Eight Frozen Treats to Help You Cool Off This Summer
Our favorite summertime sweets incorporate everything from soy sauce to pickle brine.
Summertime is here, which means it’s time for window units, al fresco tippling, and a return to your favorite ice cream parlor. Fortunately, there’s a glut of great frozen options in town, whether you’re a vanilla purist or a sucker for soft-serve. We’ve put together a list of some of our favorite off-the-beaten-path offerings that incorporate everything from milk stouts and amaro to soy sauce and pickle brine. Here are eight amazing ways to cool off this summer.
1. Giulia: Affogato
Michael Pagliarini, along with his wife, Pamela Ralston, opened their Porter Square spot last December with a focus on authentic Umbrian cuisine made from local ingredients, and it’s even extended on down to the restaurant’s extensive dessert list. A clear favorite is Giulia’s table side affogato, a far more meticulous twist on the typical shot-and-a-scoop pairing of espresso and vanilla gelato. Pagliarini starts with a base of airy, house-made hazelnut gelato, which he tops with a buttery, chocolate hazelnut shortbread and George Howell’s Daterra Southern Italian espresso blend. Customers can then choose from Giulia’s ever-expanding list of Italian digestifs to chase the bittersweet combo. “When asking yourself, ‘do I want amaro or espresso or do I want something sweet?’ Well, here’s your affogato,” Pagliarini says. “You get a little bit of that caffeine buzz and that bitter, rich espresso flavor. The toasted nuts and the gelato satisfy that sugar craving you have at the end of a meal. And the amaro helps to settle everything down. It’s a beautiful three-pointed dessert.”
1682 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge; 617-441-2800 or giuliarestaurant.com.
2. Picco: Cow Tipper Frappe
It seems everyone has gotten in on the adult milkshake phenomenon, with offerings at JM Curley, Grass Fed, and The Friendly Toast. But one of the longest standing versions is Picco’s Cow Tipper Frappe. Specialists in ice cream, beer, and brick oven pizza, this South End joint has long had a knack for combining the best of all culinary indulgences. The Cow Tipper Frappe is fairly straightforward, with Left Hand’s Milk Stout Nitro whipped into a soda glass full of house-made vanilla ice cream. But the towering elixir sings with the perfection of both components. “It’s not a hard sell because people know us for our craft beer selection,” says general manager Matthew Klein. “This is a natural extension, having beer with ice cream. We’ve been making this now for eight years, and it’s always had a steady following. Once people try it, they tend to get it over and over again.”
513 Tremont St. Boston; 617-927-0066 or piccorestaurant.com.
3. Blue Dragon: “The Cookie”
At Ming Tsai’s first Boston restaurant, you would think the dim sum or the Asian-style tapas would steal the show, but it’s the dessert that has people buzzing. “Including our blackboard specials, we have over 40 items a night to offer from our savory kitchen,” says executive chef Tom Woods. “But all that people want to talk about is The Cookie, which is fine.” Conceived by Tsai, Woods, and pastry chef Michele Fadden, The Cookie combines eight ounces of salted chocolate chip cookie dough with two cups of Richardson’s vanilla ice cream and a soy caramel sauce. Baked in a cast iron skillet, the cookie achieves a crisp crust that swaddles a soft and gooey interior. What really sets the dish apart is a drizzle of salty caramel, reduced down with sugar, cream, and soy sauce. “We knew we wanted a single dessert that not only suited our pub atmosphere, but was great for sharing,” Woods says.”The combination of hot and cold is similar to what we do in the savory kitchen. Plus it has the Asian influence from the soy caramel, so it’s got that sweet and salty thing going on. Not only does it go right along with what we like to achieve with different temperatures and textures, but it tastes so good that it just takes the guesswork out of ordering.”
324 A St., Boston; 617-338-8585 or ming.com/blue-dragon.htm.
4. Ribelle: Olive Oil Ice Cream with Chocolate Shell
Inspired by his time working under noted gelato genius Meredith Kurtzman of Otto in New York, Ribelle pastry chef Jake Novick-Finder began experimenting with ways to use Kurtzman’s most famous contribution to the dessert category: olive oil. “This whole dessert is really my ode to Otto,” Novick-Finder says. “But there we made it with a lot of stabilizers and gelato powders. Here I wanted to create my own entire ice cream recipe and make it much more simple.” Novick-Finder blends Olympiana olive oil, local High Lawn Farm milk, egg yolks, sugar, and salt into a Pacojet machine, then tops it with his version of Magic Shell—a mixture of chocolate and coconut oil. “When we started Ribelle we were serving 40 portions a night,” Novick-Finder says. “That’s a lot for a 65-seat restaurant! We couldn’t make enough of it honestly. I just remember during week two, when we were running around trying to make more olive oil ice cream, Tim [Maslow] turned to me and said, ‘you know this is never leaving the menu, right?’ That always stuck with me because we try to change the menu a lot, but we wouldn’t dare remove that dessert.”
1665 Beacon St., Brookline; 617-232-2322 or ribellebkline.com.
5. Sarma: Greek Frozen Yogurt
At Sarma, Ana Sortun’s newest addition to her Eastern Mediterranean empire, all manner of meze, shishes, and Turkish snacks come flying out of the kitchen at an alluring but dizzying clip. That’s why executive chef Cassie Piuma tempers the whole experience with a deceivingly simple, light-hearted finale. Sarma’s froyo—made with simple syrup and Narragansett Creamery yogurt—might sound spartan, but that’s the point. “There’s no stabilizers or any artificial crap in it,” Piuma says. “It’s just a pure, tart, sour yogurt. It’s an unadulterated product, because the whole idea was to have something very clean and refreshing after a long meal.” Besides its palate-cleansing nature, Sarma’s Greek frozen yogurt also serves as a blank canvas for Piuma’s array of Mediterranean-inspired add-ons. Think Turkish coffee brownies with cardamom, pistachio marshmallows, a rhubarb and rosewater syrup, and its most popular accoutrements, caramel sauce made from halva sesame paste. “Frozen yogurt ties into the casual, playful nature of our place,” Piuma says. “But because it’s so straightforward, it becomes a vessel to all the really interesting Middle Eastern flavors present in our toppings.”
249 Pearl St., Somerville; 617-764-4464 or sarmarestaurant.com.
6. Mei Mei Street Kitchen: Shaved Ice
Out of Mei Mei Street Kitchen’s trio of sibling owners, Andy is considered the true entrepreneur. So it wasn’t surprising to the rest of the family when he bought a shaved ice machine after a culinary trek across the South Pacific. “Andy ate a ton of awesome food in Hawaii, particularly shaved ice,” says his sister Irene. “He hadn’t seen anything like it in Boston, so he impulse-bought a machine as soon as he got back.” The Lis initially tried to serve their version— “a cross between a snow cone and Hawaiian shaved ice”—out of their Mei Mei food truck, but it was far too disruptive to the natural flow of service. Starting this month, Irene and Andy are bringing back their selection of frozen treats to the SoWa Market on Sundays. “We thought SoWa would be the ultimate place for shaved ice because it’s a great atmosphere for families, people eat from several different food trucks, and it gets so damn hot,” Irene says. “There’s already a lot of sweets at SoWa, and we love all of them, so we wanted to add something new to the mix.” In addition to fresh fruit syrups, Mei Mei is also playing with more esoteric fusions such as malted barley with cocoa, coffee syrup with condensed milk, Moxie soda, and bread and butter pickle brine.
506 Park Dr., Boston; 857-250-4959 or meimeiboston.com.
7. Toscanini’s Ice Cream: Toto Pops
“I like to eat yogurt, although I think all the frozen yogurt shops are just awful,” says Toscanini’s owner Gus Rancatore. “But I love frozen fruits in almost any forms: Mexican paletas, Hawaiian shaved ice, and the variety of frozen fruit products at place like People’s Pops in New York City. Fresh fruit pops and ices are probably my favorite ‘new thing’ in the ice cream business.” That’s high praise coming from Rancatore, who’s widely considered an authority in all matters of artisanal ice cream. For three years now, Rancatore and Toscanini’s cake expert Jennifer Dunn have been making their own version of puréed fruit pops, albeit in push-up form. “Toto” pops, named after Rancatore’s father, are a summer-only delicacy dictated purely by seasonality. These small batch offerings are only available for three short months and come in flavors like blackberry and strawberry, orange pineapple, Mango and Coconut, and pineapple ginger.
899 Main St., Cambridge; 617-491-5877 or tosci.com.
8. Uni: Ice Cream Sandwiches
During evening hours, Ken Oringer’s flagship sushi restaurant is a bellwether for sashimi service and composed plates. But on Fridays and Saturdays after 11 p.m., Uni sheds its pomp and austerity. Out comes the cardboard menus advertising pork buns, miso ramen, and Monica Glass‘ ever-rotating ice cream sandwich selection. Chocolate cookies and macadamia nut ice cream are a favorite of Glass, a Food & Wine best new pastry chef nominee in 2013, but she dabbles in every kind of fruit, herb, and sugary confection. One outstanding feature of Glass’ late-night concept is her inclination to evoke other sweet and savory fare. Pineapple sorbet is layered between coconut cookies to mimic a piña colada and corn cookies are paired with a smoked brown butter ice cream for a corn on the cob effect. Glass only makes 18 ice cream sandwiches a night and new options are swapped out every weekend.
370 Commonwealth Ave., Boston; 617-536-7200 or unisashimibar.com.