In my head, Häagen-Dazs is a European brand, right? It sounds and looks European, it’s all over Europe but it was in fact born in Bronx, New York and the name is entirely made up. This curious flip of what I felt was a familiar brand led me on an afternoon long date with Häagen-Dazs which I’m about to tell you all about, but first, let’s clear up my opening question.
So why is the name so Euro-cool? There are a few theories and no matter which is true it’s evident that Reuben and Rose Mattus chose a somewhat unconventional method of naming a brand. The first is that they simply took the name of a European place – in this case Haage- and Scandi-fied it.
The second is that the name is a spoonerism of successful food entrepreneur Duncan Hines, becoming Huncan Dines and then reeled off in Danish sounding iterations until it felt right.
And the third, that as a Jew, Reuben wanted to brand the ice cream as a tribute to the country that had supported the Jews during the war, Denmark. He chose a gibberish Danish sounding name and threw in an umlaut, which seems odd given that they aren’t used in Danish. He often mentioned in interviews that the umlaut was ‘bound to draw attention’.
Despite the legends, Häagen-Dazs doesn’t actually mean a thing, but in 54 countries it means good ice cream and that’s what my date with them was about. It began like only the best dates do. Cocktails on a roof top in Southbank with incredible skyline views of the London Eye.
We chatted whilst a special treat was prepared for us in the kitchen below. Master Chef ’13 winner, Natalie Coleman, was cooking for us and I couldn’t wait to taste her food. When the time came we were seated in a gorgeous lofty room filled with the most dreamy industrial style design pieces. The huge dining table was in fact a milliners table, complete with scratches and scrapes from years in service. Beauty, in my eyes.
Being plated in front of us was: confit duck yolk, asparagus, hollandaise, nasturtium leaf, mustard frills and black truffle.
Our first course really showcased the beauty of an egg (one of the 5 ingredients in Häagen-Dazs). Whilst we ate, it was amazing to watch the well oiled machine that is Natalie’s team come together to prepare our next course.
Pork belly on a bed of cauliflower puree, the most perfect scallop of my life, pea shoots, apple, lemon.
The entire meal was just incredible. I love Natalie’s style; something very special but never straying too far from the basics we know and love.
Dessert couldn’t be anything but ice cream. Natalie demonstrated her technique with the 5 ingredients true to the original recipe of Häagen-Dazs. Cream, milk, vanilla pods, egg yolks and caster sugar. No stabilisers, no colours, no artificial flavouring. She served it up with strawberry puree and meringue, belgian chocolate and toasted macadamias, and a jug of warm salted caramel. Unfortunately for you though, there are no pictures. Nothing waits for perfect ice cream, especially not me! That salted caramel; absolutely incredible!
Next we moved on to some taste testing work. Four ice creams, all vanilla, but all very different. Our task was to assess the scent, texture and taste of each sample. We were guided through by one of Häagen-Dazs’ food scientists who explained that it is actually made in Northern France, because the quality of the dairy there lends it’s self perfectly to ice cream making.
Like all the best things in life, there is a teasing delay before Häagen-Dazs can be enjoyed. Just as you’d rest meat or brew tea and coffee, Häagen-Dazs calls for 10-12 minutes out of the freezer before you dig in. Unlike most commercial ice creams, very little air is incorporated in to the product so you’re buying a solid tub of ice cream, not a box half filled with air.
We’d eaten a whole lot of ice cream by this point and the team were just about to wheel out more for us to taste all the flavours. I thoroughly deliberated the pros and cons of Salted Caramel versus Dulce de Leche, it was a tough afternoon…
The history and legacy of Häagen-Dazs is something special. I can’t believe how little I knew about the brand to begin with. I had the best time with their team and Natalie Coleman – they couldn’t have chosen a better chef to work with and she loves a selfie!Now over to you. Did you know where Häagen-Dazs came from? And what’s your favourite flavour?