While sushi burgers and waffle pizzas make the social-media rounds, pushing the envelope of modern-day food ingenuity (and decency) to its limits, there seems to be a special place for experimentation in the annals of ice-cream Instagram.
“Desserts can exist in a cartoonish space because they’re celebratory,” says Nick Morgenstern of Morgenstern’s Ice Cream.
Stunt foods, as we know, pop up and disappear quicker than Kanye West’s Twitter rants. A golden doughnut reported on by major national publications may be forgotten two months after its initial flareup, supplanted by some other bold creation that ups the ante. But ice cream’s special status comes from its warm-weather appeal, inspiring a burst of creativity come springtime as parlors around the country vie to win back customers.
Ice cream’s nostalgia also offers a platform for playfulness. “Nostalgia is about creating something you’re going to remember forever,” says Morgenstern. That pursuit to create a sense of timelessness doesn’t always play out so neatly, often resulting in a product that reeks of desperation.
As more foods go viral, the pressure to capture the market and grab people’s attention increases. We’ve already witnessed the arms race between Patissez’s human-head-sized milkshakes packed with whole brownies and Black Tap’s ice-cream-sandwich topped creations. “Everything in food has to be photographable,” remarks Morgenstern about the current climate. “I see this stuff and it’s just stupid.”
To give you a taste of what 2016 has in store for ice cream fans, here are eight examples that range from deft flavor combos to “do-it-for-the-gram” theatrics.
Churro Cone at ChickaLicious Dessert Club
Address and phone: 204 E 10th St, New York, NY (212-475-0929)
Gothamist reports that these ConeCHURROS® pay tribute to a Czech ice cream innovation involving the Trdelnik, a sweet cone-shaped pastry. The reporter says it tastes more like a croissant than a churro.
Milkshakes at Black Tap
Address and phone: 529 Broome St, New York, NY (917-639-3089)
The mini-chain made a splash on Instagram with their over-the-top, candy-studded milkshakes, often featuring ones crowned with whole brownies and cookies. You can find flavors like Sweet N’ Salty, Cookie, and Cotton Candy, and they also sub in specials such as peanut-butter-fluff and caramel-apple.
Halvabaloo at Humphry Slocombe
Address and phone: 2790A Harrison St, San Francisco, CA (415-550-6971)
The SF-based ice cream shop, which now has two locations, is renowned for their seasonal favorites and counterintuitive flavor profiles. This month they unveiled the Halvabaloo, which pairs black vinegar with tahini-base halva ice cream.
Chocolate Tacolate at Salt & Straw
SXSW – It’s 1pm and that means it is Chocolate Tacolate go time!! We are debuting these little lovelies for the very first time and we’ve got 50 available at our scoop truck at the SouthBites Trailer Park – hurry on down! #chocolatetacolate #southbites #icecream #saltandstraw #saltandstrawsxsw #austintacos
Address and phone: Portland and Los Angeles
In what appears to be a nod to the OG Choco Taco, artisanal ice-cream shop Salt & Straw debuted their Tacolate at Austin’s SXSW festival. Given the city’s rich taco culture, the timing couldn’t have been better.
Egg Waffle Cone at Eggloo
Address and phone: 60 Mulberry St, New York, NY
This newcomer offers made-to-order egg waffles that can be stuffed with vanilla, chocolate, or matcha ice cream, and then topped with anything from fortune cookies to breakfast cereal. The owners are fully aware of its social-media appeal.
Sour Patch Kids Ice Cream at Baskin Robbins
Address and phone: Nationwide
Sour Patch Kids Redberry Blast is the type of flavor that’s designed to get attention: a raspberry and marshmallow ice cream base highlighted by a Sour Patch Kids swirl.
Doughnut Cone at Datz Dough
Address and phone: 2602 S Macdill Ave, Tampa, FL (813-902-1979)
Square Milkshakes at Sonic
Address and phone: Nationwide
The fast-food franchise recruited pardoy chef Christine Flynn (a.k.a., Jacques La Merde) to make milkshakes specifically designed for Instagram. Each shake comes in a clear square jar and will be exclusively available at this year’s Coachella festival.