Blue cheese or caviar? Ice-cream toppings get weird and wacky

Ice-cream toppings used to offer a simple choice between strawberry or chocolate sauce, rainbow sprinkles or maybe a maraschino cherry. Not any more. Waitrose’s senior innovation chef, Will Torrent, said recently that he likes his scoop of sea salt and caramel ice-cream with an added topping of stilton.

The chef said the sweet, creaminess of the dessert was “elevated” by the “rich and sharp” blue cheese. A white chocolate ice-cream, he added, could pair well with a Brie de Meaux.

Torrent is not alone. Dua Lipa said earlier this year that her favourite pairing is olive oil drizzled over vanilla ice-cream, prompting a flurry of TikTok copycats. At Moor Hall in Lancashire, holder of two Michelin stars, sweet cicely ice-cream has been served with ragstone, a soft goat’s cheese, and strawberries, while Kitchen Table in London’s Fitzrovia serves caviar on top of walnut ice-cream. Spices such as fennel seeds, cardamom and saffron are paired with a vanilla bean ice-cream and chocolate cake at Colonel Saab, an Indian restaurant in central London.

Meanwhile, the fashion brand Anya Hindmarch opened its Ice Cream Project shop in London for the third consecutive summer last month, offering “cult food brand” flavours as unusual as Branston’s piccalilli, Bird’s custard and Sarson’s malt vinegar.

Restaurants are continuing to experiment. At the Abbey Inn in Byland, North Yorkshire, unusual soft serves are made using local ingredients, including charlotte and douglas fir potatoes, while The Mutton at Hazeley Heath, Hampshire, features asparagus ice-cream on the menu. Joia, a Portuguese restaurant in Battersea, south-west London, has served chorizo ice-cream.

“Desserts are starting to be viewed similarly to savoury dishes,” said Mia Frizzi, head of pastry at Cardinal in Edinburgh. “There’s a need to create depth, and balance all flavours to add complexity. A bold, strong acidic ice-cream or sorbet complements the more standard sweetness of desserts.”

All chefs crave balance. Joia’s chorizo ice-cream works because it’s tempered by chocolate and rich caramel, said founder Henrique Sá Pessoa. “It’s not for everyone,” he added. “But it made people think.”

At the Abbey Inn, the potato-based scoops came from an abundance of spuds. “It seemed only natural to experiment with making ice-cream from them,” said chef Callum Leslie. “It is exciting to use traditionally savoury ingredients as a dessert.”

Jan Ostle, co-founder of Wilsons in Bristol, was inspired by similar reasons – using produce from the restaurant’s kitchen garden. It led to the creation of a herb sorbet, including chervil and the often divisive dill. “It’s not an easy flavour profile,” Ostle said. The solution? Topping it with charred Italian meringue.

For Ostle, ice-cream is the ideal vehicle to bring flavours together and provide taste in a new format. “Our oyster ice-cream was born from a need to come up with a way of delivering the lovely, refreshing experience of eating an oyster to people who were worried about eating them in their usual form.”

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Trivet in London’s Bermondsey serves a yoghurt and black olive ice-cream inspired by the memories of their co-founder Isa Bal of Turkish breakfasts.

“The real star is the black olive caramel that we ripple through it,” said co-founder Jonny Lake. Lake said cheese ice-creams were popular in the Regency and Victorian periods.

While some diners may balk at meat or vegetable flavours, chefs say the majority fall in love. “Customers are increasingly up for surprising themselves, and kitchens are also trusting people more. Everyone is becoming braver,” said chef Jack Coggins at Goodbye Horses, an on-trend wine bar and restaurant that will soon open in Islington, London.

The Guardian

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