"We wanted to know if you would join us for ice cream."
Andrew Zimmern perked, his face lighting up with a big smile. "Yes. Yes, I would."
Is there a protocol for inviting famous people to ice cream? Darlene, my Filipino food muse, is a longtime friend and eating buddy. She knows her way around town for a good meal, but what I didn't know was that she has iron-clad balls when it comes to approaching people.
We were at Aqui es Texcoco (1043 Broadway) as Zimmern and his production crew finished up lunch. In the Bizarre Foods San Diego episode, he went from the Chula Vista restaurant to the owner's house for a home-style pit-roasted lamb dinner. Between the two places, he encountered Darlene and me. She'll tell you that "we" asked him to ice cream, but she's being polite. It's more like Darlene went for it while I stood slack-jawed next to her. A wingman, I am not.
Zimmern emerged from lunch and greeted us kindly, if perhaps a bit wearily, as we showed up after two days of shooting and a lot of media meet-and-greets.
"What would you like to talk about?" he asked, clearly ready for an interview. We thought he'd respond to the ice-cream invite with thanks-but-no-thanks, but there he went, telling the crew that we were going to ice cream, and everyone started to move. Darlene gave directions and we led the caravan to Oasis Ice Cream Parlor (1832 Coronado Ave.). Located in Nestor, the shop is nearly hidden in a large strip mall teeming with people running errands. Inside is the classic ice-cream-shop setup, the freezer bins filled with a variety of homemade ice creams and paletas (popsicles). The proprietor proudly spoke of his family's business and how they've been making ice cream at that location for decades.
Between the huge piles of paletas and ice-cream flavors like corn, mango and horchata, it was hard to choose. Paletas came as "cream" or "natural." "Cream" is ice cream on a stick, while "natural" is a frozen fruit bar featuring flavors like watermelon, pineapple and tamarind.
Oasis is always worth a visit, but especially during the heat we've had lately. There's a refreshing paleta or a pile of ice-cream scoops—the menu allows for everything from a single scoop to a four-scoop mixture, with prices ranging around $1.60 to $4 (cash only).
Zimmern went for scoops of coconut and lemon-lime, with a scoop of coffee in a separate cup. He quipped that the flavors probably shouldn't mix, then ate his ice cream while posing for photos with passersby and chatting with us. He told us about life on the road and home in Minnesota, where he writes about food instead of presenting it in front of cameras. It was a quick half-hour, then we said goodbye to him and his crew and had a moment of Did that just happen?