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Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Chronicles of Creams

"It took me twenty years.  I know that sounds obsessive, but that's what it takes.  If you want to explain ants, then you have to know ants." -E.O. Wilson, famed zoologist, quoted in the New Yorker.

As with ants, if you want to explain creams, then you have to know creams.  Think of how uncomplicated lowly ants are, marching around, perhaps swarming Russian Communists in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.  Now, think of creams, and you understand that while it may have taken E.O. Wilson 20 years to know ants, it would take an infinity of lifetimes to know creams. Such is the problem of my life.

But I will be damned if I do not do everything in my power to have cream and to know it, in as many ways as possible, before my time comes.  Indeed, these chronicles are a desperate man's attempt to rage against the dying of the light.  My arsenal is not religion or meditation or doing good deeds.  Nay, my arsenal is whipped cream or a malted shake, or perhaps a good old-fashioned ice cream cone.

With the ticking of the clock in mind, I ventured down to the Upper West Side Shake Shack this afternoon in search of a concrete, which is godly custard mixed with a variety of possible additions.  In anticipation of this voyage, I consulted the Shake Shack menu and was considering a chocolate custard as the base, with peanut butter sauce and almonds.

Then, I noticed that today's daily custard flavor was Fluffernutter.  This confused me, as I was considering a chocolate custard with peanut butter sauce, the Fluffernutter begged comparison.  Indeed, using the idea of the Fluffernutter (peanut butter and marshmallow) as the dimension of comparison, we can imagine a few possibilities when combined with chocolate...

Concrete 1
Chocolate custard, peanut butter sauce, marshmallow sauce

Concrete 2
Vanilla custard, peanut butter sauce, fudge sauce

Concrete 3
Fluffernutter custard, fudge sauce

All three aforementioned custards contain identical or similar components, and it would make for a very interesting taste test indeed.  However, in the same way that Nathan Hale regretted that he had but one life to give for his country, I regretted that as ridiculous as I may seem, I am not about to order three different concretes at one time when I am all by myself.

These are the things I thought as I walked down to Shake Shack.  A part of me was so frustrated that I considered tossing all of the Fluffernutter combinations aside and ordering vanilla custard, almonds and chocolate sauce.  At any rate, the best laid plans, I arrived at the Shack only to find they were offering an extremely intriguing season fruit mix-in: banana-graham caramel compote.  As this sounded like one of the greatest things ever, I knew I had to get it.

But yet, I felt this would be too complex a mix-in with the Fluffernutter combinations described above. I decided on using vanilla custard as the base, and added almonds for good measure.  I did ask for a sample of the Fluffernutter as I waited, and I must say it was richly flavored and excellent - a very fine peanut butter cream.

For reasons I still do not understand, I ordered a half-size concrete (I have always had the full size).  When it was ready, I was disappointed - it seemed more like a one-third size.  Portions aside, this concrete was fabulous.  The compote was a thick and scrumptious concoction, and the flavors of caramel and graham blended perfectly together with a stunning hint of banana.  The almonds added a beautiful crunch.  The vanilla custard served as a calm ocean in which these flavors and textures could swim, and cut the richness of the compote.

"This concrete is dynamite," I said.  And I suppose there is nothing more to be spoken of right now.