Marble Slab vs Braum's: Cone Confrontation

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In the parlor, no one can hear you scream...

Thanks to all the ruckus over frozen yogurt, some people might have forgotten about the stuff that doesn't contain active cultures. But ice cream has suffered through a number of indignities over the past two or three decades: Chunky Monkey, cute colors like pink and baby blue, the addition of Gummi Bears...

Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, Peachy Paterno--these are the hallmark flavors of real ice cream, right? Um...Peachy Paterno is a favorite at Penn State's creamery, by the way.

Of course, everyone has a preference, be it flavor or brand. Some lean to Haagen Dazs, others to lighter styles--Blue Bell, for instance. For this week's toque to toque meltdown, however, I decided to head to a couple of parlors and sample the blandest thing they served.

That's right--vanilla...or in the case of Marble Slab, sweet cream.

Braum's version is timid in flavor and begins to drip rather quickly, forcing you to work fast. It's also served--at least on this occasion--at a colder core temperature. So until the cone begins to drool all over your hand, only a milky essence comes through.

There are a couple of key points in its favor, though: Braum's vanilla is only modestly sweet. And the texture is light and creamy.

Marble Slab's sweet cream was always one of my guilty pleasures. But the serving they handed me at lunch (yes, my lunch involved two ice cream cones) was rather disappointing. Oh, it still offered that intricate gently rich taste of half and half, brightened by only a dash of sugar.

But it felt like it wanted something--more milkfat, perhaps. And the ice cream would stretch and bounce back into place. And really, elasticity is something you want in Sans-a-belt slacks and Econ 101, not a vanilla cone. The fact that it refused to melt also troubled me.

Perhaps I should have packed a Mr. Science kit.

It's a difficult one to score, in the end. Give the flavor edge to Marble Slab. Points for texture go to Braum's. And given that I expected more from Marble Slab than Braum's, the intangibles also lean in the latter's favor.

Damn--that means Braum's in an upset. That can't be right.

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