It hasn’t felt like it lately, but we’re heading into peak ice cream-eating season. At The Charmery in Hampden, David Alima and his crew are gearing up for the hot weather by rolling out a new batch of summer-inspired flavors, and yesterday he brought some to the City Paper office to have us try them out (journalism has its perks) and we tasted them all (out of obligation to our readers, of course) and jotted down some thoughts. We also ranked them from 1-5, with five being the best. Starting June 1, The Charmery will be rolling out a flavor a week.
Ice Cream Sando (Score: 4.3)
Alima told us that with this flavor, he was trying to capture the taste of those ice cream sandwiches your parents bought from the grocery store when you were a kid. Everyone agreed that it did taste exactly like an ice cream sandwich. “They really nailed the flavor of the fluffy chocolate sandwich that comes on the garden variety ice cream sandwich available at any grocery store,” wrote one sampler. “A fresh, delicious take on the tried-and-true chocolate-and-vanilla combo.” Another person noted that it was “a solid crowd pleaser, rich and tasty unlike actual ice cream sandwiches,” but also that it was “the least interesting of the group.” Also, “recommended if you don't like the feeling of holding an ice cream sandwich with your hand, you know, like the soft leathery cookie texture, the way it separates and sticks to your fingers.”
Egg Cream Marshmallow (Score: 4)
Alima said that he tries to figure out ways to capture the different flavors of Baltimore with his ice cream, so this was a no-brainer. People seemed to like the sweetness of the vanilla, boosted by the hints of caramel and marshmallow. “What's the swirl here? Marshmallow and egg cream? No matter, this is very delicious and a good alternative to plain old vanilla. One of the few flavors here that could work well with additional ingredients,” wrote one reviewer. “Liquid smooth with a depth of sweetness that should be cloying but somehow isn’t. Delicious. My favorite,” wrote another. One gripe that one reviewer had: “Not bad, but I just don't think anything can meet the egg custard standard but snowballs. To me this just tastes like a (really good, if a little too sweet) caramel ice cream.”
Cantaloupe Rosé (Score: 3.9)
This was a nice, mellow flavor that most reviewers enjoyed. “I’m not a huge fan of cantaloupe but I am a huge fan of rosé. The boozy tang of the rosé adds to the bland sweetness of the cantaloupe. Tasted very refreshing and a little sophisticated,” wrote one reviewer. “Starts off subtle and then has a burst of fruity flavor at the end. I imagine this will be pretty satisfying in the hot, sticky heat,” wrote another. “It feels like sunning yourself on the pool deck after a refreshing dip in the pool. Or like a day trip to the Korean spa. It's like springing for the sheets with the higher thread count. Or doing a clay mask and adding a couple drops of your rose essential oil to the mix,” said another still. Because these are both pretty mellow flavors, even reviewers who didn’t like it couldn’t say much bad about it. One reviewer likened it to “the cantaloupe gum you sometimes get with your bill at a sushi place,” while another had this to say: “Two words: mild and sweet. Very pleasant but lacks the adventuresome spirit of the other selections.”
Lavender Peach (Score: 3.5)
Opinions on this one were all over the place. One person thought it was just OK: “two good flavors chilling out with each other not doing much. Not the worst-tasting honestly just the least interesting or compelling,” while another reviewer got pretty poetic about it, calling this flavor “a dreamy bouquet just when you thought all the flowers shriveled in the heat; intense but not overbearing floral notes.” We were all relieved that the lavender didn’t taste like an air freshener or an old lady. Said another reviewer: “Strong lavender flavor balanced by tiny pieces of peach. Not soapy or perfumey like most lavender stuff tastes, maybe because they said they candied the lavender. Very tasty and refreshingly sweet, the combination is distinctly summery but also seems unconventional for ice cream.”
Grapefruit Ricotta (Score: 3.4)
Cheese in ice cream? We were surprised, but also decided that it kind of works? Who knew? “Eating this reminds me of Christmas dinners where everyone stops yelling at each other only long enough to eat a bunch of cannoli. It has a soft yet dense, gelato-esque texture to it – or maybe I’m just fishing for Italian connections and remembering I should call my great-aunt more,” wrote one reviewer. “Of all cheese and fruit pairings I would never think to put grapefruit and ricotta together, but it works. And especially against the sweetness of all the other ice creams, the bitter citrus and gentle savory-ness of the ricotta charts new ice cream flavor territory. Cheese does go with everything and that includes ice cream; we need more ice cream makers to realize that,” wrote another. One reviewer said called it “basically…ricotta ice cream,” while another person mostly tasted vanilla. “A smooth, tart start with a cheese finish that leaves a bit of a chalky aftertaste,” another decided.
Strawberry Black Pepper Honey (Score: 3.3)
This was another unconventional flavor that had people getting thoughtful about their responses. Most people seemed enthusiastic about the combo of strawberry and honey, but not everybody was on board with the black pepper. “A nice adjustment to the typical strawberry flavor thanks to the pepper but also it's like, ok yeah, I got it, you add pepper to sweet stuff and it's still pretty good,” wrote one reviewer. “The strawberry tartness comes on first, followed by the honey, and the result is a conventional taste. Then the pepper hits. A whip-saw,” wrote another. Still another recommended a way to make it even better: “I'm all about this peppercorn and summer fruit combo. At first I just tasted strawberries, but I got more of the pepper and honey with the second bite. The only thing that could make this better is perhaps mezcal,” they wrote.
Fresh 2 Death (Score: 3.1)
Fresh 2 Death, a blend of cucumber, lime, and mint, was the only sorbet of the group. “I imagined myself eating this on a swampy hot July evening. Very refreshing. Imagine it would be good mixed in with tequila, gin, or vodka, too,” wrote one reviewer. "The cucumber flavor hits pretty hard at first and is followed by the lime. Kinda reminds me of those infused waters you see in fancy hotels and such. Didn't get too much mint flavor, but otherwise comes as advertised. The blend has the right notes for summer, and it even feels like you're eating healthy, even though you're not,” wrote another. In another alcohol reference, another reviewer wrote that this sorbet “isolates the grassy note of a Sauvignon Blanc and plays it very loud,” This note pretty much sums it up: “Something about this name and the holy trinity of flavors (cucumber, lime, mint) included and the fact that it's a sorbet and not an ice cream, it's redundant to describe this one as refreshing but damn, yeah. Imagine it's a sweltering day and your plans to go swimming fell through, so you compensate by soaking in a lukewarm bath and then go hit up The Charmery for a whole pint of this stuff and spend the rest of the day making alcoholic slushies with it.”
Pink Peppercorn Lemonade (Score: 2.6)
People either loved or hated this surprisingly tangy flavor. The twist here, of course, is the peppercorn, which Alima said was more fruity than spicy. “I'm not patronizing a single lemonade stand until those kids start adding peppercorn to their mix. Not a combination I'd expect to like but here we are,” said one reviewer. Another reviewer said “if there were a way to get the cream element out of this one, it'd be unexpectedly great, the dairy factor is the issue but it is overall a risky combination—the tart pink lemonade flavor and sting of the peppercorn—that comes together nicely.” On the opposite end of the spectrum, another taster dismissed it saying it was “too tart and too pepper for me,” and someone else said “The peppercorns add a kick and some are left as large crunchy chunks, a texture and flavor combination I'm a little uncomfortable with, like oh my god, did a bee fly into my ice cream? Did a stray pebble find its way in there? A small twig? It's a peculiar one, a small crisis on its own, but probably pairs OK with a more straightforward/basic flavor.”