Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Professional Foray #6, Lily Lolly, Bryant Park/Soho

In all honesty, I was favorably disposed towards these ice cream popsicles before I even tasted them.  Have a look at the Lily Lolly website, and tell me you don't feel the same.
Lily Lolly is a 1920s flapper character created by Nadia Roden, artist, illustrator, and ice cream perfectionist.  She's also the daughter of Claudia Roden, one of the world's experts on Mediterranean food.

Nadia wrote the first-ever book on granita, Granita Magic, but when she decided to start her own food business, she chose to vend creamy popsicles instead, reasoning that she "could be extra creative with lollies," and "do things you can't do in a cup," like roll a white-chocolate-dipped orange cream lolly in finely grated citrus zest mixed with crystalline sugar.

Monday evening found Nadia, her nephew Cesar, and her stepmother Peggy all sporting matching black-and-white aprons (Cesar looked especially fetching in his), selling popsicles to the curious cinemaphiles there to see a screening of the Goodbye Girl.  It was hot, sticky and humid, and despite a competing Time Warner-sponsored ice cream truck (and a Ben and Jerry's kiosk on the corner of 42nd and 6th), Nadia was doing a brisk business.
The family + me (Nadia's got her arm around me)

Not only that, but in the few hours I spent hanging around and watching her ply her trade, at least a half-dozen people (women, all) turned up specifically to buy a lolly (or three), then dashed off before the film even started.  One group of young women, who had at least two apiece, then announced they were off to dinner, which cracked Peggy up.

At least two pops each.  Good on you, ladies!
 Why the fuss, the serial buying, the devoted followers?  Nadia is a perfectionist: she tinkers with each recipe til she's got it down pat, and takes extra care in using the best ingredients and making sure each recipe is as flavorful as possible.  I've had ice cream that stresses how local and organic it is, but somehow the part about flavor/deliciousness gets lost in the mix.  Nadia's pistachio rose, for example, my first of three, tasted just like a Lebanese milk pudding, creamy and fragrant with rosewater, chock full of finely chopped Bazzini pistachios.  Having just returned from Beirut, I felt I was back in Lebanon again, at the end of a long mezze meal, stuffing myself with a few bites of muhallibiyah before passing out.

As the evening wore on, I met a number of charming, interesting people, all drawn into Nadia's polka-dotted orbit.  This lovely woman below, Roxandra Antoniadis, is an art consultant and soon-to-be memoirist, based between New York and Ohio (how often are people based between New York and Ohio?).  She was thrilled with her 50s Orange Lolly, and nearly fainted when I mentioned that Nadia is Claudia Roden's daughter. 
I also met Pam, a daytime bartender whose best friend from college owns the family farm in San Diego where Nadia gets the oranges for her lollies.  She also nearly fainted when she realized the coincidence. 
My next lolly was the Fresh Mint flavor, which Nadia makes by steeping fresh mint leaves in the cream and milk.  This one was truly exceptional: the mint was so fresh, and so intense, and the texture so light (she says she uses three parts milk to one part cream), that it felt like a small explosion of mint went off in my mouth, its mushroom cloud dissipating and leaving behind chocolate chip detritus in its wake.  I wouldn't normally use the word "symphonic" in an ice cream review, but here it seems worth the pretention. 

Nadia sent me off with one of her classics, the 50s Orange Lolly.  I was skeptical when I heard her describing it as having a sour cream base, because sour cream reminds me of bad Mexican food, or something delicious such as rice pudding that got left out of the fridge too long and turned gross.  This, however, was barely sour.  It was a creamy, luscious ice cream base whose mild sourness accented the delicate, refined taste of the Valencia oranges that she specially orders from California.  It was dipped in white chocolate, and then decorated beautifully with a dusting of superfine zest and sugar.  To her tremendous credit, after three ice lollies in a row, I still went home hungry for dinner.   


Sprout said...

Can a popsicle be divine? Apparently so! Thanks for your mouthwatering description, I can't wait to try Lily Lolly's Pops...especially the Pistachio Rose.

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