Ice Cream

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There are few things that adults and children agree on, but a life-altering ice cream dessert might be one of them. In Philadelphia, home of so many great ice cream brands, we now have two very different ice cream palaces that are worth special trips to.

One is in the western suburbs (Audubon, PA) and embraces a Swiss tradition of ultra-rich, fresh ingredient ice cream and chocolate making — Zwahlen’s. You can’t miss their store, because it is in a chalet style building in the middle of a strip shopping center.  But cuckoo clock ambiance is not what makes this place special. It is the incredible melt in your mouth frozen goodness in a rotating lineup of great flavors. However, their vanilla is just so perfect for adding your own toppings that you will likely walk away a Zwahlen’s fan for life. It is a tough measuring stick for the ice cream chain stores.

Franklin Fountain

A very different experience can be had in Old Philadelphia, right on Market Street at the corner of 2nd Street.  Franklin Fountain is an old time ice cream parlor that has reinvented what ice cream sundaes and floats can be. In the winter months, they make a smore style confection with specialty marshmallows that they light with a blue flame. The lucky recipient gets a long spoon to break up the graham crackers in the ice cold stainless steel container. Or there’s the Franklin Mint made with real crème de menthe. Whichever great ice cream dish you select on their menu, you will find yourself transported to heaven.

Now, Philadelphia also has another kind of ice cream experience. My friend Pete tipped me off to a YouTube-based ad with a text link literally designated as “scarred for life” from the Hot Air blog. This is one of the oddest, creepiest spots (there are actually two of them) to ever attempt to sell ice cream. In this case, the brand is Little Baby’s Ice Cream. The experience of watching these two spots is about as far away as you can get from Zwahlen’s and Franklin Fountain. It is in Frank Zappa “Weasels Ripped My Flesh” – David Lynch Eraserhead territory. You have to be pretty damn sure of the quality of your ice cream to attempt something that is this far out on a crazy limb that you just hacked off with a crosscut saw. If you can’t join ‘em, lick ‘em.

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Schweddy Balls, for real, courtesy of Ben and Jerry.

Schweddy Balls, for real, courtesy of Ben and Jerry.

This is a post about double entendres so I probably shouldn’t mention that it is also about brand extensions. Now, that I have that out of my system. . .Ben and Jerry’s decision to add a “Schweddy Balls” flavor to its ice cream line-up is one of the strangest branding/marketing decisions I’ve seen in a long time. No, make that forever. There’s a lot riding on whether consumers will relate to the not-so-recent, yet oddly memorable Saturday Night Live sketch spoofing National Public Radio at its quirkiest and featuring a guest appearance by Alec Baldwin as holiday food purveyor, Pete Schweddy, owner of Season’s Eatings.

Ben and Jerry is known for its own sinful fare — homemade ice cream with clever counter culture names like Cherry Garcia, Phish Food, and Half Baked. Founders Ben and Jerry are also recognized as social activists for liberal causes. So, what would possess them to introduce a new flavor based on a somewhat obscure SNL skit from yesteryear, more specifically a skit entirely based on testicular and oral sex jokes?

Don’t believe me? You can watch the ice cream’s inspiration here. Not really sure what Ben and Jerry were thinking. Is this a fanboy tribute to Alec Baldwin? Is it a deliberate attempt to tweak social conservatives, who already have their panties in a bunch over the announcement? Is it a surefire way to drum up publicity in an anti-sweets nanny-state environment? Is it a tone-deaf mistake because no one in Vermont gets all the inside jokes in the SNL skit? Hard to say, because this is such a strange and out of left field product launch.

Ice cream is a family-oriented, dairy-farm-fresh food category. Even with Ben and Jerry’s hippie-dippie history, naming a flavor after an inside sex joke is beyond edgy. It is an idea cooked up on hallucinogens, then best cancelled when the drugs wear off.  Then, again if Ben and Jerry are mining SNL for flavor names, they can’t do worse than this audio clip.

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