Friday, May 20, 2005

Just Desserts 4: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard (St. Louis, Missouri)

RESTAURANT: Ted Drewes Frozen Custard
LOCATION: 6726 Chippewa St.
DATE: May 13, 2005 and May 16, 2005
FOOD: May 13th – Big Apple Concrete with Cashews, Scotch Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich; May 16th – Strawberry Shortcake Concrete with Pistachios, Scotch Oatmeal Cookie Sandwich.
PRICE: May 13th - $4.50; May 16th – $5.50

I love Ted Drewes. Let’s just get out there right up front. It is hands down the best custard I’ve ever had. On my flight from New York to St. Louis, I started getting excited about Ted Drewes somewhere around eastern Pennsylvania. I was in St. Louis for less than two full days and yet went to Ted Drewes twice. Like I said, I love Ted Drewes.

My first visit came last fall when Libby introduced me to the famous St. Louis custard stand. At that time, they were offering the seasonal Great Pumpkin concrete, a blend containing a full piece of pumpkin pie. But Fall ended long ago and Spring is now here. And with it, so too the Big Apple concrete, Ted Drewes rich custard mixed with a full piece of apple pie.

Shake Shake’s custard was still fresh in my mind. And while it was excellent, compared to Ted Drewes it comes up short. Ted Drewes vanilla custard is somehow creamier, somehow smoother, somehow better than every other custard out there. Perhaps it’s all in the balance. The concrete comes slightly liquid without being anemic. It melts into the consistency of full cream whereas others end in a watery, milky mess. In its untouched frozen form in the oatmeal sandwich, the custard is firm without being rigidly ossified. Ted Drewes custard is the Olympic gymnast who has no problem doing flips on a balance beam four inches in diameter. In his writing Don LeLillo merges weighty, post-modern ideas with an accessible style, creating a balance that makes him an amazing read. Ted Drewes custard is akin to this. It’s like a Ted Drewes research committee examined the flaws of all other custards and figured out a way to make a product that avoided all their pitfalls. The result is amazing.

The Big Apple concrete takes this mind blowing custard and adds the cinnamon, glazed apples and flaky crust of fresh baked pie. How could the result be anything but astounding? It’s pie drowning in an a la mode sea. The pie chunks are in half-bite pieces, so the texture and integrity of the pie is maintained. I added cashews to mine and the salty crunch was fantastic. Next time (and there will be a next time), I’ll try it with walnuts.

On both my visits, Libby and I split an oatmeal cookie sandwich, a steal at just $1. The cookies come without raisins, but with a faint hint of honey that goes well with a custard exhibiting only a mild level of sweetness. For my second visit, I forced myself to try a concrete other than the Big Apple, opting for the strawberry shortcake. The fruit was wonderful and my only complaint would be for the shortcake to come in as big of pieces as the pie. In some bites I got crumbs, not cake.

Ted Drewes alone makes St. Louis a city I will always enjoying visiting. While frozen custard may never reach the level of dessert perfection that gelato holds for me, at least I know for certain that if custard ever does attain this holy gelato plain, it’ll happen at Ted Drewes before anywhere else.

RATING: 9.0/10

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