I craved the cooling punch of my favorite ice cream. I was too far away to get some from my home freezer, but I knew that miracles sometimes happen, so I looked around. Off in the distance, I heard the pleasant jingling of an ice cream vendor’s bells. They rang out from his mobile refrigerator storing the frozen delights.

I followed it until it parked majestically by a school, three blocks away. But the pitter-patter and the stampede of little feet began beating a path to the vendor’s truck. I quickly got out of the way of the multitude of frenzied half-pints lest I be trampled in the crush. I had to beat a hasty, and ice- cream-less, retreat.

T’aint fair, I say. Kids always seem to have a distinct advantage over us post-baby-boomers. In defeat, I pondered my next move.

My next attempt was trying a senior citizen center. I had hoped one of the golden agers would offer me some ice cream. But, noo! Instead they offered me hot coffee, and some rugalach (Jewish pastry), but no ice cream.

I knew from impeachable sources that firefighters often used ice cream in their initiation rituals.

When a rookie fireman/woman completes his/her first assignment, it was ice cream time for everyone. However, I was too late. The rookies had already gobbled up their ice cream treat. Gosh, I thought I would never last the day, but I was saved gloriously by Gloria who had some waiting for me when I got home.

According to Dr. James Chambers, food professor at Purdue University, about 30 percent of ice cream consumers suffer from ice cream headaches. He explains that ice cream chills the mouth and draws the heat out of your head, affecting the nerve endings close to the brain. His remedy? Eat slowly! Me?

My remedy is to eat my coffee ice cream fast with a sweet-crème ice cream flavored chaser. The ice cream is then miraculously rendered headache-free.

What is quite common nowadays is the vast number of exotic and unusual flavors being concocted by ice cream manufacturers. In Japan, for instance, octopus, chicken wings and wasabi-flavored ice cream is served. In Germany, the ice cream maker, Langnese, produces flavors named after the seven deadly sins (envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath, much to the chagrin of Catholic church leaders.)

But did you ever hear of Flushing’s Max and Mina’s Ice Cream Parlor in Queens?

Well, hold on to your taste buds while I elucidate.

The store at 71-26 Main St. offers some 500 flavors with names such as ketchup, beer and nuts, nova lox (smoked salmon), garlic, halvah, corn-on-the cob, balsamic vinegar with strawberries and licorice, among others. Yes, they do. So, naturally, Gloria and I had to pay a visit to this “House of Wild Flavors” and we got a mouthful.

We were met by the manager, Flushing’s own 20-year old, Danny Asis, who immediately pointed to the long ice cream menu posted on the wall and asked us to pick two flavors. We did and he ran behind the counter, returned, and stuck two sampler spoons, dabbed with the ice cream, into our mouths.

Gloria had horseradish and I had rose chunk (extracted from a real rose). Both were delicious. And Danny noted that the popular ice cream was homemade in the store and is strictly kosher.

Danny said it all began in 1997, when two brothers, Mark and Bruce Becker, discovered a few ice cream recipes created by their long-deceased grandfather, Max Sockloff, a chemist. They named the ice-cream parlor Max & Mina’s in memory of their grandparents.

The brothers customize their ice creams and sorbets specifically for sale to many of the city’s top gourmet restaurants. Celebrity ice cream lovers visit quite often to “nosh.” The famous designer, Isaac Mizrahi, was the most recent to sample the exotic flavors.

Every week, the store showcases its new flavors to walk-in customers, sitting or standing, who slurp their ice cream beneath splashes of bright and colorful posters adorning its walls and ceiling space.

I made a secret, sacred vow to sample every one of the 500 flavors or die trying. What a way to go!

Gloria, let me try the lox, the ketchup, the halvah, the …. Good as they are, they can’t beat my coffee ice cream.

Reach columnist Alex Berger at www.timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 140.

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