When I tell people I was a vegetarian for more than 20 years, they mistakenly assume that I was on some kind of healthy high horse. On the contrary, I had literally memorized the phone numbers of my favorite ice cream shops within a 60 mile radius so that I could call ahead and check on the flavors of the day to see if it was worth wrangling a ride to get a man-sized scoop or three. My very favorite was Smith’s Home Dairy (543-4272) in a tiny, Mormon cow-town called Buhl, Idaho, a good 45 minutes from home. They always had several flavors of potato ice cream, it being Idaho. To this day the mint-chocolate chip haunts me with deep, sweet dreams.
I remember one summer night when I was 14, some girlfriends and I discovered Señor Cuervo. We snuck tequila shots and did cartwheels on Sara P’s lawn until the night devolved into a twisted game of Truth or Dare and some serious penance praying to the porcelain god. We were teetering on that awkward precipice of little-girlhood and growing up- old enough to get into the liquor cabinet but not enough to know how to control the result.
The next morning, Sara’s mom drove us to Buhl, ID for a parade. We were a backseat of wilted, groaning limbs and torsos. Her mom was in denial about the obvious alcohol seeping out our pores. I did not believe I would survive the car ride- my first taste of hangover remains to this day my worst. I couldn’t eat a thing once we got to the parade- the smell of funnel cake and corndogs sent me running to the public park toilets for more heaving prostrations. Then I remembered Smith’s Home Dairy and for the first time all day I had a tangible piece of hope to cling onto for the fact that I may actually survive. I hobbled into the ice cream shop looking like a torn-up, spit-out cross between Little Orphan Annie and Courtney Love. The term “hot mess” was coined that day.
Nevertheless I scooped my change onto the counter and clutched the still-warm waffle cone like it was the Holy Grail. The mint chocolate chip custard coated my throat like a salve and temporarily masked the tequila-soaked esophageal burn. Ice cream saved my life and I vowed to repay it by savoring it often with the unbridled love of a teenage girl for Justin Bieber.
From Smith’s Home Dairy I took potatoes, chalkiness and mint chocolate chip. I like the chips best when they are flaked little squares rather than kiss-shaped, but I do not like flecks so small your tongue cannot discern the textural difference between the chip and the ice cream.
In honor of our wedding anniversary, I wanted to make my husband something that would conjure youthful magic, so I created a dessert inspired by Smith’s Home Dairy. I rimmed fried potato crisps with dark chocolate to act as the “bread” in an ice cream sandwich and I topped each chocolate potato with ice cream quenelles. The chocolate flavor contains seven different chocolate varieties either from travels or from esoteric little chocolatiers. To perfect the taste, I blended the custard until it balanced. Sadly, this means duplication is impossible, but such are the best things in life.
I was in the doctor’s office for a routine visit a few weeks back and I observed that the X-Ray viewer lightbox she had hanging on the wall would make a stunning backdrop for food photos. A few clicks of the mouse and less than $20 later, the same box sat on my dining table waiting to showcase something a little bit sloppy, a little bit translucent, and a lot delicious. Both to play up the translucent element and because they complement the sandwiches well, I dappled the viewing surface with pomegranate candied kumquats and trails of mint gel. Then I swirled some of the extra pomegranate caramel around the whisk to make pomegranate floss and set the whole lot on top of the light box. Perhaps the pomegranate floss wasn’t entirely intentional and may have had more to do with candy hardening around the whisk tines, but I’ll never tell. For a first attempt, I’m ok with how the images came out, but I’ve got big ideas for my future in lightbox photography and my gut is telling me the messier the food, the better.