In recognition of July's designation as National Ice Cream Month and Sunday as National Ice Cream Day, I did some rather informal polling via Facebook, asking people to name their favorite flavor. And the answers came as a slight surprise since vanilla, according to the International Ice Cream Association, is the most popular of all.
With all the flavors out there, I thought perhaps something with a little more "wow" factor might have dethroned vanilla. But no.
"Vanilla ice cream is a classic," says Peggy Armstrong, spokesperson for the International Ice Cream Association. "It tastes great all by itself, with a favorite topping or served on top of a hot piece of apple pie. And it makes root beer floats frothy, sundaes heavenly and banana splits appealing."
Interested in hearing how other ice cream flavors came out in my poll? The next favorites came in as a tie: butter pecan and chocolate. Then came chocolate chip, chocolate-peanut butter, peach, strawberry, bubble gum, coffee, jamoca almond fudge and Rocky Road.
Rounding out the rest of the poll were banana, German chocolate cake, dulce de leche, pistachio, turtle tracks, coconut, walnut, Neopolitan, salted caramel, chocolate almond, caramel pecan, cherry cordial, Key lime pie, black raspberry, cake batter and cookie dough.
Is your favorite in there somewhere? Perhaps you'll find your flavor at Chattanooga Market's Ice Cream Social on Sunday. For $5, you'll get samples from a number of participating local creameries. All proceeds will benefit the Chambliss Center for Children.
Interestingly, ice cream production declined more than 7 percent between 1998 and 2009, according to figures from the Ice Cream Association. Thank goodness that's behind us. Since then, it has continued to grow. The latest numbers from 2012 show nearly 1.6 billion gallons of ice cream and frozen yogurt were produced that year, with low-fat and nonfat ice cream leading the charge.
The future forecast looks pretty chilly as more flavors enter the market. At the International Dairy Food Association's Innovative Ice Cream Flavor Contest, held earlier this year, the judges were most impressed with Publix's entry: Southern Banana Pudding ice cream. Also of note were Greek yogurt ice cream with strawberries and granola, and lemon poppy pound cake, an ice cream with lemon, poppy seeds and pound cake pieces.
Blue Bell's newest flavor, Red, White and Blue Bell, is something that fruity ice cream lovers may crave. It's a take on Neopolitan, but is loaded with strawberries and blueberries. Other new Blue Bell flavors are coconut fudge, Mocha Madness and Orange Swirl.
From Mayfield's comes Crunchy Caramel Pretzel and Snickerdoodle, along with the new Rocky Road Nutty Buddy Super Scoops.
And it's hard to put down a carton of Haagen Dazs' new peanut butter pie flavor or avoid waking up in the middle of the night for a scoop of Midnight Cookies and Cream.
And have you tried Halo Top's ice cream? You can find it at Earth Fare right now. At 280 calories for an entire pint, you can sit down, eat the whole thing and leave the guilt behind. That's the stuff of which dreams are made. Choose your favorite flavor: vanilla bean, chocolate, strawberry and lemon cake, the latter of which is mine.
With all the new ice cream flavors on the market, wonder how long vanilla can stay on top?
Here's an ice cream recipe from one of my new favorite cookbooks, "Slim Down South" by Carolyn O'Neil. If you like ice cream pie, you'll love this one. And best yet, it has only 285 calories per serving.
Mocha-Pecan Mud Pie
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Vegetable cooking spray
1 teaspoon sugar
1 pint light coffee ice cream, softened
1 pint light chocolate ice cream, softened
1 cup coarsely chopped, reduced-fat cream-filled chocolate sandwich cookies (about 10 cookies)
1 (6-ounce) ready-made chocolate crumb pie crust
2 tablespoons light chocolate syrup
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place pecans in a single layer on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray; sprinkle evenly with sugar. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Set aside to cool.
Stir together the ice creams, 3/4 cup cookie chunks and 1/3 cup pecans; spoon into pie crust. Freeze for 10 minutes. Press remaining cookie chunks and pecans evenly on top. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for 8 hours. Drizzle pie slices with chocolate sauce before serving.
If you happen to be in Asheville, N.C., this weekend, a favorite nearby destination for many Chattanoogans, stop by the fairgrounds of the Western North Carolina Agricultural Center for the Carolina West RibFest, where you can get a taste of some of the best ribs, chicken, brisket and pulled pork to be found. The festival features world-class professional barbecue-competition chefs from around the country. Maybe I'll see you there ... I'll be one of hundreds with a huge smear of barbecue sauce across my face and dripping from my chin.
Most importantly, the event benefits The CARE Project (thecareproject.me), an organization working to better the lives of those with hearing impairments.
One thing that makes this a little different from other barbecue cook-offs is that attendees can get as much barbecue as they want from the competing teams. At most competitions, the teams cook primarily for the judges.
"We have competition -- ribs and sauce only -- but it is secondary to the real goal: feeding barbecue lovers," says RibFest organizer Allen McDavid of AKA Entertainment and Media.
Tickets are $7 per person, and special discounts can be found at CarolinaWestRibFest.com.
The fairgrounds are located next to the Asheville airport.
And while on the subject of Asheville, livability.com recently released its top-10 list of "foodie" cities, and Asheville is ranked No. 4. The winners were chosen in part due to the number of families that eat out as well as those cities with established farmers markets and restaurants that use locally grown ingredients, according to a news release. Among the unexpected names were Omaha, Neb., Burlington, Vt. and Traverse City, Mich. No. 1? New Haven, Conn.
Could Chattanooga be far behind? Maybe next year. For the complete list, log onto livability.com.
Contact Anne Braly at firstname.lastname@example.org.