ColumnArtisanal ice cream is keeping the summer streets hot.
It’s June, which means you’ve only got one thing on the mind: summer (or at least that’s what I spend my time daydreaming about as we approach the equinox). Long days, dinner parties in the garden and plenty of warm weather drinks. Seasonal bliss to the max.
So let’s talk food. Take a moment and imagine a hot, sweltering summer day. Then think of the most iconic American food image that comes to mind. What is it? Better say ice cream. But what was once a classic has taken an underground turn, being infused with lavender, mixed with beer and topped with sea salt, making it a go-to classic with an artisanal twist, perfect for the foodie summer you’re about to embark on.
I remember my first time at Bi-Rite in San Francisco, where salted caramel reigns and the definition of artisanal ice cream was practically created. A staple of the Mission District, the line around the block sort of says it all: San Franciscan locals and tourists alike are obsessed with artisanal ice cream. And they’re not alone.
Ice cream is so hot on the foodie list, that hip new shops can’t even stay open because of ice cream mavens eating up all the inventory. That’s the case in Brooklyn where Ample Hills Creamery, which boasts a handmade Stout ‘n’ Pretzels blend, had to shut down four days after it opened. Apparently that’s how long it takes to sell out of 130 gallons of homemade frozen cream.
Last week in London you could score a cone on a floating ice cream truck, the HMS Flake 99, putting the ingenuity of most food carts to shame, while in Portland, Salt & Straw embodies the “farm to cone” ideal, whipping up batches of ice cream with local ingredients like Rogue Creamery Blue Cheese and Olympic Provisions charcuterie. A calm spoonful of exotic green tea ice cream? Compared to the creative combinations of this summer, that seems so early 2000’s.
Forget the organic, specialty flavor pint cartons at your local co-op though; when it comes to ice cream, any self-respecting foodie is buying it from the source, or local markets. At Ashland Farmers Market you can pick up a pint of Chocolate Oatmeal Stout from Artik Creamery and at the Brooklyn Flea Market you’ll find yourself drooling over shaved ice from People’s Pops, flavored with syrupy goodness like organic lemon and rhubarb cinnamon.
And if ice cream stands are too mainstream for you, there’s always ice cream from the back of a tricycle. Still not sure about investing over a few bucks a cone? All you need is a good how-to guide (snark included) for how to best enjoy the artisanal treat.
Of course the ultimate in artisanal anything is mastering it yourself. Start with sorbet, which entails a whole lot less work and really only requires a freezer. My current “must try” recipe comes from Food & Wine:
- 3 cups pitted sour cherries (18 ounces)
- 3/4 cup Sugar Syrup
- 1 cup cherry lambic beer
- In a blender, puree the cherries until smooth. Stir in the Sugar Syrup and the cherry lambic beer. Pour the sorbet base into an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Pack the sour-cherry lambic sorbet into a plastic container. Press a sheet of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the sorbet and close the container with an airtight lid. Freeze until firm, 4 hours.
Then again, maybe artisanal ice cream is just the new cupcake, and after we gorge ourselves on too many blends of cream, eggs, sugar and ice, we’ll be desperately hoping that those smarter than us will be putting the recipes to good use, like fighting terrorism. But for now, let’s just enjoy that cone of bacon-java-sea salt bliss.
It’s good. I swear.
Editor’s note: This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’s weekly column at EcoSalon, Foodie Underground, discovering what’s new and different in the underground food movement, from supper clubs to mini markets to the culinary avant garde.
Images: Anna Brones