South Norwalk country bar introduces over-the-top take on shakes
Updated 8:23 pm, Sunday, August 14, 2016
Was it when the gobs of peanut butter were smeared around the top of the glass or when the five mini Hershey chocolate bars were smooshed into said gobs? It could have been when the scoops of chocolate ice cream and large dollop of peanut butter got all frothy in the milkshake maker. Maybe it happened when a half-dozen Reese’s peanut butter cups and a skewer of deliciously charred marshmallows were plopped into a mound of whipped cream.
It’s hard to say at what point the line of decadence was crossed when it comes to the new Chocolate Peanut Butter milkshake being churned up at Johnny Utah’s this summer. It’s one of about a half-dozen mega milkshakes that use all sorts of tasty accoutrements, including slices of cherry pie, blueberry muffins, crushed cookies and bacon, to pack on flavor and, undoubtedly, the pounds. Calories are about the farthest thing from the mind when slurping up the cool concoction that can go into hyperdrive with a shot of liquor.
“Summertime is a great time for ice cream, so I thought why not do milkshakes,” says chef Cory Rizzolo, who heads the kitchen at the Norwalk restaurant specializing in barbecue and Southwestern cuisine. “But they have been done before, so we needed to find a way to make ours better than anyone else’s. So I decided that meant shoving as much as possible in and about the glass as I could do. Gravity is my biggest opponent at this point.”
Rizzolo, who confessed a soft spot for Dairy Queen Blizzard Treats and 7-Eleven Slurpees, says a trip to the grocery store earlier this year with his district manager was the start of his sky-high aspirations. “We spent about $300 on candy,” he says. “I am not sure what people in the store were thinking. But we decided to just throw a whole bunch of things together and see what worked.”
It may seem somewhat incongruous that an ice cream shop treat has made its way into a country bar, but it works (just don’t drink one, then head on over to the restaurant’s mechanical bull). Rizzolo says he defers to the bartenders when it comes to spiking the treats. With a choice of about 30 flavors of vodka and ample liqueurs, such as Kahlua and Frangelico, there are plenty of combinations. The virgin shakes go for $10, with an extra $5 for alcohol.
“We’re kind of making this up as we go,” says Rizzolo, who lives in Stamford and is always thinking up new flavor combinations, such as pistachio or mango jalapeno. “I once had a corn milkshake and I was surprised, because it was good. You know, we are getting into corn season around here, so maybe I’ll do that here.”
These local mash-ups are riding a wave of over-the-top milkshake mania. Places such as New York City’s Black Tap Craft Burgers & Beer have become perhaps more known for their outrageous milkshakes, which became red-hot with frequent appearances on online photo-sharing sites and social media. The United Kingdom is enjoying the “freakshake” craze imported from Australia. These mega-calorie treats feature slices of cake, doughnuts, popcorn, pretzels, pastry and gobs and gobs of syrup and sauces shoved into glasses and Mason jars.
When Rizzolo hears of such things, his eyes widen a bit. He has his own dreams of over-the-top combinations. One that is near and dear to his heart comes from a youthful craving while growing up in Chicago.
“There’s a hot dog stand in Chicago called Portillo’s, and it has a chocolate cake shake. It is a chocolate shake that literally has a piece of chocolate cake shoved into it,” he says. “It’s super rich, but, whatever, it’s delicious and amazing. I’ve been working to make one that is similar. It will probably be able to double as lunch and supper for some people.”
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