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A Three Twins Ice Cream and Wine Pairing Extravaganza

Fresh off another über-caloric sampling binge, The Swill scribe cum sommelier cum Hip Tastes book and blog author Courtney Cochran recounts some mostly awkward but occasionally sweet pairings for San Francisco's very own Three Twins organic ice cream.

[Photo: Courtney Cochran, from this full Flickr gallery]

On my recent trip to Three Twins' Lower Haight ice cream shop, right off the bat, founder Neal Gottlieb gave me a scoop. He plans to open a cozy, new 200-square-foot ice cream shop at the Marin Country Mart in September. It'll feature two outdoor seating areas, one of which will be heated with a fireplace. Digest it, and move on to some more scoops—the edible kind—in this very serious, very epic ice cream and wine pairing session, after the hop.

Ice cream only pairs well with wines that match or overpower its sweetness. Any sommelier worth her salt knows this. So when I descended on Three Twins to pair adult libations with its scoops, I opted to kick things off with a nearly-dry Riesling, just to prove a point. Gottlieb and I verified, spoons in hand, that the pour was indeed awful with his Madagascar Vanilla.

Me: It tastes like an aluminum can.”
Neal, nodding: “Flat.”
Me: “Flat vanilla aluminum can!”

Ice cream makes dry wines taste metallic. It's true. Palates were cleansed with more of Neal’s delicious Madagascar Vanilla. Mental notes were made to serve my worst enemies vanilla ice cream and a bone-dry tannic red. And onwards to whole-body shudders thanks to a pairing of honey liqueur with Neal’s excellent Lemon Cookie ice cream. Side note: this is my pick for all-around best Three Twins flavor. Honey liqueur is obviously meant for mixing in cocktails rather than sipping on its own. It's not meant for pairing with ice cream, or any food, for that matter. See? More lessons!

We finally got lucky with a 2008 Samos “Vin Doux” sweet Muscat from Greece, paired swimmingly with a scoop of Toasted Almond. Sweet Muscat is known to pair well with desserts, and the mouth-filling stickiness of this particular swill was sweet enough to work with the ice cream. Its nutty nuances harmonized with the liquid caramel and orange peel notes in the wine. Pure bliss. I also thought Neal’s tangy Rainbow Sherbert would pair perfectly with a medium-sweet pink sparkler from Eastern France’s Bugey-Cerdon. I kicked myself for forgetting it. I'll be back for that, promise.

Another highlight was the pairing of Three Twins’ Bittersweet Chocolate with a 2004 Cave de Rasteau “Vin Doux Naturel,” a fortified sweet Grenache from Southern France. “VDNs,” as they’re often abbreviated, are reputably good with chocolate. We found that the wine’s soft tannins echoed the bitter note in the ice cream, which in turned made the wine taste softer and sweeter. In a word: good.

Next was a match of Quady’s “Batch 88” Starboard California Dessert Wine, a hedonistic, saccharine Port-style stickie matched with Neal's Chocolate Orange ice cream. Like an instant hangover, the dessert brought out the alcohol in the wine’s finish, although we noted that fans of brooding orange-flavored liqueurs may dig this.

Best of all? Shakes and floats: turns out booze works best blended into ice cream, or as a vehicle for floating it. We created a tasty tippler in the form of a vanilla ice cream and Godiva liqueur shake and took booze-and-ice-cream pairing to new highs with a float of Guinness and Mocha Difference (coffee with flecks of dark chocolate). Though good, the latter combo was a touch bitter. We surmised it would be better with Three Twins’ sweeter Burnt Caramel ice cream. Still, we were truly happy with the whole alcohol and booze thing, at last.

As the effects of my second Eater-induced carb-booze bender began to register, I suppose it’s fitting I ran into a pack of zombies on the street as I cruised home. The group involved in the Zombie Survival Challenge—which benefits a homeless children's charity, mind you—was getting instructions from a zombie “mentor” on how to seem undead and, presumably, learn to scream “braaaains!” with the proper vibrato. I'm not sure if it was this, or the swirling ice cream and wine on my own brain, but I was feeling weird, very weird.

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Three Twins Ice Cream

254 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94117 Visit Website