This past weekend, my wife and I ventured out one night to Winstead's, a local burger chain, for a quick cheeseburger and fries. Feeling adventurous, and because it was the beginning of summer, I ordered a chocolate malt. I, of course, had visions of the soda jerk in the back dipping the vanilla ice cream, mixing it with chocolate syrup, milk and malted milk, blending it together, and setting a glass full of the tasty concoction on our table with the extra beverage set to the side in the stainless steel cylinder used for blending the drink.
What arrived at our table was presented in a paper cup, with lid and straw. After taking off the lid, I discovered something which looked vaguely like a Wendy's Frosty. When I said "I ordered a chocolate malt" to our waiter, his response was "that's what this is." I asked "what happened to the malts you used to make, served in glass and made from scratch?" The look on his face told me I had ventured into a Q&A space for which he was woefully unprepared.
What's happened to the old-time ice cream parlors which served "hard" ice cream--sometimes even homemade--blended into frothy treats like ice cream sodas, root beer floats, banana splits and thick shakes of chocolate, vanilla or strawberry? In their place are soft-serve out of a machine or frozen custard disguised as the "new" ice cream.
I decided, after last weekend's Winsteads disappointment, that I would make it a personal quest to seek out the best shake/malt I could find. My first stop was tonight at Hubert Keller's San Francisco branch of The Burger Bar, an odd place perhaps to start my shake expedition but highly recommended by a fellow connoisseur of all things ice cream.
While the end product (a chocolate shake complemented with sliced bananas) was heavenly, it was also a bit too gourmet. The shake was served in a tall glass with the appropriate whipped cream and chocolate chip garnishes, yet was overly chocolatey. It satisfied my craving, for now, but I still am looking for an old-time shake or malt.
Let me know, loyal readers, where I should venture next. The quest has just begun...