Remember when collaboration brews were all the rage? Perhaps our moment in history simply calls more for sweet and creamy succor than a sudsy mug, but collaboration ice cream seems to be more the order of the day. In June, Dolce Neve debuted its partnership with Coltivare in the form of a blackberry and peppercorn flavor. But months earlier, Petite Sweets began scooping Lee's Creamery Ice Cream crafted from recipes created by Cat Huynh of Les Ba'Get Vietnamese Café. The originals were passion fruit iced tea and a ca phe sua da so smooth it tastes more like rich chocolate than coffee. In the ensuing months, Huynh followed with others based on favorite drinks served at his restaurant, ginger-peach tea and a lovably violet-hued strawberry-basil lemonade.
But Huynh devoted the most time to perfecting his quirkiest offering: pho ice cream. What I expected was a sweet cream or vanilla flavored base made from local eggs and cream milked at Gramen Farms in Tomball, with pho spices. But I underestimated Huynh's ingenuity. His wife and co-owner, Angie Dang, told me that while cinnamon, star anise, cloves, coriander and cardamom are indeed significant parts of the mix, they have to steep in something. And that something, as in the case of the filet-mignon- or brisket-filled bowls of steaming soup, is beef broth cooked for 24 hours.
Yes. Beef broth. It's not hidden beneath cream (which is added to the concentrate Huynh cooks at Lee's Creamery), nor is it overpoweringly beefy. But there's no question that the sweet and savory broth, with its touches of bovine acridness and crystals of salt, is the star. Is it weird? Not at all, believe it or not. Though there are savory elements, its wash of staid sweetness makes it unapologetically a dessert. Remember when you tasted salted caramel for the first time? This experience is not so different. When served at Les Ba'Get, the ice cream is showered with peanuts for a pleasant crunch, and topped with basil leaves and a single star anise for a reminder of exactly what it is you're eating. Not that you could ever forget.