This summer, those in need of a cold, creamy fix are looking beyond Mister Softee for treats that tickle untapped areas of the dessert palate. Given the wealth of savory gourmet ice creams popping up, the go-to trifecta could one day become chocolate, strawberry, and... burrata. At least if Dominique Ansel has his way.
“I wanted to create a vanilla alternative that was creamier, more flavorful, and also less sweet,” says the famed pastry chef of his cheese-inspired soft serve, which is dished out all summer from a window at Dominique Ansel Kitchen in New York’s West Village. The nuanced concoction arrives in a cone topped with balsamic caramel and bright sprigs of micro basil. The result? Instead of a sugar high, you’re hit with a cool, sprightly freshness.
Courtesy of Oddfellows
The Cronut King’s burrata masterstroke was influenced by Italy, but chefs are scooping up ideas from all over the globe. OddFellows, also in New York, has reinvigorated the ice cream sandwich, dubbing it the Odd Pocket. This funky update consists of a toasted brioche filled with killer flavors like Asian red bean, Indian-inspired saffron cardamom, and apricot duck sausage—combos that chill you out while giving you a jolt of umami.
Nearly every modern culinary trend comes with its wild cards, and this one’s no exception. Holy Roly is the first joint in Los Angeles to serve Thai ice cream rolls, including an herbal Earl Grey variety that is flash-frozen with liquid nitrogen. Meanwhile, at New York’s Snowdays the signature flavor of shaved ice cream—basically a twist on Taiwanese, Korean, and Hawaiian shaved ices—is black sesame.
If this all sounds a tad pretentious, just start with the gateway drug of gourmet ice cream: salt. “When it comes to desserts, salt is often part of the recipe to balance out the sweetness levels,” says Ansel, who also offers a dark chocolate olive oil soft serve with fig agrodolce that is spiked with Maldon salt crystals. But no matter how out-there the flavors get, taste is still paramount. “At the end of the day,” says Ansel, “it’s about creating something that’s delicious and that makes people happy.” Because even a foodie sometimes just wants to feel like a kid.
Courtesy of Mexican Ice Cream (Ten Speed Press)
When Gelato Gets Boozy
Our two favorite things, together at last
Another very welcome dessert trend this summer? Alcoholic ice cream. Bucket & Bay, in Jersey City, N.J., offers a tasting flight of five scoops of gelato, each infused with a different type of whiskey (watch out: the last one’s a doozy). Austin’s Prohibition Creamery pours coffee-flavored Patrón over its smoky mezcal ice cream. North Hollywood cocktail den BarToni’s, known for its neo-1950s drinks, blends vanilla ice cream into its take on the grasshopper (think mint chocolate chip for adults). And New York’s Tipsy Scoop delivers the most decadent of pairings, mixing bacon into its bourbon ice cream.
Meanwhile, if you’re bold enough to try making something of your own, pick up Fany Gerson’s new book Mexican Ice Cream (Ten Speed Press), which features recipes for flavors like rum raisin and caramelized fig spiked with mezcal queso fresco—neither of which pose the threat of a hangover.