During the summer, ice cream cravings hit almost daily, and kids and adults flock to the city's sweet shops for cool treats. But instead of reaching for that sugar cone topped with a chocolate scoop, why not get a little funky this season? Forget playing it safe and try something new and creative from Denver's best ice cream experts. These five ice cream flavors and presentations are a good way to start your crossover to the weird side of frozen fun. Just remember, when you're in the good hands of the best creameries, there's no wrong answer for sweet summertime satisfaction.
Olive Oil Ice Cream With Salt and Campari
530 East 19th Avenue
When thinking of ice cream, olive oil, salt and Italian apéritifs don't usually come to mind, unless you're having dessert at Geraldine Kim and Josh Gertzen's Frozen Matter in Uptown. In fact, when Frozen Matter combines these three flavors, great things happen on your palate. First, the savory side of the olive oil works to enrich the cream with even more velvety qualities and a slight vegetal and citrus undertone. Then, a sprinkle of salt — or three, in this case (smoked Maldon, black lava and pink Himalayan) — cuts through the richness to bring out the olive oil essence and create an addictive bite. Finally, a sip of bright-red Campari breaks the fattiness of the ice cream and cleanses your senses in the most pleasing way, opening up the possibility to do it all again. And you should, or sample one of the other unconventional pairings such as coconut and black-sesame vegan ice cream with avocado ice cream and a balsamic/soy sauce reduction.
"Eggs, Two Ways" Ice Cream
High Point Creamery
215 South Holly Street, 720-420-9137
2669 Larimer Street, 303-993-4581
There's always something tasty and a little unusual going on at High Point, where seasonal flavors meet funky ingredients for a brainy freeze that goes beyond the basic kids' stuff. Take "Eggs, Two Ways," for example. Co-owner Erika Thomas cures egg yolks in a sugar-salt brine for ten days, creating savory-sweet orbs that get chopped up and mixed into a lemon-buttermilk ice cream base. So what happens to the whites? They're turned into nougatine candy that form ribbons of sweetness throughout the mixture. This is a chef's blend full of sophistication, surprise and fun. For other unique tastes this summer, be sure to also grab a scoop of cantaloupe and Sichuan peppercorn, or perhaps a cone topped with a vegan dollop of coconut, pineapple and apricot for a taste reminiscent of Midwestern ambrosia salad.
Nuggs Ice Cream
5135 East Colfax Avenue
Taco Tuesday never tasted this fun: Take a trip to South Park Hill and try the waffle-cone ice cream tacos at Nuggs Ice Cream. Not only can you get any flavor in your folded cone, but each $3.99 treat comes complete with as many toppings as you crave. Get weird and order the bergamot-enhanced blue moon ice cream and top it with sprinkles, hot caramel and walnuts. Or go for a scoop of the amaretto-laced queen bee honey and almond ice cream and top it with some Reese's Pieces, M&Ms and whipped cream. The sky's the limit when it comes to flavor combinations and the amount of toppings you can add. Plus, if you head there for Taco Tuesday, you can get three of these beauties for $9.99, which means even more wacky assemblages to create.
Avocado Ice Cream
Finding a unique and odd-sounding option at this eight-year-old Baker ice cream shop isn't hard. In fact, it can be extra fun to experiment with flavor combos in the way owners Sam Kopicko and Chia Basinger do with their lineup of over a hundred rotating ice creams. For example, there's the avocado ice cream, made with fresh avocados and high-quality milk. It's not exactly sweet or savory; rather, it tastes like the richest avocado crema you've have ever had, but it's also surprisingly refreshing. "That flavor goes well with just about anything in the case," says Basinger, "especially the summer fruits we're getting in now." Try it solo or with a scoop of blackberry-lavender, Colorado sour cherry or the chocolate malt Whopper.
Pretzel Cone With Adobo Chocolate Ice Cream
You've probably eaten your share of pretzels dipped in chocolate, pretzels stuffed with peanut butter or pretzel pieces swirled into ice cream. But, have you ever eaten your frozen treat out of a cone made from pretzel dough? At the six Sweet Cow locations, you can — and it's a revelation in ice cream shop accoutrements. For starters, the thick cone works well to hold the dessert, so you don't have to worry about any of that precious sweet stuff escaping from the bottom. And the chunks of coarse salt melt in your mouth and blend naturally with sugary flavors, including the slightly spicy adobo chocolate, Butterfinger or chocolate-orange. The pretzel cone proves a delightful deviation from the usual sugar or waffle variety, so the next time you find yourself hankering for a cool dessert, give it a whirl.
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