Critiques, Cravings and Conundrums From the Madison Food and Dining Scene
Jun 8, 2011
12:10 PMSmall Dishes
A lot of folks around here argue over which is better, ice cream or frozen custard. As far as I’m concerned they’re all good—ice cream, frozen custard, frozen yogurt, gelato, sorbet, granita and sherbet. The number of brands and varieties of frozen fabrications that come in every shape and size at the supermarket today is staggering. And it’s not just about dairy any more with creamy frozen desserts concocted from rice, coconut and soy as well. The list of specialty flavors offered by Gourmet stalwarts like Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs has grown so long, that they are often rotated seasonally to accommodate available freezer space. There’s no shortage of places in town to chill out either. Come summer, lines form at Michael’s Frozen Custard, the Chocolate Shoppe and Babcock for cones, dishes and sundaes. But many of Madison’s restaurants have come up with their own frozen temptations as well. Here are a few of my favorites.
Nostrano creates several sundaes worthy of grand opera, but the affogato literally means “drowned” in Italian, and what a way to go! Sumptuous silky caramel gelato with sea salt and espresso come with a lagniappe of cornmeal bombolini—little bite-size donuts.
Fanciful flavors tantalize the eye and tease the palate at Restaurant Muramoto. Frozen desserts are no exception with choices like banana grapefruit sorbet, lime granita with huckleberry puree, and black sesame seed or honey ginger ice cream.
Graze makes an adult version of a classic, the hot fudge sundae. Homemade vanilla ice cream is slathered with decadent warm chocolate, then caramel and whiskey added to boot; finally topped off with real whipped cream and chopped hickory nuts.
Eldorado Grill gives bananas foster a Texas Tub makeover: mangos sautéed with brown sugar and tequila served over vanilla bean ice cream.
Back in the day when Howard Johnson’s was synonymous with ice cream, supper clubs rarely served dessert other than frozen after dinner drinks; most beloved was the grasshopper. Originally a drink made with cream, ice cream became the obligatory substitute in Wisconsin. Ishnala would figure prominently in any history of Wisconsin dining. Today it still makes a quintessential grasshopper. Served in a large parfait glass, it’s appropriately thick enough to eat with a spoon.
It should come as no surprise that Mickies Dairy Bar would make an exemplary milkshake—hand crafted rather than exuded from a machine. It’s always hard to pass up chocolate, but opt for the strawberry at Mickies and you’ll be glad you did.
If Mickies doesn’t conjure up a taste for nostalgia, Ellas Deli surely will. Much has changed about the local dining scene, but the grilled pound cake hot fudge sundae remains as popular as ever. Ellas now offers several variations of its iconic concoction but it’s hard to improve upon the original.
Don’t be put off by the name—Monona Bait and Ice Cream—located on Winnequah Road across from Schluter Beach, it’s a popular respite for bicyclists circumnavigating Lake Monona. They feature Babcock ice cream and the caramel and pretzel sundae is sophisticated indeed considering the surroundings and much more appealing than a can of worms.
Recently, I discovered this recipe for frozen mango yogurt that I’m just wild about. Not only does it make me feel virtuous being relatively low in fat, but curiously its flavor reminds me of key lime pie and is just as refreshing and appealing.
Fresh Mango Frozen Yogurt
4 cups chopped fresh mango
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 tablespoon Cointreau or triple sec
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 cup plain whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
Combine the mango, sugar, honey, Cointreau and lemon zest in a bowl and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Puree in the food processor or blender until smooth. Stir in the yogurt and chill, covered, for 1 hour or more. Transfer the mixture to an ice cream and freeze according to the manufacturer’s directions. Pack in a covered container and place in the freezer for several hours or overnight before serving.
Makes about 6 servings.