I’ve been sampling lots of restaurant desserts lately, and some of these are ice creams, and some of those are most assuredly not your mama’s ice creams—crafted with the aid of technologies mama might’ve killed for. Keeping in mind that dessert menus change frequently and that these precise creations may never be seen again (call ahead!), here are three recent mind blowers:
At Nue, the surprisingly solid world survey of booze-friendly nosh plates, they’re doing liquid nitrogen ice creams in rotating flavors, like French toast bacon, halvah pistachio, and bourbon banana. The night we visited the flavor was Mexican street corn—weird, right?—which most assuredly was not weird, delivering all the softly sweet flavor of corn in the silken, ice-crystal-free texture liquid nitrogen uniquely creates. Like if Corn Pops breakfast cereal married gelato. In a good way.
Eric Johnson at Stateside, the Vietnamese toast of Seattle, has been experimenting around with creamsicles made of Vietnamese coffee and Thai iced tea. He told me off the record how they’re done, so I’ll keep his secret; let’s just say it too involves the quick freezing liquid nitrogen, along with popsicle molds the Michelin-starred chef ordered on Amazon. I haven’t sampled the Thai iced tea flavor, but the Vietnamese coffee mainlines the buzzy essence of that beverage in lush deep-cream form. Rumor has it he’s now experimenting with jackfruitsicles; stay tuned.
At the casual/high-end Naka—yeah, it really is both—there is much to savor and even more to admire. Into both categories falls a finisher of smoked cedar gelato, which they achieve by making vanilla bean gelato base then hooking it up to a machine that shoots in cedar smoke. As it cools it liquefies, suffusing the ice cream with the intense essence of last summer’s camping trip. That one where you could still make a campfire. Startling, fascinating, and finally satisfying on the palate.