The 2011 Food Trends list made mention of ice cream, as did the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, where many new food fads are launched. In Chicago it was the ingredients in the ice cream that grabbed attention with flavours including maple bacon pancake, sweet corn, and Mexican chocolate chipotle on offer. Not that savoury ice creams are particularly new, thanks to Heston Blumenthal and the wave of molecular gastronomists. But the new headline flavours are bold and challenging and even savoury ones are mostly eaten as sweet.
This side of the pond stirred its own batch of headlines earlier this year with Breast Milk ice cream from The Icecreamists in London. According to their blog, founder Matt O’Connor wants to do for frozen desserts “what the Sex Pistols did for music.” He is also a peerless publicity maker and managed a hefty scoop with his Baby Gaga (now called Baby Googoo) breast milk ice cream. (There is unconfirmed suggestion that the name was changed after injunction threats from the American singer Lady Gaga.)
The ice cream was initially withdrawn from sale after Westminster council declared it potentially unfit for human consumption. It later had to admit to having made a boob, and it is now back on sale for anyone who wants to pay £14 a serving.
On the weird concoctions front, when faced with tasting Yorkshire Pudding flavour from the Yummy Yorkshire Ice Cream Company, I was – not surprisingly – a touch sceptical. Marketing ploy or clever invention? In this instance I think it was the former. Not that there was anything intrinsically wrong with the flavour. It just didn’t seem quite right somehow.
In fairness, their craze for odd flavours has successes too. Womersley Raspberry Vinegar is a wonderful foil to the sweetness of the cream, and Liquorice has quickly become an award winner. Their latest flavour is a toss-up between Marmite or Bovril; make up your own mind.
The ice cream makeover has been swept over texture not just flavour. Italians have a love of a subtle, refreshing, soft-textured ice cream called gelato al fior di latte, which is a must-have here now. This milk ice cream is not made with a custard base or, as with cheaper ice cream, vegetable fat but with – surprise, surprise – milk. The use of goat’s or buffalo milk is perfect for anyone with intolerance to cow’s and also creates an ice cream with a rich and creamy but not too sweet taste.
And just how are we eating these new-fangled, sweet/savoury tastes? As there’s not many that will sit too well on an apple crumble or in a sugar cone, they are perhaps best eaten alone. The traditional or milk ice creams, though, work perfectly in the Knickerbocker Glory, which, despite having practically disappeared from the ice cream parlour menu, is now the 2011 de rigueur pud for the ice cream lover.
Choosing ice cream used to be so simple: chocolate, strawberry or vanilla; one ball or two, Flake or not. It’s not that easy any more but it certainly is exciting.