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Chillz Frozen Custard – Albuquerque, New Mexico

Chillz, Home of the Very Best Frozen Custard in Albuquerque

Chillz, Home of the Very Best Frozen Custard in Albuquerque

“Custard: A detestable substance produced by a malevolent conspiracy of the hen, the cow, and the cook.”
Ambrose Bierce, American writer (1842-1914)
The Devil’s Dictionary (1906)

Ambrose Bierce’s scathing definition of custard is not necessarily an expression of his disdain for the popular frozen dessert, but an example of his lampooning of American culture and especially its lexicon.  Starting in 1881, the American satirist began writing The Devil’s Dictionary in which he published alternate and usually quite acerbic definitions of common words.  His biting wit and sardonic views earned him the nicknames “cackling king of cynics” and “Bitter Bierce.”

There are parts of the Midwest (the Milwaukee and St. Louis areas in particular) in which Bierce’s definition of custard would be considered sacrilege.  Midwesterners feel so strongly about their custard, that an utterance of such blasphemy would be an occasion for a noose, a tall tree and a short drop.  Their passion for frozen custard is akin to the love New Mexicans have for chile and never mind that winter temperatures throughout the Midwest can drop to near Arctic levels, custard is an year-round obsession.

A fabulous menu listing all the wonderful toppings for Chillz' frozen custard

A fabulous menu listing all the wonderful toppings for Chillz’ frozen custard

Just as most New Mexicans have a strong antipathy toward “chili” from Texas, Midwesterners abhor the “franchised soft-serve fare pumped full of air” which passes off as custard in New Mexico (and throughout the fruited plain) and which Jane and Michael Stern denounce in their terrific tome 500 Things To Eat Before It’s Too Late.”

The Sterns appreciate only the best custard—“dense and smooth, not as rich as ice cream, but even more luxurious.”  In their sagacious estimation, the very best frozen custard in America is found at the legendary Ted Drewes, a Saint Louis institution for nearly eight decades. Despite copious cajoling by custard aficionados to franchise, Ted Drewes will not compromise on quality and remains a two store operation in Saint Louis.

Chocolate frozen custard on a cone

Chocolate frozen custard on a cone

Albuquerque native Kurt Nilson attended a Saint Louis area university where he discovered and fell in love with the premium frozen custard at Ted Drewes.  Before moving back to the Duke City, he completed courses at the Frozen Dessert Institute so that he could bring one of his favorite parts of the Midwest back to his beloved high mountain desert home.  He figured frozen custard would be perfect for those scalding Burque summer days.

Nilson launched Chillz in June, 2009, the height of the summer’s blistering onslaught.  Situated directly across Central Avenue from the University of New Mexico, it’s two doors down from Walker’s Popcorn Company, another favorite of Midwest transplants who may have frequented Garrett’s Popcorn, a Chicago staple.  In 2012, Nilson sold his interest in the shop he founded to his partner, an affable Minnesotan well acquainted with custard.

Chocolate and vanilla frozen custard on a waffle cone topped with raspberries

Chocolate and vanilla frozen custard on a waffle cone topped with raspberries

Though nearly eighty years behind Ted Drewes in experience, Chillz has actually two-upped the elder statesman of frozen custard by offering three flavors every day to Drewes’ one flavor (vanilla).  Chillz features a flavor of the day in addition to chocolate and vanilla.  The flavors of the day are inventive and exciting.  Chillz has even taken to creating ballots on which customers can vote for the flavor of the day they’d next like to see.  You can cast a vote for up to five choices on each ballot.  The menu, scrawled on the wall, includes more than thirty toppings–from the unusual (gummy bears, cinnamon toast crunch, Lucky Charms) to the standards (hot fudge, toffee, Oreos).

There are some things you should know about frozen custard–the real stuff, the stuff Chillz makes and serves. Sure, it may look like ice cream, but there are vast differences. First, eggs are added to make frozen custard–1.4 percent egg yolk, in fact. Second, it is much lower in butterfat content than conventional ice cream: ten percent compared to sixteen percent. Through a churning process, the custard is blended with air to increase its volume, but it not nearly as airy as the franchised soft-serve ice cream served throughout New Mexico. Frozen custard isn’t churned as long as ice cream and isn’t nearly as cold. The result is a thicker and creamier texture than ice cream as well as a softer consistency.

A turtle sundae made with chocolate custard and the flavor of the day for June 26th, key lime

Chillz makes its frozen custard fresh every day as well as its waffle bowls and cones.  The menu also includes sundaes, shakes, floats, baked treats (cookies, Rice Krispy treats and brownies) and something which, at first browse, might sound unappetizing, but is quite good–concretes.  In his phenomenal blog, Barry Popik describes concretes as “custard blended with any of dozens of ingredients.  Concretes are blended so thick that they and their spoon do not fall out when their cup is turned upside down; servers often demonstrate this before handing customers their order.”  If this description sounds familiar, you’ve probably had a Blizzard shake at Dairy Queen which is made with the soft-serve ice cream and not real frozen custard.

Real frozen custard–Chillz custard–is exquisite. It’s as smooth as a baby’s bottom with an amazing taste and texture. The chocolate has a rich, indulgent and expensive taste (but at a reasonable price). The raspberries provide a tangy yet surprisingly complementary contrast to the sweet (but not cloying), creamy, oh-so-good custard. This custard is so good you’ll want at least a couple of scoops; some will want even more. For them, Chillz has a gurgitator’s challenge few will surmount.


S’mores with chocolate custard

The Chillz Challenge: eight scoops, eight waffles, eight toppings in thirty minutes and your frozen feast is free.  You’ll also get your photo prominently displayed on Chillz’ wall of fame, Web site, Facebook and MySpace sites.  The current record-holder is Stephanie Torres, a petite dynamo who completed the Chillz Challenge in just over eight minutes.  I’m easily twice her size and couldn’t approach her eating feat on my best day.

As of July 28, 2013, some fifteen competitors have surmounted the challenge for which, to date, no UNM athlete has manned or womaned up.  Neither did Man Versus Food star Adam Richman who didn’t include Chillz on his itinerary when he visited the Duke City in 2010. Richman who doesn’t ever eat ice cream or ice cream-like products during the “off season” (when he’s not taping his show). In fact, he finds sweet challenges the most difficult, particularly when they involve rich, dairy product.

Banana Split made with Fudge Caramel Eclair Custard

Banana Split made with Fudge Caramel Eclair Custard

Much as I love custard, it’s challenge enough to polish off a turtle sundae and it’s only got two scoops of the sinfully rich custard.  My turtle sundae, made with one scoop of the exquisite chocolate and one scoop of the flavor of the day for June 26th, key lime, was wonderful, an exemplary rendition of the popular dessert.  The key lime makes for an unconventional turtle sundae, but other ingredients (hot fudge, toasted pecans, whipped cream) are right out of the recipe book for sundaes.

Chillz has an excellent rendition of a banana split. It’s pretty much a standard banana split only it’s made with custard instead of ice cream.  If the flavor of the day happens to be fudge caramel eclair, it makes an outstanding foundation for the strawberry, chocolate fudge and pineapple toppings.  Chocolate custard, on the other hand, is a terrific foil for the S’mores: marshmallow, hot fudge, graham cracker, whipped cream and a cherry.  It’s wonderful!

More than a dozen competitors have surmounted the Chillz Challenge

More than a dozen competitors have surmounted the Chillz Challenge

In July, 2013, Andrea Feucht, author of the must have Food Lover’s Guide to Santa Fe, Albuquerque and Taos wrote an article for The Guardian, one of the largest daily British newspapers, in which she named the top ten restaurants, cafes and diners in Albuquerque.  Andrea, a Wisconsin native, thinks so highly of Chillz that it made her hallowed list.

In recent years, the influx of Midwesterners has added much to the Duke City dining scene. From the aforementioned Walker’s Popcorn Company to Pizza 9 (home of sloppy and sumptuous Chicago style Italian beef sandwiches) and now Chillz, Albuquerque may not yet compete with Chicago, but then the Windy City doesn’t have anything like our chile. They don’t have Chillz either. We do, and for that, Duke City diners will be grateful every time the mercury approaches the century mark and every day it doesn’t. At any time of year Chillz is a great destination.

Chillz Frozen Custard
2720 Central Ave
Albuquerque, New Mexico
(505) 265-5648
Web Site
LATEST VISIT: 27 July 2013
1st VISIT:  6 February 2010
COST: $ – $$
BEST BET:  Chocolate Custard, Vanilla Custard, Banana Split, S’mores

View Chillz Frozen Custard on »

Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop & Soda Fountain – Las Vegas, Nevada

The world-famous Ghirardelli in San Franciso

The world-famous Ghirardelli in San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square

While Ghirardelli chocolate is available worldwide, there are only a few shop locations–mostly in California with outliers in Las Vegas, Chicago and in two Florida cities.

Named after Italian chocolatier Domingo Ghirardelli who brought his chocolate from Peru to San Francisco, Ghirardelli Shops are a true chocoholics dream where you can purchase a tempting assortment of chocolate confections and gifts.

The San Francisco location on Ghirardelli Square is a historical site near Pier 39 (where the pictures on this review were taken) that is evenA rich, delicious dark chocolate sundae equipped with chocolate making equipment so you can see artistry at work.

Truly one of the most progressive cities in the world, Las Vegas has a Ghirardelli chocolate shop near Harrah’s.  It’s designed like an old-fashioned soda shop with a checkered floor, ceiling fans and a long counter at which you place your order.

Detractors might say, these soda fountains are also staffed with soda jerks, emphasis on the word “jerk.”  On a hot summer day, it’s obvious the staff wants to get you in and out quickly.

The menu is replete with decadent ice cream sundae masterpieces, floats, malts and shakes, some of which are named for San Francisco area landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz.  There’s also a sundae called the “Domingo” named for the shop’s founding father.  Perhaps not in such good taste (but it sure tastes great) is a sundae called the “Earthquake” which is meant to be shared.  Other clever sundae sobriquets are the “Strike it Rich,” “Fog Horn” and the “Cable Car,” all of which are heavenly.

The goblet on which sundaes are served is piled high with ice cream and hot fudge or caramel as well as other ingredients such as bananas, nuts and whipped cream depending on which sundae you order.  Invariably you’ll make a mess out of your table as the contents of the overfull goblet crawl down the side of their vessel the second you insert your spoon.  You’ll also go through several napkins as you consume these tempting treats.

Both Ghirardelli Square and Las Vegas have charms all their own, but on a balmy summer day, Ghirardelli’s offerings might taste even better in Sin City.  They’re the perfect “beat the heat” treat.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Shop & Soda Fountain
3767 Las Vegas Blvd S.
Las Vegas, NV

LATEST VISIT: 21 Feburary 2008
COST: $$
BEST BET: Ice Cream Sundaes, Banana Split

Ben & Jerry’s – Albuquerque, New Mexico (CLOSED)

Ben & Jerry's, a Vermont ice cream tradition now in New Mexico

Ben & Jerry’s is a different kind of restaurant–one with a social conscience–serving premium ice cream. Founded on and dedicated to a sustainable corporate concept of linked prosperity, its mission consists of three interrelated parts–a product mission, an economic mission and a social mission. Its product mission is to make, distribute and sell the finest quality all natural ice cream and euphoric concoctions with a continued commitment to incorporating wholesome, natural ingredients and promoting business practices that respect the Earth and the Environment. Irrespective of your political bent, you’ve got to respect that.

In New Mexico, Ben & Jerry scoop shops support various nonprofit programs including the restoration of the Rio Grande Bosque. Founded in 1978 by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield in Burlington, Vermont, Ben & Jerry’s has since expanded to nearly 250 shops in the United States as well as in France, Israel, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

Two lovely scoops

By year’s end (2004), there were three Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops in the Duke City where grocery stores have sold these wonderful ice cream concoctions for years. The restaurant features more than 50 ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet products and it’s a safe bet to assume they’re all delicious, but just in case you have doubts, you can ask for and will be given a sample. It was a small sample of oatmeal cookie ice cream that prompted me to add it to a scoop of chocolate fudge brownie ice cream on a sugar cone. The two distinctive flavors appeased on my taste buds so much that it was difficult to determine which was better.

Two more delicious scoops

In subsequent visits, my taste buds have been titillated and tantalized by such creamy creations as Phish Food and Cherries Garcia. Every new flavor is my new favorite. Ben & Jerry’s is more than a scoop above any other ice cream shop in the Duke City.

Ben & Jerry’s
11225 Montgomery, N.E.
Albuquerque, NM
LATEST VISIT: 21 December 2008
BEST BET: Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Oatmeal Cookie