Staying Cool in Kauai – Dessert Edition

It’s only been a couple weeks, but my trip to Hawaii happened ages ago. I’m currently visiting Grandma Edie in Peoria, Illinois, where the warmest it will get today is 24 degrees. It feels weird uploading iPhone photos that were taken on 95-degree days in a tropical paradise. Did this trip even happen?

As my friends and family will tell you, I don’t like hot weather. But for this past New Years Eve holiday, K had his heart set on warmer weather. I was happy enough to go along, but I have to admit that I wasn’t giddy with excitement over his choice of Hawaii. I’d been to Honolulu once before and just remember the heat and crowded beaches. Well, this trip was different.  We spent four days on the island of Kauai, and I left totally in love with it. The island is far less populated than Honolulu (obviously), and the pace of life is slower and calmer. All in all, the ideal environment to relax in.

Surprisingly, there weren’t many standalone ice cream places in Kauai. There are several Lappert’s outposts, but I didn’t make a special effort to get to one since it’s not based on Kauai. Instead, I embraced the Kauaiian lifestyle and took a relaxed approach to satisfying my sweet tooth. Luckily, I had plenty of opportunities to enjoy frozen treats each day. Some were alcoholic, such as frozen margaritas and piña coladas. I wanted to share some of my favorites with you all….

We chose Brennecke’s Beach Broiler for our first dinner on Kauai. K had been there before with his family and thought it was a fun spot. After a long day of travel,  we dropped our bags in our room at the Sheraton Kauai Resort on Po’ipu Beach and took showers before heading out for dinner. After a fun walk on the beach, we arrived at the busy beachfront restaurant. Brennecke’s is colorful and lively,  an institution that’s popular with locals and tourists alike. After a relaxed and yummy dinner (I had fish tacos!), K encouraged me to take a look at the dessert menu. It was a short menu, and only one thing caught my eye: Bob’s Favorite Ice Cream Pie. The description sold me: “Coffee ice cream, macadamia nuts, chocolate fudge & coconut on a chocolate cookie crust.”

IMG_9315 IMG_9316The verdict? I was so glad that we ordered this! While the ice cream itself wasn’t life-changing, the combination of coffee, chocolate, and nuts was quite satisfying. I love macadamia nuts and don’t eat them often, so this was a nice warm cool welcome to Hawaii. Both K and I enjoyed the thick layer of fudge on top of the ice cream, while we ignored the whipped cream (not necessary here). While I ate around the chocolate cookie crust to avoid the gluten, K seemed to enjoy it. The slice was a great size for sharing among 2 or 3 people. Overall, I had a great time at Brennecke’s Beach Broiler and would recommend Bob’s Favorite Ice Cream Pie to those looking for a sweet nightcap.

Our second day in Hawaii might have been my favorite. It was a great blend of relaxing beach time and fun island adventures. K rented us a red convertible, which made simply driving around the island a blast! That afternoon, we visited the Kauai Coffee Company‘s coffee estate (so fun!) before driving up to Waimea Canyon. At the base of the steep drive up to the canyon, we found one of the most famous shave ice stands on Kauai: JoJo’s Shave Ice.

IMG_9309I remember my first shave ice experience, in Honolulu a number of years ago. I’d expected it to be like the  snow cones my sisters and I adored from the neighborhood ice-cream truck. But I was shocked by how ice could be so fluffy and light! Hawaiian shave ice is very fine and absorbs flavors better than the crushed ice I’m used to in a snow cone. Needless to say, I am a fan and couldn’t wait to get my hands on a shave ice in Kauai. And JoJo’s did not disappoint. We visited the original location, but there is another shop on the northern coast of the island.

JoJo’s is a no-frills, authentic shave ice shop. They offer tons of flavors and variations. I must have spent a good 10 minutes reading through all of their signature combinations:

IMG_9311JoJo’s has nearly 60 different flavors, and they  make every syrup in-house. For the ultimate shave ice experience, you should get a scoop of vanilla or macadamia nut ice cream in the bottom of your cup. I was still pretty full from lunch, so I stuck with just ice. In the end, I customized my own shave ice using three of my and K’s favorite Hawaiian flavors: Pineapple, Coconut, and Guava. This 30-ounce cup cost me $4.75.

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From left to right: Pineapple, Coconut & Guava

The verdict? Oh goodness, this totally hit the spot. It’s been years, but this shave ice tasted like the best I’ve ever had! JoJo’s ice shavings are perfectly fine, and there were no big chunks of ice in my entire cup. The ice-to-syrup ratio was perfect, and the flavors did not taste artificial. My favorite was probably Guava, closely followed by Pineapple. The Coconut was yummy, but less pronounced than the other fruity flavors. Overall, this cup was heavenly on this warm Hawaiian afternoon.

Before heading to northeastern Kauai to spend New Year’s Eve at the St. Regis Princeville Resort (which was amazing), K and I enjoyed the most festive meal of the entire vacation at Keoki’s Paradise. This was another place K had already been to, but he knew that it was right down my alley. This place is so HAPPY. Despite being nestled in a shopping center, Keoki’s Paradise feels like another world! This massive open-air restaurant is fully decked-out in Polynesian-style garb — tiki torches everywhere, rustic wooden benches, tropical flowers and trees, and waterfalls. It’s like a grown-up Hawaiian version of the Rainforest Cafe (coming from me, this is a big compliment!).

Dinner was delicious; K and I both ordered the “Chef’s Fresh Catch Duo,” which is two of the day’s freshest fish prepared two ways. Today, it was Mahi-Mahi and Opah, both prepared in different ways, and served with steamed veggies and the most-rich coconut rice. It must have been the first or second time we’ve ever ordered the same meal at a restaurant (with the exception of burgers or steaks), so I got a kick out of it. I ate mindfully, as my mother-in-law (hi, Jan!) had tipped me off about a wonderful mint-chocolate ice cream dessert at Keoki’s.

When the dessert menu arrived, I quickly identified which one Jan had recommended: the Mint Chip Hula Pie. It was listed under Kimo’s Original Hula Pie, which sounded identical to the dessert we’d shared at Brennecke’s! But as it turns out, the “Hula Pie” ice-cream pie concept was originally developed nearly 40 years ago at TS Restaurants, which owns a bunch of restaurants including Keoki’s Paradise. If you’re interested, the Cooking Channel even did a video about it!

IMG_9313 IMG_9314The verdict? Mint chip is one of my favorite ice-cream flavors, so I couldn’t go wrong with this. The slice was massive – probably better for 3 or 4 people to share. I loved the extra fudge sauce, which was at room temperature and didn’t melt the ice cream. The mint-chip ice cream itself wasn’t anything special; it tasted like the typical stuff you get in tubs at the grocery store. But cover it in whipped cream, fudge, and a half-cup of mini chocolate chips, and you’ve got yourself a treat! Still, I have to admit that I preferred the knock-off version of Hula Pie at Brennecke’s. It tasted more “Hawaiian” with the toasted macadamia nuts and coffee flavors.

All in all, I got my fill of frozen treats in Kauai!

The Stats:

Brennecke’s Beach Broiler
2100 Hoone Road
Koloa, HI 96756
www.brenneckes.com

JoJo’s Shave Ice
9734 Kaumualii Highway
Waimea, HI 96796
www.jojosshaveice.com

Keoki’s Paradise
2360 Kiahuna Plantation Drive
Koloa, HI 96756
www.keokisparadise.com

The Best, Worst & Most Unique of 2015

The year 2015 treated me well. It was a challenging year in some regards, but I’m heading into 2016 stronger and happier. Highlights of the past year included ringing in the new year with K and my in-laws in Australia, watching my sister Ava graduate from UCONN, salmon fishing in Alaska, finally visiting the McRae homeland in Scotland, and a “family weekend” in New York City this fall. In August, K and I celebrated a successful first year of marriage. And in December, I officially entered my 30s. There’s a heck of a lot to be grateful for!

Not surprisingly, many of my favorite memories from 2015 involved ice cream. Here is a recap of the best, the worst, and the weirdest ice creams I experienced in 2015. I hope you enjoy!

All-Around Best Ice Cream:
Magic Bar at FoMu Ice Cream (Jamaica Plains, MA)

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Best New Recipe:
Toasted Oat Ice Cream (no-churn!)

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Best Atmosphere:
Lapp Valley Farm (New Holland, PA)

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Worst Ice Cream:
Millions at Waltons Traditional Sweet Shop

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Most Unique Ice Cream:
Chocolate Chip at Greedy Goat (London, U.K.)

Bottom scoop: Chocolate Chip; Top scoop: Salted Caramel

What was your favorite ice cream from 2015?

Gracie’s Ice Cream – Worthy of the Name?

Last fall, my sister Carolyn alerted me that a new ice cream shop had opened in Somerville, Massachusetts called “Gracie’s Ice Cream.” Since I shared a name with the shop, Carolyn said that I had an obligation to try it out. There was plenty of hype about the shop before it it opened, partially because there hadn’t been a homemade ice cream place in Somerville before. Located outside of Boston, Somerville isn’t a place  we frequent, but we knew we’d eventually have to make a special trip out to Gracie’s.

Recently, Carolyn identified the perfect opportunity to make this special trip. I was home for a long weekend, but our parents had to attend a wedding on Saturday evening in Boston. Instead of hanging out at home by myself, I followed my parents to Boston to have dinner with Carolyn, her boyfriend, and her three awesome roommates. Carolyn has lived with these girls for several years, and I always look forward to spending time with them. My sister, the smart woman she is, suggested that we have dinner in Somerville! We ended up having awesome cocktails and yummy dinners at Highland Kitchen before heading over to Gracie’s for dessert.

IMG_9192 IMG_9193Gracie’s is located in Union Square, a busy intersection in Somerville with many shops and restaurants. We spotted Gracie’s right away, with its bright white sign and logo. Inside, the shop was bright and inviting, with white walls and sleek wooden counters and tables. It was getting late, so there weren’t any other people in the shop besides us. Carolyn’s boyfriend and I were the only ones to order something, as everyone else claimed to be “too full” from dinner. Wimps!

IMG_9194 IMG_9195 Surprisingly, I had an easy time picking out two flavors to try at Gracie’s. There were just 12 flavors available, with a nice mix of traditional flavors (Vanilla Bean, Chocolate, and Mint Oreo) and unique creations. I really wanted to try Swiss Cake Roll (my favorite of the Little Debbie desserts) or Grape-Nut (think of the fiber!) but, alas, gluten and my tummy just don’t get along. The Salty Whiskey jumped out to me, probably because of my recent trip to the Talisker Distillery in Scotland. I also had to try the Black Sesame + Honey, as I’ve been on a tahini kick lately and simply cannot get enough of anything sesame-flavored.

IMG_8701 This “small” cup of Salty Whiskey and Black Sesame + Honey set me back $4 ($3.74 plus tax), but the scoops were pretty generous.

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Top scoop: Salted Whiskey; Bottom scoop: Black Sesame + Honey

The verdict? I really wanted to be “wowed” by this ice cream, but neither flavor knocked my socks off. The Black Sesame + Honey was light on both sesame and honey flavors. If someone were to give me a bite without telling me it was black sesame, I’d probably have trouble identifying it as such. Luckily, the Salty Whiskey was much more flavorful — the saltiness was spot-on for my tastes, and the strong whiskey aftertaste was easy to pick up on. I bet this flavor would complement a slice of pie or vanilla cake really well. While the ice cream was a bit too soft for my liking, it had a great texture: light, yet still creamy and rich. And while neither flavor was memorable, this Grace would be willing to give Gracie’s another try.

Please let me know if you’ve had better luck at Gracie’s!

The Stats:
Gracie’s Ice Cream
22 Union Square
Somerville, MA 02143
http://www.graciesicecre.am/

Greedy Goat Ice Cream at London’s Borough Market

After an amazing few days in Scotland, K and I flew to London’s Heathrow Airport. Instead of immediately jumping on a transatlantic flight home, K had arranged our flights to allow for a 24-hour layover in London. I’d been there once before to visit our friends Kat and Corey, who moved there from Seattle for a few years. K has been back several times for work, but I was eager to experience the historic city again.

We had a few hours to fill before meeting up with our close friend, Rangi, from Australia who was coincidentally visiting London at the same time. K asked me to decide what we should do. It wasn’t enough time to tour the Tower of London (still on my bucket list), but we had plenty of time to tour Borough Market. I love visiting local food markets when I travel; it seems like a good way to learn about local agriculture and culinary customs. And since Borough Market was only a mile or two away from our hotel, we took advantage of the nice, cool weather and walked there.

A bridge selfie on walk to Borough MarketWe arrived to find Borough Market quite bustling, despite being a weekday afternoon. It is an open-air market, and I was struck by how clean it was! According to the market’s website, there are over 100 stalls and stands. I did a quick iPhone search for “ice cream at Borough Market” and found two options — a gelataría and a place called “Greedy Goat Ice Cream.” Goat ice cream? My mind immediately went to that gross yak ice cream we sampled in Beijing. No, thank you! But I made the mistake of telling K about this goat milk ice cream, and he insisted we go. The man adores goat cheese, and he’s always game for trying the weirdest and most creative ice cream. The map online showed the stall in Borough’s “Green Market” area. I dragged my feet a bit while daydreaming about how lovely a cup of gelato would be.

With its cheerful and colorful signage, it was fairly easy to find the Greedy Goat stall. There wasn’t a line, so I went right up to the counter and peered into the ice-cream case.

IMG_8417The goat milk in Greedy Goat’s ice cream comes from a herd of goats on a family farm in Essex. They tout the fact that goat milk has less lactose than cow’s milk and is easier to digest, meaning it’s a great option for those ice-cream lovers who are lactose intolerant (like my mom) or are sensitive to dairy. There were nine flavors to choose from, with Vanilla being the only super-traditional one. There was Cherry & Almond, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Eton Mess. I’d later learn that Eton mess is a traditional English dessert with strawberries or raspberries, meringue bits, and cream. If I could go back in time, I’d order this because K and I love meringue.

IMG_8419But I felt pretty good about my two flavor selections: Salted Caramel and Chocolate Chip (which was actually double chocolate chip, as the base was chocolate). I figured these flavors would have the best chance of overpowering any weird goat taste. Plus, caramel and chocolate are a match made in Heaven.

Our two-scoop cup of goat ice cream cost £5, or $7.50USD. That is expensive! I’m happy to pay extra to support a family farm and small ice-cream business. But this would qualify as a “special treat” and not an everyday indulgence for me.

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Bottom scoop: Chocolate Chip; Top scoop: Salted Caramel

The verdict? I cannot believe how much I liked this ice cream! The first thing I noticed was the unique texture: it was almost crumbly yet not really icy. Almost like a frozen dry mousse? I’ve never tasted anything like it before, but I was a fan. The Salted Caramel had a nice light caramel flavor. It is not super salty, but I think any caramel-lover would be happy with this. I could only taste goat milk in the aftertaste, and it wasn’t too sour or tangy. The Chocolate Chip was, well, chocolately! The small bits of chocolate melted in my mouth, and this double whammy of chocolate masked any goaty flavor even better than the caramel did. Overall, this ice cream was surprisingly awesome. If you find yourself in London with a few hours to fill, do yourself a favor and head over to Greedy Goat Ice Cream!

The Stats:
Borough Market
London SE1 1TL
United Kingdom

Third Day in Scotland: Stewart Tower Dairy

The morning after our special night at the Three Chimneys, K and I woke up to this view:

IMG_8376I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t still dreaming! Our fast-paced itinerary had us traveling to Edinburgh that afternoon, so we reluctantly packed our bags into the rental car and drove off the magical Isle of Sky. But not before a quick walk (for me) and run (for him) along the water and breakfast in the stunning Three Chimneys sitting room.

The drive from the Three Chimneys to Edinburgh took us about 5 hours. Under normal circumstances, I’d be bored and restless sitting in a car for so long. But the vast and diverse beauty of Scotland kept me thoroughly entertained. We drove through a section of Cairngorms National Park, the largest park in the United Kingdom. I found myself nodding off at one point but quickly snapped myself out of it just to experience what was outside my passenger seat window!

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iPhone photos don’t do Scotland justice!

About two-thirds of the way to Edinburgh, K pointed out one of those highway signs that lists food and lodging options accessible via the upcoming exit. The sign read “Stewart Tower Dairy,” which he insisted had to be an ice cream shop. But I wasn’t convinced. The area off the highway still seemed quite remote, and I couldn’t imagine we’d find anything besides a dairy farm. I said we should probably just keep driving, but K overrode me (driver’s prerogative) and took the next exit.

We quickly found ourselves on a narrow rural road — there were hardly any other cars, nor any businesses in sight. Still, K forged on with a sense of adventure. His conviction was contagious, so I wasn’t too surprised when a large dairy farm and shop came into view. Our gamble had paid off!

IMG_8960Despite being far off the beaten path, Stewart Tower Dairy appears to do a bustling business. There were plenty of cars in the parking lot, and we spotted the animal farm with a petting area. And dairy cows were grazing in every direction.

IMG_8491K and I entered the dairy shop, where we first found ourselves in a room with specialty grocery items — including an impressive selection of cheese and milk. This dark-wood room led into a bigger and brighter circular room (aptly called the “Round House”) with plenty of seating for customers. This is where I found what I was looking for… ice cream!

IMG_8487Stewart Tower Dairy makes their ice cream in the Italian soft-style gelato style. There were well over a dozen flavors behind the glass counter. Some were traditional, like Vanilla, Chocolate, and Mint Chocolate Chip. But there were quite a few interesting combinations like Orange Chocolate Crunch, Toffee and Fudge Pieces, and Turkish Delight. I was immediately drawn to the Pink Panther, described as strawberry ice cream with white chocolate and strawberry pieces. Isn’t it gorgeous?

IMG_8489K usually gravitates to sorbets, and he immediately picked out Mango Passionfruit Ripple. The guy absolutely LOVES passionfruit. We decided to share one cup, and the double scoop of gelato was  €3.25, so less than $4. The serving size was perfect.

IMG_8488The verdict? K was a bit more impressed with this gelato than I was. But it was still very good, and we had no problem polishing off this cup. Neither flavor had that rich, silky texture or almost buttery flavor that I’d expect ice cream coming from grass-fed cows to have. I’m guessing this might be due to the lower fat content of gelato. K and I both agreed, however, that Stewart Tower Dairy’s flavor creations were well-executed. Not surprisingly, K’s favorite was Mango Passionfruit Ripple and mine was the Pink Panther. The Mango Passionfruit Ripple tasted tropical and refreshing, and K was happy to actually taste the passionfruit. Oftentimes, mango overpowers whatever it’s paired with. I really appreciated that the strawberry gelato in the Pink Panther wasn’t too sugary sweet. The white chocolate chips were delicious and just the right size: small enough for easy chewing, but hefty enough to taste the white chocolate.

I’d love to return to Stewart Tower Dairy and enjoy a lazy afternoon with family, enjoying cups of coffee and gelato before meandering around the beautiful Scottish grounds.

The Stats:
Stewart Tower Dairy
Stanley
Perth PH1 4PJ
Scotland
http://www.stewart-tower.co.uk

Second Day in Scotland: Three Chimneys’ Toasted Oat Ice Cream

Our second day in Scotland was both my and K’s favorite day of our vacation. We woke up bright and early to start the long drive from Fort William to the Isle of Skye. As one of Scotland’s top three destinations, Isle of Skye is well-known for its stunning scenery and quaint seaside towns.

Another one of our “must sees,” the Eilean Donan Castle, is conveniently located right near the bridge to Skye. The castle has deep ties to the Clan MacRae, which my father’s side of the family descends from. It was so fun exploring the castle and spotting “MacRae” everywhere!

11938674_10103208222353534_8533718171967573635_oAfter the castle, it was a short drive to the Isle of Skye. I wish the photos we took from the car did this beautiful drive justice, because it was unbelievable, but alas the iPhones just didn’t cut it. Isle of Skye’s name comes from the old Norse sky-a, which means “cloud island.” I couldn’t describe the island any better than that! The vast sky and spectacular clouds seem closer to earth on that island.

Our first stop was the Talisker Distillery, where we took a tour of how Talisker makes their famous single malt Scotch whiskey. I don’t like whiskey, but I love tours! If you make the trip to Skye, I highly recommend a visit to Talisker.

We saved our last stop for last: The Three Chimneys and the House Over-by. I had stumbled across the inn and restaurant while reading some tour books that my girlfriend generously loaned me this summer. The restaurant has a Michelin star, and the TripAdvisor reviews were impressive. We considered our stay a first wedding anniversary present to ourselves. And nothing could have compared me for how special this little oasis is. It is located closer to the “middle of nowhere” on the Isle of Skye; we had to break many times for sheep crossing the single-lane road. There was no cell service. But, man, was it worth the trek!

IMG_8377From the moment we arrived at the House Over-By (the inn, which is located on the right-hand side in this photo), K and I felt welcome and relaxed. Our room was elegant yet cozy, offering a stunning view of the Loch across the street.

IMG_8376After a quick rest (nap for me) in our room, K and I got ready for dinner. We convened with the other guests in the House Over-By’s sitting area, where we enjoyed a glass of champagne and met our table-mates for the evening, Ian and Sheila. K and I had elected to eat dinner at the Three Chimneys’ “Kitchen Table,” which is just what it sounds like. Diners get the opportunity to enjoy a multi-course meal while observing the chaos (or lack thereof) of a fine restaurant’s kitchen. Below is a photo of our table that K took the next morning:

FullSizeRenderEating dinner at the Three Chimneys’ Kitchen Table was one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. Not only was the food incredible (a personal favorite: beetroot cured Solway salmon with quail egg and pickled cauliflower), but the service was the best I’ve had. Our server, Charlotte, was meticulous yet warm and friendly. She ensured that no gluten touched my plates and that our wine glasses remained full at all times. Our conversation with Ian and Sheila also added to the experience; Ian recently bought a house a couple miles from the Three Chimneys, and he and Sheila gave us plenty of local tips. We felt lucky to share this incredible experience with two new friends.

Charlotte had encouraged us to get up and explore the different stations in the kitchen. Naturally, Sheila and I made a beeline for the pastry area. There, pastry chef Jackie showed us how to make the Three Chimneys’ signature dessert: Hot Marmalade Pudding Souffle. Essentially, she makes a paste by pureeing traditional Scottish sticky pudding and combining that paste with whipped egg whites, sugar, a tiny bit of flour (left out for gluten-free versions) and milk. She then divided the mixture into special ceramic cups, popped them into the oven, and voilá! Jackie made the finicky pastry look like a breeze to make.

Our Hot Marmalade Pudding Souflees were served with Drambuie (whiskey) Syrup and Mealie Ice Cream. Jackie even wrote “Congratulations” on K and my plates for our first anniversary.

FullSizeRender_1We all agreed that the Mealie Ice Cream was delicious, but I had been expecting cornmeal-flavored ice cream. But Jackie told me that it was actually Scottish oatmeal ice cream, and that she made it without an ice-cream maker! The ingredients were quite simple: oats, eggs, sugar, and cream. I immediately resolved to make myself it.

Just this past weekend, I picked up my ingredients and attempted to recreate some of the Three Chimneys’ magic here in Washington, D.C. My surroundings weren’t quite as picturesque, but I had great company (K was home!) and my Scottish memories to lean on.

IMG_8873First, I toasted some oats and brown sugar in the oven. Jackie didn’t use brown sugar, but it felt wrong to toast naked oats. The granola-lover in me just couldn’t do it.

IMG_8875While my oats cooled, I channeled my memories of Jackie beating eggs for souffle and decided to beat the egg whites for an airy ice cream. Since I was attempting this recipe without an ice-cream maker, I figured I could aerate the ice cream this way.

IMG_8874I added sugar to the egg whites, beat them a bit more, and then added slightly-whipped cream, vanilla, salt and the egg yokes. After a brief stint in the freezer, I folded in my oats.

IMG_8876Despite being a no-churn ice cream, the final product was very easy to scoop and looked just as airy as traditional ice cream that I make in my Cuisinart machine. Each scoop had plenty of toasty-brown oats, and K and I couldn’t wait to dig in!

IMG_8877Toasted Oat Ice Cream (No-Churn!)
{Makes 1.5 quarts}
Inspired by the Three Chimneys Restaurant

Ingredients
• 2/3 cup oats (I used gluten-free; feel free to grind to finer consistency)
• 1/4 cup brown sugar
• 4 free-range eggs, yokes and whites separated
• 1.5 cups whipping cream
• 1 cup superfine sugar (or grind cane sugar in a food processor)
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• pinch of salt

Instructions:
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread oats evenly on a baking tray, then sprinkle brown sugar on top. Bake until slightly toasted and smells nutty — probably 5 to 10 minutes. Pull out tray and allow to cool.
• Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until firm peaks form when you pull out the whisk. At this point, add the superfine sugar and whisk until sugar is incorporated and egg whites look glossy.
• Whisk the cream in a separate bowl. Then, add the cream, egg yokes, vanilla, and salt to the egg whites. Gently fold these ingredients into the egg whites.

• Pour into an airtight plastic container and freeze for 15-30 minutes. Take container out of freezer, fold in the oatmeal and brown sugar mixture, and return to freezer for another two hours.

The verdict? If you like oatmeal or muesli, you will love this recipe! Both the taste and texture of this ice cream reminded me of muesli or “overnight oats.” Per my note in the ingredient list above, I realized that the Three Chimneys must have ground their oats up a bit since I couldn’t remember eating full oats. While K and I both enjoyed the unique chewy texture and sweet creamy ice cream, it would have been easy to grind the oats before adding them to the ice cream. Also, I’m glad that Jackie tipped me off as to the ease of no-churn ice cream. This recipe was simple to make, yet it tasted good enough to serve at the Three Chimneys.

The Stats:
Three Chimneys Restaurant
1 Colbost
Isle of Skye, IV55 8ZT
Scotland

First Day in Scotland: Waltons Traditional Sweet Shop

I’m turning 30 years old in a few months. I’m not sure why, but this impending milestone has coincided with a new interest in my  ancestry. My father was born and raised in Australia, and I have always known that the McRae’s came to Australia via Scotland. And, no, they weren’t convicts… at least that we know about! Lucky for me, one of my dad’s cousin had a passion for genealogy and traced the family tree back over centuries.

K knew that I was itching to visit my ancestral homeland, and he graciously suggested that we visit this summer (even though the weather wouldn’t be warm). So a couple weeks ago, we packed our bags and grabbed our raincoats for a quick visit to Scotland.

We began the trip with a one-night layover in Dublin. It was both of our first times to Ireland, and I have to say that I loved what I saw! We spent the evening walking around downtown and popped into a couple little pubs before having dinner at a trendy restaurant recommended to us by the concierge.

IMG_8337The next morning,  we headed to the airport to catch a flight to Glasgow, Scotland. Based on some friends’ recommendations, we didn’t spend any time in downtown Glasgow. Instead, we prioritized our time on the Isle of Skye and Edinburgh. It was a 5-hour drive to Isle of Skye from Glasgow, though, so I made arrangements for us to spend the night in Fort William, the second-largest establishment in the Highlands of Scotland.

Fort William sits near the head of Loch Linnhe, one of the longest sea lochs in the country. In retrospect, it was an extra-brilliant idea to stay overnight here because A) it’s conveniently located halfway between Glasgow and Isle of Skye and thus broke up K’s first experience driving on the left-hand side of the road, and B) we both enjoyed spending time in Fort William. Neither of us had anticipated how tiring (and trying) driving in a different country can be. K ended up doing really well, but my adrenaline sure was pumping! The roads can be quite narrow in Scotland, and we had to dodge plenty of big campers and tourist buses since it was still vacation season. The views of green hills, waterfalls, and plentiful lochs (i.e. lakes) kept our spirits high, though.

When we finally made it safely to Fort William, we immediately checked in at The Grange, a beautiful bed and breakfast run by a sweet and accommodating proprietor named Joan. We briefly rested in our room before venturing on a short walk to the “downtown” area… which ended up being far from cosmopolitan! I couldn’t get over how quaint and welcoming the main pedestrian street, High Street, was. It felt like we had been transported into one of the BBC shows my mom adores (i.e. Doc Martin).

High_Street_Fort_William_-_geograph.org.uk_-_943438Source: Wikipedia

We had a 8pm dinner reservation at the iconic seafood restaurant on Loch Linnhe, The Crannog.  Exploring downtown took much less time than we’d planned (it’s so small!), and we had a couple hours to fill. We enjoyed some cider and beer at a lively pub. Afterwards, I convinced K to indulge in a small “ice cream appetizer” at a sweets shop I’d spotted earlier.

IMG_8515Waltons Traditional Sweet Shop is located right on High Street and sells both candy and ice cream. The inside of the store reminded me of an old-fashioned general store, with big glass jars lining the entire walls, filled with candies, mints, and chocolates. I couldn’t help but grab a bag of homemade ginger candies. Before I could be further tempted by the beautiful candy selection, I headed over to the ice cream counter.

IMG_8523IMG_8520The neat tubs and corporate-looking signage made me think that Waltons was a chain, but a subsequent internet search proved my theory wrong. Either way, there were plenty of options to consider. There were a couple fruit sorbets (normal types of flavors), a traditional vanilla and berry flavor,  but most of the flavors that stood out to me involved chocolate — Toffee Fudge, Ferrero Rocher,  and Bounty. But I wasn’t craving chocolate, and I embraced that opportunity to try something different. It’s rare that I don’t make a beeline to the chocolate!

K liked the look of the colorful Millions ice cream. Millions are chewy little U.K. candies that come in many fruity flavors. I was drawn to the Honeycomb, which didn’t exactly sound complementary but delicious nonetheless. We forked over about three euros for a two-scoop cup.

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IMG_8514The verdict? Sadly, this ice cream was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t bad, but it was not great. I can barely conjure up the taste sitting here writing this post. .. a surefire sign that it wasn’t memorable. Of the two flavors, Honeycomb was the winner by a landslide. K and I agreed that it reminded us of caramel ice cream, but with a honey twist. Most of the honeycomb flavor was concentrated in the thick swirl, while the base was mild and sweet. I couldn’t help wishing for some crunch, perhaps due to my love of the crunchiness of my beloved Violet Crumble candy bar. The Millions, however, was sugary sweet and reminded me of cotton candy. Neither of us wanted more than a couple bites before tossing it away and heading to dinner… which was fantastic by the way :-)

The Stats:
Waltons Traditional Sweet Shop
55C High Street
Fort William, Inverness-Shrire PH33-6DH
Scotland

A Taste of Woodstock: Kiss the Cow Farm

Last weekend, K and I flew into Boston’s Logan Airport and met up with my sister Carolyn and her boyfriend Greg (i.e. my ice-cream buddy) in the rental car parking lot. We immediately piled into a car and headed off on a 3-hour trek to Vermont. Our cousin Leah recently purchased a gorgeous 50-acre farm outside of the quaint town of Woodstock, Vermont with her long-time bf Matt. Leah and Matt are two of our favorite people, so spending time with them was our only expectation. Little did we know that this rural part of Vermont would steal a piece of our hearts and stomachs!

Pulling up to Leah and Matt’s farm was like stepping into the pages of a storybook. Their property is breathtaking, with rolling pastures, a clean little pond, big ruby-red barn (originally built in 1850!), and a quaint but spacious farmhouse.

IMG_8267IMG_8265We spent the rest of Friday afternoon getting acquainted with the farm, barn, and its newest residents — a few chickens and two female goats. For dinner, we headed “downtown” and enjoyed craft beers, ciders, kombucha on tap, and yummy food at the Worthy Kitchen in Woodstock.

On Saturday morning, we all took a long hike around the property and then along the infamous Appalachian Trail. We had several encounters with hikers who are doing the entire trail. You could never talk me into doing a 3-month hike, but I love imagining what that might be like.

IMG_8238On Saturday afternoon, we ventured into downtown Woodstock (which I was surprised to learn is NOT the site of the infamous music festival… goes to show you how knowledgeable I am about music history). Leah had heard that an event called “The Taste of Woodstock” was happening that afternoon. We had to check it out!

IMG_8249Because of this annual event, downtown Woodstock was very busy. The parking headaches were worth it, because the event itself was great! The Chamber of Commerce had blocked off an entire street for local vendors and musicians. We spent an hour going from tent to tent, checking out local restaurants’ cuisines, farmers’ products, local packaged foods, and even some local distilleries. Greg bought a bottle of local vodka made from pure honey!

It wouldn’t be a food festival without ice cream, so I was happy to find the Kiss the Cow Farm’s tent. The local family-owned Vermont farm is home to about a dozen dairy cows, who are entirely grass-fed and, according to this fun online video I later found, quite cute! Locals have been enjoying milk and cheese from these cows for years, but the owners recently decided to foray into the ice-cream business!

IMG_8250 IMG_8253Kiss the Cow Farm brought six of their flavors to this event, and they all sounded delightful. If I didn’t have a gluten allergy, I would have  gone for the Mint Cookies ‘n Cream… mint can be so refreshing on a hot afternoon. While Leah was intrigued by the Balsamic Strawberry, I’m not a fan of that particular combination.  Something about vinegar and fruit turns my stomach?!? I asked about the “2 Die 4” Chocolate and was told that it was more intensely chocolatey than a regular chocolate flavor. Count me in! I couldn’t pass up the Blueberry Lavender, either, so I ended up ordering a two-scoop cup for $4.

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Bottom scoop: “2 Die 4” Chocolate. Top scoop: Blueberry Lavender.

IMG_8288 The verdict? This is good ice cream. Both flavors were rich, yet not too heavy and dense. The Blueberry Lavender wasn’t as blue as I’d expected, but that’s probably because it was all-natural and not artificially flavored or colored. I was glad that the lavender flavor was subtle and took a backseat to the blueberries. The berries must have been thoroughly pureed and strained, as I didn’t find any solid bits in my scoop. The “2 Die 4” Chocolate was my favorite of the two flavors, since it really did pack a big punch of chocolate! It was quite rich, but this scoop didn’t feel quite as intensely creamy as the Blueberry Lavender did; perhaps that’s because the chocolate-to-cream ratio was so high? In any case, it was one delicious and chocolatey scoop of ice cream. Based on what I saw at the Taste of Woodstock, I’d say that that Kiss the Cow Farm has a bright future.

The Stats:
Kiss the Cow Farm
2248 Royalton Turnpike
Barnard, VT 05068

 

Lapp Valley Farm Ice Cream in the Heart of Amish Country

For K and me, it’s been the summer of small road trips. Whether we’re on the East Coast or in the Pacific Northwest, we seem to be renting cars and driving several hours most weekends. I’m not complaining, though, as I love exploring new-to-me corners of the country. Road trips allow me to see, hear, smell, and taste things that I’d entirely miss when I’m flying between Point A and Point B.

Case in point: Last month, K and I flew from D.C. to Syracuse for a weekend of wine-tasting with my family in the Finger Lakes. But since the return flights were very pricey, we decided to rent a car and drive back to D.C. on Memorial Day. Sure, it took a long time (6+ hours), but the highlight of the trip was a pit stop in Lancaster County, known as the heart of “Amish country.”

I remember visiting Lancaster County with my parents and sisters when I was very young (10 or 11 years old?), and it sparked a longtime fascination with the Amish . Their simple clothing, devout religiosity, and refusal to use most modern technologies has always puzzled and intrigued me. I’m in no way an expert on Amish history or culture, but I love reading novels or watching documentaries about the Amish. Somewhat surprisingly, K shares in my fascination, albeit via his love for the T.V. show “Amish Mafia” on the Discovery Channel. Reality television at it’s finest, let me tell you 😉

Driving around Lancaster County was a trip. The area blends the old with the new; we’d be driving through a neighborhood full of big modern homes and suddenly spot an Amish farm. We’d stop at an intersection and a horse and buggy would stop behind us. Driving through downtown Intercourse, PA (haha, I know), K spotted a store selling homemade pretzels. He stopped and bought a delicious-looking soft pretzel for $1 from the friendly Amish teenager behind the counter. Since I couldn’t partake in the gluten-full snack, K offered to buy me some ice cream. After a quick Yelp search, we headed over to Lapp Valley Farm.

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The drive to Lapp Valley Farm was quite scenic; the working dairy farm is nestled among rolling green hills and farmland. Pulling into the large driveway at Lapp Valley Farm, I couldn’t help but notice how well-manicured the lawns were, and how many cars and buggies were in the parking lot! Lapp Valley is clearly a local institution. Amish and tourists alike were milling around the property, licking large ice-cream cones or carrying glass jugs of fresh milk – including chocolate milk! I spotted kids visiting cows in the barn adjacent to the dairy shop.

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When K and I arrived, the line for ice cream was already snaking out the door. Luckily, it moved quite quickly thanks to the efficient Amish team working inside. We finally stepped inside the simple store, where the smell of homemade waffle cones had me salivating. It wasn’t until we were inside that I noticed that Lapp Valley has has a drive-up window for those wishing to skip the long line. But why would you want to skip these yummy smells?

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Not unlike the surroundings, the flavor offerings at Lapp Valley Farm are quite old-fashioned. None of the dozen flavors posted were strange or too unique, but most of the old-fashioned favorites were there: Vanilla, Coffee, Maple Walnut, Cookies and Cream, Black Cherry, and so on. One flavor caught my eye: Butter Brickle. I’ve tried and loved variations of this flavor before; it’s usually vanilla ice cream mixed with butter toffee pieces.  (I <3 toffee )

I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that Lapp Valley is cash-only, but I was nervous that I wouldn’t have enough. There is an ATM on site, but the prices here are so reasonable that I didn’t need it. I had plenty of money to pay for my one-scoop cup ($1.85 plus tax).

IMG_8116The verdict? Life is complicated, but this Butter Brickle ice cream is not. How can you go wrong pairing a good-quality homemade vanilla ice cream with simple butter toffee? The thick and sweet ice cream coated my tongue, delicious evidence of its high fat content. The vanilla flavor was light; I’m guessing that Lapp Valley uses vanilla extract instead of vanilla beans. I usually prefer the vanilla bean varieties, but  this less-intense extract allowed the high-quality and richness of Lapp Valley’s milk products to shine. While the tiny butter toffee pieces were few and far between, they were buttery and had a nice bite. And watching the cows while eating my generous scoop outside made my Amish experience all the more satisfying.

The Stats:
Lapp Valley Farm
244 Mentzer Road
New Holland, PA 17557

Old-Fashioned Ice Cream & Fun at Seneca Farms

A few weeks ago, K and I joined my family for a long weekend in the Finger Lakes wine region. Located in Upstate New York, the Finger Lakes are a group of eleven long and narrow lakes that resemble human fingers on a map. The Finger Lakes are known for their wine, especially their crisp whites like Rieslings, and have become a popular tourist destination.

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My dad has known about the Finger Lakes for a while, as a close friend from his study abroad time on Cape Cod (my dad is Australian) used to live in the area. Now that us sisters are of legal-drinking age, we have driven out to the Finger Lakes a couple times to take advantage of the wineries. The first time, my youngest sister Ava couldn’t make the trip so we vowed to return with her in tow one day. This was the year we made it happen. My family (including K and Ava’s boyfriend) rented a house on Keuka Lake and spent two full days driving from winery to winery, sampling the surprisingly good wines and meads. My favorite wineries included Heron Hill, the Thirsty Owl, and Belhurst Castle. Other highlights of the trip included cheese tastings at the Muranda Cheese Company, playing cornhole outside of the Ithaca Beer Co. taproom, and Saturday night’s dinner at Dano’s Heuriger on Seneca Lake.

IMG_7918Sunday ended up being an exceptionally warm day, so I successfully lobbied our group to stop at Seneca Farms for ice cream. It was located down the road from our rental house in Penn Yan, New York. We knew it must be popular, judging from the full parking lot, cars in the drive-through, and plenty of families sitting beneath a pavilion out back. The signage by the road advertised not only ice cream, but food as well (apparently, it is quite well-known for its fried chicken).

IMG_7919Seneca Farms is separated into two sections, with the ice cream parlor in front and the restaurant in back. We made a beeline into the front section of the building. And inside, Seneca Farms felt like a blast from the past, with old Coca-Cola memorabilia and retro furniture and furnishings. Which made perfect sense when I learned that Seneca Farms has been family owned and operated since 1950.

IMG_7920 Colorful ice cream menus featured a few dozen flavors of homemade ice cream, plus a rotating selection of frozen custard and soft serve. Beyond the normal ice cream flavors  like Chocolate, Strawberry, and Mint Chocolate Chip, there were other Northeast favorites like Grasshopper, Deer TracksWhite Mountain Raspberry, and Maple Walnut.

The frozen custard flavors were limited to Vanilla, Chocolate, Twist, or the rotating specialty flavor.  This particular day, the special was Peanut Butter (you can check the “Custard Calendar” here for current specialty flavors).

IMG_7921You can turn any flavor into a sundae, shake, float, or flurry. But we kept things simple with cones… Especially since Seneca Farms offers gluten-free cones free of charge!

I went with a small gluten-free cone of Peanut Butter frozen custard with rainbow sprinkles for an added crunch. The sprinkles turned out to be quite patriotic! Ava ordered a small cup of the same custard (not pictured here), plus a cone of Salted Caramel Nut for my dad and Pistachio for mom. We promptly took them outside to enjoy in the sunshine.

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Small Peanut Butter frozen custard in a gluten-free cone… with patriotic sprinkles

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Small cones of Salted Caramel and Pistachio

The verdict? Everyone happily polished off their ice creams! The Peanut Butter frozen custard tasted like the filling in my grandma-in-law’s famous peanut butter pie (which is similar to this recipe). The custard was a bit more dense and rich than regular soft serve, and the peanut butter flavor was strong but not overwhelming. Ava pointed out that there were even teeny-tiny specks of peanuts throughout our custard, and she later proclaimed her cup as “maybe the best soft serve” she’s ever had! I agreed that it was top-notch. I also stole a bite of my mom’s Pistachio and dad’s Salted Caramel. While the latter was nothing special (too sugary and not salty enough), mom’s scoop of Pistachio was flavorful and studded with bits of real pistachios. It reminded me of my grandfather (my mom’s dad), who seemed to always have a half-gallon of pistachio ice cream in his freezer. When we visited him as kids, it was either pistachio ice cream or no ice cream. So I learned to love the flavor as a youngster.

Overall, I think Seneca Farms is a lovely place to enjoy good old-fashioned ice cream (or frozen custard!) in a fun environment.

The Stats:
Seneca Farms
2485 Rt. 54A
Penn Yan, NY 14527
http://senecafarmsny.com/