Ice cream is the perfect treat. It doesn’t matter if you prefer the stuff that requires the strength of Thor to scoop out, the half-melted creaminess of soft-serve, or an overloaded milkshake, nothing tops ice cream (except, y’know, cherries… and chocolate…and…).
Which helps explain why I didn’t dare miss my chance to visit the Museum of Ice Cream in New York City. After all, I love ice cream so much that I once tried to make my own batch of the stuff using a recipe I picked up from watching Zoom. It sucked and my dreams of having an unlimited supply of homemade ice cream were dashed.
The brainchild of 24-year-old Maryellis Bunn, the “lick-able” temporary museum recently opened in the Meatpacking District to much fanfare. That’s to be expected of a museum devoted to something President George Washington spent $200 — $5,000 today! — on in one summer. Meanwhile, I’m having the “but do you really need this” talk with myself every time I’m at the checkout with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s priced at $6.39.
I didn’t know about George Washington’s love for frozen desserts before I visited the museum, but little factoids like that are all over the place. Some are painted on walls, others come to guests via the museum’s tour guides. You can’t wander long before it becomes clear that the “Ice Cream” in the museum’s name doesn’t mean it isn’t a legit hall of learning.
Did you know the earliest form of ice cream dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD)? I sure as hell didn’t. I also didn’t know the ice cream scooper was invented in 1897 by black businessman Alfred L. Cralle. Or that I’d be annoying my friends and loved ones with these gems for weeks to come.
As I said, Legit Hall of Learning
On top of facts, there’s colorful ice cream art for more of that “real museum” feel, like hanging ice cream light fixtures, a wall decorated with nearly 200 ice cream cones, and fun ice cream paintings I’d totally buy if finances allowed. And it’s not enough to tell stories from ice cream’s storied past; history is also being made at the museum too. When I went to the press preview, guests assisted in the creation of the world’s biggest ice cream sundae. My ice cream scoop game was far too weak to help much, but I’m still a part of history!
On the day of the media preview, I skipped breakfast because the last thing I wanted was residual eggs and OJ ruining my ice cream tasting. Going without caused no drama though — upon entrance I was served the Ice Cream of the Day, a scoop of organic vanilla Blue Marble ice cream drizzled with guava lime zest and topped off with Fruit Loops and marshmallow minis.
Normally, I just have my ice cream with plain ol’ corn flakes. I love being an adult!
I wasn’t sure how much ice cream I was in for, so I took just a few bites bites of my breakfast, making sure to savor that guava lime zest drizzle. You’d think lime would ruin the ice cream, but mixed with the guava’s sweetness, it created a nice blend of flavors that left me drooling for more. Sadly, ice cream waits for no woman, and I had to keep it moving.
Ambling on, I found a room called The Chocolate Chamber. The name is a no-brainer here — the whole room is drunk on chocolate, from the pungent chocolate smell in the air to the chocolate-covered almonds blanketing the ground, to the chocolate spray fountain that I wanted to put my whole mouth on, before dying a happy, chocolate-y death. And death almost seemed like a possibility, because the room’s terrifying music made me halfway sure the Nesquick Bunny was gonna pop out with a hatchet.
The next room took me to Dr. Irwin Adam’s station. The food engineer/mad scientist was pumping up a “balloon” with helium. Who says science can’t be fun and delicious? Obviously, the balloons aren’t your regular Party City balloons. Instead, the food doc’s sticky, translucent balloons are made of sugar that he then inflates with helium. The cool part is sucking the helium out and talking in that pipsqueak voice before enjoying the rest of your diabeetus-on-a-stick.
The fun science continued at another station where a tiny Kibbles and Bits-looking tablet tricked my taste buds into thinking a sour lemon slice was pretty much candy. “Miracle Berry” is a West African fruit that changes your taste buds making them perceive sour food as being sweet. I was skeptical at first because something like that sounds like it would be at every drugstore across America, but it really did alter my taste buds. Rather than recoiling by the intense sourness of the lime slice, the miracle berries made it feel like I had just taken a sip of lemonade. Mother Nature, FTW!
Music. Aside from that eerie Chocolate Chamber music, I’m going to need to give a special shout out to whoever curated the playlist. All songs were candy or sweet-treat-inspired and featured oldies from The Four Tops’ “Sugar Pie Honey Bunch” to contemporary hits like 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop.” Hanson’s “MMMbop” may have been a stretch, but it took all my strength not to yell “Aye!” and hit the tootsie roll when “Cotton candy, sweet as gold, lemme see that tootsie roll” started blaring.
So, all in all, it was definitely not your ordinary, boring museum. Which seems to have been designer Maryellis Bunn’s whole point all along.
The Museum of Ice Cream runs through August 31.