Thursday, August 19, 2010

Professional Foray #10, Melt Bakery

As a day camper at Mount Tom, I remember eating ice cream sandwiches on days when we weren't lucky enough to get Toasted Almond bars or even Strawberry Shortcake bars. They consisted of two slightly salty, cake-like chocolate wafers with slimy vanilla ice cream in between, and the whole thing was the size and shape of a mid-1990s cellphone.  A thin sticky residue usually coated the paper wrappers.

I never understood why an idea with such powerful potential - cookies + ice cream in one portable package - fell victim to such abominable execution.  There were other attempts over the years: the Chipwich sandwich, the Klondike/Oreo sandwich, but no one was really putting their back into it.

Until my new favorite people Kareem and Julian came along.  They co-founded Melt Bakery, which specializes in the best ice cream sandwiches I've ever tasted.  Kareem is a bespectacled, food-loving Lebanese entrepreneur, and Julian is the guy in the kitchen, formerly of Lever House.  They work every weekend at the Hester Street market, which is a collection of antique vendors and food stalls in a park in the Seward Park housing projects.  It doesn't sound like a promising locale, and on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I wasn't quite sure if ice cream was the thing, but Kareem's smiling face (and the ice cream sandwiches he handed me) put my doubts to bed.

He first offered me the Cinnamax, cinnamon ice cream between two snickerdoodles.  I adore any and all things cinnamon, and Julian makes his ice cream with both ground cinnamon and by steeping his custard with whole cinnamon sticks.  The cookies were your standard butter cookies with cinnamon and sugar on top, but the ice cream was very, very, intensely cinnamony.  Each bite was like a concentrated, elegant bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  My only criticism, which Kareem took like a man, was that I prefer a more generous amount of ice cream with respect to how thick the cookies were.  In other words, the ice cream should play a starring role, with the cookies functioning as back-up.  There may be protest coming from some quarters (I haven't yet had this debate with Julian, the chef), but this is, after all, an ice cream blog, written by an ice cream lover.

Next came the Cocoa Daddy, salted caramel ice cream sandwiched between two Valrhona-laced brownies.  I had seen this matchup online, and it sounded like it could go one of two ways: nauseatingly rich and sweet, or luxurious and indulgent.  Guess which way it went?  Yes.  Two for two, boys!  The salt kept the caramel ice cream from wandering off into overly-sweet dulce de leche territory, and lovely bittersweet shards of chocolate punctuated the brownies.
Kareem and me

Lastly (for this week, at least), I tried their marquis sandwich, the Belle - peach ice cream between two slender discs of brown butter bourbon shortbread.  Julian uses white peaches from the greenmarket, and roasts them to bring out their flavor.  The cookies were very, very rich, and again I'd prefer a bit more ice cream to cookie, but this was a very unique, and very luscious combination.  It was faintly hedonistic, something a wealthy family from Savannah, Georgia might serve at an afternoon luncheon.

Well done, Julian and Kareem.  Looking forward to trying more.


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