It seems no ingredient is off the table for ice cream makers these days. Fish and flowers, beer, meat and cheese – they’re all taking a churn at one artisan shop or another, while the more traditional sweet and fruity flavors get their own oddball treatment. To celebrate the unofficial start of summer this Memorial Day weekend, we tracked down 15 wacky ways to top that cone. Gourmet or gross? You decide.
Cinnamon Toast. A soft-serve rendition of the breakfast classic. The authentic bread flavor comes from steeping toast slices in hot milk. The mushy bits are strained out before the butter and cinnamon are added. It’s a brand new flavor at Ample Hills Creamery in Brooklyn. Dig in.
Durian. The telltale stench of Asia’s notorious “stinky fruit” is significantly reduced once you add the cream and sugar, but the bizarre taste still packs a powerful punch. Available at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory in New York City, where wasabi, black sesame and sweet red bean – the vanilla, chocolate and strawberry of Japan – are also served.
Garlic. Sebastian Joe’s in Minneapolis makes a roasted garlic almond chip version, but purists can enjoy free unadulterated samples of the sugar-sweetened original at the 2013 Gilroy Garlic Festival, happening July 26-28 in the heart of California’s garlic country.
Bone Marrow with Smoked Cherries. The folks at Salt & Straw in Portland, Oregon extract beef marrow from cow bones to make this one-of-a-kind flavor. So you get rendered fat, cooked in cream, with a welcome shot of cherry juice. The finishing touch: chopped smoked cherries aged in bourbon.
Yazoo Sue with Rosemary Bar Nuts. As if straight-up beer ice cream wasn’t funky enough. This concoction from Jeni’s in Columbus, Ohio stars a cherry, wood-smoked porter from Yazoo Brewing Co. in Nashville, then adds cashews, almonds, pecans and Spanish peanuts roasted in a coating of fresh rosemary, cayenne pepper and brown sugar. Too crazy for you? Try Bluebird’s Elysian Stout, made with the rich and roasty chocolate maltiness of Dragonstooth Stout from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Wash.
Maple Hickory. Of course – ice cream laced with liquid smoke! That’s hickory wood smoke in watery form, to be precise. That plus maple syrup equals… an opportunity for a topping of crumbled bacon. Available at Bluebird, a microcreamery in Seattle.
Apricot Noyaux. Apricot ice cream as you might imagine it to be, made with a lovely puree of the actual fruit and sweetened with vanilla. But the artisans at Ici in Berkeley, Calif., throw in a little surprise, infusing the mix with the bitter-almond flavor of noyaux – the nut-like kernels inside apricot pits, which they retrieve, toast and grind before throwing in for a good long soak.
Nova Lox Nova. This salty-sweet mash-up looks like it belongs on a bagel, but one lick and you know it’s no cream cheese spread. Max & Mina’s in New York City makes it with brine-cured salmon and a dash of pepper. Bonus: it’s kosher!
Mustard. This one’s on the savory side, so it may work better as a condiment. Heston Blumenthal’s mustard ice cream contains both Pommery grain mustard and sugar, so don’t go spooning it on that pastrami sandwich just yet. First introduced at Blumenthal’s restaurant The Fat Duck in the U.K., it has since gone mass market, at least in Great Britain, where it is sold at Waitrose supermarkets.
Avocado. A frozen form of guacamole? Nope. The sweetened creamy flesh of an avocado, the makings of a popular dessert drink in Indonesia, is also the stuff inside a new ice cream sandwich from Milk Cult in Washington, D.C. The mobile vendor – traveling by motorcycle, with sidecar converted into a freezer – hits Washington street corners this summer.
Foie Gras. Creole Creamery in New Orleans charges a premium for this flavor, made with fatty duck liver that’s cooked down and caramelized, with a splash of Sauternes. As if that doesn’t make it fancy enough, a huckleberry ribbon runs through it.
Sweet Sticky Black Rice. Think rice pudding, only the exotic kind, made with “Forbidden” (and nutrient-rich) black rice that turns purple when cooked in coconut milk. A specialty of Van Leeuwen trucks and scoop shops around New York City.
Michigan Salad. With this one, Treat Dreams in Ferndale, Mich. delivers all the fixings of the green tossed Detroit area favorite except the lettuce: candied pecans, dried tart cherries and (gulp!) blue cheese.
Ham and Cheese. The best of the bunch if you happened to miss lunch – dairy plus protein makes half a square meal, after all. The ham and cheese is but one of 75 or so options available on any given day at Heladeria Coromoto in Merida, Venezuela, a shop world-famous for its crazy selection.
Szechuan Strawberry. Tiny dark red dots of ground Szechuan peppercorn sharpen this sweet strawberry sorbet, a tongue-numbing summer standard for Humphry Slocombe in San Francisco.