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THE SHACK & STRAWBERRY GELATO

A Bayside memory.

 

Remember the days before Baskin Robbins, Ben & Jerry’s and frozen yogurt shops were on every street corner? The days when ice cream stands and parlors dotted the American landscape?  I do.  I remember summers spent on a lake in rural Connecticut and my parents taking me for homemade peppermint ice cream at a little stand that was nothing more than a shack on an old country road.

Back in the day when I was growing up in Bayside, not far from my house, sitting on the corner of Bell Blvd. and 35th Avenue, was another shack. Everyone called it “The Shack,” because that’s what it was, literally. It sold newspapers (my dad bought his daily Herald Tribune there) and comic books, cigarettes, candy, tall “2 cent” pretzels and ice cream. Breyers ice cream to be precise before Breyers went commercial and packaged it flavors to be sold in supermarkets. Big scoops of soft creamy vanilla or rich chocolate, fresh peach or strawberry or, my favorite, butter almond plopped on top a crunchy sugar cone (or crunchy cake cone if that was your preference) then dipped in chocolate sprinkles.

I loved it when my parents would take me there for a treat and I’d watch Tony, the owner, dip his scoop into the butter almond tub and build my cone. Or watch when Tony would pack a pint (or quart) cardboard container (never styrofoam) with ice cream to take home as a special dessert that night. Wisely, my parents rationed sweets in our house, so when we did have ice cream or cookies (made by mom), it was an event.

As I grew older, I rode my bike to the Shack or walked those few blocks and would buy a two cent pretzel with “allowance” money and I’d look through my favorite Lulu and Archie comic books. Tony, an old-world Italian immigrant, wasn’t overly warm or friendly, but he allowed us kids to hang out even if we didn’t buy a cone or pretzel or comic book.

The old Shack was eventually torn down to make way for the new Shack, a sort of “pre” mini-mall, box-like, cement-looking structure a few yards from the corner to make way for a gas station (if my memory serves me). Unlike the old Shack which was cramped with no seating, but had character, the new Shack was bigger, brighter and more sterile.  BUT, it had a soda fountain/luncheon counter where we kids could sit and sip a coke or eat a sundae till we had to go home for supper.

Before too long Tony’s teenage son (also named Tony) started working there after school and I started hanging out there sipping an egg cream and reading love comics (I, too, was a teenager by then). Tony, Jr., was taller than his father and so cute. Whether it was after church (only two blocks from the Shack) or on the way home from middle school, I’d often drop in for ice cream or check out the comic books and, of course, to see if Tony, Jr. was working.

Having a teenage crush was fun and by the time I was in high school, Tony, Jr. and I became friends and it was the ice cream that kept me going to the Shack.

No “store-bought” or “pre-packaged” ice cream has ever replicated the taste. Nor has Ben & Jerry’s or Baskin Robbins.

Not until a recent Sunday brunch when one bite of dessert brought the Shack back.

Friends were dropping by my home in L.A. on their way home to Ojai and my husband and I decided to ‘do’ a brunch.  Of course, we could have done lunch (maybe make fancy ‘Chef Nancy Silverton’ grilled cheese sandwiches, or a grilled chicken Caesar salad), but since they were to arrive before noon, but after ten, we did brunch.

My husband planned his menu that started with a thick chunk of smoked salmon (not lox or nova) with unsalted butter and crackers and bloody Marys.  Then came a baked bread, sausage, red pepper and asparagus egg strata, served with a chilled 2006 House of Nobilo Icon sauvignon blanc, followed by some French pressed coffee or tea and his homemade lavender cookies and homemade gelato.  I pulled out my four antique Limoge luncheon plates (bruncheon plates?), polished the sterling luncheon (bruncheon) silverware, put linen napkins in silver rings and set our old pine farm table.

Brunch was a hit – but nothing prepared us for the delicious taste of homemade strawberry gelato.  Pure creaminess coupled with the amazing taste of fresh strawberries.

Not since I licked a strawberry cone at the Shack have strawberries tasted better.

The Shack is gone now, but the memory lingers.

 

STRAWBERRY GELATO

(From Italy’s Carpigiani Gelato University

as reported by Sherri Jennings in the LA Times) 

 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups milk
2 T. skim milk powder
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 -3 cups cleaned strawberries
1 1/2 pounds ice
1 pound ice cream salt 

Directions:
In medium saucepan, combine milk, milk powder, cream and 1 cup sugar.
Heat over medium heat, stirring, until it reaches a strong simmer (7-8 mins.)
Remove from heat, store in fridge at least 3 hours, up to 2 days.

In blender, combine the cooled milk base with strawberries and remaining 3/4 cup sugar.
blend until smooth.

Place mixture in small metal bowl over a larger bowl containing ice and salt.
Whip with a hand whisk for ten minutes or so to lighten texture.

Freeze for about 1-1/2 hours before serving.  (Per my husband, it never freezes well enough in that short a time... four hours maybe – but gelato should have a soft consistency – just like that ‘loose’ creamy homemade ice cream)

Then settle in a comfy chair with a big bowl of gelato and read your favorite comic book or, better yet, “Freeze Frame” my political thriller with a Bayside heroine with Bayside memories of her own.

 

"FREEZE FRAME"
www.amazon.com/dp/1466392150

 

 

 

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Nina Malone April 28, 2012 at 02:14 AM
I will have to make this w/my little one this summer (or maybe now--would be great w/all this humidity), thanks for what looks like a very yummy recipe. Question, when you say "Place mixture in small metal bowl over a larger bowl containing ice and salt", I'm assuming you are mixing them together. I initially thought you meant put one bowl over the other (like a water boil), but that didn't make sense w/all that ice and salt, haha.
Nina Malone April 28, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Ok Ilona, another question re: recipe. Can't you just pour the mixture from the blender into the salt and ice mixture? Am I missing something or it's just weird wording from the recipe...see...I really want to try this :-)
Ilona Saari April 28, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Hi, Nina, this is Richard... NO! Do not pour mixture into the ice and salt! You put the ice and salt into a big bowl, then put another bowl on top of the ice and salt and pour the mixture into THAT bowl (as in a double boiler as you previously stated). The ice and salt are merely to make the gelato chill faster. After beating the gelato mixture with the whisk for ten minutes pour it into a container and put into freezer. THROW AWAY the ice and salt. :)
Ilona Saari April 28, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Hi, everyone - for you guys who are just getting to know me (ilona) - richard is my husband and the "real" chef in our family. ;o)
Ilona Saari April 28, 2012 at 03:42 PM
PS - if any of you have Shack memories, or Tony memories (Sr. or Jr.), I would love to read them.
Steve R May 08, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I am familiar with the "shack" of Bayside. I lived on 36th Ave near Bell Blvd. I waited for the Q-13 bus every morning on the corner of 35th Ave and Bell Blvd during high school. We would take shelter at the shack building during rain and cold. I remember both the old and young Tony.
Ilona Saari May 08, 2012 at 06:01 PM
Thanx for sharing, Steve. Love that someone else has that memory! Are you still in Bayside?
Steve R May 09, 2012 at 12:07 AM
I live in Virginia now. I was in Bayside up until the late 70's. After that my parents stayed there until the late 80's and then sold their 35-year home for a whole lot of $. The buyer then tore the old house down and built 2 (ugly) houses in its place. This was at 214-11 36th Ave. The thing I miss most about Bayside and NY in general is the FOOD! Pizza, bagels, etc. Down here in Virginia people don't know what's good. I visit Bayside and LI occasionally. I noted that the old neighborhood has changed a lot, many Oriental folks have moved in.
Jenny May 09, 2012 at 12:08 PM
posts like this are great. they get everone remembering.
Lois Chiappe July 15, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Hi Ilona, my name is Lois Chiappe and I grew up in Bayside and lived two blocks from the Shack as a child. My friend, Joanne Kelly and I, were at the Shack constantly getting our 10 cent ice cream cones - my favorite flavor was coffee on a sugar cone. We used to steal coal from Tony's coal bin out back so we could put eyes in our snowmen in the winter. I often wish I had a picture of that place but I guess my memories will have to do. BTW, I have a picture of us in 1962 at Beta Sigma Chi's "induction." Write to me @ loisisabel@hotmail.com and I'll send it to you! Best Regards, and thanks for the memories. It's amazing because I was just talking about the Shack the other day with a long lost love of mine from Bayside - we got in touch on-line and were reminiscing about our childhoods - anyone who grew up in the 50's in Bayside would remember Tony Tarantino (sp?) and the Shack. Do you remember Mary's Candy Store across the street from P.S. 41? Hope to hear from you.

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