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8 Unique Ice Cream Flavors To Try In Chicago This Summer

By Chicagoist_Guest in Food on Jun 14, 2016 3:55PM

By Amber Gibson

It's getting hotter in Chicago, and when it gets over 90, all we want to do is sit in a dark room and eat ice cream. Plus, the Gelato World Tour just stopped by Chicago, so we were particularly inspired to seek out some of the most unique ice cream creations on offer in the city. Here are eight of our favorite new flavors and dishes that you should try this summer.

The Chicago-style popcorn sundae at Naha. Photo by Ryan Beshel.

Chicago-Style Popcorn Sundae at NAHA

Pastry Chef Craig Harzewski always has a NAHA Sundae ($14) on the menu, and he’s been inspired by the Cubs’ winning ways. “Once I moved to Chicago, I really got into watching the Cubs and the Chicago baseball culture,” he says. So for summer, he is serving popcorn ice cream with caramel sauce, candied peanuts and housemade caramel and cheddar popcorn. “I pop my own popcorn everyday and divide it in half, coat one in caramel and one in cheddar cheese powder.” The finishing touches are mini ice cream cones dipped in white chocolate and coated in crushed roasted peanuts and toffee.

606 at Black Dog Gelato

Jessie Oloroso represented Chicago at the Gelato World Tour in the Americas East Finals with this new flavor ($4/two scoops, $8.75/pint), inspired by Chicago’s diverse food scene and named after The 606 elevated trail. Layers of roasted peanuts, sweet coconut, saffron, honey, curry powder, ginger, vanilla and caramelized cashews are reminiscent of an exotic twist on the classically American seven layer bar. After debuting at the gelato event in Millennium Park, it will now be part of the regular flavor rotation at Black Dog Gelato locations.

Avocado ice cream at Allium. Photo by Amber Gibson.

Avocado Ice Cream at Allium

There’s nothing wrong with avocado toast for breakfast, but wouldn’t you rather get those healthy fats via ice cream? Four Seasons Chicago Pastry Chef Scott Gerken serves a scoop of avocado ice cream with milk cake, accenting the smooth, delicate grassy flavor with bitter chocolate cream and lime ($12). “We are using American ingredients with a south of the border-type influence,” he explains. “Avocado pairs very well with lime, chocolate and spice. My inspiration with this dish was to start with one ingredient—avocado—and create a theme surrounding it.”

Lemon Matcha Gelato at Zarlengo’s Italian Ice & Gelato

Matcha is my jam,” Tommy Zarlengo exclaims. He quit drinking coffee last year, switching to tea for its health benefits, and the pulverized Japanese green tea is one of his new favorite flavors to experiment with in cooking, baking and now gelato-making. “I use straight matcha and a faint hint of lemon zest,” he says. “I don’t add any lemon juice, because I don’t want any acid, just a bright finish.” The creamy, earthy matcha is reminiscent of the matcha lattes popping up at coffee shops around town. The Zarlengos (brothers and sister Tommy, Todd, and Alison run the show) get matcha from Rishi, and this gelato is their first collaboration with the Milwaukee-based tea company. Look for more tea-inspired sorbets this summer. Try lemon matcha at Publican Quality Meats, Goddess and the Baker and the Zarlengos’ own Chicago Heights scoop shop. Price varies by location.

Espresso ice cream with red wine cherries and crushed amaretti at Americano 2211. Photo by Amber Gibson.

Espresso Ice Cream with Red Wine Cherries and Crushed Amaretti at Americano 2211

You might remember Pastry Chef Nancy Silver from Snookelfritz, when she sold small-batch ice cream at Green City Market. Now she’s back from maternity leave and this summer you can find a rotating selection of half a dozen seasonal flavors at new Wicker Park café Americano 2211. New creations and old favorites like roasted strawberry brown sugar are available by the half-pint ($5.50) and as single-serve quarter pints ($3). We love the coffee, cherries and amaretti flavor since it embodies the Italian café vibe that Americano stands for. Silver macerates dried cherries in red wine vanilla bean syrup and mixes generous amounts of cherries and amaretti into a smooth coffee ice cream for an inverse affogato. Once the restaurant opens for dinner service, Silver’s ice cream will also make an appearance sandwiched between two TCHO chocolate chip cookies and in plated desserts like baked Alaska.

Strawberry Ricotta Gelato at Nico Osteria

Now that fresh local strawberries are in season, Pastry Chef Leigh Omilinsky is swirling them into a rich strawberry ricotta gelato. “It’s like strawberry cheesecake but not,” she describes. The super rich and milky gelato has a savory tang and chewy bits of ricotta to contrast with bright juicy strawberry chunks. The gelato will be served with a plated strawberry lemon cassata cake ($12) and is also available by the scoop ($3) along with more than a dozen other gelato and sorbetto flavors. Throughout the summer, Omilinsky anticipates switching up strawberries for blueberries or peaches with the same ricotta gelato base.

Ylang ylang fennel ice cream. Photo courtesy of Jeni's Art & Design.

Ylang Ylang & Fennel at Jeni’s

This ice cream may look pretty vanilla, but the ordinary appearance belies the potent floral ylang ylang notes and sweet fennel flavor that make this a surprisingly memorable summer treat ($12/pint). Jeni Britton Bauer was inspired to create this flavor after a visit to The Getty in Los Angeles where the air was thick with the scent of ylang ylang. It makes us think of Chanel No. 5 perfume, a feminine cult classic fragrance where ylang ylang is the primary ingredient. Try it with any fresh fruit that’s in season for a light summer treat, or let it melt over a hot fruit crisp or slice of pie.

Sweet Corn Blackberry Ice Cream at Seven Lions

Pastry Chef Becca Zuckerman was born and raised in Las Vegas and says she had no idea what real corn tasted like until moving to Chicago. “I can still remember having a bite of my first corn on the cob from a farmer's market,” she says. “I was hooked. I knew I had to use corn in everything I possibly could.” She steeps fresh corn kernels and cobs in heavy cream and half and half, then strains it for a super smooth ice cream with a pretty purple swirl of blackberry for good measure ($2.50/scoop). “Blackberries give it a nice pop of sweetness and tartness, not to mention a gorgeous color contrast.”