You've been eating ice cream all summer , and we still have August to go. So why not mix up your routine and try a new flavor or two before Labor Day? Forget reverse chocolate chip and Butterfinger: Try something truly unique, like Jamaican Irish moss, or Earl Grey Tea, or avocado honey. Not sure where to find such oddball ice creams? This week's Table Hopping points the way.
Irie Four Seasons Ice Cream 310 Bowdoin St. Dorchester 617-929-3866 www.iriejamaican.com
Caribbean men dive deep into the ocean for sea moss, the seaweed that's found in Irish moss ice cream. Why go to such trouble? ``The men think it gives them stamina," says Donna Davis, co-owner of Irie Four Seasons Ice Cream. ``It's a Caribbean myth." Myth or not, I had to try some. Fortunately, tons of spices, including cinnamon and nutmeg , and a creamy vanilla base give Irish moss a very palatable taste. With friendly servers, bright colors , and blaring reggae music, Irie offers customers a taste of Jamaica, too. The soursop (a Caribbean fruit) and fresh mango ice creams are worth a few spoonfuls as well.
Picco 505 Tremont St. South End 617-927-0066 www.piccorestaurant.com
If America had a king, Rick Katz could well be the royal ice - cream maker. He makes the chocolate chips for his chocolate chip ice cream by hand . A single gallon of his cherry vanilla ice cream contains $17 worth of fresh cherries . And his honey ice cream? For that, Katz uses avocado honey, a specialty honey created by bees kept in an avocado grove. ``It's a distinct taste, not as sweet as some honey, but much deeper," Katz says. Picco's owner and head chef follows two simple rules: Use amazing ingredients, and make as much from scratch as you can. I recommend everything, from the pluot sorbet (pluot's a fruit hybrid of plum and apricot) to the hazelnut gianduja swirl, a homemade sin of chocolate, hazelnut , and caramel.
Upstairs on the Square 91 Winthrop St. Harvard Square, Cambridge 617-864-1933 www.upstairsonthesquare.com
You might think a high-profile restaurant such as Upstairs on the Square couldn't possibly hold any secrets, but pastry chef Emily Wholey and her staff make some of the boldest ice cream flavors this side of Toscanini's: sweet corn (a Brazilian recipe), strawberry red wine with Sichuan pepper sorbet, Earl Grey tea, olive oil gelato. ``I enjoy playing with the ice cream machine, so there will always be interesting flavors here," says Wholey, who collaborates with executive chef Steve Brand . The trick is asking for them. Only one or two ice creams are featured on the menu, but as many as a dozen flavors can be requested. The sorbet and Earl Grey, among current selections, are divine.
Brown Sugar Cafe
1033 Commonwealth Ave. Allston 617-787-4242
Bangkok natives eat their ogura on a stick, like a popsicle. But here in America, ogura, or red bean ice cream, is served by the scoop, with hot fudge and a cherry on top. ``Red bean is native to Thailand, so it's popular in desserts," says Nid Tang-DeFilippo, Brown Sugar's business manager. ``There are many different ways of making it. You can eat it hard, cooked, or at room temperature. It can be boiled with water and sugar, so it's like syrup." Or it can be made into ice cream. Brown Sugar's version is creamier than the traditional kind, but we weren't complaining: a purplish color, with whole beans scattered throughout, ogura is a mild yet worthy cousin of the vanilla bean. And don't forget to ask for sweet sticky rice, a hot, sugary rice-pudding-like wad that subs admirably for an ice cream cone.
Kashmir Restaurant 279 Newbury St. Boston 617-536-1695 www. kashmirrestaurant.com
Here's an extremely simple primer on Indian cuisine: chicken tikka masala is your main entre e, naan is your bread, badami kulfi is your dessert. ``Kulfi is basically Indian ice cream," says Mukta Adhikari, event manager for Kashmir. ``But the texture is totally different than American ice cream. With kulfi you can feel a watery texture. I would say that it's not sorbet, and it's not ice cream. It's somewhat in between." Made with saffron, almond , and crushed pistachios on top, kulfi has a mild, nutty flavor. Kashmir serves a scoop-sized mound on a dessert plate, with strawberry slices to the side and whipped cream on top.
Boston Ice Cream Factory 777 Morrissey Blvd. Dorchester 617-436-0966 www.Bostonicecreamfactory.com
I'd never heard of durian, an orange-colored, odorous Southeast Asian fruit with a pineapple-like rind. But durian ice cream outsells even chocolate ice cream at Steve Cirame's Dorchester ice cream shop. ``I have people who come from miles around to get it because no one else sells it," says Cirame, who revels in making odd ice cream flavors, ``just to prove we make our own ice cream." Cirame still serves clam chowder ice cream, a recipe he created 20 years ago when he owned Christina's Ice Cream in Cambridge. Guinness ice cream, rose water ice cream , and Barbados Breeze ice cream, made with liquors and fruit juices, can all be found on his flavor board, as can durian, which to me tasted like fried onions. ``We get that reaction," Cirame says. ``It's different." Sure is.
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