ice cream

Dera – Pakistani Falooda Kulfi

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 | Restaurants | No Comments

Dera, located in Jackson Heights, and the tastiest Pakistani restaurant I’ve ever been to, serves a most wonderful dessert: falooda kulfi.  It comes, soup-style, in a large bowl and is best shared by two people who know each other quite well (as I believe two people sharing soup should).

Falooda is a liquidy dessert, often a sweet beverage, that comes from South Asia.  From what I can surmise, Dera’s has vermicelli noodles, milk, ice shards, tulsi (basil) seeds, rose syrup, green food coloring, and both frozen and room temp kulfi.  Kulfi is a traditional South Asian ice cream made from evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk, and heavy cream that is thickened with cornstarch.  Observe:

This dessert is a real project to eat, and it’s got several different textures, so it’s interactive good times!  The frozen kulfi comes on a popsicle stick that you scrape away at with your spoon.  It’s so cold that it starts to freeze the nearby noodles as you eat,  turning them from squirmy wormies to stiff wormies.  The room temp kulfi is smooth, creamy, and sweet, while the basil seeds add a nice little crunch.  The ice shards do get a little annoying after awhile as some of them are too big to want to bite down on, so you end up trying to avoid them to slurp up the soup.  As all of the ingredients melt together, the rose syrup turns the soup a nice Pepto-Bismol shade of pink, which is dotted with the green food coloring and yellow kulfi.  It is a delicious, impressionist-style masterpiece!

7209 Broadway
New York, NY 11372
(718) 476-6516

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French Délices Part 3: Ice Cream and Gelato

Friday, June 25th, 2010 | ice cream, Travel | 2 Comments

Also a major player on the French dessert scene is the glace, or ice cream.  Nice has a famous gelateria called Fenocchio, which, funnily enough, has a rival gelateria called Pinocchio.  The rivalry converges at Place Rosetti in the Old Town, where Fenocchio has its flagship location while Pinocchio has two across the way from each other.  We all benefit from ice cream wars, don’t we?  I only went to Fenocchio, and what an abundance of flavors– 96 to be exact!  Of the many delightful parfums, imagine verbena (a flower), beer, vanilla-rose-pepper, thyme, Coca-Cola, Grand Marnier, jasmin, and chocolate-ginger.  French ice cream is delicious and often comes in the form of complicated and expensive sundaes.  I saw a few in Nice that cost 25 Euros!  Yes, they came with seven scoops of ice cream, several toppings, and whipped cream, and probably should be shared, but wow, what a price.  I accidentally purchased one of these while asking for an iced coffee in Lyon.  I said café glacé, which literally means “iced coffee,” and was brought a monster of a sundae featuring several scoops of coffee ice cream, cookies, nuts, and whipped cream for 8 Euros.  It was expensive, but very satisfying.  After consuming this, I became sleepy, so I then purchased a regular coffee.  This is the kind of mindless eating and drinking that you get in France, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I also tried an iced nougat at Brasserie Georges in Lyon, just for scientific study.  It really wasn’t tough or chewy like you’d imagine a real frozen chunk of nougat would be, but rather had that nutty flavor and candied fruit, but with a decidedly ice creamy texture.  It was tasty and a nice antidote for a rich meal.  Our evening was punctuated with the waiters firing up an old-timey barrel organ to play Happy Birthday, which would be followed by a baked Alaska-type dessert garnished with a live sparkler being placed in front of a lucky birthday boy or girl.

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Scottish Sweeties Part 2: S. Luca’s Ice Cream Parlour

Friday, March 19th, 2010 | ice cream, Restaurants | No Comments

As a child, a trip to S. Luca’s ice cream parlor in Musselburgh, a port town very close to Edinburgh, was the greatest of treats.  Sluca’s (my grandfather’s nickname for it), has been making the most unctuous ice cream since 1908, when Mr. Luca Scappaticcio came over from Italy and learned the craft from a Swiss sous chef (weird, right? aren’t Italians the ones who are kinda known for ice cream?). Sluca’s sundaes, especially the almighty Knickerbockerglory, are legendary, and I had to make a pilgrimage:

The Knickerbockerglory is a parfait made from vanilla and strawberry ice cream, with strawberry topping and whipped cream.  The Praline Parfait is Neapolitan ice cream with chocolate sauce and hazelnuts.  Both are quite tall and force you to improve your posture greatly in order to consume them.  The Meringue Mess is vanilla ice cream floating in a butterscotch and freshly-cut banana soup, with a little crunchy meringue for texture.  These 3 were, of course, parfaits parfaits. 

At first, I scoffed at my mom’s Sticky Toffee Pudding order, as there were plenty more delightful sundaes to choose from, but she pointed out that an STP is good for my Scottish dessert research and also quite tasty, so I relented.  It wasn’t sticky, so much as sweet and decadent.  The cake was so moist, it sparkled like a mound of jewels.  An STP’s toffee is typically made from black treacle (molasses), Demerara sugar (unrefined and brownish), and cream.  Ours was quite warm, and the accompanying scoops of vanilla ice cream melted right into the toffee pool. 

We brought some vanilla and strawberry ice cream home for my grandfather, who will almost certainly eat it smothered in extra-thick double cream, which I think is illegal in the U.S.  My Grandpa is such a rebel. 

S. Luca
32-38 High Street
Musselburgh  EH21 7AG


PastryScoop’s Fall 2009 Conference

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009 | Events | No Comments

My beloved French Culinary Institute & held their annual conference in October. They invite some of the best pastry chefs & chocolatiers in New York to come and do demonstrations of their signature treats. It’s open to the public, so I ponied up $65 to watch Cookshop’s executive pastry chef Emily Wallendjack make her famous Cookshop Candy Bars, with layers of Devils food cake, gianduja crunch, praline ganache, frozen peanut nougat, and chocolate shell. She invented these after her stint at Jean-Georges working with pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini. Chef Johnny made a wonderful peanut butter dessert that cemented her love of peanut butter and chocolate. (I don’t blame her– Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are a guilty pleasure of mine.) She joked that if she ever dropped her Candy Bars from the menu, her customers would have her head. Once I tasted the completed confection, I understood why:

It was such a delight to watch her and her team work. She gave us the complicated recipe to follow-along with and make at home ourselves (hah!). She explained everything patiently, clearly, and with humble humor. Her sous chef, Natasha Hillendahl, was so efficient. Cake would get baked, chocolate would get melted, and needed cooking implements would appear by Chef Emily’s side without a word.

I learned the following random baking tidbits along the way:
-Gianduja is milk solids & hazelnuts, which civilians can purchase at Whole Foods and is made by Valrhona.
-Mayo (I know, ew!) actually works better than oil in cakes because it incorporates better. And yes (double-ew!!), you can use Hellmann’s. Chef Emily uses mayo in her Devils food cake.
-When making ganaches, it’s better to use a heat-proof spatula than a whisk so you don’t incorporate air bubbles. Also, using milk chocolate is dicey because it burns much faster than dark chocolate.
-Water is one of chocolate’s worst enemies, as it causes it to sieze up. When using a double-boiler to melt chocolate, make absolutey sure there’s a tight seal over the water, don’t let the water boil, and look out for condensation.
-Gelatin sheets (available at Buon Italia in the Chelsea Market) are great, flavorless thickeners. You put them in ice water to soften and wigglify. Then you squeeze them out before you use them.
-It’s good to whip cream with side-to-side motions using a flat whisk. It’ll still take forever, though!
-Pâte à glacer is just chocolate & grape seed oil, and is used to make chocolate coatings. You don’t refrigerate it.
-Chocolate “feet” form when you’re coating something, and it flattens and cools on a surface.  Tasty feet!

After Chef Emily was done, I asked her what her favorite dessert was to make: “ice cream and sorbets,” she said. She loves experimenting with different flavors and selling them at their sidewalk stand outside the restaurant, where they don’t need a permit and are in a prime spot for High Line foot traffic. I get the sense that ice creams are the preferred form of expression for many pastry chefs. It certainly seems like those Iron Chef guys just can’t stay away from the ice cream makers. Lobster and shiitake sorbet, anyone?

After the Cookshop demo was over, I saw that next door’s Ice Cream Social with Flex Mussels’ corporate pastry chef Zac Young was still rockin’. I snuck in and was immediately struck by the frenetic atmosphere of the room. Chef Zac was making seemingly endless varieties of ice cream and sorbet, and his sous chef and the poor FCI students were busting their butts to keep up. I got to try the cream cheese ice cream and white chocolate mint and passion fruit sorbets, but I think my palate was shot by then or I was too full, because I didn’t find the flavors to be well-balanced; maybe they just weren’t sweet enough to my liking.

Looking forward to seeing who’s coming out next year!  And, as always, I can’t wait for my next trip to L’Ecole, FCI’s amazing student-run restaurant.


D.C. Dessert Roundup – Capital Confections Part 2: Good Stuff Eatery

Saturday, November 21st, 2009 | ice cream, Restaurants, Travel | 3 Comments

“Herein, where good people make good stuff…”  This sentiment is expressed on a historical landmark-like plaque outside D.C.’s popular Good Stuff burger joint, where my dessert guide informed me that one can also find amazing “handspun shakes.”  Doesn’t the word “handspun” make you think of cotton candy or knitting wool or something equally charming & old-timey?  I kinda thought you usually blend shakes, but “spinning” them takes it to that next level of homey-ness.  We ordered three Mini-Moos ($3.75 each), which are made with their special “milk-ice-gelato-custard-cream” and your usual sundae fixins– behold:

If you like your shakes thick, fatty, and unslurpable, this is the place for you.  Not looking for a cheek-ache, we decided not to even mess with straws.  Instead, we popped off their lids immediately and dug in with our spoons.  The Sourhop Hop Strawberry is a cute name, but there wasn’t anything sour about this wonderful shake– it just basically tasted like the best strawberry ice cream of my life.  I also enjoyed the D-Lechable Leche, but it wasn’t really dulce de leche-flavored– more like coffee and caramel-flavored, much to my bean-hating friend’s consternation.  The best of all was the Milky Way Malt, which had fudge, caramel, and candy chunks for texture– the concentrated bottom scrapings were so good, I went into one of my dessert trances.

Good work, good people of Good Stuff!

Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave. S.E.
Washington, D.C.  20003

Next stop: Café Saint-Ex (posting soon)

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D.C. Dessert Roundup – Capital Confections Part 1: Artfully Chocolate Kingsbury Confections (aka A.C.K.C.)

Monday, November 16th, 2009 | chocolatiers, ice cream, Travel | 4 Comments

We didn’t see Michelle or Barack, but we did have delicious desserts.  Read on…

A.C.K.C. is a total dessert cuterie (if you don’t know what a “cuterie” is, think of the chocolate shop in Chocolat).  They’ve got everything: display cases filled with fancy chocolates & baked goods, tables overflowing with chocolate bars & gifts, friendly dessert-istas, cheerful autumnal decorations, and… naughty mosaics depicting frolicking males.  A.C.K.C. is apparently the brainchild of a chocolatier, Rob Kingsbury, and an artist, Eric Nelson.  The chocolate and the art are for sale– great concept!

The “Divas” are a menu highlight; they can come in the form of blended ice cream and toppings, crowned with whipped cream, and served in gorgeous margarita glasses ($4.25 each).  We tried The Bette Davis: “milk chocolate infused with almond syrup, topped with toasted coconut flakes.”  It was light and tasty, but nothing much to write home about.  Next was the Marliyn Monroe: “a bold, white-chocolate base with a flip of crème de menthe finished with crumbled Oreo cookies.”  What a frothy, refreshing, minty delight.  And great texture from the cookie and white chocolate chunks.  Last of the Divas was the Rita Hayworth: “semi-sweet chocolate infused with clove, orange and caramel, drizzled with caramel sauce.”  This was the best of all.  The flavors all zinged together, with the orange hitting you first, then the chocolate, then the clove, of which there were whole buds, which sent spicy shivers down my spine.

Even though we were bursting with our stomachs’ discoveries of their inner Divas, we thought we must try some of their hand-made chocolate.  We picked the weirdest sounding one: “creamy brie with apricot dropped in toasted black sesame seeds.”  Well, I never thought I’d live to see the day that I’d have brie and chocolate in one bite, but there it was– that cheesy funk with that bitter chocolate.  I’m not sure how well the flavors married, and no one tasted the apricot, but it was worth it for the experience.

The last thing we tried was their smoked bacon chocolate bar: “rich milk chocolate couverture mixed with smoked Turkish paprika, dried apple, and caramelized bacon.”  I couldn’t detect a hint of bacon or paprika at all (maybe they forgot to add them?), but the chocolate itself was smooth, wonderful, and rich, and the apple chunks were a nice little surprise.

This was a perfect start to our dessert adventures!

A.C.K.C. (DC location)
1529C 14TH Street NW
Washington, DC 20005

Next stop: Good Stuff Eatery (post coming soon)

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Dairy Queen – My Dessert Alma Mater

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009 | ice cream | 2 Comments

Oh, Dairy Queen, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways…

My first job at the grand-old age of 14 was at the DQ down the street from me.  Ah, the camaraderie and the 90s R&B music played all day long… ah, the numerous “mistakes” we were allowed to eat.  Now, I realize that DQ is no Payard Patisserie.  I get it.  What DQ represents for me is summer, a simpler time of life, and smooth, creamy soft serve.  Since there’s no DQ to be found in NYC (a Carvel conspiracy, perhaps?), I pounce on any DQ I find during a road trip or trip back home.  My favorite treat is the Pecan Cluster Blizzard, a wondrous mix of vanilla soft serve, pecans, butterscotch syrup, and chocolate dip hardened and blended into chunks.  The sweetness of the butterscotch, mixed with the texture and crunch of the nuts, finished with the chocolateyness of the dip are heaven itself for me.  Also on offer are old-school soda fountain drinks like the Chocolate Malted (favored by my dad) and the Boston Cooler (a mixture of Vernor’s Ginger Ale & vanilla soft serve).  When I moved to the East Coast, it took me a long time get used to the “pop = soda” thing because the word “soda” conjures for me visions of ice cream treats like a chocolate soda… mmmm…

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Grom – Gelateria Delizioso

Friday, September 4th, 2009 | ice cream | 2 Comments

When visiting Grom, you may be tempted, Baskin-Robbins-style, to head straight over to the ice cream counter to pick which flavor has the biggest chunks of chocolate, fresh-fruitiest color, and what have you– NOT SO FAST! If you do, you’ll lose your place in line like we did. There’s really not much to see anyway as all the gelati are contained in canisters with metal lids. Plus, if you wait patiently in front of the registers for your turn, you’ll be waited upon by Grom professionals who will supply you with samples upon request. Another plus is that, even for a small, you can get two flavors. This way, my friend and I tasted three delicious gelati and a sorbet:  Bacio, which is a popular Italian flavor of chocolate and hazelnut; Crema di Grom, containing “Battifollo” biscuits and chocolate chips; Crema come una volta, containing egg yolks and a hint of lemon; and Albicocca (Apricot) sorbet.
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