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Taste Test: The Great American Shake
August 22, 2013 | 3:00PM

We originally published this piece on May 15, 2013. We’re looking back at The Great American Shake special at Shake Shack to get excited for this Saturday’s Cookies and Cream. All the cookies, all the cream, for one, low, low price at Penn Social. Shake Shack will be providing delicious cream.

All photos: Stephanie Breijo     All words: Philip Chevalier

I hate to say it, folks, but the kids aren’t alright. According to Share Our Strength, the good folks behind the No Kid Hungry Campaign partnering with Shake Shack all through this month, one in five children in America deals with hunger on a day-to-day basis. We all know it’s a problem, and just like all the other intense problems in this at-times-severely-messed-up world we inhabit, a lot of us – and I’m talking about myself here so please don’t take offense – would rather not ponder on it too much — especially while looking at pictures of incredibly delicious food that we may or may not be able to afford. (PS – if you want to go afford some delicious food, Shake Shack’s currently located in Dupont at 1216 18th St NW, and look for a location by the Spy Museum in Gallery Place some time soon).

But what if I told you that there was a way to combine your desire for a delicious milk shake with your philanthropic good nature?

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Let’s get into some numbers, shall we? Last year, Shake Shack raised $135,742 for No Kid Hungry. This year the goal of the franchise is to hit $150,000. All of the money comes by way of $2 donations, given by shake-loving folks like yourself, and in exchange for the small donation, you get one of their signature milk shakes valued at $5. %100 percent of every two dollar donation goes toward the charity program.

I’m just going to make sure we’re on the same page, as far as the math is concerned. Step 1) you donate $2 to No Kid Hungry by going to Shake Shack any time this month. Step 2) Shake Shack gives you a $5 credit for a signature milk shake. According to my calculations, everyone involved in this stands to not only profit $3 worth of milkshake in your belly, but a priceless amount of feeling good about yourself. Find me a better $2 expenditure; I dare you.

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But enough about civic duty, feeding the children, and doing-good, at least for the remainder of this post. We went on over to Shake Shack last week to sit down and try some custards. Seven custards, to be exact. One for every day of the week; also, for each of Snow White’s dwarfs, although none of these flavors are Dopey. One of them was, however, Spicy – coincidentally the name of the 8th dwarf, who few people have heard about, and is Mexican.

Here’s the list of seven signature flavors we tried, any of which can be whipped up into a shake for you to enjoy:

Lemon Meringue, Black & White Cookie, Oatmeal Creme Pie, Olive Oil Cake, Chocolate Chip Cookie, Spiced Chocolate Brownie, and Banana Bread.

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You probably know the difference between custard and ice cream – it’s denser, richer, etc. – but for the laymen among you, as well as those who might not have thought about them in this particular way, I am about to relay something I came to understand in the most intimate fashion while sampling from these slowly melting creations:

You might have noticed that each of the seven flavors of custard are named after a baked good of some kind. Ice cream has the potential to taste like a pastry. Cheesecake ice cream, for example, might even have chunks of real cheesecake in it to get the point across, but the ice cream surrounding those chunks usually tastes more like vanilla with a strong cheesecake flavor. Custard doesn’t just taste like a pastry; it provides an uncanny reincarnation in your mouth of what really tastes no different than what a delightfully cold, creamier version of the uncooked batter for whatever pastry happens to be its namesake. Here’s a weird set of similes/an analogy to stress the point further: If ice cream is a simile with regard to its relation to the thing it’s supposed to taste like, then custard is a metaphor with regard to same. The result of having this realization about custard, as you can see clearly through my expression below, was unmitigated joy.

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We didn’t stop there, either. In the spirit of true non-conformity, we experienced Shake Shack’s menu in reverse order, starting with dessert and moving to a platter of delicious burgers, hot dogs, and the restaurant’s famous cheese fries. The sampling included three burgers: Shake Shack’s signature ShackBurger, an above-standard burger topped with classic American fixins and made special with a smattering of Shacksauce; the SmokeShack, an applewood smoked bacon cheeseburger with a discernable kick to it; and the ShroomBurger, a vegetarian patty adorned with melted Muenster and Cheddar cheeses and grilled mushrooms.

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The hotdog you see before you is their signature Dapper Dog, which comes topped with Shackmeister Ale-marinated shallots (crispetty crunchetty), Shack cheddar, and American cheese sauce. If you eat yours in less than three bites, you’re doing something right. Last but certainly not least, the cheese fries aren’t just topped with your standard ballpark nacho sauce — Shake Shack’s blend of cheddar and American cheeses goes a long way toward making them something that would tempt any caged animal.

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You get it. We know you do. This is a chance to eat hearty and help some kids get the food they need. Check out Share Our Strength while you’re in the civic mindset and are looking for a good organization to involve yourself with, too. We know you’re good people — this is your chance to be … better?

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