are you being served…


Pull up your knickers and call me Captain Peacock.

I don’t know how many countless childhood hours I spent musing over the antics of the staff of Grace Brothers, a fictional department store in London and the setting of the impossibly absurd British television comedy, “Are You Being Served?” While most kids my age were playing kickball, I was laughing along with the BBC. Yes, odd adults don’t grow out of normal children.

My two favorite characters were Mr. Humphries, the flamboyantly effeminate manager of – *drop four octaves* – “menswear,” and Mrs. Slocombe, the sarcastically sassy head of the ladies department, whose ever-changing helmet of sherbet hair paved the way for Marge Simpson and Lady Gaga.

As an adult, I’m now the proud owner of the entire series on DVD.

So, with that little bit of personal history disclosed, you won’t be surprise to know that I’m head-over-heels in love with Humphry Slocombe, if not for their amazing ice creams, then for their name.

*         *         *

We had all three skipped dessert at lunch – The Dancer, The Forager, and I – not out of a much-needed dose of self-control, sadly (I was headed to The French Laundry for dinner in a few hours). My friends and I had bypassed the restaurant’s desserts partly because nothing on the menu appealed to us, but mostly because The Forager came up with the brilliant idea of skipping down to the the Ferry Building Marketplace for an affogato at Blue Bottle Coffee Co.

Blue Bottle Coffee Co. doesn’t just smother any old vanilla ice cream with their esteemed espresso (I had at least a few shots each day I was in San Francisco). They use a peer product – Humphry Slocombe’s “Secret Breakfast” ice cream.

Truth be told, I didn’t love Humphry Slocombe’s ice creams when I first tasted them last year. Though I thought the flavors were creative and witty (appropriately so, given the store’s campy, television namesake), some fell flat, others were muddled. Their highly praised “Secret Breakfast” ice cream – bourbon and cornflakes – wasn’t boozy enough for me.  I liked, but didn’t love. In a taste-test comparison, Bi-Rite (around the corner and down a few blocks) stole the show.

In the year-and-a-half since my previous visit, Humphry Slocombe’s popularity skyrocketed, boosted, no doubt, by a widely distributed article in the New York Times (“Who  Wants Prosciutto Ice Cream?”) and the resulting spectacle of their shock jock flavors (never mind their creepy mascot – Siamese twin calves heads – which hangs on their wall).  Praises came pouring in from all corners.  Friends urged me to reconsider.

So, on my latest trip to San Francisco, I went back to Humphry Slocombe’s little storefront in The Mission district with chuckeats and Miss O.M.G. for a re-sample.

This time, flavors popped.

“Chocolate-Stout” ice cream was yeasty and toasty; “Chocolate Fudgesicle” was rich and dark; the “Vietnamese Coffee” was a surge of espresso mellowed out with a dose of cream.

And the “Secret Breakfast?” Satisfyingly boozy.

What is doubly amazing about Humphry Slocombe’s ice creams is the texture. Freshly scooped, they’re like balls of whipped cream, airy and light – even the “Chocolate-Stout,” which a few people had warned me could be grainy and icy, was smooth and fluffy. The generously sized rounds seem to evaporate before your eyes.

With this new-found confidence in Humphry Slocombe, I understood why The Forager looked so frantic the next day when the woman at the Ferry Building Marketplace told him that they were out of ice cream.  No affogato.

Faster than “High Noon,” iPhones were whipped out of their holsters, triangulating the nearest Blue Bottle Coffee Co. location that might still have some “Secret Breakfast” left.  If all else failed, we’d just head to Humphry Slocombe in The Mission, grabbing shots of espresso on the way, The Forager reassured us.  I love my friends.

Mint Plaza. Remember that location. If they can’t make you an affogato at the Blue Bottle Coffee Co. in the Ferry Building Marketplace, head up Market Street and check in at Mint Plaza.

Folks, let me tell you, the “Secret Breakfast” affogato at Blue Bottle Coffee Co. is worth the calories ($5.75).  I love espresso.  I love ice cream. I love Bourbon.  And I love this affogato.

Blue Bottle Coffee Co. happens to extract an excellent espresso and Humphry Slocombe happens to churn an extraordinary ice cream. Together, it’s bitter, it’s sweet, it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s creamy, it’s boozy.  It’s fantastic.  I’m sure I blacked out somewhere between my first spoonful and my last.

If you haven’t had it, I highly recommend it.

Hats off to my friends, chuckeats and Miss O.M.G. for getting me hooked on Humphry Slocombe ice cream, and to The Forager and The Dancer for triangulating and schlepping for me and for this affogato. It was well-worth the effort.

To see my photos from Humphry Slocombe, CLICK HERE.

* They do not serve affogato (or coffee) at Humphry Slocombe, only ice cream.  The “Secret Breakfast” affogato can only be had at a Blue Bottle Coffee Co. location that carries the ice cream.  To my knowledge, only the Blue Bottle Coffee Co. in the Ferry Building Marketplace and at Mint Plaza offer the affogato.

~ by ulterior epicure on September 22, 2010.

2 Responses to “are you being served…”

  1. are you being served! – save that, it’ll do for the bit over the door – the magnolia stout IC is also wonderful.

  2. will schlep for you anytime… :) come back and visit and eat with us again soon! better yet – meet us in Japan next year!

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