corner of 23rd Street and 5th Avenue
Flatiron Building
New York, NY
originally out of Red Hook, Brooklyn

For most New Yorkers who grew up here between the steel and brick canyons that is New York City, there's only one ice cream truck worth mentioning: the Mr. Softee truck (Good Humor used carts). Yes Mr. Softee. It was a simpler time. You got either chocolate or vanilla or a swirl. There were umpteen toppings but everyone ordered sprinkles. These days, New York is somewhat more refined. Sure, Mr. Softee's still around, in fact, they even expanded into China (finally, we exported something), but our palate has evolved, and the ice cream truck is no exception. Enter, the Van Leeuwen Ice Cream truck.

I discovered Van Leeuwen purely by accident after picking up the pizza for my Pizza 33 review. I had questioned whether I wanted to add more calories to my already body-conscious self, but "screw it" I said, and got in line behind that woman in black with the red bag. "Pizza and ice cream?" the girl inside asked with a beaming smile when I got to the window. "Going to a party?" Oh, if only.

As you can see from the menu, Van Leeuwen has quite a selection of high end ice cream standards as well as rare if not unique flavors of its own. Vanilla, chocolate and pistachio on the one hand, Earl Grey tea, Currant & Cream and Ginger on the other. I ordered two small cups: Earl Grey Tea (described as "rich black tea from antique tea trees with bergomot citrus") and Gianduja ("Michel Cluizel chocolate blended with Tonda La Gentile hazelnuts"). Sickeningly good ice creams. They were so soft, so rich, so creamy, so flavorful that I was actually in shock. I was honestly expecting generic ice cream with a fancy name, but there's so much more here than a marketing gimmick. The Earl Grey tea ice cream tasted like rich, creamy earl grey tea with all the citrus and smoke that one would find if they brewed up a cup themselves and got a wizard to wave a wand over it until it became cold and relatively solid. The gianduja was likewise fantastic. The chocolate ice cream was rich, but not heavy and underscored with a light, but noticeable hazelnut background. It was like eating two ice creams folded into one, each balancing the other in a perfectly even, almost un-noticeable way. I'd have ordered more if the pizza hadn't been getting cold.

At about $4 per small, they're far from cheap, at least for ice cream, but they are incredibly good and definitely worth the cost. The truck also sells fancy espresso drinks, which I imagine would go quite well with the ice cream.

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

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