It’s judgment time. BYOB! (Bring your own bacon)
As I sit here awash in the glow of my computer screen, the 2014 Dewey Beach Bacon Fest is in full swing. In fact, I believe I can hear sizzling sounds just over the horizon. The fact that this screen was blank just a few minutes ago prohibits my attendance at that groundbreaking event (deadlines wait for no man). But I was able to get a few sneak peeks before the official start of the festival; the highlight being an exclusive tasting of Chip Hearn’s Bacon de Leche ice cream at The Ice Cream Store at the corner of Rehoboth Avenue and Boardwalk.
Ice cream, hot sauce and BBQ maven Hearn (and yes, he has been known to combine all three) created this porky flavor specifically for Dewey’s first-ever homage to swine. Modeled after dulce de leche (a variation on caramel created by heating milk rather than sugar), the cool confection is creamy testament to the timeless adage that everything goes better with bacon and caramel. Crunchy candied pecans don’t hurt either. I was skeptical at first, because some bacon-laced sweets have left a greasy aftertaste for me. But Chip’s recipe did not. The savory/smoky undertone worked perfectly with his exclusive creamy base. The big guy knows his stuff.
But he’s the first to tell you that not everybody loves all the flavors he dreams up - even if they do include bacon (a fact I found hard to believe). So, seasoned promoter that he is, he rolls out brand-new flavors every year and lets his faithful public provide the ultimate thumbs up - or down. The seventh annual Ice Cream Social and Tasting Event is next Thursday, May 8, from noon until 7 p.m. It’s held right there at The Ice Cream Store and it’s free. The three worst flavors will, in store manager Jamie’s words, “Be voted off the island!”
Bacon de Leche will be joined by 22 other flavors (I suggest you stop eating now). Though you might not like all of them, you will love the names. And each one comes with a story. Baracky Road is a particularly presidential variety featuring multicolored marshmallows. Hearn added walnuts at the last minute, “Because all politicians are nuts,” he says. Two particularly bracing flavors include Coffee Break (coffee and espresso with cookie dough and brownie pieces thrown in for good measure) and Sangria (a bright and fruity blend reminiscent of wine - and wait ‘til you see the color).
As a fan of Brooklyn’s Momofuku Milk Bar, I was instantly captivated by the Crack ice cream redolent of the famous Crack Pie served at Milk across the street from Momofuku. (In fact, you can try the Crack ice cream at Mitch King’s Port Dewey restaurant, where it does a great job of putting out the mouth fires set by Chef Inton’s Thai dishes.)
If you order I Don’t Give a Fork, they will in fact give you a fork - stuck right into the top of your cone. This already popular flavor should be classified as a main course, with African vanilla ice cream overflowing with brownie and pretzel pieces, crushed Oreos (real Oreos, by the way), cookie dough and mini chocolate chips. This was another one I was a little wary of - until I tried it. It’s crunchy, chewy, a little chocolaty with a hint of salt. Absolutely delicious.
Chip has always had a burning desire to merge three flavors that should not otherwise exist together. So after lengthy experimentation (much of it reported to be quite unsettling), Ménage á Trois was born: Creamy Skippy peanut butter is swirled in with strawberries and marshmallow, with strawberry-spiked Marshmallow Fluff on top, just in case you didn’t get the message.
One of the surplus products of the chocolate-making process is cocoa nibs: Pointy little bits of fermented, dried, roasted and crushed cacao bean. Nobody knew what to do with them until Chip Hearn came along. He stirred them into milk chocolate ice cream along with chocolate nougat, caramel and orange blossom honey. The whole thing was lovingly finished with a hint of sea salt. When he heard it cry out, “Lick Me, I’m Delicious!”, he named it that. Yes, it sounds scary, but it is sublime.
Turn your mouth into a bouncy castle down by the Boardwalk this coming Thursday! Next-door neighbor Spice & Tea Exchange will be providing palate-cleansing tea tastings, so a good time for all is guaranteed. Actually, it has been my experience here in Rehoboth Beach that a good time is guaranteed pretty much anywhere Chip Hearn happens to be.