Houston is not in a dairy state like Vermont or Wisconsin. Ice cream, of course, is still a national passion everywhere, but in this beef state, it's more of an avocation than a vocation. Highly local versions, then, are few and far between. But Lee Ellis, the always active mind behind Cherry Pie Hospitality (Petite Sweets, State Fare, Lee’s Fried Chicken & Donuts and upcoming Pi Pizza), is adding one to the culinary landscape this week with the debut of Lee's Creamery.
At the beginning of the week, Ellis' Heights chicken shop began scooping the ice cream and serving it in cups or between two halves of a doughnut. This weekend, Petite Sweets will begin offering customers 12 different flavors that will rotate from a current total of 50 recipes. They range from a basic but intense double vanilla bean to exotics including creamed corn, avocado-lime and blueberry-lemon. The ice cream will also be served at State Fare.
Today, we tried each of the four varieties currently available at Lee's Fried Chicken, following another new innovation, Ellis' H-Town Honey Cone, a single hot chicken tender rolled into a flour tortilla with coleslaw and honey aioli, then served in snow cone-style paper cup. Vanilla and Mexican chocolate will always be on the menu, Ellis said, while the other two will continually change with what ingredients are most seasonal. The base is crafted from Tomball's grass-fed Gramen Farms milk and cage-free Texas eggs.
The Mexican chocolate flavor is the standout, not surprising since it's made from essentially the same recipe as the best of Lee's doughnuts. Powerfully fruity strawberry cheesecake was blessedly absent of the tang of cream cheese, and will likely be even better when Ellis adds homemade Graham cracker crust to the next batch. The peaches-and-cream flavor could still benefit from some tinkering, and Ellis says he'll soon double the fruit in the recipe to make it more peach and less cream.
But the smooth viscousness of the ice cream barely matters when it's squooshed inside a glazed doughnut. It is clearly a case in which Mae West's famous dictum is proved wonderfully right. Make it a a Mexican chocolate doughnut filled with Mexican chocolate ice cream, and it may be even better.