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Posted at 6:18 AM ET, 06/14/2010

New ice cream flavor: 'Booger'

By Mike McPhate
ice cream

There's probably no way “Barf” is ever going to work as an ice cream flavor.

But “Booger"?

Hmmm. Now, that's just weird and obnoxious, enough to catch the eye of hot and hungry passers-by and make them stop for a taste.

“Let's make 'Booger' and let's make it great just to mess with everyone,” Rehoboth Beach ice cream maker -- and master marketer -- Chip Hearn told his crew after being inspired by a jelly bean of the same name.

Don't let Hearn's naughty schoolboy sense of humor scare you. His latest offbeat creation served at The Ice Cream Store on Rehoboth Avenue near the boardwalk has been garnering many more “yums” then “yucks” since it was introduced last week.

And Hearn is betting that the ice cream with the gross-out name and knockout taste could become the runaway flavor of the summer.

“Booger,” a green-colored cake batter ice cream swirled with green-hued caramel and Lucky Charms marshmallow bits, was the second highest vote-getter at a recent taste test held at the store.

While 379 participants named “Ooey Gooey,” a delectable cake batter ice cream blended with crushed Oreo cookies and ribbons of caramel and chocolate fudge as the No. 1 new flavor, “Booger” was a close second.

“Tastes better than the real thing,” one taster wrote.

“Disgusting look with great taste,” another said.

“Terrible name, great texture,” wrote a third.

Sweet tends to be the first love of dessert fiends, but Hearn is among those tastemakers who believe that savory, salty, complex and the flat-out unusual are the future of ice cream flavors.

Hearn dreams up the flavors, which are then created for him in 10-gallon batches by Jim Mitchell, owner of Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin. Mitchell makes ice cream from milk produced by the Jersey cows that graze at his family's dairy farm off Little Baltimore and North Star roads.

Some of the other seasonal flavors Hearn has unveiled include Beer, Buttery Salted Caramel, Nuts to You (a blend of mascarpone cheese, honey and pine nuts), Pumpkin Pecan, Samoa (similar to the Girl Scout cookie of the same name) and Chocolate Jack Daniels.

“Desserts are a great place to experiment with the nontraditional and unexpected,” said Kay Logsdon, editor in chief of The Food Channel website, which features chef-tested recipes, profiles, and book reviews. “It's all about unusual pairings — everything from beer with dessert to doughnuts adorning milkshakes.” According to the Food Channel, beer is one of the Top 10 Dessert Trends for 2010 due to the rise in microbreweries.

Hearn's Beer ice cream is actually a creamy cappuccino blended with Indian Brown Ale from Milton's Dogfish Head Brewery. He lets the beer go flat before using it, because the fizz would affect the ice cream's texture.

“I really like the beer,” says Jordan Berner, 20, a University of Delaware student who tasted the tan, nutty-flavored ice cream last Thursday. Jessica Musto, 20, of Long Island, N.Y., agreed. “I didn't think I would like it, but it's good.” Yet, the flavor didn't make the top 10.

“Half the people said 'It tastes just like Dogfish Head.' And the other half said, 'I would never order beer ice cream,' “ Hearn says.

What did win over tastebuds was Nuts To You, an intense African vanilla ice cream flavored with mascarpone cheese, pine nuts and a high-end orange blossom honey. Hearn calls the Old World-flavor the most expensive ice cream he's ever made.

“I'm going to sell it for $10 a cone, and $15 for a waffle cone, but tastes are free,” he says of the ice cream, the stand's fourth-highest vote-getter. One taster noted: “This one made me go nuts!” Buttery Salted Caramel, inspired by caramel popcorn sold at the nearby Dolle's candy store, was another favorite.

“I can't explain why, but it's fantastic! Nice overall dessert, not too sweet,” wrote an ice cream taster of the flavor, which was No. 5.

The popularity of Nuts to You and Buttery Salted Caramel has Hearn jazzed.

“That's telling me these were not just ice people, but people looking for something really different out there.” Indeed, salty is a dessert ingredient that celebrity chef Mario Batali has been working with at some of his 14 restaurants.

At his Otto restaurant in New York's Greenwich Village, Batali serves an olive oil gelato — made with a peppery extra-virgin olive oil — that he says balances out the richness of the eggs and cream in the frozen dessert. For a topping, he skips chocolate sauce and instead reaches for the salt shaker.

Flaky sea salt enhances the flavor, he says.

“Now, I keep salting my ice cream. It's a great combination, like crunchy salt and caramel,” Batali says.

Still, the chef admits, it's not a combination for everyone.

“People look at me like I'm crazy.” Hearn knows the feeling. That's what many were doing when he created “Booger” ice cream.

Inspiration for the flavor came during an offseason gathering of employees from The Ice Cream Store and Peppers, his Rehoboth hot sauce store.

At the party, someone brought out a game called “BeanBoozled,” which mixes strange, obnoxious and downright icky Jelly Belly jelly bean flavors with more traditional ones. Players eat and guess the flavors.

One of the jelly bean flavors was called “Booger,” which Christina Eastburn, who works for Hearn at Peppers, says “was pretty nasty, but still not as bad as the puke one.” Hearn thought the “Booger” name was funny and then began thinking about how to make it tasty.

“Everyone said 'It's gotta be green, green, green.' And I knew we needed some solids in that booger, so I thought of the (Lucky Charms) marshmallows.” Yet, Hearn knows that not everyone will be enamored with “Booger,” and that's fine.

Even he doesn't like all his flavors. Take “Cookie Monster,” a blue-colored cotton candy ice cream blended with Oreo cookies and chocolate chip cookie dough. It's one of the Ice Cream Store's most popular flavors, but Hearn never wants another spoonful of it.

“I hate it ... and people love it.” To each his own.

-- Associated Press

By Mike McPhate  | June 14, 2010; 6:18 AM ET
Categories:  Maryland  
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