Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ice cream with a hint of beer, bacon

Ice cream with a hint of beer, baconForget chocolate versus vanilla, how about a dish of ale and bacon ice cream? Or maybe you'd rather stay old school and order some rocky road - but made with homemade marshmallows and a sprinkling of sea salt, of course. The inside scoop on ice cream this summer in the United States is classic-meets-culinary avant garde.

Take Salt & Straw Ice Cream, which just opened with an ice cream pushcart (a scoop shop will be opening later). Not only is it offering an ale and bacon ice cream, but it's also a farm-to-cone concept using local ingredients.

The beer is from Portland-based Laurelwood Brewery and the bacon from Olympic Provisions. Not artisanal enough for you? Other beer flavours (made from the offerings of various breweries) will include pear with blue cheese, lemon basil with sorbet, and sea salt with ribbons of hand-made caramel.

By the way, salted caramel is hot in the world of ice cream; it's popping up at creameries everywhere. Another big trend in ice cream is soft-serve. But we're not talking the pale, bland swirl of tonsil-chilling sweetness you may remember from childhood.

At Bi-Rite Creamery in San Francisco, soft-serve flavours include vanilla, of course, but also spicy Mexican chocolate, and balsamic strawberry. They also have salted caramel, which marketing director Kirsten Bourne said was "the most popular flavour by far".

The Creamery added soft-serve to its ice cream offerings last year after realising that the shop, with its retro-vibe, was the perfect setting for the classic dessert. Just like the scooped ice cream, the soft-serve is made from Straus Family Organic Dairy products.

The two daily soft-serve flavours, based on seasonal, local ingredients, can be combined in a swirl. The popular Kris's Combo features vanilla soft serve with blood orange olive oil and Maldon sea salt.

The dream of a better ice cream extends to restaurants. Candace Rowan, pastry chef at A16 restaurant in San Francisco, remembers working in Bay area restaurants 20 years ago and having ice cream brought in. These days, chefs are churning out their own creations.


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