It's hard not to love Big Gay Ice Cream, the only ice cream business I know of with a unicorn as its mascot and a novelty cone called a Salty Pimp. If you want to know how far out commercial soft serve can go, the Big Gay team can show you.
But with the launch of a new soft serve base made with Ronnybrook dairy, Big Gay ice cream may now be one of New York's ice cream powerhouses—not just for what they do with ice cream, but for the ice cream itself.
We visited the East Village shop just as Doug was loading the new base into his machine. "The viscosity of it is amazing," he told us. "It freezes so much more easily, and tastes totally different." The new base is short on ingredients, little more than milk, cream, sugar ("Isn't it nice to see that word there?"), and a couple natural stabilizers. The vanilla is flavored with vanilla extract; chocolate is punched up with cocoa.
The new ice cream wasn't ready yet, so we got a cup of the old soft serve for comparison. "This is a pretty good grade," Doug told us. "The trucks that drive through midtown on specific routes generally have good stuff. The trucks farther out looking to sell for cheaper aren't as high quality."
There's nothing wrong with the old version at all: it's heavily stabilized, and the chocolate tastes more like carob, but we're okay with that. That said, it doesn't hold a candle to the new version, which was up and running at the West Village location last Friday afternoon.
The new soft serve is big and buttery, dense almost like frozen custard with unmistakable dairy richness. It's less stiff and pudding-like than the old ice cream, but even more creamy, with a liveliness that does special justice to both the vanilla and chocolate flavors. It goes toe to toe with the city's best.
Controlling the soft serve base means that Big Gay Ice Cream can now start experimenting with its own flavors. Coffee and cardamom were available on our visit (special flavors rotate daily), and they work especially well as a twist. Both were light and clean, with balanced bitter coffee and aromatic cardamom shells coming through clear. We're looking forward to trying them all.
I returned to the East Village shop that night (yes, fourth scoop of the day if we're counting) to try out the new ice cream as a Salty Pimp, Big Gay's novelty cone of vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche, salt, and a chocolate dip. The new vanilla tastes like it's custom made for this: all its buttery richness practically leaps off the cone when paired with the added salt. My next one won't be far off.
Big Gay Ice Cream Shop
125 East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009 (map)