Sunday, October 05, 2008

New Mexico: I Scream Ice Cream

Maria and our ice creams.

I've been using publications like The Alibi to find interesting places to eat while in Albuquerque. It's those recommendations bolstered by the real world local input from Bryan and Maria (the other Maria) that helped us choose where to eat. Now, Maria's an ice cream hog and after our drive down from Santa Fe, she's in the mood for more ice cream. It's here where the people of Burque let us down.

Listed as the "best" ice cream in Albuquerque is Cold Stone Creamery? Cold Stone, really? What is this place, some sort of suburban backwoods? Is the "best" that Burque has to offer a national chain? We can't do national chains - not when we can get that same crap at home. When on the road, we want something different. Something real. Something that we can't get in the suburbs.

According to the articles, Cold Stone is the only ice cream business actually producing ice cream in New Mexico. All other ice cream production has moved out of state. How is this possible? This is the desert. There are no places that make their own ice cream - in the whole state???

Somewhere, out there on Carlisle Boulevard, not too far away from downtown is a place called I Scream Ice Cream. They don't make their own ice cream but they do have one of the larger, out of state dairies make a line of ice creams specifically for them and no one else. Plus the articles on I Scream tell of a magical place that's unlike any other ice cream parlor in the state and perhaps the nation.

Most importantly, it's local and it's not serving a national brand like Dreyer's - which seems to be quite popular at ice cream places out here.

Albuquerque is a land of strip shopping centers and I Scream falls into place in one. It's the typical concrete with glass and aluminum framing construction you've seen all across America, then you step in.

Along the right wall as you walk into the shop is the service line. A long bank of ice cream dipping cabinets offering all sorts of flavors. Velcro'd to the top of the cabinets' display glass are quarter pans of all sorts of toppings, from animal crackers to gummi bears to peanuts and more. Bill, the owner and one of his staffers are manning the counter and a couple with their two kids are just finishing their orders as we arrive.

Sounds like a typical ice cream shop, right? Not quite. The rest of the shop is jammed with posters, wall hangings, signs, placards, and lots and lots of toys. It's like children's paradise in here. This place is designed to allow kids to run amok. Go crazy. Get wild and dress up and play tea party. The amount of games, toys and costumes is bewildering. The toys range to satisfy all ages - there's even a few Darth Vader helmets in case Maria and I want to re-enact Star Wars (she's Chewbacca to my Han Solo).

It's quite an amazing sight. It's busy. It's jam packed. It's crazy but you suddenly feel overwhelmed with - how do I put this? You're overwhelmed with happiness. I want to grab some of those cars and drive them across the table tops with death-defying stunts and unbelievable aerobatics. Oh yes, my robber will escape from those cops. Oh yes, they will.

After ordering our ice creams (Maria gets pumpkin pie and a berry of some sort with whipped cream, I get pumpkin pie and cookies & cream with animal crackers) we chat will Bill the owner a little while Maria splits her attention with the Colts game on the television (death to Colts, I say). Bill is a fun and welcoming guy to talk to and he tells us why his prices are so low.

I mean my ice cream cost less than three dollars. Bill says that he built this place so that families could come and enjoy ice cream for less than ten bucks. A family of four going out for ice cream for less than ten bucks? That's doing true community service in my book. And this place is jammed with toys so that the kids can play amongst themselves and the parents can let their guard down for a few minutes while here. I can't believe I hadn't thought of this.

Everyday, each and every toy is scrubbed clean by Bill and his staff. Considering how many toys are in this place, I can't imagine how long it would take to do so. If it were me, I'd install some sort of room sterilization machine to do to the work for me, but this place is truly a labor of love for Bill and it shows.

The cookies and cream ice cream is good, but the true winner is the pumpkin pie. It tastes just like real pumpkin pie and I can't get enough of it. I want to order more, but I decide to play it smart and hold back. Afterall, the night is still young.

The Colts are winning, our ice creams are finished and Maria's flight is leaving in half an hour, time to go. We leave Bill and company behind in the afternoon lull between children's birthday parties. No doubt that in just an hour's time, I Scream will be packed with screaming kids running amok once again.

I Scream Ice Cream
2000 Carlisle Boulevard NE
Albuquerque, NM 87110

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