published Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Braly: Bi-Lo fills freezer with new ice cream

Who doesn't love ice cream? Most folks eat it year-round, but as the weather warms up, sales really climb.

"Stores get so busy, they can't even see straight," said Lynda Utterback, executive director of the National Ice Cream Retailers Association.

The most popular flavor is vanilla, which surprises me a little, but Utterback said part of the reason is that ice cream stores use vanilla as a base for bigger and better treats, such as sundaes and banana splits.

Bi-Lo recently debuted its line of Sweet Dream ice cream, an all-natural line of 15 flavors. I'm partial to anything cherry, so I really like the Orchard Cherry. It's so creamy and good.

Best yet, it's priced right, at $4.99 per carton, a lot less than some of the other premium ice creams.

"Given that Americans consume more ice cream than anyone else in the world, we at Bi-Lo decided it was time to make a mark in the category by developing our own," said James Allen, category manager of frozen food and main meals at Bi-Lo.

A recent survey by Majority Opinion Research for Poll Position asked 1,200 people to name their favorite ice cream store chains, and all but one have at least one Chattanooga location.

In first place was Baskin-Robbins (2100 Hamilton Place Blvd., 6990 East Brainerd Road, 6510 Ringgold Road), followed by Cold Stone Creamery (100 Chestnut St.), Dairy Queen (2118 Gunbarrel Road, 5433 Highway 153, 8540 Hixson Pike), Ben & Jerry's (201 Broad St.), Haagen-Dazs (closest are in Atlanta and Nashville) and Bruster's (4241 Hixson Pike, 1406 Jenkins Road).

I recently found myself in need of new cookware. My skillets were scratched and worn, my roasting pan was roasted, and my wok had gone missing a few years ago. I was determined to try to find pots and pans that would last a while, and I do believe I've found them.

Swiss Diamond cookware is nearly indestructible, according to information that came with it. It's reinforced with real diamonds. Maybe I should strut around holding it to impress people.

The nonstick surface is reinforced with real diamond crystals, so it holds up to the rigors of cooking. And I've learned that diamonds also have excellent heat conductivity, so the cookware retains heat better than your average pots.

What's even better, it can go right into the dishwasher, so clean-up is simple, though I do plan on following the recommendation of cleaning it by hand with just a little soapy water.

The nonstick surface is the best I've ever seen and, trust me, I've gone through a number of pots and pans in my life as a food writer. Swiss Diamond is made for both induction heat tops and traditional electric and gas stoves.

You'll find Swiss Diamond locally at Mia Cucina, but it's also available online at such places as amazon.com, where a 10-piece set sells for $500.

I'll be adding more pieces to my collection in the coming years. The cookware is pricey but worth every penny.

I've been amazed at how quickly it heats things up. Water boils in no time. And the pots stay hot much longer than others I've had. It's quite remarkable. Wish I'd found it years ago. It would have saved me money in the long run.

It's hard to believe that the Oreo cookie is 100 years old this year, the first having been sold in Hoboken, N.J., in 1912. Unlike all of my friends, I never liked them as a kid. But I did develop a taste for them as a teenager, unfortunately for my waistline. And I've found that they make an excellent foundation for desserts, such as this one from cooks.com that combines Oreos with another favorite, ice cream.

Oreo Cookie Ice Cream Cake

25 Oreo cookies, mashed

1/4-pound softened butter or margarine

1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream

1 jar fudge topping

1 (9-ounce) container whipped topping

1/2 cup nuts (optional)

Mix mashed cookies with butter, and press into 13- by 9-inch glass dish, reserving 1/2 cup. Spread ice cream on top of Oreo crust. Add fudge topping, spreading over ice cream. Spread whipped topping on top, and add the nuts on top, if using. Sprinkle with remaining cookie crumbs on top, and freeze. Keeps up to 10 days.

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