Chocolate Soda Quest – Standards of Review
Before we get into the quest I wanted to take a moment to discuss the review process I’ll be using. At first I had thought I would write a post for each experience and leave it at that. However, I quickly realized that I should use the different elements I’ve already been using to help me classify a soda from good to “Meh.”
For these reviews and posts I’m looking for something that goes a little further than “going to get some ice cream.” I want to take it into something more along the lines of wine or cigar tasting, more experiential. I also plan on being pretty tough.
As I don’t intend to be drinking chocolate sodas regularly (my health is too important for that) it should be something special, a treat for all the senses. A good chocolate soda is a rarity these days and if you find one, it needs to be enjoyed. Not just for what it is but for WHERE it is and WHAT is happening as you do.
I am also a realist and know that I live in a bit of a chocolate soda wasteland. My only hope is to find a diamond in the rough and hopefully the discomforts inflicted on me will be humorous and educational for you!
So, let’s look at what I have to start.
The Final overall score will be on a scale of 1 – 10. 1 will be the worst of all time. 10 will be the very best. I’m doing the 1 – 10 as it allows for more range. And, for the record, I have experienced what I consider to be a 10. (I go into details at the end of the post!) Until I find something to it’s equal all sodas I have will be put up against that one’s memory. I consider this a pretty tall order but not impossible.
In contrast, each individual element below will be rated as below. If I feel a ranking system is necessary I will probably go with a 1 – 5. 5 being the best.
Presentation – This will focus on how it looks. What kind of glass is it in? Does it have whipped cream? A cherry? Does it look good or does it look like brown mush in a waxed paper cup? To get a high mark here it needs to look like an iconic chocolate soda.
Ice Cream – Is it homemade? It is ice milk? Is it just the vanilla twist stuff that comes out of a machine? How does the ice cream taste? This is all important.
Fizz – How fizzy is it? Did they use enough or is the soda flat from being stirred too much?
Cold – Oftentimes, the soda that is put in the mix is not chilled. Sometimes it’s room temperature. This causes the entire thing to become warmish which is not that refreshing and actually melts the ice cream too quickly.
Syrup – How does the chocolate taste? Is it flat? Is it of good quality? Is it even the right kind? Is there too much? (Believe me, it’s possible.)
Mojo – This covers the most important part and answers the question – “How is it?” How do all the factors combine to give THE consistency, flavor and taste? Does it have “The Magic?”
Service – How friendly is the experience? Does the staff or soda jerk even know what they are doing or do they smile knowingly and with a wink say, “Coming right up!” Do I have to explain what to do? Can I say, “Give me a black and white soda” without their eyes crossing?
Atmosphere – Where is this all going down? Is it a scenic location? An old time, shiny soda parlor situated by the ocean or some side street, chain owned place with dirty floors and college kids in shorts and ripped t-shirts? I’ve seen good sodas come out of both!
All of these factors will come together in my mind and I’ll give it the Final Score which, as explained, will be a 1 – 10.
Now, let’s set the bar at the highest mark.
The Best Chocolate Soda I Ever Had
The best overall soda I ever had the pure delight of experiencing occurred over ten years ago in Port Townsend, Washington in a place called The Elevated Ice Cream Company. This soda hit high marks in all of the factors I listed above.
Since I started this little quest many moons ago, I walk into ice cream places with a critical eye. I’ve just been burned far too many times. Before finding the Elevated, my bar had been set by the wonderful Zaharakos that I mentioned in my previous post. Up until that point, I’d not met anyplace or anyone else that knew what they were doing. I also had not been to Zaharakos in a long, long time. The best experience had simply been what I remembered from my youth.
When I asked the older woman behind the counter at the Elevated, “Can you make me a chocolate soda?” I was startled when she gave me a quick, confident smile and said, “You bet!” Impressed I placed my order and watched.
She went right to work and within seconds I knew I was about to have something special. The ice cream was homemade, the syrup was high end and the seltzer was ice cold. She handed over to me a large gleaming glass filled with soda, ice cream, a mound of whipped cream, and two shiny cherries.
“That look alright to you?”she said with a smile.
I still remember my exact words, “That looks like heaven.”
I took my golden fleece and with a dear, dear friend I had been visiting we went outside onto the establishment’s back porch that overlooked Port Townsend bay and the Puget Sound on the coast of the Washington’s Olympic peninsula. It was sunny. It was perfect temperature. The ocean was gorgeous and ships and boats made their way along the water. Seabirds drifted overhead.
And it was, indeed, a little slice of heaven with all the elements coming together, hitting the mark. Delicious, fizzy, sweet and ice cold on a warm summer day. Angelic trumpets sounded over the town and a golden ray of light shone down upon our boardwalk. Unicorns ran down the beach and rainbow pixies danced around my glass. I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who saw all of this but knowing my magical friend, she might have seen it and just decided not to say anything.
And that, my friends, is where I have placed the bar.
My quest is to find it again.
(And if you live near the Elevated Ice Cream Company you may already know about the unicorns and the pixies!)