When I last left off about my trip to Traverse City, Michigan I had just told you guys that the trip was part of the State of Great Taste contest – but what I DIDN’T mention is that the flavor that wins the contest will be rolled out in the Kroger Private Selection line of ice cream in 2014! I mean really, how amazing is that?! I can honestly say that each and every flavor from each blogger is definitely a winner – I don’t envy America having to choose just one!
The second day of the trip started off with a delicious breakfast at the hotel and then a quick ride over to the Great Lakes Culinary Institute, which is just beautifully situated right on the water. I know I mentioned it a few times before, but my degree is in Restaurant and Hotel Management. A huge part of that degree actually took place in an abbreviated version of culinary school, and walking into the kitchens at the culinary institute felt just like college again. Being in a huge kitchen like that is definitely not something that I want in the long-term for a career or anything, but it brought back so many amazing memories!
Tessa mentions it in the video at the bottom of this post, but I also found it really difficult to define my state (Arkansas) within the boundaries of an ice cream flavor. It’s also hard because I’ve only lived here less than a year, although because Nate’s family is from here I definitely feel a really nice familiarity. You guys know I’m a Texas girl at heart, but Arkansas is the best adoptive state I could ask for and I absolutely love it. I wanted to make sure I was making something that would really make the people here proud should the ice cream win!
I thought for a really long time about what to make, researching the state fruit (a tomato) and the state flower (apple blossom) and playing over and over again in my head the foods that I hear people talk about most around here. Nothing was really hitting home, until suddenly I remembered the Razorbacks. Arkansans are truly wild about their University of Arkansas Razorbacks, and game days of any kind are widely broadcasted and seen by thousands across the state. The way the people are in Dallas about their Cowboys probably pales in comparison to the love of the Razorbacks here in Arkansas, which I think we all know is saying a lot.
When I realized that I knew: I had to do something with bacon. HAD TO.
Once I finalized that central ingredient the rest was fairly simple: I wanted the base to be something Southern and sweet, so honey and bourbon just made sense. Then I knew a good crunchy texture would bode well in the mix, and pecans are just SO perfect for that job. While we were at the culinary institute we were provided with the ice cream base (vanilla) and then charged with creating the flavor with the yummy mix-ins. I started off by baking off some bacon and letting it cool completely. I toasted some yummy pecans, let them cool, and then chopped them in all their roasty toasty glory.
Then came the honey-bourbon part. I literally was given honey and bourbon, but hadn’t really thought much about how to combine the two as a flavor for the base of the ice cream. I poured them both in a small skillet and brought it to a simmer to cook out the alcohol and really make a fantastic syrup. I simmered it for about 10 minutes and then let the mixture cool completely. Once everything was cool I just melted the chocolate, dipped the bacon, and then folded everything together!
Y’all. I truly mean what I said at the top about every single flavor being a huge winner in my book – the gals I was working with are ridiculously talented and just amazing cooks. But I’m not going to lie – I REALLY liked all of the elements of my ice cream, and together I just thought it was fabulous. I wanted something that I felt would make my sweet adoptive state proud, and I think I hit the nail on the head with it!
So here’s where YOU come in – you can actually vote for the flavor you want to win by visiting the Private Selection State of Great Taste contest page and voting for the regional flavor you think you’d like best! You can vote once a day for the next 8 weeks (through August 17), and as a thank you you’ll also receive a coupon for $0.75 off your next purchase of Private Selection ice cream. I love that Private Selection is doing everything they can to get a feel for what America really wants in an ice cream. They are not only promoting a contest for regional inspiration but also wanting to source those ingredients locally as well (as they did with Michigan cherries in their Michigan cherry cobbler ice cream for this year). A company that works to promote communities and build them up too? YES!
So that up there? Yep, that’s my ice cream that I think we can all go hog wild for 🙂 I hope you guys have as much fun voting on this and getting into the contest as I am! Oh, and below is a sweet video of our time in Michigan – you can see me laugh like a crazy person at the end 😉