Ice-cream classics, revisited
This article first appeared in the 1 June 2009 issue of Restaurants & Institutions (R&I).
R&I is the USA's leading source of food and business-trend information and exclusive research on operators and restaurant patrons. Editorial coverage spans the entire foodservice industry, including chains, independent restaurants, hotels and institutions. Visit the R&I website to find out more about the magazine or to search its recipe database.
By Kate Leahy, Senior Associate Editor
Cold-surface-blending scoop shops (such as Cold Stone Creamery), tangy-frozen-yogurt operations (like Pinkberry) and smoothie concepts (such as Jamba Juice) have broadened the scope of the frozen-dessert market. "Within frozen desserts, you're seeing a transition away from traditional ice cream," explains Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Chicago-based consultancy Technomic.
Yet even though it has slipped a bit in market share, ice cream continues to lead the category in sales, accounting for nearly 60% of the frozen-dessert market, which is expected to grow to $27.6 billion by 2012, according to the Rockville, Md.-based market-research firm Packaged Facts.
To satisfy consumers' cool cravings and stay competitive in a changing marketplace, chefs, foodservice directors and chain operators are serving scoops in inventive, playful and sometimes upscale ways. Here's a look at some revised favorites that tap into consumers' inner child.
Mini desserts have their place, but sometimes more is truly merrier. At Tavern at the Park in Chicago, Chef de Cuisine Mike Cisternino's take on the classic ice-cream sandwich is large enough to serve four. "We wanted to give our sophisticated guests a very fun, simple [option]," says Cisternino. His Chocolate-Chip Ice-Cream Sandwich is now one of the restaurant's top three best-selling desserts.
Two 5-inch-wide chocolate-chip cookies are par-baked before service and then finished in the oven to order. A few scoops of mint-chocolate-chip ice cream are the sandwich's filling; hot fudge spooned over the top completes the dessert. When the giant treat arrives at a table, "There's definitely the ‘wow' factor," Cisternino says.
Assistant Pastry Chef Rebekah Korthals also takes a decidedly grownup approach with the ice-cream sandwich she serves at The Golf Club at Newcastle in Newcastle, Wash. Korthals reduces porter beer into a syrup and folds it into a vanilla ice-cream base. Once frozen, the ice cream is packed between peanut-butter wafer cookies. Get the recipe
Traditional ice-cream sandwiches serve as inspiration for and an ingredient in the crowd-pleasing Ice-Age Indulgence at T-Rex Cafe in Orlando. The dessert is made by layering ice-cream sandwiches with nondairy whipped topping, chocolate sauce and crushed chocolate-toffee bars. The layers are frozen in a hotel pan and then sliced into squares to order. "We call it an ice-cream lasagna," says Keith Beitler, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the special restaurants division at Houston-based Landry's, which runs T-Rex.
STYLISH SUNDAES -
Lab geeks and do-it-yourselfers aren't the only ones who see the fun in the Science Fair Sundae at Honey Cafe in Glen Ellyn, Ill. As accompaniments to two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a pitcher of hot fudge, servers supply a stainless-steel tray holding two dozen test tubes filled with toppings such as sprinkles, nuts and "any candy that will fit," says owner Elizabeth Janus.
She developed the dessert to cater to kids. The result, however? "It is pretty popular with everybody-except the servers," she says. (They have to refill the test tubes.)
In comparison, Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco had an adult audience in mind when creating Sam's Sundae. The sweet-savory dessert consists of triple-chocolate ice cream topped with bergamot-scented olive oil, gray sea salt and whipped cream. The salt draws out the chocolate's sweetness, and the oil gives it an earthy flavor.
FLOATS & SHAKES
Soda-shop classics are among summer's most refreshing ice-cream desserts. They can be simple but with a twist, such as the chocolate-and-cherry Black Forest milkshakes served at locations of the Beaverton, Ore.-based chain Shari's. They can also inspire more-involved preparations, such as the Soda-Shoppe Duet served at Rioja in Denver. "It's fun to take something from your memory and turn it into something really playful," says Chef-owner Jen Jasinski.
Rioja's dessert is composed of two parts: one glass containing a scoop of house-made root-beer ice cream, which is topped with cream soda at the table by a server, and one glass of vanilla pot de crème topped with root-beer granita. "Texturally speaking, it's fun to eat," Jasinski says.
Layered ice-cream desserts make strong visual impressions. That's one of the reasons Chef-owner Daniel Orr from FARMbloomington in Bloomington, Ind., serves his espresso granita in a martini glass. "People watch it pass through the dining room," he says.
In the glass, Orr layers espresso granita with vanilla ice cream and crème fraÁ®che. To finish, caramel and chocolate sauces are drizzled over the top. "I wanted to create an adult dessert," Orr explains. "Something with a little pick-up effect for people going to the theater after dinner."
Parfaits are also a great vehicle for experimenting with new flavor combinations. At San Francisco's Citizen Cake, smooth layers of house-made tangerine sorbet and cardamom frozen yogurt are countered with crunchy meringue in the Creamsicle Parfait.
Re Leaf, a Japanese tea and treats shop in Arlington Heights, Ill., uses the parfait format to serve a distinctly Asian dessert. Its Matcha Parfait comprises layers of green-tea jelly, vanilla ice cream, red-bean paste, green-tea soft-serve and strawberry mochi.
Simple crème anglaise-the base of most ice creams-provides near-endless opportunities for exploring sweet-and-savory flavors. At Carolina's in Charleston, S.C., the smoked-honey ice cream contains honey that has been cold-smoked for one-and-a-half hours. As a plain anglaise base freezes, a pastry cook drizzles in the honey to taste.
At another South Carolina restaurant, pepper is the surprising seasoning. Executive Chef Steven Greene of Devereaux's steeps black peppercorns in crème anglaise for 30 minutes and then removes them before freezing the anglaise. He serves scoops of the pepper ice cream alongside Wine and Cheese, a dessert of goat-cheese cheesecake with red-wine syrup and almond biscotti.
"Most of my guests are open-minded; they expect something a little different," says Greene. "You want to do something that people wouldn't think of doing at home."
Executive Chef Jennifer Jasinski, Rioja, Denver
Yield: 8 servings
Milk 2 cups
Heavy cream 2 cups
Sugar 1 cup
Pasteurized egg yolks 8
Root-beer extract 1 Tbsp.
Root-beer granita (recipe follows) 4 cups
Vanilla pots de crème 8
Cream soda as needed
In a large pot, mix together milk, cream and sugar. Bring to a boil; remove from heat and whisk in yolks slowly. Return to the stove and continue to stir over low heat until the mixture coats the back of the spoon. Strain; stir in root-beer extract; chill. Freeze in an ice-cream machine.
For each serving, place a few spoonfuls of granita on top of 1 pot de crème. In a clear glass, add 2 scoops ice cream. At the table, pour cream soda over ice cream.
Yield: 4 cups
Water Â¼ cup
Sugar Â¼ cup
Root beer 24 oz.
In a large pot, mix together water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat, cool.
Whisk in root beer. Pour mixture into a deep hotel pan. Let freeze 8 hours, scraping with a spoon occasionally as the granita freezes to "shave" the ice.
House-made carrot-cake ice cream sounds delicious already, but enhancing its appeal is the fact that it's made with fresh local carrots. It's just one example of the inventive ice-cream flavors on the menu at Princeton University's Witherspoon's cafe. Rhubarb sorbet is another seasonal favorite.
The university sources the ice cream for Witherspoon's from The Bent Spoon, a Princeton, N.J., ice-cream cafe. Since it opened in 2004, The Bent Spoon has worked both with local farmers and the local public-schools district. As part of the district's gardening program, students grow mint and other produce to be used in Bent Spoon's ice cream. The ice cream then is sold in a local health-foods store, and proceeds go back to the school.
The local focus is what attracted the attention of the university, which sees the partnership as a way to support the community. "The university realizes that the symbiotic relationship with the town is so important," says Gabrielle Carbone, co-owner of The Bent Spoon. "They have a commitment to serve as much local food as possible."