Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival Roundup

Tonight we went to the Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival. For $25/person, you could indulge in all-you-can-eat taster sizes of a dozen different gourmet ice cream brands, plus a small amount of alcohol and pizza. A few of the highlights:

The Winners:

- When I read that Vosges would be there, I assumed they'd be giving out chocolate samples. I did not realize that they are making ice cream now! Their chocolate chili was one of the top flavors of the event, hands-down. We went back for MANY refills! They also had coconut curry (called "Naga" on their site). I'm not a big coconut fan, so I wasn't terribly impressed with that one.

- Sassy Cow Creamery had two winners with Ginger Pear and Cherry Dark Chocolate - but the cherry ranked in my top five overall. Whatever dark chocolate they used in it was terrific.

- Ciao Bella Gelato had a Valrhona chocolate ice cream that may have been the only one to top Vosges. Dark and very creamy, my one regret of the night was that I didn't get a second cup. I also had their mango sorbet, which was tasty.

- I am a sucker for cinnamon ice cream, and Homers' had the excellent idea to add white chocolate chips to it. They were clearly creamy real white chocolate, and they went amazingly well with the cinnamon.

- Oberweis Dairy may have been the least "gourmet" (or at least, most mainstream) entry, but their mango-pomegranate sorbet and chocolate peanut butter ice cream were still at the top of the charts. They also apparently had a blue-and-white birthday cake ice cream that was excellent (according to the girl ahead of us in one line), but we didn't get to try that one.

- Unfortunately, neither of us remembers the name of the creamery who featured chocolate ice cream with sour cream and sea salt, but it was very good! The sour cream gave it a bit of a tang, and chocolate/salt is always a good combo.

The Mixed Bags:

- Nice Cream had an odd setup. Rather than a table where you could grab a cup on your way past, they had two tables at which they sat four people at a time, where one of their staff served everyone four flavors individually. This resulted in a long line (we waited over 20 minutes, and it was the only one we waited in for more than about two), and most people in line were confused about exactly what the line was for. The event's website promised a tasting contest where you could vote for your favorites, and people thought that this was the line to participate in that. But no, it was just another company. Anyhow, their four-flavor lineup had two winners and two losers. The peaches & cream, made with sour cream, was excellent. As with the other sour cream entry, it really added to the flavor (and I don't like sour cream by itself). The chocolate and sweet basil was the other winner - it's easy to forget that basil is in the mint family until you taste it with the chocolate! I don't think I could eat a large bowl of it, but a small amount was surprisingly good. The blueberry pie ice cream was good (and had a surprisingly "pie"-y flavor), but didn't stand up to the intense festival competition, while the strawberry and angel food cake was rather bland.

- Clandestino was clearly positioning itself as the gourmeter-than-thou entry. First was its chocolate chili, which won third place last year - but Vosges' much creamier version outshone it this year. Then was the one ice cream I tasted all night that was just bad - blueberry huitlacoche. What is huitlacoche? I wish I'd asked before I tried it, and I might have been prepared - it's a fungus that grows on corn. And yes, the ice cream tasted... fungusy. Mildewy, almost. *shudder* Luckily, they made up for that with their serrano cornbread ice cream, which was savory rather than sweet and was really very good! Cornbread is a nice sweetish savory taste well-suited to ice cream, and there was just a hint of serrano heat running through it. Wish I'd had a second cup before they ran out!

Worth a quick mention as well were the banana chocolate chip from Mitchell's and the very rich and flavorful vanilla from Shawn Michelle.

Dinner was taken care of by small slices of spinach stuffed pizza from Edwardo's, there was a table with taster cups of wine, and a table at the center of the upstairs room was handing out cups of champagne with peach ice cream in them, which Robbie says were excellent. They certainly had one of the longest lines in the place going! They did have a table pouring cups of water for those needing a non-alcoholic drink to cut through all the dairy. We also got a chance to walk around the nature museum it was held in, which was a nice bonus.

I recommend getting there early - we got there about 6:35 (doors opened at 7), and there was already a long line to get in. But once we were through the doors, we started upstairs where it was less crowded and were rewarded with almost no lines for the first half hour or so. By 8pm, it was getting pretty full.

Overall, they still have a few logistical kinks to work out (we paid at the door, but as we were headed in realized it would have been absurdly easy to sneak in because of the way they had it set up), but we had a lot of fun and ended the night plenty full!

No comments:

Post a Comment