(Abandon all hope of seriousness, ye who read this article.)
The era has long passed when I ordered what a normal man orders. I've been known to say things like, "33 pieces of cheesecake, please!" This week was a little more manageable; just a few cups of ice cream. But what cups they were.
Cold Stone claims you can get anything smashed into their ice cream. Plenty of people order cookie dough and brownies and Butterfinger, say, mixed into their scoop. They pledge to make your sundae however you want. But what happens if you order every topping? No limit exists on their website, so my interest was piqued further. Could I do it?
We just had to find out.
A Cold Stone creation lies somewhere between a DQ Blizzard and hard ice cream on the greater ice cream spectrum. The process is part of the fun, as their "sundae artists" mash toppings into your ice cream on a cold slab of stone. First, a miniature bowl is created out of a scoop of ice cream, not unlike mashed potatoes awaiting gravy. Into that well, they pour spoonfuls of toppings, and then mash the walls of the dimple in on itself to create a blended treat.
Before we committed to the big order, a little warm-up: why not try all the candies? That'd be Heath Bar, Kit-Kat, Reese's, Butterfingers, Snickers, and M&Ms. No sweat.
The sundae artist didn't seem to understand me when I said "all of the candy toppings." (Come on, there aren't that many.) To avoid confusion, I just went down the line—"Heath Bar. Okay. Then Kit-Kat. Okay..."
Once we got to three, she reminded me that I did have to pay for more than two toppings. Little did she know.
The all-candy mix-in was quite the creation. It tasted heavily of peanuts, present in three of the candies (Snickers, B'Fingers, and Reese's). Of these, the M&Ms, Butterfingers, and Heath Bars smashed up well in ice cream; the Kit-Kats (mine were stale) and Snickers (their caramel hard in the cold), less so.
Still running warm-ups, we decided to see if a fruit blowout would work any better. This time, the same sundae artist smirked when I asked for "all of their fruit." She told me, "We have blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and pineapple." That sounded quite all right to me, so I watched as she folded the ice cream over the toppings, and the French vanilla slowly turned pink with raspberry and strawberry juice.
The "All-Fruit" mix-in was edible, even refreshing. Most of the fruit has clearly been frozen, which was a little disappointing, but not too much of a surprise. I did like the tartness of it all, which helped to cut the overwhelming sweetness of their ice cream. My total tab thus far: $13.95, or about $7 each.
Two down, and it was time for the finale.
When I arrived at the head of the line, my server from the last round made eye contact with me and started laughing. She elbowed her friend and said, "Have fun with him." I asked for the same thing at the ice cream case: a large French Vanilla, to which my new sundae artist obliged.
Arriving at the toppings bar, I smiled and said "I'd like every single topping, please." Her eyes widened slightly in horror: "We have 24 toppings." I replied: "Then I'll take all 24."
She made an "It's your funeral" face, but went to work immediately. She dumped a huge spoonful of marshmallows into the mix, and I gulped. "Um, maybe smaller spoonfuls? I don't want to put you guys out of business."
"You have to pay for the toppings. $0.69 each."
Having put me in my place, she recommenced dumping.
I watched eagerly as the first few toppings—marshmallows, graham crackers, and M&Ms—were placed in the bowl. But it all grew more comical as they piled on. It was hard not to giggle when she put a full piece of spongecake with cherry topping in the mix; I laughed audibly when she added a full cookie's worth of cookie dough and a massive golf-ball-sized glob of peanut butter. Surprisingly, she did it all professionally—no laughs, no comments, no giggles. She also seemed to have no problem handling what became a massive mound of ice cream and toppings. I guess they have a good training program at Cold Stone.
At one point, she did look up and ask me, "Is this some kind of bet?" Jessica, our esteemed photographer responded, "Yes, something like that."
When the dust settled, my most massive mix-in wasn't the best mix-in I had that day. (I'm sure you're surprised to hear it.) By the time I paid and scooped up a big spoonful, the ice cream was mostly melted. The mixing process softens the ice cream considerably, and boy, did they mix this one. With that many toppings, each bite was different, with the first having an odd mix of Butterfinger, gummy bears, and cookie dough. The second? Marshmallow, Kit-Kats, and cherry topping.
The mix-ins, of course, are the main reason to go to Cold Stone. But it turns out they make sense only up to a certain limit. Grabbing all the fruits, all the candy, or five different wacky toppings could make for a more manageable, affordable (if still moderately absurd) dessert. This soupy mess (surprise, surprise) isn't something I'd shell $28.90 for again.
But you can now rest assured: Cold Stone Creamery will give you any of their toppings you want. Even when that "any" is "all."
About the Author: John M. Edwards, the fast-food bureau chief at Serious Eats, also writes about fast food and regional chains at fastfoodr.com. His day job relates to personal training and nutrition. (Seriously.) Follow him at @johnmedwards.