The 30-Day Brain Freeze: My month imbedded with the frostbitten armies of Dessert Storm
Every day of the 30-day sunstroke we called June, I sought relief in random ice creams, frozen yogurts, gelatos and other freezy things cold enough to make your head hurt. Bonus: It's said that our Arctic brethren have 100 words for snow. I'll give you 30 to describe how hot it is. Bonus hot word for July: Helena (as in, "Handbasket, party of one? Your summer is ready.")
DAY 1: AMY'S ICE CREAMS
(1301 S. Congress Ave. 440-7488, www.amysicecreams.com .)
The ice cream: Coffee with Heath bar crush-in ($4.20, small). Amy's is the epicenter of Austin ice cream culture. Coffee toffee makes bittersweet sense, especially if you take yours with cream and sugar and a two-handed countertop crush.
The hot word: Venetian - like the blinds, because the sun bakes between the slats even at 7 p.m.
DAY 2: JIM-JIM'S WATER ICE
(615 E. Sixth St. 708-8285, mobile locations listed at www.jimjimswaterice.com .)
The water ice: Mango and black raspberry ($4, medium). My kids go to Deep Eddy for Jim-Jim's more than for the pool, I think. The cart's not always there, but the Sixth Street storefront's open all week. Black raspberry tastes sweet and vague. With tart mango, it makes a yin-yang swirl of tiny crystals with a hard brain freeze in every spoonful.
The hot word: Blastery - the high-octane version of "blustery."
DAY 3: SANDY'S HAMBURGERS
(603 Barton Springs Road. 478-6322.)
The frozen custard: Vanilla cone dipped in chocolate ($1.89, small). Think of the chocolate shell as armor against the sun. At first bite, when the soft-serve bubbles over your knuckles like a baking-soda volcano, you'll know the armor was just for show.
The hot word: Brimstoned - The droopy red eyes, the Nick Nolte hair. You need ice cream, man.
DAY 4: DOLCE VITA
(4222 Duval St. 323-2686, Facebook page.)
The ice cream: Blackberry sorbet, pistachio gelato and Nutella gelato ($4.28, medium). They minister to the indecisive here with little plastic spoons, surely color-coded so they know how many samples you've had. Blackberry's as deep crimson as frozen pomegranate seeds. Pistachio glows a mellow green. Nutella expresses our European aspirations and embodies Dolce Vita's ministry at the same time: Are we chocolate or just nuts? We can't decide.
The hot word: Sonofusione - Italian ice cream in the heat? Just fuse together the Italian words for "I'm melting."
DAY 5: FROYOYO
(3201 Bee Cave Road. 852-8528, www.froyoyo.com .)
The frozen yogurt: Regular tart, low-cal chocolate, red velvet cake ($4.39 at 42 cents an ounce). The regular old tart yogurt, the foundation of the concept, was frozen only in the sense that it didn't come out as a liquid. Beware the leathery blueberries and waxy chocolate raisins and stick with real foods like almonds and peanuts and Cap'n Crunch. Is it impolite to ask why self-serve yogurt shops have tip jars?
The hot word: Fake-N-Bake - We can't be fooled by a few sprinkles and a little shade.
DAY 6: CASEY'S NEW ORLEANS SNOWBALLS
(808 E. 51st St.)
The snowball: Boston cream pie ($2.50, small). Sure, I could get blue raspberry. Kevin McHorse did, and it turned his teeth X-Men blue. He was there with daughter Megan (cherry), son Tyler (ice cream, and yes that's a flavor) and wife Beth (none for me, thanks). It was their first time here, part of a family day out that included a water slide and a baseball game. Casey's is perfect for that, even if you don't order Boston cream pie, with dark yellow vanilla cream and frothy chocolate over ice so fine it's like Aspen powder.
The hot word: Tripidigital - The adjectival form of 100-plus.
DAY 7: TÈO
(1206 W. 38th St. 451-9555, www.caffeteo.com .)
The gelato: Salted caramel, strawberries-and-cream and chocolate with hazelnuts and ($4.15, medium). White, pink and brown make a classic sundae, but Tèo takes it a step further with chips of salty brittle and veins of caramel, with silky ripples of fruit and cocoa with an Italian pedigree: tartufo al bacio. On Tuesdays, a small gelato is just $2. A buck a scoop.
The hot word: SOS-Double D - Same old sizzle, different day.
DAY 8: ICE QUEENS
(1210 Rosewood Ave. 771-5886, www.austinicequeens.com .)
The snowball: Rainbow with a frozen yogurt core ($3, small). Tre Gaarder and Amy Hutchins are Texas Rollergirls, dealers of pain-tertainment on the flat track. They're also dealers of East Side snowballs, froyo and cotton candy from a modified 7-foot-by-10-foot red Sno-Pro trailer they found on Craigslist. The rainbow crown of this stuffed snowball is made from cotton candy, cake batter and blue coconut syrups. It's a metaphor for the fanboy's vision of a roller derby diva: crash and flash on the outside, cool and sweet on the inside.
The hot word: Hott - The extra "t" is for texasrollergirls.org.
DAY 9: YOGURT PLANET
(3220 Feathergrass Court, No. 136. 339-2988, www.yogurtplanet.com .)
The frozen yogurt: Pomegranate berry tart and taro ($4.10 at 39 cents an ounce). My Domain Brain Freeze was supposed to come from Orange Cup yogurt. Gone, closed. Gelato at Viva Chocolato? Arrivederci, g'bye. Yogurt Planet, you're up. The Planet gave me 14 self-serve yogurt choices, but the tangy blush of pomegranate and the exotic coconutty purple funk of taro won the tasting wars. On one side of the topping bar, the kids' table called with jagged cereals, crushed candy and rubbery rainbows. The other side stretched out like the fruit aisle at the grocery store - if all the fruit cost $6.24 a pound.
The hot word: Ninety-hate - Any temperature between 95 and 100.
DAY 10: DAIRY QUEEN
(1501 Town Creek Drive. 444-0024, www.dairyqueen.com .)
The Blizzard: Turtle pecan cluster ($3.39, medium). Yes, your shake can stand a spoon, but can it survive being turned upside down? I've always admired that about the Blizzard, its gravity-defying density. Think of this as a sundae smoothie, its chocolate flakes and pecans whirled to a straw-friendly uniformity. Your kids will prefer the scattershot colors of M&Ms or the chewiness of Snickers bits. So will you.
The hot word: Broilerplate - When the five-day forecast shows all the same numbers.
DAY 11: LA TROPICANA No. 2
(1510 Town Creek Drive. 416-1616.)
The paletas de leche: Vanilla and strawberry ($1.40 each). Hardly the cutting-edge Mexican frozen bars with chiles or unusual fruits of the border, these are entry-level paletas for güeros like me. Icy and milky, with an exaggerated yellow color we no longer demand from vanilla. I could have tried beige bars of rompope (eggnog flavor) or pecan, but I needed brighter colors in my day to fight the hazy heat.
The hot word: Flameante - My Spanish will never get better if I don't use it. An adjective for "blazing."
DAY 12: BIG TOP CANDY SHOP
(1706 S. Congress Ave. 462-2220, www.facebook.com/bigtopcandyshop .)
The shaved ice: Witch Doctor ($1.97). Nothing makes you feel like the beleaguered townsfolk in a biker movie more than walking out of an old-timey candy shop during Republic of Texas Rally weekend. Really, Mr. Satan's Horseman, all I wanted was a snow cone. The Witch Doctor blends the shavings from a cranky vintage ice machine with Dublin Dr Pepper syrup, cream and tiger's blood, which is the tough guy's way of saying coconut fruit punch. The result is either a charming cherry-vanilla float or the base for your next trash-can punch party, depending on which side of the handlebars you're on.
The hot word: Motorcyclone - It's not the heat, it's the calamity. And also the heat.
DAY 13: MIGHTY FINE
(10515 N. MoPac Blvd. (Loop 1), No. 205. 524-2400. More locations at www.mightyfineburgers.com .)
The shake: Strawberry-lemonade ($3.99). It's not on the menu, but slip the counter help $5 and they'll make you one anyway, along with 68 cents change after tax. Just take an idea that's already good to begin with - lemonade stomped (yes, stomped) right at the store, mixed with Blue Bell ice cream - then add strawberries. It tastes like a Dreamsicle in a world without oranges.
The hot word: Dogadaisical - In these dog days, all you want is air conditioning and a cheeseburger.
DAY 14: F & F FRUIT CUPS
(7110 Cameron Road, Suite B. 452-1940, www.fortheloveoffruits.com .)
The paletas: Pepino con chile and lime ($1 each). Salty and hot are the two things you demand from your fruit pop, yes? Pepino (cucumber) with chile delivers both. To get a handle on the electric green paleta, think limeade minus two-thirds of the sugar. The pops are made in Austin by La Super Michoacana, but F & F makes most everything else in-house: fruit cups, smoothies, juices and aquas frescas. A good place to go after lunch at Los Pepe's next door.
The hot word: Binary - Nothing but ones and zeros. Also describes fraternal twin stars. Cosmically hot.
DAY 15: BASKIN-ROBBINS
(12407 N. MoPac Blvd. (Loop 1), No. 115. 833-8800, www.baskinrobbins.com .)
The ice cream cone: Butter pecan and cherries jubilee ($3.89 for two scoops). I haven't been to Baskin-Robbins since I was 14, when I'd fly past the chocolate to get butter pecan. Something about that brickle taste challenged my senses to a duel, frozen in space between the pecan pie I loved and the butterscotch candies I hated. It hasn't changed as far as I can tell.
The hot word: Hefy - Text-speak for "Hellish enough for you?"
DAY 16: SHORT N SWEET CAFE
(10901 N. Lamar Blvd. 873-0893.)
The sundae: Durian fruit and honeydew frozen yogurts ($3.23, "Sweet" size). The thorny durian fruit looks like a hand grenade in an off-world video game, and it explodes with onion, garlic and vaguely corporeal aromas. Froyo isn't supposed to give you lunch breath, is it? I hit it with some sweet red beans to soften out the Andrew Zimmern factor. Gentle green honeydew yogurt tastes like it was scooped straight from the melon, made even more friendly by strawberry pudding as shiny as pink pleather.
The hot word: Desetropical - The arid scorch of the Sahara mixed with the humid torpor of a rainforest.
DAY 17: MANDOLA'S ITALIAN MARKET
(12815 Shops Parkway, Bee Cave. 600-8500, www.mandolasmarket.com .)
The gelato: Tiramisu and coffee ($4.25, medium). I like my coffee black, and I like my tiramisu however I can get it. Mandola's understands, so the coffee's dark and bitter and the tiramisu has a dense whipped froth and a trace of cocoa. The generous scooper pulled in one of the ladyfinger cookies decorating the ice cream bin, and it was like getting the baby in the king cake. .
The hot word: Shadrachian - An Old Testament allusion to spiritual fireproofing. See also: Meshachian and Abednegorical.
DAY 18: MOM & POPS
(Downtown farmers market, Fourth and Guadalupe streets from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. 775-1353. More market locations at www.themomandpops.com .)
The paletas: Strawberry-lemonade and pineapple-basil ($2.50 each). You might know Manuel and Laura Flores as the PopSoCools family. Or maybe you know them from GoodPop. Now they're making their paletas under the name Mom & Pops and working the markets with flavors including mango-chile, hibiscus-mint and watermelon-agave. You'll get more tart than sweet from strawberry-lemonade. "We started making these for our kids," the dad says. "So we wanted to use as little sugar as possible." For the parents, grassy blooms of basil turn a pineapple paleta into an elegant palate cleanser for a farmers market lunch.
The hot word: Conairid - The wind is your blow-dryer, set on high. Saves electricity.
DAY 19: 7-ELEVEN
(408 W. 15th St. 474-1060, www.7-eleven.com .)
The Slurpee: A mix of Coke and cherry flavors ($1.49, medium). Somewhere in a closet at home, I have a stash of superhero Slurpee cups from the '70s, when the machines had just two flavors and self-serve was an alien concept. It's always been cherry Coke for me, a slushy reminder of frozen green soda bottles and bicycle brain freezes.
The hot word: Austinative - Pronounced "aw-STIN-uh-tev," an adjective meaning "everything was better before the heat got here."
DAY 20: SWIRLL
(2310 Guadalupe St. 482-8668, www.swirlls.com. )
The frozen yogurt: Peach, cherry amaretto ($3.74 at 39 cents an ounce). Unlike the tasting free-for-alls at most self-serve froyo places, Swirll requires assistance. Having worked on the Drag, I understand completely. Campus retail is like working the Mos Eisley spaceport. The security seems quaint for a product so innocuous. I checked the peach for a pulse and found none, but the amaretto was at least as good as the maraschino cherry I added for color. Maybe next time, just a bowl of granola and blackberries.
The hot word: Bedraggling - I can't bring myself to dress in shorts and shower shoes, so this describes the sun's wilting effect on me in jeans and boots.
DAY 21: SNO-BEACH
(801 Barton Springs Road )
The snow cone: Margarita and jalapeño firecracker with cream ($4, medium). I love the unnatural colors and flavors of snow cone syrup. The jalapeño is red and tastes like cinnamon; the margarita looks and tastes like Gatorade. Waiting in the flip-flopped line at lunchtime, you could use the electrolytes.
The hot word: Sunscream - There's more sunburned skin in this line than there was on the set of "Cool Hand Luke."
DAY 22: LAS DELICIAS PALETERIA Y NEVERIA
(8120 Research Blvd. 407-9009, www.lasdeliciaspaleteria.blogspot.com .)
The ice cream cone: Scoop of mamey, scoop of guava ($3.75, large). The mamey fruit looks like one of those seed pods from "Alien," complete with toxic seeds. But man, do those alien eggs make some good stuff, like a cross between frozen sweet potato purée and papaya. Owner Carlos Nuñez makes his own ice cream and paletas at the store, incorporating purple sweet potatoes, sour yellow cherries called nanches and kid-friendly coconut, watermelon and lime.
The hot word: Firewater - The intoxicating thrill of a hot summer thunderstorm just when the bars are letting out.
DAY 23: COOLHAUS
(3600 S. Lamar Blvd., but locations vary for this little truck. Schedule at www.eatcoolhaus.com/austin .)
The ice cream sandwich: Lambrunelleschi between ginger cookies ($4). Wine pop culturalist Mark Oldman says lambrusco's been unfairly painted as "a candied wine cooler no hipper than Ron Burgundy's mustache." But this fizzy red Italian wine gets a hipster makeover from this Bauhaus-mobile of an ice cream truck, which cooks it down and adds cinnamon to make ice cream as wily as sangria.
The hot word: Hothaus - From its scorched roadside patch of earth, Coolhaus could grow vegetables behind the windshield. Just an idea.
DAY 24: TOY JOY
(2900 Guadalupe St. 320-0090, www.toyjoy.myshopify.com .)
The shake: Vegan vanilla soft-serve with faux Butterfinger ($3.75, baby size). There are flies of all sizes here. And bugs. Hundreds of them in plastic bins, waiting to be dropped into your kid's ice cream for guarantees of future therapy. Toy Joy is a fun place, even for vegan soft-serve, something that doesn't sound fun at all. But whirl it with crumbled candy bits and a little suspension of disbelief and it tastes as artificially freezy as fast food. Which is to say that it tastes great.
The hot word: Treegan - I seek only the shade that already has fallen on the ground.
DAY 25: THE PALETERO
(Ann Richards Congress Avenue Bridge)
The Popsicles: Scribblers ($2 for a pack of two). The guys on the street pushing the hand carts with the little bells? They're ice cream men. But more specifically they're paleteros, slingers of paletas or bomp pops or drumsticks or even these things: frozen rainbow Scribblers the shape of sidewalk chalk. I didn't buy the Scribblers for their watermelon, cherry, orange and raspberry "flavors." I bought them because if Arturo Rodriguez can work the bat-watching crowd in the heat and keep a smile on his face, he deserves my business. And yours.
The hot word: "What kind of sad?" - The words at the bottom of the stick captured the ennui of the late afternoon. Only after the Popsicle was gone could I read the whole riddle: "What kind of bird is always sad? A bluebird." And that's kind of sad.
DAY 26: LICK IT BITE IT OR BOTH
(11101 Burnet Road, Suite 140-A. 835-2684, www.likeitbiteitorboth.com .)
The ice cream: Creamsicle, coconut and espresso ($4.50 for three baby scoops). Judging by the overlapping cupcake wrappers that cover the walls, I'm guessing that "bite it" wins the three-way battle for this shop's soul. The cupcakes - red velvet, Italian cream, funky monkey - have to be more dynamic than the ice cream, each scoop like an oil pastel sketch of the flavor it represents. What I'll order next time: A CupShake ($5), one scoop and one cupcake whirled together like a birthday-party smoothie.
The hot word: Bib-tickle hot - An anagram of "lick bite both."
DAY 27: EL CHILITO
(2219 Manor Road. 382-3797, www.elchilito.com .)
The paletas: Watermelon and cantaloupe ($1.59 each). Match them with reddish carne guisada and orange-y cochinita pibil tacos. The paletas are made in San Antonio with only five ingredients each, and the first three are water, melon and sugar. The only things missing are the seeds. Wait, I see a few in the red one, like little guitar picks for songs about summer.
The hot word: Perryesque - As in Katy. In a sure sign of heatstroke, Billboard called "California Gurls" the No. 1 summer song of all time.
DAY 28: TIFF'S TREATS
(1806 Nueces St. 473-2600, www.cookiedelivery.com .)
The Tiffwich: Blue Bell vanilla ice cream between peanut butter-chocolate chip and M&M cookies ($1.99). This one's more about those warm, foldable cookies than the ice cream. It's the only thing Tiff's won't deliver. The minute you walk outside, it turns into milk and cookies. Magic.
The hot word: Slimshady - Does this sun make my shadow look fat?
DAY 29: RED MANGO
(2222 Rio Grande St. 476-1496, www.redmangousa.com .)
The frozen yogurt: Ghirardelli dark chocolate and raspberry cheesecake ($1.99 at 39 cents an ounce). Even with flavors like Bevoloupe and lemon green tea, I gave up on health-conscious pretense for this last froyo stop of the tour and loaded up on chocolate and cheesecake, then tossed in Oreos, Craisins and Cocoa Pebbles. Surrendering to your childish side makes this frozen yogurt thing taste like … dessert.
The hot word: Hotter than Ringo's steering wheel. - More like a whole phrase than a word. But still, "I've got blisters on my fingers." Or was that John?
DAY 30: CURRA'S GRILL
(614 E. Oltorf St. 444-0012, www.currasgrill.com .)
The drink: Frozen avocado margarita ($7). After 29 days of ice cream, what I really need is something green. After 25 years in newspapers, what I really need is a drink. Why can't I have both? Like Austin, it's cool and quirky and ready for another plate of tacos al pastor. A perfect farewell toast. Cheers.
The hot word: Sunset - The place we ride off into. Unless we're coming from the other direction. Then it looks like sunrise.