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Ice cream

FOR taste and temperature, few things succeed on a hot fall day like the lick of an ice cream cone. Vanilla still tops the list - one-third of all sales. But marketers have been testing flavors as exotic as jalapeno and crayfish. One store on Martha's Vineyard recently featured ``Jaws'' as the flavor of the month. Most teens looking for fun were ready to try it until they learned it contained raw shark meat.

One store in Ogunquit, Maine, features a ``do it yourself'' sundae with 15 toppings. But mostly what goes over with ice creamophiles these days is ice cream mixed with pieces of candy or baked goods. ``Cookies 'n' cream'' is now fifth on the popularity list. Strawberry, traditionally third, has dropped into eighth place.

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Americans also like their ice cream richer these days: less air and a higher butterfat content. But most gourmet brand manufacturers with the ``foreign'' names are actually American companies. The United States supply of surplus milk keeps import amounts low.

Ice cream sales no longer peak strongly in the summer; their stretch is steady, throughout the year. The average American now enjoys more than 15 quarts of ice cream a year, a record high.

New York Mayor Edward Koch sheepishly confessed to reporters recently that he had downed a pint of ice cream in one evening, something he hadn't done in 50 years. We know how it is.