Today was, finally, one of the days I’ve anticipated all summer long, the Third Annual Ice Cream Sunday at the New Amsterdam Market. Each year, local artisan ice cream makers get to strut their stuff and feed the sweet-toothed among us. I signed up for the early-bird package, which meant that at noon today I got to collect my 10 tickets to go around the market and pick up mini-cones of different flavors of ice cream from among the 11 vendors who were there. In addition, it was possible to buy scoops of ice cream without having to purchase tickets, and a few vendors also had ice cream sandwiches for sale alongside cones and cups.
Can an ice cream taste woodsy and earthy? Those were the thoughts that came to mind after taking my first bite of Van Leeuwen‘s Caramelized Honey with Candied Black Walnuts flavor. A few weeks ago, I’d visited the market and had seen black walnuts brought in by the Wild Food Gatherers Guild. I was really intrigued, as I’m completely familiar with these nuts from growing up in Virginia, but I’d never seen them around here. They lent an interesting depth of character to the ice cream while the caramelized honey left warm, lingering toffee notes on my tongue.
“This is like the best strawberry ice cream I’ve ever had,” said the woman standing next to me as I took a photo of this cone. She wasn’t far off of the mark on that. This Tri-Star Strawberry from Dream Scoops was made with that second, brief round of strawberries that come in at the end of New York summers. The tartness of the tri-stars meant that none of that deep, berry flavor that you get from biting into one of these ruby jewels was lost in the dairy-ness of the ice cream itself. This could make me fall in love with strawberry ice cream, which, as a child, I’d usually cut away meticulously from the vanilla and chocolate squares on a slab of a Neapolitan confection.
Made with Wölffer Estate Rosé, from Long Island, this sorbet by Steve’s Ice Cream was the perfect palate cleanser part way into this dairy-filled extravaganza. Light, refreshing, a little wine-ish, and full of chunks of apples, berries, and other fruit, just like you’d find in the drink for which it was named. I really enjoyed that someone brought a wine ice cream with them to this event, as they’ve been getting more and more popular each year.
You know how when you get to the end of a Caprese Salad and you tear off a big hunk of bread to sop up all the leftover juices created by the tomato, olive oil, and mozzarella? This ice cream captured all those milky-herbal flavors in every bite. It almost made me feel as though I could be hanging out in a trattoria on the Ligurian coastline with the fragrance of herbs wafting through the breezy Mediterranean air where the ripest tomatoes and freshest, just-made cheese are put on your plate for the simplest yet most delicious of salads.
Ice cream with a kick? Yes, please! The Mole flavor created by La Newyorkina for this event was fantastic. Subtle hints of cocoa, light spice notes, and then a wallop of heat made this a dynamite tasting. I also sampled her Lime-Chia ice cream which was full of tart, refreshing citrus and crunchy seeds. I would welcome either one of these in her regular rotation of paleta flavors, although that’s not really a hint or anything.
One of my favorite ice cream vendors to check out any time they come to this market are the folks at The Bent Spoon. They are not only amazing frozen confections artisans, but they are also super creative and come up with flavors that I always like and didn’t know that my life was incomplete without trying. The Fowl Triple with scoops of the richest, custardiest ice cream I’ve ever eaten was what they brought with them today. The bottom one is made with duck eggs, the middle with ostrich eggs, and the top with quail eggs. It was pretty incredible to taste all these ice creams made with different eggs, each delivering the same creamy consistency.
After the intense creaminess of the last flavor I sampled and the heat of the flavor I tried before that, I was in the mood for something a bit lighter and cooler on the palate. I found it in the Coconut-Lemongrass flavor at Rouge Tomate, with hints of Asian cuisine woven throughout each bite. The ice cream base, I found out, was made by using a combination of coconut and cow milk, so it had a lighter texture and mouthfeel, a bit more like ice milk or sorbet. Lemon juice and lemongrass were used as well in the base infusion to give it strong, floral and citrus notes. My one regret is that I didn’t have an extra ticket to use at this stand so that I could have also had a sample of their Coffee-Green Cardamom flavor, too, which I overheard was really delicious.
I have to start out by saying that I really don’t like licorice or fruit-licorice things. This Strawberry-Wild Fennel ice cream by Esca, however, I can only describe by saying that it was beautiful. The fennel was delicate and brought out the floral notes of the berries. In my notes, I wrote down that I could eat a whole bowl of this one, just letting my tastebuds linger over the harmony of the lightly perfumed anise and fruit flavors.
This Bitter Almonds and Roasted Apricots ice cream by Il Buco Alimentari e Vineria went over to the opposite spectrum from my previous tasting. Big, bold almond flavor, almost marzipan-like, and big pieces of sharp, sweet roasted apricots came together in this sample. It was as though a summertime apricot-almond tart with a scoop of ice cream had been turned on its head and re-invented. I really enjoyed it, but I did think that the almond ice cream was so intense and flavorful that it could have also stood completely on its own.
My last ticket of the day was redeemed at Luca & Bosco, a newcomer on the NYC ice cream scene. I’d first tried their product at Smorgasburg several weeks back, so I was really interested to see what they’d bring today. While several vendors had goats cheese ice creams on their menus, I hadn’t yet tried any of them. This one was tangy and luscious, swirled with deep violet ribbons of sweet-tart blueberries that just wrapped around my tongue. It was rich and refreshing at the same time and was the perfect note on which to end my ice cream explorations.
The only table that I didn’t get to today was that for Early Bird Cookery. The tasting package for the event had 10 tickets to use at each of the 11 stands. Unfortunately, I had to make a decision to leave one of these great vendors out of my rounds, which was really disappointing. Their Hay Ice Cream seemed to be another huge hit this year. I remember it as a stand-out from the first year of the ice cream festival.
Today’s event was also a fundraiser for the market, so it was really encouraging to see so many people turn out for ice cream and to support the hard work that all the vendors do each week. In walking around between the strollers, standing on the quick-moving lines, seeing groups of folks strategizing how to use their tickets to maximize the number of flavors that they could get at any one table, and bumping into several friends while I was slurping down samples from the different vendors, it occurred to me that the folks at the New Amsterdam Market had re-created an old-fashioned, small town Ice Cream Social in bustling Lower Manhattan. I’m looking forward to next year’s gathering already.
For a few more photos of this event, please check out my Flickr photostream.