"Let's take a photo with him!" Kathy pled* after taking a quick glance at The Man Who Ate Everything himself, Jeffrey Steingarten. We happened to be at the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck the same time that Jeffrey decided to taste his way through their menu. Wattup, fortuitous timing.
"Okay!...you go ask him," I responded.
"Nooo, you should do it! I'm too shy"
What? No! I'm more shy. You're better at this stuff."
"Nooo, you do it."
"Nuuuuh, you do it."
"Bluuurh mraah blaragh!"
Those last two lines aren't exactly verbatim, but after much back and forth the conversation may as well have dissolved into gibberish. With Jeffrey being occupied by more important matters (tasting ice cream, feeding his Mister Softee-loving dog Sky King, talking to the Big Gay Ice Cream men Doug and Bryan, chatting with another impassioned fan) and Kathy and I firmly keeping to our task of photographing Doug and Bryan's frozen concoctions before they could melt into dairy-based puddles, we never got a "real" photo with Jeffrey. But Doug thankfully took the above photo with his iPhone, and it's a far more amusing snapshot than I could've gotten with my dSLR.
If you haven't read my About page (it's okay if you haven't; hell, I just realized it still says I'm 23, IT IS FULL OF INACCURACIES/I am retaining my youthfulness through lies), then you may not know that I named my blog about Jeffrey Steingarten's first book of food essays. If you're into food writing, then you figured it out without having to read that page. And if you haven't read his book, you need to get it ASAP (along with his second book, It Must've Been Something I Ate. His writing is refreshingly
funny hilarious (food writing needs more hilariousness, methinks), smart, authoritative, and clear—every word counts, and none of it is flowery.
Despite how approachable he sounds in writing though, he intimidates the crap out of me. As do most humans. (Related note: I met Jeffrey once before and while channeling his previous profession as a lawyer he joked that he could sue me for adapting his book's title. Hehe nervous laughter!) But this is not the time to delve into my crippling lack of self esteem—I mean, WHY DO I FAIL AT EVERYTHING [sob].
In the end, we at least got to chat with Jeffrey for a bit before he pulled Sky King away from the magical land of sweet creamy things and rejoined his wife while ambling down 17th Street to their next destination.
So, back to the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck. I sing its praises quite often, and the uninitiated sometimes ask, "But isn't it just like a regular Mister Softee truck with more toppings?" First, it's more than just "soft serve with fun toppings"—I don't think anyone else can beat Doug and Bryan in an "Ice Cream Dudes I Would Most Like to Hang Out With" contest. And to answer the question: Well...yeah; isn't that awesome? Mister Softee soft serve (or most soft serve in general; I keep thinking about the stuff I used to eat at the end of every Chinese buffet meal in suburban New Jersey) on its own is a pleasant respite on a hot day, but offers nothing in the ways of a culinary revelation. What is is good for though is acting as a sweet and creamy vehicle for other ingredients—rainbow sprinkles, a chocolate shell, or...crushed wasabi peas? Yup, they can do that for you.
My favorite is the Salty Pimp, a vanilla soft serve cone drizzled in dulce de leche, sprinkled with sea salt, and dipped in chocolate. Salty, sweet, creamy, and crunchy (well, chocolate-shell-crunchy)—few combinations are better than that. My love for this cone hasn't abated the slightest since I first mentioned it last year.
I'd tell you about the truck's other goodies, but I'd rather wait until their new website is up. I took the photos for it! It should be rad! Woohoo! But until that site is live, you can check out biggayicecreamtruck.com for the latest updates on their whereabouts (usually at 17th Street and Broadway, unless they're appearing at a special event).
* Although Columbia Journalism Review advocates the use of "pleaded," I repeated the word too many times in my head for it to sound real, and "pled" just has a nicer ring to it. Pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded pleaded there did I ruin it for you?