Momo Gelato dishes out the darkest chocolate ice cream in Rio

Last month, K and I stuck to tradition and headed down to Rio de Janeiro for a long weekend of sunshine and beach time. This was a special year, however, since my little sister Carolyn and her boyfriend joined us. The two of them spent a full week in Brazil, spending several days in Búzios before driving to Rio to meet up with us. This was a special occasion – the first-time Carolyn and I have been together outside of the United States!

While our trip only lasted three days, we packed in a whole lot of fun! Since the weather was fantastic, we spent many hours lying in beach chairs on Copacabana Beach, enjoying the array of snacks carried by the many beach vendors and sipping coconut water and caipirinhas. Carolyn and I share a love of swimming, and it felt very special to splash around in the waves together like little kids. Vacation heaven.

We also discovered some new places and activities with Carolyn and her boyfriend. Thanks to Carolyn’s cravings for nutritious lunches, we discovered the deliciously hip, gluten-free fast food shop Jaeé (shout-out Fred, the owner, who was very hospitable). And on Saturday, the four of us rented bicycles from the Sheraton and rode along the beach all the way to Leme and back. Rio is known for being one of the best cities in the world for biking, so I’m not sure why K and I waited so long to try it!

On our last night in Rio, we enjoyed a special dinner at Zuka in Leblon. We agreed that while Zuka is a bit expensive, the staff was incredible (despite a language barrier) and the food was fresh and flavorful. Nothing on the dessert menu spoke to us, however. Lucky for me, one of Rio’s most popular gelaterias is located just a few doors down from Zuka…

Momo Gelato Artesanal is a well-known gelato shop in Rio de Janeiro, churning out Italian-style gelatos and sorbettos in dozens of flavors. They have two locations, but the Leblon one seems to be the original. Momo was very busy on this Saturday evening, with its storefront open to the street and people milling around with cones and cups of delicious-looking ice cream. Momo also offers sweet waffle sundaes. Not waffle cones, but actual waffles!

I thought Momo’s yellow and brown color scheme was surprisingly attractive. Like any uber-popular artisan ice cream shop, Momo sells a variety of shirts, hats, bags and other branded paraphernalia. But the focus of the store is clearly on the long cases of gelato pans. I counted at least two dozen different flavors, including nearly 10 sorbetto flavors. The flavors were posted in Portuguese, but a major advantage of gelaterias is that the gelatos are often are covered in toppings or decorations that identify the flavors. For example, you’ll see hazelnuts and chocolate over Gianduia, crushed pistachio nuts over Pistacchio Siciliano, and coffee beans over Cappuccino. While Momo serves these usual Italian staples among others (like Stracciatella, Pear, and Limoncello), the local flavors that jumped out to me were Caramelo com Flor de Sal (salted caramel), Banana com Canela (banana with cinnamon), and Pão com Nutella (bread with Nutella).

Momo’s serving sizes didn’t look very large, so I decided to order a three-scoop cup. I was immediately drawn to a black-looking chocolate, Neromomo, which the signage noted was 73% cocoa. The color was just so dark and interesting that I had to give it a shot! To cut the chocolate, I also ordered a scoop of simple Cremomo (sweet cream). And in the spirit of “When in Rome Rio,” I rounded out my cup with a Amazônia (açai + tapioca). I call this “Grace’s antioxidant special.” This cup set me back around R $15.00, or around five U.S. dollars, which is quite expensive for Rio!

Top left: Amazônia, Right: Cremomo, Bottom: Neromomo

The verdict? I may have finally met my chocolate limit! The Neromomo, Momo’s dark chocolate gelato was incredibly rich and powerful, and not very sweet. I can’t remember ever having a chocolate ice cream quite this dark. While I enjoyed it, this flavor was a bit much for me. It was a good thing that the sweet, milky Cremomo helped cut the overwhelming dark chocolate taste. Sadly, the Amazônia wasn’t as yummy as the açai bowls we had on the beach. The gelato was a bit icy and the flavor of açai wasn’t very pronounced, but I did like the little bits of granola! While I wasn’t “wowed” by these three flavors, I enjoyed the ambiance of Momo Gelato and would happily give it another try!

The Stats:
Momo Gelato Artesanal (multiple locations)
Rua Dias Ferreira, 147
Leblon, Rio de Janiero 22431-050
http://momogelato.com.br

Enjoying Italian Gelato in Barcelona @ Gelaaati! Di Marco

This post is long overdue! Earlier this fall, K and I had the pleasure of joining two of our dearest friends in Barcelona, Spain for a long weekend. Becca and Bryan were celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary with a 10-day trip to Spain. They traveled all over the country and ended in Barcelona, where Becca studied abroad for a semester during college. Knowing that K had never been to Barcelona, Becca and Bryan kindly invited us to meet them there. I looked forward to the trip for months, and it did not disappoint.

K and I took a red-eye from Washington, D.C. to Barcelona and arrived on Saturday morning. We met Becca and Bryan at our hotel, the W Barcelona, which is right on the beach. We were too excited to be tired, and so we almost immediately headed out to Park Guëll. I remembered the enchanting and eclectic park from my brief excursion to Barcelona during my semester in Madrid many, many years ago, and I was thrilled to go back. The park, designed by Antoni Gaudí, was just as lively and inspiring as I’d remembered, and we enjoyed strolling around together for an hour or two. We kept up a swift pace for the entire weekend, and I can’t believe how much we fit into just two days. Other highlights of the weekend include swimming in the Mediterranean Ocean (it was chilly but fun), wandering around the Boqueria market, walking up the towers of La Sagrada Familia (a basilica also designed by Gaudí), and enjoying delicious paella by the beach.

On our second day in Barcelona, I made sure to find time to sample the local frozen dessert of choice: gelato. We saw countless gelato shops throughout the city, so I did some quick research to help us choose a good spot. According to TripAdvisor, Gelaaati! Di Marco in the Gothic Quarter is not only one of the best gelato shops in the city, but it also has the greatest variety of flavors. Becca and Bryan are just as adventurous as I am when it comes to wacky ice cream flavors, so I knew we had to try it out.

We arrived at Gelaaati! Di Marco in the late afternoon, after sightseeing all morning and afternoon. While none of us were starving (thanks to our fun lunch of tapas), we were more than ready for a little pick-me-up. The shop is located in a beautiful old part of town, nestled among cute stores and restaurants along a cobblestone street. While there was a small crowd in the shop, the friendly folks working behind the counter ensured that the line moved quickly. It took us a few minutes to decide what to order — there are probably 30 flavors to choose from!

There’s something for everyone at Gelaaati! Di Marco, from traditional gelato flavors like Vanilla, Stracciatella, and Pistachio to more interesting ones like Chai Tea, Tiramasú, and Cioccolato Piccante (Spicy Chocolate). There are also plenty of non-dairy / vegan options, too, including Coco, Mango and Mojito. Interestingly, Gelaaati! Di Marco also offers six premium flavors for a small extra charge. These flavors, classified as “Gold Line” were incredibly decadent. Bryan had his eye on the Zolaus (cream-flavored gelato with gorganzola and fig marmalade) and Milanès (fresh ricotta gelato with saffron and pistachio cookies). Many flavors had traditional Italian or English names, but some (like Canela, or Cinnamon) were in Spanish.

In the end, I decided to go with a medium-sized cup of three flavors: Caffe (for some caffeine!), Dulce de Leche, and Extra Dark (vegan chocolate sorbet). My cup cost me about $4 Euros. Bryan’s cup was more expensive because of the two premium flavors he chose.

The verdict? This gelato was smooth, thick, and almost sticky (in a good way). The Caffe was strong and not very sweet. While it fit my preferences, folks who don’t drink coffee might find it too potent. The Extra Dark Cocoa was my favorite of the three flavors; very chocolatey, delicious, and creamy – I couldn’t believe there was no dairy in it! I’d order this time and time again. The Dulce de Leche was yummy but not life changing. It’s burnt-sugar undertones were a bit too harsh. Becca’s favorite was the Pistachio, which she thought was crisp and refreshing.  Bryan let me taste both of his flavors. I thought the Milanès was quite delicious, and liked the subtle saffron taste paired with the sweet pistachio brittle. But neither of us enjoyed the Zolaus; the gorganzola flavor was really strong. But I had no problem polishing off my cup before we continued off for more sightseeing!

The Stats:
Gelaaati Di Marco
Carrer de la Llibreteria, 7
Barcelona, Spain 08002
http://gelaaati.com/en/

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.

IMG_8418

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

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.

IMG_8254

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

 

Pozzetto: Italian Gelato in the Heart of Paris

The last stop of our honeymoon brought us to the City of Lights. K and I had been to Paris before, but not with each other. When I visited during my semester abroad (which I spent in Madrid), I was struck by the old-world beauty and charm of Paris.  Of course, my girlfriends and I were staying in a cheap hostel room of questionable cleanliness and eating cheap meals at McDonalds (I still shudder to think of that). So it was such a treat to return to Paris with a bit more money in my pocket and my new husband at my side.

We had a lovely couple days in Paris. We took a great boat tour down the Seine River, relaxed by the Eiffel Towel, strolled along the Champs Élysées, and explored just a corner of the Louvre (I forgot how massive that museum is!). And we spent a LOT of time eating and drinking. Macaroons, foie gras, and fries, oh my!

In the spirit of exploring the tastes of Paris, I went in search of some local ice cream. Like in many European cities, ice cream in Paris is actually Italian-style gelato. And while an internet search will yield a dozen different gelaterías, it was a slightly lesser-known shop that caught my attention: Pozzetto. Why? For the simple fact that one of my favorite food bloggers of all time, David Lebovitz called it “the best gelato in Paris.”

Located on an idyllic street in the Marais historic district, Pozzetto is an adorable shop with a service window where pedestrians can grab an ice cream or cappuccino to go. I read that you can expect a long line during the summer, but it was pretty quiet on this weekday afternoon.

IMG_6332 IMG_6335 IMG_6331After walking around the Eiffel Tower and the Marais neighborhood, K and I were more than ready to rest our feet at one of the tables inside. Pozzetta has very limited seating indoors, but the vibe is so romantic and Parisian that it would be worth a wait on a busier day. (And for you coffee-lovers out there, Pozzetto is well-known for their espressos. Several Parisians were lingering over cups when K and I were there.)

Pozzetta offers about a dozen flavors of gelato and sorbetto. The inside menu features a couple sundae (“coppa”) options. Everything is made in small batches daily, so there’s no need to worry about freezer burns here.

IMG_6336My French abilities are laughable, so I couldn’t understand half of the flavor names. I saw several chocolate options, including Gianduia di Pottezzo (hazelnut-chocolate) and Stracciatella. But Cioccolato Fondente (dark chocolate) sounded too good to pass up.

I wanted to try a second flavor; Pistacchio del re di Sicilia is what Pozzetto is known for, but I was drawn towards a more refreshing sorbetto (which is made with real fruit). Of the three options, Fragola (strawberry) seemed like it would go best with dark chocolate.

We paid about 7 euros for a double scoop with table service. A bit pricey, since the same serving size cost about 5 euros at the take-out window. But I was in need of a respite from the hot afternoon sun, and the table was definitely worth a 2 euro premium.

IMG_6334

How cute is this bowl?

The verdict? Wow. Pozzetto is the real deal. Their gelato was thick, sticky and very flavorful. The Cioccolato Fondente was the real star of the show; rich but not too filling or sweet. It was almost like frozen dark-chocolate mousse.  I could eat this every day. The Fragola was also delicious. Strawberry ice cream or sorbet can often be artificial-tasting and icey, but Pozzetto’s creamy version is made with fresh ingredients and it shows. These two flavors complemented each other beautifully — it was even better than a dark-chocolate covered strawberry. If you’re in Paris, I’d highly recommend swinging by Pozzetto for an afternoon pick-me-up. Their gelato is as good as any of the famous gelatarías in Italy, but the experience is uniquely Parisian.

The Stats:
Pozzetto
39 rue du roi de Sicile
Paris, France 75004
(2nd location: 16 Rue Vieille du Temple)
www.pozzetto.biz/

Quick & Easy Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (Vegan, Dairy-Free)

2014 is shaping up to be a busy year. Between greater work responsibilities, more travel, and planning a wedding, I’ve found that cooking and baking have taken a back seat. Weeknight dinners these days tends to come from the freezer, a can, or (when I’ve planned ahead) the Whole Foods hot bar. It’s only when K comes home for the weekends that I’ll get my butt into the kitchen and whip up something special.

While I’m willing to sacrifice home-cooked meals to make room for more work and wedding-planning, I’m NOT about to let my ice cream cravings go unsatisfied! Last weekend, my sister (and co-Maid of Honor) Carolyn, accompanied K and I on a trip to Seattle to take care of some wedding-planning things. While the trip was productive and fun, I came back to DC exhausted and feeling unprepared to tackle a particularly-busy week at work.

Luckily for me, Carolyn had decided to spend a couple days in DC with me before heading back home to Boston. And with such a special guest staying with me, it was time to dust off the ol’ Cuisinart and whip up something yummy. I wanted to play around more with coconut-milk ice cream, but I also didn’t have much time to dedicate to ice-cream making on a weeknight. After perusing some different recipes online, I came up with my own creation using just a handful of common pantry items.

Making due with ingredients I had on hand, Carolyn and I managed to make this ice cream in about an hour. Not too bad, considering I heated the ice-cream mixture on the stove to dissolve the sugar.

Here’s what I did…

Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream (Vegan, Dairy-Free)
{Makes 2 cups, or 2 Grace-sized servings}
Loosely adapted from this recipe

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups full-fat coconut milk (1 can)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or more to taste)
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 5-7 drops of pure peppermint oil
  • 1/2 cup dairy-free mini chocolate chips

Directions

  • In a medium saucepan, whisk the coconut milk, sugar and cornstarch over low heat until sugar melts (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat and pour mixture into small mixing bowl.
  • Add salt and peppermint oil and stir to mix evenly. Cover bowl and place in fridge for about 30 minutes or until slightly chilled (shouldn’t take long since mixture was heated on low heat).
  • Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing churn for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • A few minutes before the ice cream is finished churning, slowly pour the mini chocolate chips into machine.
  • Serve immediately or, if a firmer consistency is desired, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.


The Verdict? Cool, creamy and minty, this ice cream was the perfect refreshing evening treat. The pure mint extract masked the taste of coconut milk which, in my opinion, was a good thing (Carolyn agreed!). Compared to other vegan ice creams I’ve tried, this version is much more creamy and thick – which I attribute to using cornstarch instead of eggs here. I can’t wait to try cornstarch in other recipes! Overall, this recipe is a triple threat: it’s vegan/dairy-free, easy to make, and absolutely delicious to eat.

Big Scoops at Little Man Ice Cream

One of my favorite questions to ask people is: “If you couldn’t live in the state you currently call home, where would you most like to move?”

Now, this is a difficult question for me to answer. If I weren’t working in Washington, DC, the obvious places to move would be Seattle or Boston. I’ve lived in both places and have loads of family and friends there. But there is a third city on my list: Denver, Colorado.

From the first time I set foot in Colorado, I’ve been totally enamored with this state. The immense sky, the majestic snow-capped mountains, the local cowboy attire… I simply can’t get enough. And the fact that Denver is home to one of my best friends, Elysia, and to the annual Great American Beer Festival (GABF) doesn’t hurt 😉

A few weeks ago, K and I headed out west for our fifth GABF together. Per tradition, we spent most of the weekend up in the mountains at Elysia’s parents’ house in Idaho Springs. And – as always – I enjoyed the time with Elysia, her family, and Rupert (Elysia’s lovable Great Dane) even more than the beer festival itself. Still, it was an epic GABF; the crowds were bigger and the beer competition was even more fierce. And as someone whose gluten intolerance prevents me from enjoying most beers, I was excited about the expanding gluten-free offerings.

No matter how many days I spend in Colorado, I’m never quite ready to leave. But this year, the bittersweet drive to the airport was sweetened by a pit stop at Little Man Ice Cream in Denver. Elysia had heard it was the best ice-cream spot in town, and she’d patiently waited to try it until we could go together. So about two hours before my scheduled departure, Elysia pulled up to a 28-foot tall cream can.

Little Man Ice Cream is a well-known ice cream shop in the Highlands neighborhood of Denver, and its massive cream-can structure has become a local icon. Named after the founder’s father’s nickname,  Little Man first opened its doors (or should I say windows?) in 2008. But despite being just five-years old, it’s already earned a legendary reputation as one of the best ice-cream spots in Colorado. The ice cream is hand-made a couple blocks away, and Elysia says there is usually a long line at the ice-cream counter. Oh – and customers have something to feel extra-good about; Little Man guarantees that for every scoop of ice cream you buy, they’ll donate a scoop of rice to developing countries. An ice-cream shop with heart? It doesn’t get any better than that!

We parked, put the leash on Rupert, and approached the cream can. I loved how Little Man decorates its extensive outdoor seating areas with autumn “flair”: pumpkins, bales of hay, and even a scarecrow. These little touches put me in a good mood and eased the disappointment when I read the day’s flavor offerings and saw that Fluffernutter wasn’t on the list. Elysia and I had made the rookie mistake of checking the flavors online while en route to Little Man. We both got our hearts set on the ice cream named after my all-time favorite sandwich. But, luckily, Little Man had about a dozen other flavors to choose from. Most of them were unique, although not as crazy as the flavors I saw last year at Sweet Action in Denver. Some of the Little Man creations that stood out to me included Crème FraîcheBalsamic Strawberry, Dulce de Leche and Salted Oreo. In the end, Elyshia went with a small cup of Peaches-N-Cream, while I asked for a small cup with half Mexican Chocolate and half Banana Chip. We forked over $2.50 each and soon enough, we were walking towards the pumpkin patch with these beauties.

Left: Lysia’s Peaches-N-Cream
Right: My Mexican Chocolate & Banana Chip

The verdict? First of all, kudos to Little Man for their generous scoops of ice cream. Too many trendy parlors charge big prices for teeny-tiny scoops, but that isn’t the case at Little Man. While the patio was crowded, we found an open bench big enough for me, K, Elysia and Rupert (yes, he’s tell enough to sit his butt on benches). From the first bite, the firm, dense creaminess of Little Man’s ice cream won me over. This is not “light” ice cream, and the high fat content gave the ice cream a satisfying richness that left me full for hours. I expected Banana Chip to be my favorite, but it was Mexican Chocolate that stole the spotlight. You can taste the higher-quality chocolate Little Man uses, and the subtle cinnamon flavor added a nice earthy depth that tasted great on an autumn afternoon. The real bananas in the Banana Chip had a nice caramel-y flavor, and the big chocolate chunks added a nice crunch in every-other spoonful. Elysia loved that her Peaches-N-Cream was chock-full of tiny bits of real fruit. Still, Elysia and I had the same thought: Little Man’s creations have all the makings of “out-of-this-word-AHmazing” ice cream, but we just wanted the flavors to be more intense. The cinnamon in Mexican Chocolate, the banana in Banana Chip, and the peach in Peaches-N-Cream were yummy but too subtle. But while Little Man could kick up the flavor a bit, but it’s tough to beat the experience (or the company!) here. I can’t wait to come back!

The Stats:
Little Man Ice Cream
2620 16th Street
Denver, CO 80211
(303) 455-3811
http://www.littlemanicecream.com

Made in China (Beijing, Part 2)

Let’s head back to Beijing!

As mentioned in my previous post, K and I took a quick trip to China over Memorial Day weekend. After two ice-cream-less days in Shanghai, I was excited to have 48 hours in Beijing – where ice cream is easier to find.

Since our time in Beijing was so short, we tried to make the most of every mealtime — treating ourselves to massive breakfasts and dinners but skipping full lunches in favor of snacking (the best of which was that tea-flavored soft serve). We made sure to visit K’s favorite fancy Beijing restaurant, Made in China, which he discovered several years ago during a business trip. Located in the beautiful Grand Hyatt hotel, Made in China serves up classic Northern Chinese dishes in a contemporary atmosphere.

We didn’t think far enough ahead to make reservations, so K and I ate dinner at the restaurant’s bar. This wasn’t disappointing at all; we both love chit-chatting with bartenders and watching the hustle and bustle while enjoying a meal. K was in charge of ordering, and he picked out several interesting appetizers and a nice bottle of white wine. The star of the meal was Made in China’s signature Peking duck. According to Wikipedia, the Chinese have been preparing Peking duck since the imperial ages. At Made in China, the ducks are slow roasted in a wood-burning stove until the skin is dark brown and crispy. The roasted duck is then sliced tableside and served with little steamed pancakes (sadly, not gluten free), cucumbers, scallions, hoisin sauce, garlic, and sugar. Diners then assemble their own little taco-like duck pancakes. Even without the pancakes, I thoroughly enjoyed this local delicacy.

As you could imagine, K and I were fairly full from our dinner. But when the bartender handed over the dessert menu, I spotted homemade ice cream and decided to go “all out.” After all, we were on vacation… right?

Made in China serves up about six flavors of ice cream, but the most unique is definitely Wuliangye Chocolate. K told me that Wuliangye is a common type of baijiu, the classic Chinese distilled alcohol known for its potent smell and taste. K doesn’t like baijiu, but we were both intrigued by Made in China’s decision to combine it with chocolate. Since an order of ice cream includes two scoops, I hedged my bet and asked for Cashew Nut Crunch for my second scoop.

Bottom: Wuliangye Chocolate; Top: Cashew Nut Crunch

The verdict?  Made in China’s ice cream is clearly homemade, and its texture is more icy than your average store-bought variety. The flavor of each scoop was intensely yummy; the nutty sweetness of the Cashew Nut Crunch was very satisfying. The “crunch” was tiny bits of cashew – small enough that you didn’t need to worry about chewing before letting the ice cream melt in your mouth. This flavor also made a nice palate cleanser after a few bites of the strong Wuliangye Chocolate. This scoop reminded me of why I must create my own boozy ice cream; I can never get enough of the juxtaposition of the heat of alcohol and the cool sweetness of ice cream. And K thought Made in China was right to pair the baijiu with chocolate, as he figured vanilla wouldn’t be strong enough to compete with the pungent alcohol. Overall, I thought both flavors were fun. But the Wuliangye Chocolate was the most memorable of the night…. Maybe even more memorable than the Peking duck!

The Stats:
Made in China
1 East Chang An Avenue
Beijing. China 100738
http://www.beijing.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/dining/MadeinChina.html

Campfire-Less S’Mores Ice Cream

August is nearing its end… and with it goes any hope of going camping this year.

I spent a lot of time outdoors this summer – tubing, biking, swimming, walking, and simply relaxing. But growing up, every summer included at least one family camping trip. So it seems strange to let a summer go by without setting up a tent, chatting around a big campfire, and waking up in a sleeping bag. But most importantly, I can’t bear the thought of a s’mores-less summer. The horror!

Since I can’t go to the s’mores, I figured I’d bring the s’mores to me. And thus a new ice-cream recipe was born…

Did you know that you can “roast” marshmallows using your oven’s broiler? I’d never tried this trick before, but it works surprisingly. The trick is to watch them like a hawk to avoid burning them and setting off your apartment’s fire alarm.

This recipe is perfect for city dwellers like me, who dream about eating campfire s’mores under the stars while we sit in our tiny urban apartments.

Campfire-Less S’Mores Ice Cream
{Makes 1.5 quarts}

Ingredients

  • 2 cups while milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 cups mini marshmallows (or ~10 regular-sized marshmallows)
  • 1.5 regular-sized Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bars, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 cup chopped graham cracker pieces (for gluten free, I followed this recipe)

Directions

  • Combine the milk, cream and sugar in a medium saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking until the sugar has completely dissolved.
  • Turn off heat, remove saucepan from heat and whisk in the vanilla extract and salt. Transfer mixture to a large metal or ceramic bowl. Cover and refrigerate until mixture is cold (about 1-2 hours).
  • Pour chilled mixture into ice cream maker and freeze per the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re using a Cuisinart, this means 1) turn on your machine, 2) slowly pour mixture in, and 3) leave the thing churn for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, position oven rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat broiler (if you have the option, turn broiler on “low”). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and mist with cooking spray. Arrange marshmallows on the prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Broil the marshmallows, watching carefully (I kept oven door ajar), until the marshmallows are golden brown (took about 1 minute). Remove marshmallows and set aside.
  • Five minutes before mixing is completed, gradually add bits of the toasted marshmallows through the top of the ice-cream maker (this part can be a bit messy – but that’s part of the fun!). Once mixed, add the chopped chocolate and graham crackers, one spoonful at a time. Let everything mix into the ice cream.
  • Serve immediately or if a firmer consistency is desired, transfer to an airtight container and freeze until firm.


The verdict? This ice cream totally satisfies my s’mores craving. The vanilla ice-cream base is nothing special, but it’s mild flavor allowed the flavors of toasted marshmallows, Hershey’s milk chocolate, and graham crackers to take center stage. This recipe is definitely on the sweeter side of the ice-cream sugar spectrum, but isn’t that the point of s’mores? Now, I must warn you that this recipe is heavy-handed with the mix-ins. This was a conscious choice on my part – but if super-chunky ice creams aren’t your thing, simply scale back the on the amount of mix-ins you add. But I adored how the slightly-chewy marshmallows, nutty graham cracker crunch, and classic Hershey’s milk chocolate taste made it into every spoonful. And while I might not be sleeping in a tent tonight, I’ll definitely go to bed with that familiar feeling of fullness and nostalgia.

A Sweet Excursion to the Yarra Valley

Last week was like a dream. I took the week off from work to travel to Australia, got engaged on the way, saw dozens of family members, partied in Melbourne with my little sister on her 20th birthday, and ate plenty of ice cream.

One of my favorite days was spent exploring the Yarra Valley, a famous wine growing region located about an hour outside of Melbourne. My sister, fiance (SO weird to say that!), and I took the train out to the Yarra Valley early on Tuesday morning. One of my aunts lives in the Valley with her family, and she took the day off to play tour guide. The Yarra Valley is a beautiful place, with rolling hills and dozens of small family-owned vineyards dotting the landscape – similar to what I imagine Napa Valley was like back in the day. We tried dozens of wines at Yering Station, sampled cheeses at the Yarra Valley Dairy, and enjoyed beer and cider at Coldstream Brewery.

But the best stop of the day was the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery! The business just opened in December, but my aunt knew it was the perfect place to take us for lunch and dessert. You can imagine my excitement as we drove up the immaculately-manicured driveway and walked towards the architect-designed warehouse.

Walking through the doors at the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery is like stepping into a sophisticated version of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The smell of chocolate permeates the colorful open store. We were immediately invited to samples of milk, dark and white chocolate, which I enjoyed while taking everything in.

The store is mostly dedicated to chocolate, with ice cream taking up just a small section towards the back. Most of the walls and counters are stocked with homemade truffles and beautifully-packaged chocolates. The left-hand wall is actually a glass window that looks into the chocolate-making kitchen, where three chocolateries were hard at work on this Tuesday morning.

My cousin was waiting for us in the store’s little cafe, which has a patio with stunning views of the Yarra Valley. The plan was to have lunch here; the cafe serves light but gourmet fare – including pizza, paninis and salads. I appreciated that the menu called out all vegan and gluten-free options. We all ordered something different, and I went with the Vegetable Fritatta with a garden salad. It was a bit more expensive than your average lunch ($18), but it was a lovely and memorable meal. Moreover, restaurant meals in Australia are generally more pricey than in the US – partially because tip/service fee is built into the food and drink prices.

Despite our satisfying lunch, we all ordered dessert. It’s simply unacceptable to visit Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery without having something sweet. Besides the chocolates and truffles in the store, the cafe also serves fancy dessert waffles, sundaes, tarts, and gorgeous hot chocolates. While I was tempted by the gluten-free brownie sundae, I couldn’t not try the homemade ice cream.

Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery’s ice cream is made fresh on-site every day, and they prides themselves on using only high-quality ingredients. This Tuesday, there were 12 different flavor options – which is actually fewer than I’m used to! Luckily, everything sounded good. Most flavors were traditional, such as Cookies & Cream and Mint Chocolate Chip. But there were a couple more interesting ones, like Peach Mango and Honeycomb. Also, the two sorbets looked great in the display case. The Dark Chocolate looked rich and, well, dark! And the Wild Berry was a beautiful purple color and was studded with berry seeds (always a good sign!).

After a bit of hemming and hawing, I decided on a two-scoop cup with both Honeycomb and the Dark Chocolate sorbet. The flavor combination was an ode to my all-time favorite Australian candy, Violet Crumble. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of eating one, it’s a candy bar with a crunchy, honeycomb toffee center covered in a thin layer of chocolate. My sisters and I would eagerly look for Violet Crumble bars in any package coming from an Australian relative. While I’ve encountered Violet Crumbles in a few specialty stores in the US over the years, they still retain a big novelty factor for me. Since honeycomb isn’t a common ice cream flavor in the States, I had to pounce on this opportunity. Luckily, Ava thought the combo was a great idea – and she agreed to split the massive portion and hefty price (almost $6) with me.

The verdict? As you can see, the folks at Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery certainly don’t skimp on portions. And given that the ice cream and sorbet had an almost gelato-like consistency, it was served at the perfect temperature and didn’t melt before we could finish it. True to their promise, both flavors were rich and flavorful – proof of the high-quality ingredients used. While I expected Honeycomb to be my favorite, the Dark Chocolate sorbet was the star of this combo. It was one of the best chocolate sorbets I’ve had; incredibly rich (but not too sweet) chocolate flavor and a velvety-smooth texture unlike many other ice-y sorbets. The Honeycomb ice cream had that caramel-honey flavor I love. However, there were just two big chunks of honeycomb candy in the scoop, whereas I’d hoped for many small bites throughout. Still, the ice cream was a winner – especially when paired with the Dark Chocolate sorbet. These flavors complemented each other well; the sorbet was so rich that a milder flavor was needed to balance it out. Even still, my sister and I barely finished this cup. Overall, however, Yarra Valley’s ice cream flavors are not nearly as exotic as their chocolate candy and truffle flavors. I’d love to challenge Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery to focus a little more attention on their ice cream business. If they start to put as much TLC into their frozen concoctions as their chocolate candy, this stuff would be hard to beat.

All in the family.

The Stats:
Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery
35 Old Healesville Road
Yarra Glenn, Victoria 3775
Australia
http://www.yvci.com.au