I scream…you scream…we all scream…there’s a reason everyone is screaming. Rich, cool, creamy goodness. Indulgent, yet refreshing. One of life’s little pleasures, to be certain.
Though the ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Chinese all seem to have enjoyed some variation of icy refreshment, historical accounts indicate that the recipe we now know as ice cream evolved around the 16th century, appearing at royal dining tables in England, France and Italy. Once reserved for those with the means for an icehouse, this dessert is no longer a treat for only the elite, thanks to two hundred years of technological innovation in processes like mechanical refrigeration. But as ice cream has become more common, we’ve started to treat it as such.
Stop spooning it surreptitiously straight from the carton. It’s time to elevate ice cream again.
Make it a sundae. But, rather than the standard toppings – like hot fudge and whipped cream – which offer little additional value to your kitchen (other than more surreptitious spooning), we’re proposing an array of global flavors for your garnishes. Not only do these toppings offer your ice cream a flavorful flair, they have the bonus of being a little healthier to have around the house.
World cultures have their own sweet treats, and many include something similar to ice cream — from Indian kulfi to Italian gelato. But the idea here is not to copy those recipes, but to recreate flavor combinations native to regions around the world using readily available ingredients. You won’t need a special recipe or a special market, just a regular grocery store run. But you do get bonus points for a nod to authentic or otherwise creative serveware!
Are you ready to host your own international ice cream social? Here’s what we created at ours.
First, a note about set-up and starters.
We brainstormed flavor combinations beforehand and made one shopping list and trip with those ideas in mind. For your gathering, each guest could develop and bring a topping combination, while the host supplies the rest, including the ice cream bases. For our foundational flavors, we chose vanilla ice cream and coconut gelato. Both flavors offer a fairly blank canvas, and are common in many parts of the world, particularly in tropical climates.
The best part of the party was the opportunity to taste-hop, rather than commit to one flavor destination. Broken into chip-sized scoops, waffle cone bowls allowed us to sample away without the forbidden double-dip! Consider it tapas-style desserting. Because you won’t want to miss out on any of these sundae stops…
Destination: Mediterranean/Middle East
The combination of dried fruit, nuts and honey are familiar players in desserts throughout the Mediterranean region. Dates, apricots, pistachios, walnuts and a drizzle of honey added texture and complexity to vanilla ice cream’s rich sweetness.
Vanilla Ice Cream
Chopped Dried Apricots / Chopped & Pitted Dates
Diced Walnuts / Crushed Pistachios
Served in a hand-painted ceramic mug from the West Bank
We wondered how chutney would work as an ice cream topping, but we were skeptical about its liquid content. So we created a deconstructed, pared-down version with crystallized ginger and chopped mango.
Served in an Indian tiffin
Destination: Southeast Asia
Inspired by the yummy garnishes that come with Pad Thai, we added crushed peanuts to coconut gelato and finished it with a squeeze of lime for a fresh, surprising twist. We noted for next time: crispy rice noodles would add a satisfying, extra crunch.
Served in hand-painted Vietnamese ceramic bowl
Destination: Latin America
Any tropical fruit flavor would have worked, even a tropical fruit salsa (think papaya mango with a little jalapeno heat)! But we wanted one treat you could sip through a straw, so we created a pineapple float using vanilla ice cream and pineapple soda.
Vanilla Ice Cream
Served in hand-blown glassware from Bolivia
It’s time to think outside the carton… and the continent! Add some global flair to an all-American treat. An international ice cream social is a lovely excuse (if you felt like you needed one) to gather friends and eat dessert.
Which one would you like to try? What ingredients would you add?
Host your own global ice cream social and let us know what you serve!