Tuesday, January 9, 2007

#67: I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For . . . Curry?

When I saw that Exotic Ice Cream was number 67 on Food & Wine Magazine's 100 Tastes To Try in 2007, I was a bit suspicious. There seemed nothing new about exotic ice cream. I have been seeing mango and coconut ice creams on menus for years. But apparently mangoes and coconuts just do not cut it in the exotic category anymore.

Vosges Haute-Chocolate has now added ice-cream to their list of sweet treats. Probably best know for their truffles, Vosges has been playing with unique flavor combinations for years. I remember the first time I walked into the purple Vosges store in the Bloomingdale's building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago. It was such a small shop. I think this was in 1994 because my cousin had taken me there to sample chocolates we were going to give away as party favors to the guests at my bridal shower. Not only do they offer top-quality chocolate, but the flavors are so amazing they seem almost crazy the first time you read them. Try an Absinthe truffle that tastes like licorice and is sprinkled on top with ground Chinese star anise. Or their Sal de Mar which has sea-salt and caramel. You can even get your Italian fix with one of their truffles such as the one made with balsamic vinegar, dark chocolate and hazelnuts.

As soon as I discovered that the Exotic Ice Creams I needed to taste as part of my undertaking of Food & Wine's 100 tastes were from Vosges, I got excited. They have taken four of their best-selling truffles and have turned them into ice cream! Naga and Red Fire from their Exotic Collection and Pandan and Wattleseed from their Chocolate Chakra Collection are the four flavors Vosges selected to begin their foray into frozen treats.

Naga - Sweet Indian Curry and Fresh Young Coconut in a creamy custard ice cream.

Pandan - Pandan Leaf Extract, similar to vanilla wafers with a touch of pine nut, and dark chocolate

Red Fire - Ancho & Chipotle Chillies, Ceylon Cinnamon and dark chocolate

Wattleseed - Aboriginal Wattleseed, which tastes like chocolate, coffee, hazelnut and vanilla all in one, with macadamia nuts

I was so excited when I came home from work today and a box from Vosges Haute-Chocolate was sitting by my door. I knew the collection of Exotic Ice Creams were waiting for me. I ordered them from their online store since there is not a Vosges shop near me. I know, ordering ice cream to be delivered seems crazy, but the package arrived safe and sound and completely frozen. Inside the cardboard box was a silver type of cooler with two pieces of dry ice. The ice cream was frozen SOLID. So solid that I almost bent my spoon trying to taste one before it softened up. I had to wait for over an hour with them sitting out on my counter before I could get my first bite.

This item is a splurge. I could not just purchase one flavor, I had to buy all four. The ice cream cost $45 and over-night shipping was another $31. But once that first bit of ice cream melted on my tongue, I decided it was worth every penny.

Right off the bat I'd say that two of these ice creams are like no other ice creams you have ever tasted before. The best way I can describe Red Fire is to say that it tastes like Big Red chewing gum. You are hit right away with cinnamon, but the chiles give off a heat that lasts in your mouth for alot longer than you expect. I think Naga, with it's curry flavor, has to be the most interesting. This is the only one out of the three that is yogurt-based. At first it is sweet and coconuty. Then the curry comes through and lingers a while. This is the one out of the bunch that doesn't necessarily remind me of dessert. It is much more elegant. Like you should have some at tea-time with a glass of champagne.

The Pandan and Wattleseed flavors are more familiar, and yet the are both difficult for me to articulate. (hee hee, I just had to get up and taste them both again. are you jealous?) I suppose Pandan tastes similar to a hazelnut. It definately is richer and nuttier tasting than something like green tea (which is what I expected a Pandan Leaf to taste like for some reason). I don't know what a Wattleseed is, but I think it may be one of the best natural flavors on earth. Vosges is spot on with their description of this spice/nut: chocolate, coffee, hazelnut and vanilla all in one. And what could be better than that? Vosges Wattleseed ice cream delivers the ultimate indulgence for someone with a sophisticated sweet-tooth.

Am I happy with this splurge? Yes. The flavors are so complex that I can not imagine sitting down and eating a bowl of this ice cream like I would with mint-chocolate-chip. A spoonful or two really wakes up the tastebuds. So I think these ice creams will last me a long time.

note* a half of a cup of any of the flavors of ice cream is 8 Weight Watchers points.


Kate said...

Very cool! I don't think, however, that I would be allowed to spend that kind of money on ice cream.....I will have to look at this one closely to see how to make it work!

Great write-up though!

Lilandra said...

Oh wow!
That sounds very interesting.
Wish I had that.

It must be hard to describe taste...I can't...*impressed*

Vic Cherikoff said...

Rachel, thanks for the rap on the Wattleseed ice cream. I developed this as a flavor during a scientific program studying the nutritional value of Australian Aboriginal wild foods and simultaneously creating the possibility of an authentic Australian cuisine.

I describe Wattleseed as a blend of coffee, chocolate and hazelnut but not quite and agree that it is one of the world's best flavors. I have developed beer, cream, ice cream, breads, pancakes and sauces using it.

To explain what it actually is, you might have heard of the plant Genus, Acacia. These small shrubs to large trees produce masses of fluffy yellow flowers and generally have strap-like leaves. Once the flowers are pollinated, beans are formed and within these are the tiny black seeds Australians call wattle seeds as wattle is a common name for Acacias. Incidentally, wattles are the most common genus in Australia with over 1000 different species inhabiting every type of climatic region on our island continent.

In any event, you can read more about the development and background of the product now called Wattleseed here and hopefully try some in other dishes as well.

Kristen said...

Rachel -
I am so impressed! You are knocking this challenge out and forking out the bucks for the shipping and all. I want to do this one, but I think my hubby would KILL me if I spent that kind of money on ice cream. I wonder if I could find a local place that made ice cream considered to be exotic.