CREAM IN ICE FORM: National Ice Cream Day
Sunday is National Ice Cream Day. In honor, let's explore the best creamy treats that Tampa Bay has to offer.
If you're a Brandon Little Leaguer, you know Campbell's Dairyland (200 S Parsons Ave., Brandon, (813) 685-1189). In triumph or defeat, you've come here for your peanut butter cup sundae, turtle sundae or banana split. The hum of the machine churning up shakes and malts in the background, the smell of the deep fryer going great guns, it has been the go-to place for families in Brandon for ages.
Of course, the menu has stayed very much the same at the Dairy Joy (3813 S Manhattan Ave., Tampa, (813) 839-5485) since its 1960 debut, with vanilla, chocolate and twist soft-serve at the core. In recent years they've added 10 flavors of hard ice cream (always with a sugar-free flavor), with sno-cones and a quarter-pound beef hotdog.
There's a part of Gulf Boulevard that is a smorgasbord of cold confections. Beach Snoballs, Candy Kitchen and the list goes on. For the archetypal sand-between-your-toes summer milkshake, though, it's the Shake Shop (11920 Gulf Blvd., Treasure Island, (727) 367-2458). Scoot your way up a little flight of stairs and place your order. Prices are modest, and the shakes aren't the super thick kind that causes tinnitus when straw-sucked.
Shaped like a giant vanilla twisty soft-serve, Twistee Treat (6900 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, (727) 367-7690) is so visually arresting that the St. Pete Beach spot starred briefly in the film Spring Breakers. Owned by the same people as nearby Larry's, it's got a different agenda entirely: light on the hard ice cream but with a soft-serve machine to which they can add 66 different flavors.
ICE, ICE, BABY: HOW CUBES WERE BORN
Let's back up a second and give credit where it's due. Let's start with the ice cube.
We go now virtually to Apalachicola and the John Gorrie State Museum, perhaps the country's only ice cube museum. Are you imagining a very cold room containing, maybe, a piece of the berg that sunk the Titanic, a cube from Dean Martin's final cocktail or the original "fly-in-the-ice cube" novelty gag? Buzz, thanks for playing, and we have some very nice consolation prizes for you today.
John Gorrie is known as the father of air conditioning and ice manufacturing, recipient of the first patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. By the time the young doctor arrived in town in 1833, Apalachicola was bustling as the third largest port on the Gulf of Mexico. Gorrie served as mayor, postmaster, city council member, bank director and founder of Trinity Church. But all that civic-mindedness pales in comparison to his medical work.
Yellow fever was a menace in those years. Gorrie posited that bringing the illness' high fever down was essential to prevent death.
As cold temperatures were hard to come by, he set about making some. His idea is one used in today's refrigeration: Cooling can be achieved through the rapid expansion of gases. He built a machine with two pumps that condensed and then rarefied air. He cooled the air all right, but the machine kept clogging with ice cubes. There's no evidence that his invention saved any lives, and Gorrie died unable to market his apparatus.
But the cubes!!!! And the ability to freeze stuff — woo, doggie!
TAMPA BAY'S BEST ICE CUBES
So, Tampa Bay's best cubes. I lament the passing of Station House, which had some damn fine cubes.
But let's focus instead on the one fat ice cube that fuels the No. 22 on tap, which features Bulleit bourbon, cold-brewed coffee and housemade bourbon bitters at Stillwaters Tavern (224 Beach Drive NE, St. Petersburg, (727) 350-1019).
Then there's the bacon maple cube that brings Old Forester bourbon, orange and apple bitters and "apple smoke" together in a Smoke cocktail at Rococo Steak (655 Second Ave. S, St. Petersburg, (727) 822-0999).
Or how about the lush pink hibiscus ice cubes in a brawny tequila cocktail called Jamaican Me Crazy at Proper Kitchen & Cocktails (344 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, (727) 494-0700)?
Or the Perky Peach that has won mixologist Morgan Zuch all kinds of awards, this Datz (2616 S MacDill Ave., Tampa, (813) 831-7000) cocktail marrying tequila, creme de peche, orange bitters and a mesquite-smoked cold brew ice sphere?
And at Mandarin Hide (231 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 440-9231) they have a whole "ice block program" that ranges from hand-cut to hand-crushed ice.