Our 10 Best New Frozen Treats
Rebecca Marx A big, fat ice cream sandwich from Coolhaus
Come the end of May or thereabouts, we more or less live on a diet of frozen dairy and other icy foodstuffs. It's part Darwinian survival strategy and part hedonistic appreciation for anything that can be eaten from a cone -- preferably one answering to "waffle." And this summer has thus far presented an abundance of frozen treats previously unseen in New York's history.
Between the gourmet popsicles, self-pasteurized organic ice cream, shaved ice, ice cream sandwiches, Thai sorbets, Big Easy Sno-Balls, idiosyncratically flavored gelato, gay soft-serve, and "individual-sized" ice cream cakes, New York has finally become a decent ice cream town, one that we're beginning to hope may one day rival Boston or San Francisco. And so without further ado, we celebrate this new bounty -- even as we reach gratefully for our Lactaid pills.
Rebecca Marx Quality Cakes' Banana S'mores ice cream cake
10. Imperial Woodpecker Sno-Balls: A Sno-Ball isn't ball-shaped, and it's not flavored with anything found in nature. But this frozen emissary from New Orleans is really good, in an over-the-top, proudly gastronomically incorrect sort of way. The ice comes shaved to order, finer than that found in a sno-cone, and is piled into cardboard Chinese takeout containers. The choice of syrups is vast and delightfully garish -- we can personally vouch for blueberry and Tiger's Blood -- and makes brain-freeze loads of fun. 145 Seventh Avenue South, 251-366-7777
9. The Dutch's lemon sherbet: All but synonymous with the more neglected end of the Baskin Robbins' display case, sherbet occupies a shadowy netherworld between ice cream and sorbet, and is often mistaken for the latter. The difference is that sherbet has between 1 and 2 percent milk-fat content, while sorbet has none and ice cream must have at least 10 percent to be considered ice cream. When it comes to pastry chef Kierin Baldwin's lemon sherbet, however, none of this really matters. The only thing that does is its supreme deliciousness, its expert sweet-tart balancing act, and a creaminess that some actual ice creams can only dream of. Served in a perfect orb, it looks like a pale yellow moon, and will pull you helplessly into its orbit. 131 Sullivan Street, 212-677-6200
8. Sky Ice: This little Park Slope shop offers an impressive array of ice creams, sorbet, and shave ice, but our favorites so far are its Thai-accented sorbets. Mango and mangosteen in particular are very refreshing, and (for sorbets) surprisingly creamy in texture. Their flavors are so pronounced and unadulterated that eating them is like eating fruit that's been plugged into a Marshall stack. Which is another way of saying that we can't wait to go back for more. 63 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-230-0910
7. Quality Cakes' Toasted Banana S'more: Although Quality Meats pastry chef Cory Colton debuted his line of ice cream cakes last year, we can't resist paying homage to one of the new varieties on this summer's menu. We are powerless in the face of banana-chip ice cream, particularly when it's layered with slabs of graham cracker-chocolate chip cake, crowned with toasted marshmallow frosting, and, because too much is just enough, topped off with a miniature chocolate bar that juts from a scoop of ice cream like a toy ballerina perched on top of a music box. It is a creation that would make the ancient Romans blush, and as such makes us incredibly happy. 57 West 58th Street, 212-371-7777
6. Stellina: Stellina's gelato is a hybrid of Italian tradition and American irreverence, which means it comes in flavors with names like Bananimal and Cinnamon Toast, and is paved with animal crackers, chocolate-covered marshmallows, brownies, and other bits and pieces that would probably incite a riot over at Grom HQ. Fortunately, there's craft to back up the conceit: Bananimal, for example, is so full-flavored that it tastes as if its bananas were roasted, while La Strada was a satisfying blend of milk chocolate, peanuts, brownies, and marshmallows. Purists may be annoyed, and that's fine, because that means there's more for everyone else. 95 Allen Street, 212-274-9555