No offense to the cone, the stick, or the bar, but I’m a sucker for ice cream sandwiches. Actually, I’m a sucker for ice cream and cookies, and put together, it’s stupendous. After all, the ice cream sandwich was invented in the early 1920’s by an ice cream shop owner because of one customer’s indecision. Back in college, Coney Island’s Eskimo Roll was one of my four major food groups, and I actively lament that product’s demise. Bring it back, people! For summer 2007, the people at Brothers Burger have rolled out their version of an ice cream sandwich called Cool Bites. Purportedly vanilla ice cream ensconced in two oatmeal cookies, the ice cream is so light it’s more akin to mousse than its chillier counterpart. As for the cookies, they’re so thin that they come off more as a dusting of graham cracker crumbs than an honest-to-goodness cookie.
Thank heavens then for Penny Brown, an ice cream and cookies company that serves up genuine ice cream sandwiches. Business partners Vince Tintoc, Miggy Ramirez, and Ryan Ang were inspired to bring the concept to life after seeing a similar store during a trip to the States. The year 2005 witnessed their debut in bazaars where the trio would bake the cookies on site, perfuming the air with freshly-baked smells, which resulted in hordes of hungry shoppers beating a path to their stall. I’m not surprised ”“ there aren’t many things that smell better than cookies baking.
As for the name, Penny Brown, the partners chose it because of its “foreign sounding” appeal. “We want to make it a global brand,” Vince says, “in order to compete with the big brands around us here in the mall.” Currently at two locations — one in Glorietta, the other in Robinson’s Galleria ”“ the cookies are still baked on site, talk about brand irresistibility! The cookies themselves come in ten flavors ranging from the classic chocolate chip to dark chocolate, old-fashioned oatmeal, and a sugar-free variant.
Any two cookies with your choice of ice cream is called a Smacker! (exclamation point theirs, P65). Or there’s a “downsized” version, that’s the Smooch! (P49), with a single cookie instead of two. Lastly, there are the Pennies or nibblers (P30,P40, P60/6, 8, 12) cookie bites great for nibbling while window shopping or watching a movie.
I eye the cookies apprehensively. My cookies are usually oversized discs, more like a mini CD really, than a cookie. The cookies at Penny Brown are unbelievably thin, almost flat and lifeless, that I doubt whether they’ll even be able to support a scoop of ice cream before crumbling in surrender. Vince explains that they formulated a cookie that, “… is soft, moist and chewy (as opposed to hard), so that it’ll stick to the ice cream.” Call me a Doubting Lori, but to taste is to believe.
As I look on, the attendant picks out two just-warm cookies from the cooling stack. I’ve chosen to remain a purist, so I ask for two chocolate chip cookies and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Then, as Vince describes it, “a heaping scoop is ”˜smooshed’ onto the cookie” and then the now-sandwich is pressed gently, just enough for the ice cream to spread its velvety corpulence over the sides of the cookies. Quickly placed in food wrap, it’s handed to me with a smile.
Now, how does one eat an ice cream sandwich? Admittedly, it’s a messy affair whatwith the ice cream gushing down the sides and onto fingers and arms. Vince laughs as I stare at the ice cream sandwich, wondering how I’m going to eat this, erm, politely. “It’s a little sloppy, Lori, but open up and bite,” he says assuredly.
I don’t have to be told twice to eat anything sweet, so open goes my maw, and I take a heroic bite. At first I think I’m going to be hit with a severe case of brain freeze ”“ man, the ice cream is glacial! ”“ but then my teeth sink through depths of butter and vanilla, punctuated by bursts of imported chocolate chips. These cookies are undeniably chewy and moist, too. Then the cold wave of ice cream takes over, its cool washing over my mouth. I’m chewing slowly, trying to absorb myself in this delicious moment. Seeing my expression of polar rapture, Vince grabs my camera and takes a few photos. Then he points at me and crows victoriously, “You’re having a Penny Brown moment!” Seeing my joy turn quizzical, he explains, “Every time we try our cookies, nagpapasmile kami, parang ”˜I can’t describe what I feel.’ So we coined it the Penny Brown Moment. It’s that instant when you bite into the cookie and it’s total bliss. We’re promoting happy food, happy desserts.” I get it, I get it: bliss out, baby. I’m no longer a Doubting Lori, I believe! I believe!
Penny Brown carries the FIC (Fruits in Ice Cream) brand and rotates the ten flavors that they have in stock. Sugar free variants are also available which complement the sugar free cookies. Some famous Smacker! combinations and some of Vince’s favorites include the milk or dark chocolate chunk with vanilla or cookies ”˜n’ cream; the classic with strawberries; the milk chocolate chunk with cappuccino, as well as the white chocolate with strawberry or raspberry ice cream; and the milk chocolate chunk cookie with raspberry ice cream and a white chocolate loco cookie.
Small but powerful, thin cookies but tasty. These cookies are awesome (how do they get them to stay so soft for so long???), so I buy half a dozen (P115/6; P20/each) to take home. Even after three days on my kitchen countertop, they’re still chewy as ever. Speaking of home, make your own Smackers! at home by buying some of the cookies and then slapping on your choice of ice cream. There’s no sense in stressing over how to bring home an ice cream sandwich that will defiantly melt in the car, anyway. Lordy, make things easier for yourself!
Notes to Penny Brown
While I like the Penny Brown concept and I’m crazy over the texture of their cookies, I’m not too happy with the way the kiosk is set up. My suggestions:
- The cookies should be arranged more carefully in the display case, as should the nibblers.
- The ice cream containers should also be arranged so that the label is facing the customer and not the attendants.
- A list of recommended combinations would also be helpful for those who get overwhelmed easily.
- A colorful plate should be used when making the Smackers! and Smooches! instead of a lone piece of food grade paper. Presentation counts for a lot in the food industry.
- Consider offering some readymade Smackers! for those who are in a rush and don’t have the time (or inclination) to choose their combination.
- Lastly, perhaps the partners could find another container to serve the Smooch! in instead of a regular plastic cup, which doesn’t do justice to such an ingenious product.
Glorietta 2, Level 2 (across Sbarro’s)
Robinsons Galleria, East Wing, Level 2