Until the age of 18, I thought the Queen only existed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where I spent two weeks of every summer of my childhood. Before my dad could even put the minivan into park, I'd run out to the service window, where a mulleted kid would take my order with a tooth-missing smile and proudly present my Oreo Blizzard in the traditional fashion (upside down), demonstrating its thickness and therefore its worthiness.

During NSO of my freshman year, my life changed forever. I remember the moment vividly. We rode the bus down to South Street to take in all its sketchy wonders. My new friend Abby wanted to take advantage of her collegiate independence immediately and get her belly button pierced. As we exited the bus and scanned the storefronts for relatively clean piercing parlors, I saw it in the distance. That familiar red neon sign shaped like a big kiss, with "DQ" in white block letters.

I remain loyal to the Blizzard, the thick shake that blends traditional DQ vanilla soft serve and toppings of your choice with a patented Blizzard (‹¨«) machine. An Internet fan club exists in honor of this tasty treat (www.blizzardfanclub.com), and I am proud to call myself a member. From time to time, I branch out from my staple Oreo to try one of DQ's newer creations, such as Peanut Butter Oreo or Brownie Batter. But DQ's menu extends beyond the Blizzard, with options ranging from classics that have been around since the first store opened in 1940 to outrageous new desserts that celebrate all-American excess.

There's the simple perfection of a chocolate-dipped cone, each one uniform with its signature swirl and a not-too-thin layer of chocolate that hardens immediately upon contact with the soft serve. For something truly decadent, the Brownie Earthquake is a combination of three of life's greatest pleasures: the classic brownie sundae, the Oreo Blizzard and the s'more. A huge brownie is topped with a generous helping of soft-serve, smothered in marshmallow topping, hot fudge, whipped cream and crushed oreos. Mmmmm ... gluttony at its finest.


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