What better way to relish the dog days of summer than with a really good ice cream sandwich? An ice cream sandwich, just like most really great treats, is all about the contrast in textures. You have the soft, chewy–alternatively, dense, crunchy–cookie (or other delivery device, as you shall see below) and the cold, smooth ice cream. All of this is why, in my expert opinion, the best ice cream sandwiches are made-to-order. An MTO ice cream sandwich is not an easy find. Many of the city’s most-touted ice cream sandwich suppliers, including Melt Bakery, The Good Batch, Jacques Torres Chocolate (you can get non-pre-assembled sandwiches at two locations, but they insist on only using frozen cookies) and Bierkraft, keep pre-made sandwiches in a freezer. I’ve tested my sensitive teeth too many times on frozen solid cookie. Which is why I’ve scouted the city for well-made MTOs. You’re welcome.
A longtime favorite dessert, the chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich ($6.95) at Dessert Club ChikaLicious in the East Village is everything you’d want from a delicious summertime treat. The cookies are chewy if not downright out-of-the-oven-warm, and the in-house vanilla soft serve is rich and satisfying. A few squirts of hot fudge are exactly what you didn’t know you wanted.
With endless ice cream and cookie flavor combinations, including unique offerings like fried chicken and waffles (ice cream) and peanut butter captain crunch (cookie), the Coolhaus truck, with mutliple locations around NYC and elsewhere, is the king of the MTO ice cream sandwich. On a recent visit to the CPW location, I paired s’mores cookies with a chocolate-stout-and-pretzel ice cream. The cookies had just the right texture, thin and pliable, and the ice cream had a lively beer-y kick. If you’re really looking to diversify, ask for two different cookies as I’ve done on more than one occasion. They’re more than happy to oblige.
When I was first handed the above sandwich from Roneybrook Milk Bar ($3.50) in Meatpacking District’s Chelsea Market, I was a tad disappointed. I could tell the cookies were hard and was worried I’d have trouble biting through them. But then I started eating. And, well, I couldn’t stop. The cookies were dense, yes, but not in a stale way. They had an appealing crunchiness with oversize white chocolate chips that broke up the texture. The cinnamon ice cream I had chosen was simple but incredibly creamy with the perfect amount of cinnamon flavor.
Carb-laden sweets are my Kryptonite. I had no idea brioche ice cream sandwiches existed until I saw one advertised at a now-defunct Midtown East Italian restaurant five years ago. At Amorino in Greenwich Village, their sandwich, called a Foccacina ($7.50), combines a sugary brioche with two of their gelato offerings. The gelato at Amorino is not to be missed, with two types of pistachio and all of the best Italian classics (despite the chain being of French origins). I went for the saltier of the two pistachios coupled with the hazelnut. The scoops were stuffed into a small-ish roll and dusted with powdered sugar. Though the brioche was good, albeit less dense than I prefer my brioche bread, the gelato is the star here.
The ice cream sandwich at Milk & Cookies Bakery ($5.50) in the West Village was a knock-your-socks-off surprise. The cookies were chewy, layered and–wait for it–warm. There’s nothing better than biting into a soft cookie and cold, creamy ice cream at the exact same time. I went for a milk-chocolate-and-caramel cookie and paired it with caramel gelato, which they source from city favorite Il Laboratio del Gelato. There are over a dozen cookies and nearly as many ice creams to mix-and-match according to your preference. Since their specialty is cookies, it seems prudent to treat the cookie selection process the way you would picking a bagel. Ask for what’s fresh and warm and use that as your guide.
I knew the sandwich at Wafels & Dinges, a.k.a the de Verdekke ($6), was going to be good when I saw the woman working the truck (60th and CPS location) put two mini liege waffles onto the grill. After they warmed, with the beautiful sugar crystal edges you see above, she paired them with a single scoop of their specially made Spekuloos ice cream (a version of their famous spicy cookie spread ) and topped it off with powdered sugar. Yowza. This was delicious. In a way that, when you first bite into it, you’re totally unprepared for. It was warm and chewy and melty and all around satisfying. Plus, it’s small and portable–a perfect dessert for a quick city stroll.