There is something calming and meditative about ice creams--icy desserts in general--particularly when savored on a sweltering summer day, such as Fourth of July promises to be. As the frosty morsel melts in your mouth, it freezes you for a moment, taking you to sensuous, refreshing heights.
The cooling ecstasy from ice cream isn't just a summer craving. At least not in California, where it's a sought-after feeling year round. The state holds the record of producing the largest volume of ice cream and related products nationwide.
In restaurants, dessert orders for ice cream are back on the upswing after a dip in 1986, according to the National Restaurant Assn. "People are again willing to eat desserts," Ron Barbata, pastry chef at Cafe Jacoulet in Old Town Pasadena said. "We all grew up eating ice cream, and now it's respectable to use the all-American favorite cold goodness of ice cream and its spin-offs in desserts."
"Retro" diners and ice cream parlors offer patrons sky-high sundaes and jolting milkshakes. While true addicts get their icy fixes at these fun places (or by hiding in a corner in the privacy of their homes), those with more control are just as fulfilled with tinier, richer scoops served in other eating places.
For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday July 6, 1989 Home Edition Food Part 8 Page 29 Column 2 Food Desk 1 inches; 32 words Type of Material: Correction
In answer to queries about the artwork by Paul Jacoulet that appeared on Page 1 of the Food Section last week, the subjects were Korean but the technique was that of the Japanese wood-block print, which Jacoulet studied in Japan.
The growing appeal of frosty desserts has inspired chefs to make their own ice creams, gelati, ices and sorbets. It's a great opportunity for these chefs to provide better taste and calorie or cholesterol control, to introduce an uncommon ingredient (how about tarragon in sorbet or Mexican chiles in Southwest-flavored ice cream, for instance?) and of course, to ensure freshness.
Another trend entices the visual senses, compensating for smaller ice cream portions with beautiful presentations. Some fancy chefs go as far as to orchestrate dessert plates nouvelle style--by simply staying away from the shape of scoops. To make embellishing an easier task, they frequently use fresh fruits, berries and exotic fruits as well as rich-tasting sauces and purees.
When he's in a more artistic mood, Barbata likes to "paint" his plate with a brightly colored puree of fruit and set a wedge or square of ice cream terrine on top. Barbata's repertoire of frozen finales doesn't stop at being canvas-pretty. Popular with his customers is his delicious Frozen Chocolate Raspberry Mousse Parfait. Layers of chocolate and raspberry mousse alternate in a goblet and meld in the mouth for a sensational taste experience. What's interesting about this creation is that the consistency doesn't melt quickly.
Favored for their low-calorie advantage, ices are on the rise on dessert lists. Characterized by nondairy, water-based mixtures, ices evolved in biblical times, with records referring to King Solomon's fondness for ice drinks. History also tells us that during the Roman Empire, Nero Claudius Caesar (AD 54-86) frequently sent teams of runners into the mountains to get snow, which was then flavored with honey, fruits and juices.
The modern ice or sorbet doesn't have to be crude or bland. Times food stylist Donna Deane developed some interesting but easy-to-make ices that she highlighted with anise, rose and jasmine flavorings. Churning them in an ice cream machine aerated the aromatic ices to a lush and creamy "snow."
Going back to richness, one frozen dessert that exemplifies this calorie-laden category is Hazelnut Gelato, adapted from Lora Brody's book "Indulgences." It's like eating butter cream, and to increase your guilt further, it's served with a Frangelico liqueur-spiked whipped cream. Intensely flavored and denser than ice creams, gelati are best served in a semi-frozen state. These desserts usually consist of sweeteners, milk, cream, egg yolks and flavorings.
Zesty Citrus Ice Cream
Grapefruit fans will rave over Marlene Brown's creamy yet tangy Grapefruit Ice Cream, which is dotted with grapefruit zest. The food writer/stylist shared the recipe from her forthcoming book, "The Complete Guide to International Produce."
Another good one for the adventurer is pink Ginger Ice Cream, developed by Judy Zeidler for her "Gourmet Jewish Cookbook." Definitely not for those avoiding cholesterol, it's loaded with eight egg yolks per quart batch. This custard-style ice cream is surprisingly rich and scrumptious, with a very finely textured base (that could be attributed to the stabilizing effect of egg yolks that reduces the size of ice crystals in the mixture.)
Basil herb and lemon zest worked together to create a highly interesting new flavor note in our basil ice cream. The custard base can be microwaved for convenience. It's best to finely mince the basil leaves for a smoother "mouthfeel."