Feb. 8, 2012 at 1:40 PM ET
Growing up in Ohio, ice cream was my savior during the humid summer months. As an adult, it remains my go-to dessert (with Columbus, Ohio-based Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams currently topping my "best-of" list), but it's still inextricably tied to my childhood.
Perhaps it's that youthful association that made me pause when I heard the theory of Jeni Britton Bauer, of the aforementioned "Splendid" ice creams, who says that ice cream is the ultimate aphrodisiac. At first, the thought of ice cream and sex in the same sentence seemed, well, weird. To get to the low-down on this philosophy, I gave Jeni a call.
“Ice cream is an extremely sensual experience,” she said. Her argument: Ice cream engages all the senses with its taste, scent and body. “It’s cold when it first hits your lips — that sets everything off — then the sweetness comes out. After that, the flavor absorbed by the butterfat carries that scent to your nose.”
Jeni has been making handcrafted ice cream for over sixteen years. “I constantly have to explain what makes ice cream so awesome and even after all these years, I still can’t do it without blushing," she said. "Even if I’m straightforward about it, it ends up being sexy. So now I have fun with it.”
Indeed, she does: The Jeni’s Ice Creams Twitter handle description is “Ice cream that makes you blush.”
Jeni's recognition of ice cream’s sensuous appeal may explain why ice cream parlors are famously ideal first-date spots. Further, she points out, “You can learn a lot about your date just by the flavor they choose.” Adventurous? Classic? Bold? (At her store, you can have as many tastes as you want). Deciding among ice cream flavors is a difficult task regardless, but Jeni's unique and innovative flavors really up the ante.
My favorite of her flavors are the classics, which she entirely redefines, from a luxurious Ugandan Vanilla Bean that would hush anyone who dares claim vanilla is a boring choice (I'm guilty of such an accusation) to The Milkiest Chocolate in the World, which would become any chocoholic’s vice.
If I were on a date at Jeni's and my beau chose one of her more playful flavors, such as Goat Cheese with Cognac Figs, Brown Butter Almond Brittle, Salty Caramel or Wildberry Lavender, I must admit that it would give me some insight into his personality — and may even provoke a playful chuckle.
Jeni said there have been numerous proposals in her store, and one couple even tied the knot there. Others have incorporated her ice cream into their weddings, either by replacing the traditional cake with tasty scoops or incorporating it at the altar, holding ice cream cones and wrapping arms around each other to lick their significant other’s cone in an act of unification.
I spoke with Jeni in the afternoon. That evening, I treated myself to a bowl of her Hummingbird Cake ice cream. Recalling all the sensations she had described, I took a small bite and let it melt on my tongue. My cheeks flushed and I grinned. Jeni’s right: Give it a try.
Tell us, what do you think is the most sensual ice cream flavor?
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams are available for home delivery anywhere in the United States. She’s currently offering a Valentine’s Day collection that includes Cherry Lambic Sorbet, Dark Chocolate, Uganda Vanilla Bean, Wildberry Lavender, Askinosi Dark Milk Chocolate and The Milkiest Chocolate in the World.
TODAY.com video producer Katie Quinn loves ice cream year-round and would never let negative-degree temperatures come between her and a creamy spoonful of chocolate. She hopes that her future husband reads this article and proposes to her in an ice cream parlor because it's a genius idea.
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