THIS ARTICLE IS ADAPTED FROM THE JUNE 10, 2023 EDITION OF THE GASTRO OBSCURA FAVORITE THINGS NEWSLETTER. YOU CAN REGISTER HERE.
Ice is more than a refreshing summer treat; it’s a blank canvas. The suppleness of churned, frozen cream makes it a great raw material to rely on, whether it’s topped with burnt meringue to form a spiky, flamboyant mountain. in Alaska in the oven or in the shape of a bomb floating in a sea of blackberry sauce to evoke a luminous moon floating in Moonlight.
Beyond ice cream’s shape-shifting abilities, it can also hold seemingly endless colors and flavors. I had purple ube ice cream, red bean ice cream – both delicious – and even an unfortunate batch of Nathan’s hot dog ice cream that was cream colored and sprinkled with sausage which I can’t conscientiously recommend.
This summer, I’m going to explore some of the most spectacular ice cream inventions of the last century. I won’t need to travel back in time to do this: Gastro Obscura is a treasure trove of stories about unique desserts people have dreamed up with ice cream, many of which feature recipes waiting to be tried in your kitchen at home.
It’s the season to stop being vanilla with your ice cream choices, unless that vanilla is mixed in a glass of ginger ale, of course. Below are some of our favorite recipes for intriguing and delicious ice cream desserts.
What dessert could match the patriotic spectacle of the first moon landing? Ice, of course.
Amid the tumult of the summer of 1969, President Richard Nixon sought to garner positive media attention by hosting a televised banquet for 1,440 people to welcome the Apollo 11 astronauts back from their historic voyage.
As Vietnam War activists demonstrated outside, astronauts, politicians and Hollywood stars dined on poached salmon, stuffed artichoke hearts and French cheeses, followed by a wink sweet eye at Apollo 11’s lunar visit: globes of vanilla ice cream with raisins and marzipan, covered in meringue and lightly toasted to evoke lunar craters. The Clair de Lune, as it was called on the evening menu, sat in a dish of blackberry sauce like a moon floating in the night sky. More than 50 years later, you can create your very own Clair de Lune with the help of The recipe for Gastro Obscura.
In Detroit, no summer is complete without a frothy ice cream drink called, oddly enough, the “Boston Cooler.” Born in Boston, the Cooler reached its peak in Detroit’s soda fountains in the mid-1900s, where soda jerks mixed ice cream and local Vernors ginger ale to make a fizzy milkshake that locals say retains its consistency better than a root beer float.
Food Editor Sam O’Brien attests that the Boston Cooler is quite easy to make at home; all you need is vanilla ice cream and a box of Vernors, which you can order online. Try it yourself and see what it’s all about.
Nobel Ice Cream
If there’s one dessert that can give you a sugar rush, a temperature drop, and a few extra IQ points, it’s the ice cream that was often served to Nobel laureates and other banquet attendees. Nobel Prize in the 1900s.
It’s a tradition for extravagant gatherings – which take place every December 10 in Stockholm – to end with waiters descending a grand staircase carrying exploding sparklers and a variety of sweets. As Anne Ewbank, editor of Gastro Obscura, writes, for much of the 20th century, those glitter trays were full of ice cream.
The exact flavors of the banquet varied from blackberry sorbet to elderberry ice cream. Today, at the Nobel Museum Bistro, patrons can relive the past glory days of ice cream with a dessert of raspberry sorbet and vanilla ice cream molded into a small bomb, which may be a macabre reference to the invention of dynamite by Alfred Nobel. The recipe for Gastro Obscura calls for two types of ice cream and toppings, including foil coins to represent your own glittering Nobel Prize.
Wisconsin Frozen Cocktails
America’s dairy country is also the land of alcoholic ice cream. According to writer Jeanette Hurtin any bar in his home country, “even if they don’t advertise it on their menu, they just might make you a real grasshopper with ice cream – and if they don’t serve ice cold drinks, the place next door probably does.
Hurt attributes Wisconsin residents’ affinity for alcoholic frozen drinks to the state’s status as a dairy powerhouse and blender’s birthplace, as well as its undying love for cocktails of all kinds. The six drink recipes she shares, from swirling pink squirrel to Yabba Dabba Do It covered in fruity pebbles, will delight, refresh and intoxicate all at once in the summer heat.
Blue Moon Ice Cream
If you’ve spent a summer in the Midwest, you’ve probably tried Blue Moon ice cream, the floral, lemony, cosmic blue flavor that is the pride of the region. You probably have no idea what’s inside. The flavor, patented and closely guarded by Weber Flavors, is sold to creameries throughout Wisconsin, Michigan, and parts of Indiana and Illinois, without detailed delineation of its ingredients.
In a culinary thriller, Luke Fater of Gastro Obscura made some serious investigation into the contents of Blue Moon, even calling on the best maestros of New York ice cream to decipher its secrets. Even they couldn’t trace Blue Moon I don’t know what for sure, but Fater used their guesses, along with those of a few other intrepid food writers, to whip up a recipe that lets us sample this Midwestern wonder without flying to Michigan.
Gastro Obscura covers the world’s most wonderful foods and drinks.
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