Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cool Treats Worth the Brain Freeze . . .


The Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival returns for its second year.

This is no ordinary ice-cream event as local artisans, pastry chefs and chocolatiers show off cool, custom designed treats you'll not likely see anywhere else.

We're excited about it for a number of reasons, including the obvious. You'll get a grand tasting of goodies from the likes of Vosges, Black Dog Gelato, Nice Cream, Homer’s, Oberweis, Trader’s Point Creamery, Ciao Bella Gelato, Bob Tail Ice Cream and Sassy Cow Creamery.

There will also be demonstrations and workshops certain to blow your mind from top pastry chefs Christine McCabe, Tony Galzin (MK), Jerome Landrieu (Barry-Callebaut Chocolate Academy) and Michelle Garcia (The Bleeding Heart Bakery).

And, The Great Chicago Brain Freeze should be the biggest draw as chefs compete with unique creations. Guests get to vote on winners.

Last year's third-place winner, Clandestino, returns with chef/owner Efrain Cuevas bringing back his popular Chocolate Chile ice cream as well as Blueberry Huitlacoche and Honey Serrano Sweetcornbread.

Now I don't mind getting a little brain freeze for that!

The Chicago Luxury Ice Cream Festival takes place 7-10pm Friday and Saturday at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon Dr.). Get the $25 tickets here.

We've got at least another month of unbelievable heat, so cool off with even more offbeat frozen treats, including some deliciously boozy ones:

Avenues' Executive Chef Curtis Duffy's "Raspberries" dessert includes a frozen yogurt whey sorbet oozing liquid Chambord cream when cracked open. (Photo: Curtis Duffy/Avenues)

Avenues: Curtis Duffy is undoubtedly a talented chef, but we had no idea that included pastries as well. His Raspberries dessert may sound simple, but it's a delightfully complex creation with African blue basil, crispy yogurt, Thai long pepper and frozen raspberries on top of a compressed financier cake. The pièce de résistance is the frozen yogurt whey sorbet that, when cracked open, oozes "quite a bit of liquid Chambord cream," says Duffy. It's $14 and can be had at the bar with a nice glass of bubbly.

Black Dog Gelato: I'm a little reluctant to write about the signature Whiskey Gelato Bar (milk chocolate-covered whiskey gelato rolled in candied bacon) because as you're reading this it's probably sold out. Yep, you guessed it. This is the most popular item in the store. $3.75.

Ice Cream makes me wanna scream!

Gemini Bistro: Talk about a "happy ending." The Chocolate Turtle Cake sounds good enough, but when paired with bourbon pecan ice cream it will make you extra happy. $8.

May Street Market: This cozy neighborhood resto, which usually plays it pretty safe, steps up its game with an intriguing after-dinner delight. How does New Holland Dragon's Milk Ale ice cream and a dash of crumbled Terry’s Toffee sound to you?! $5.

Naha: This is a pretty light bite for date night. Head to the quiet, luxe lounge and share Oeufs a la Niege, a "floating island" of summer fruit, Elderflower and shaved red wine ice. $12.

Gelato is just the Italian version of ice cream.

one sixtyblue: You have until Saturday to indulge in the ultra-creaminess of the restaurant's "adult" ginger beer float before they close up shop to renovate and reconcept. Then maybe, just maybe they'll bring it back on the menu when it reopens August 16 (hint, hint!). It's a sweet symphony of Ketel One Citroen, Hum liqueur, Hillary's ginger ice cream, ginger beer and one sixtyblue garden chocolate mint. $12.

Paramount Room: Speaking of root beer-type floats, the one at this Roscoe Village venue is there all summer. Pastry Chef Suzi Beu's Black & Tan Float contains housemade Guinness ice cream and Abita Root Beer. It's served in a mini-Pilsner glass and garnished with home-style ginger snap cookies. $8.

Prairie Fire: Mmmmmmm, sweet sticky things! And the ever-changing Booze-sicle is made with market-fresh fruits and infused with spirits ranging from vodka and rum to bourbon to bubbly. Right now we know for a fact that they're serving it up in the flavor of Blueberry Cognac. $6.

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