And so the narration goes……
It was while I was Face-booking on a hot Wednesday afternoon that I came across a Manipal Blog post announcing the “Ice-Cream Testing and Evaluation Workshop”. With the sun beating down furiously on Manipal and the warm-dusty feel in the air, stepping outdoors was an activity that I scarcely indulged in. The idea of a day dedicated to the tasting of delicious ice-creams, savoring the coolness it would bring, seemed to lure me out of my estivation. What enticed me further was the itinerary, they had an hour and a half dedicated individually to “vanilla”,”chocolate” & “mango”!!! My stomach had already started rumbling in eager impatience.
When we crave for an event or a day, it approaches at the minutest of paces. Saturdays normally take eons to arrive, coupled with the ice-cream associations of this particular Saturday, the dawned after what seemed to be decades of anticipation. Having being asked to cover the event for the Manipal blog, geared up with my digicam, I arrived at the venue, WGSHA(Welcome Group School of Hotel Administration) well before the commencement. I walked up the steps of the building to the fourth floor, guided by boards donned with colourful pictures of ice-creams.
Sharp at nine, true to the schedule, the registrations began. Since I had already registered online, I merely had to pay the sum amount for registration and proceed onto the workshop. The fee structure for the workshop was three tiered. It was open for all students of WGSHA-MU, for Manipal University students and faculty it was 100/- and 200/- respectively, while for guests from non MU, it was 250/-.I found the fee to be highly nominal and in a way it encouraged healthy participation from the students of the university.
Registrations complete, the crowd of about a fifty participants, were shepherded into a room, by the student organizers of the event. The students were smartly clad in their uniforms and lent a warm yet professional aura. Inauguration commenced in a while, delivered by Mr. Kulmohan Singh, the Vice President(WGSHA), commending the efforts of the students and the faculty, with few highlights of the current trends in the ice-cream industry, finishing up with the relevance of such a workshop in the present day. The workshop thus began in full swing.
Associate Professor Vasanthan Sigamany then enraptured the audience with an interactive quiz on ice-creams and their history and types. That Emperor Nero of Rome had relished the fresh fruit, cream and ice concoction in AD 37 and that King Tang of Shang in China, in the 600s shared similar tastes, were trivia that enthralled the crowd. The fun filled forty minutes included visual identification based questions delving upon the mouth watering descendents of the “iced-cream” of early 1700s Europe. The audience actively answered the questions asked and were duly rewarded with ‘chocopie’ rewards. He dwelt upon the “blue laws” how the religiously “righteous” reprimanded the intake of ice-cream sodas on Sunday, how “ice-cream sundae” came into being. Having been introduced to Fudgie the Whale, Cookie Puss and Hug Me Bear, the participants’ gustatory senses were further fuelled, as the professor discussed the types of ice-creams. Sorbet…Spumoni…Gelato…Lollyice…kulfi…sundaes…yoghurt…fudge…parfait…it was like stepping into a paradise of ice-cream.
Dr. K Shama, took up the stage next. Unlike her predecessor, she did not have much to say. She merely won over the audience with her live demonstration of four scrumptious ice cream based recipes. She elegantly dashed up strawberries and fresh fruit, effortlessly rolled up a chocolate sponge sheet, diced up baked bananas, flambéed an assortment, flavored her creations with exotic sauces of rum and orange and garnished chocolate shavings. Chocolate IceCream Roll…Baked bananas in Rum Sauce with Ice Cream… Fresh Fruit Flambé…Ice Cream Sandwich with Orange Sauce…We sat in our seats, spoons in hand, relishing the bites, as plate after plate passed by. Tea break followed, which brought in hot choco-brownies and beverages coupled with socializing and chit-chattering amongst the participants.
The recipes learnt and stomachs full, the next session saw Prof Valsaraj, elaborating upon the next segment of the workshop. It was here that we would don the caps of “testers” evaluating each ice cream and grading them on various parameters. He enlisted the qualities to be evaluated in ice creams, the factors that are used to judge the better ones from a sample collection, the attributes to judge appearance, flavor, melting defects, freshness of inclusions, storage defects and body and texture. We then proceeded into the Student Training Restaurant to implement our newly learnt knowledge on the samples to be provided.
What followed was a fun filled tasting and testing session. We were formulated into eight evaluation panels of six to seven individuals each. We gauged a variety of generic chocolate and vanilla ice creams, given “scoring sheets” to tabulate each sample, a sense of professional connoisseurs brought in to taste the provisions pervaded. We ‘ahem-ed and aha-ed’ our way through the delectable assortment, spooning our way through each carton of ice cream. We nodded disapprovingly at icy texture and deducted marks for too buttery of too fluffy formations. Never before had I put in so much thought into gulping down a mouthful of ice cream.
The cartons were of reputed brands from Manipal-Mangalore-Udupi region and they were presented in similar looking packages with identification codes, to avoid favoritism. The results would be forwarded to the stores and would aid them in analyzing customer feedback for the various flavors.
An hour long lunch break ensued, and the participants got to treat themselves to a nice spread, in a way, cleansing the palette of flavors remnant from the previous session, preparing for the next. A quick and informative session on trends in ice cream innovation by Mr. Devrat Singh was what heralded in a discussion on “exotic” flavors. Bacon…Rye…Walnut and Ginger…Panna Cotta…there was a world of ice creams to which a choco freak like me had been oblivious.
The final segment dealt with exotic and inclusion ice creams. We found ourselves relishing the mint chocolate and the cheese and orange flavored delicacies, but by now a wear had set in. I hated to admit it, but having tasted over 50 samples of ice creams, I had reached my saturation. I had, for once, rid my taste buds of the thirst for “more ice cream”.
It had been a fun filled day. Being a huge fan of ice cream, this had been an opportunity that I had been awaiting for long. A workshop on ice creams…it was a childhood fantasy come true…a closer to reality version of the gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. And it had all started on a warm afternoon.
The only negative with ice cream being that a sense of guilt follows it. Especially when the tale I tell is to people who have not had the chance to sink in the lovely cool richness of the dessert, for a long time.
To overcome the same, I offer you, Manipal readers a chance to have some exquisite ice cream.
As a comment to this blog, post in incidents involving your favorite “ice cream story” with your names and contact numbers.(Posts till midnight, 30th Jan will be judged) The best one shall win 150/- rupee worth of…yes you guessed it right…ICE CREAM…from Baskin Robbins, Manipal.
Why would I do this, you ask?
Well, I just need a partner in crime!!!