Do you hear that? It's the familiar scream for, you guessed it, ice cream. Because that's the only dessert socially acceptable to scream over, but also it's ice cream season. Not that cool, creamy sundaes and shakes ever go out of season, but now that the temperatures are on the rise, we've got a heightened appetite for the stuff. Here's the scoop on some notable ice creams to dig into this season.
Sepia (123 N. Jefferson St., pictured at top)
Chocolate and vanilla are fine and good, but sometimes you just want something a little less ... vanilla. Sepia's Cindy Schuman is your answer. The dexterous pastry chef has a penchant for imbuing nostalgia-rooted desserts and flavors with maturity and elegance, and ice cream is no exception. Current examples include her aromatic oolong tea ice cream, served with torn chocolate cake, peppermint, and chocolate sauce; and her toasty oatmeal ice cream, adjoined by peanut butter, chocolate, oatmeal pave and rum anglaise.
Dusek's Board and Beer (1227 W. 18th St.)
Most of us have primal memories of cookie dough bingeing. For some of us, those "memories" are much more recent than we'd care to admit. The ultimate guilty pleasure is made less guilty when the concept is deconstructed and formed into a full-fledged dessert, outfitted with ice cream and "cookie powder." Dreams come true at Dusek's Board and Beer, where the obsession-inducing cookie dough dessert features Fernet chocolate chips, mint, chocolate cremeux, cookie powder and a deeply rich egg custard ice cream.
Pub Royale (2049 W. Division St.)
Pub Royale just opened in Wicker Park and it's already shaping up to be the bar/restaurant of the summer. Or the year. Or the decade. With boozy mango lassis and mile-high ice cream sundaes, it's easy to understand why. The new effort from Heisler Hospitality (Sportsman's Club, Trenchermen, Revel Room, Lone Wolf, and more) is rooted in Anglo-Indian food to accent its beer - and cocktail-heavy drink list. One of the ultimate dishes to order is their Knicker Bocker Glory, a British sundae piled high in an old fashioned sundae glass. There's crispy wafers, banana morsels, jammy fruits, and scoop after scoop of ice cream.
mk The Restaurant (868 N. Franklin St.)
Flavors of corn pudding, apple cider, and s'mores lay the framework for an exploration in ice cream whimsy at mk The Restaurant. Here, pastry chef Lisa Bonjour uses crafty, flavor-packed ice creams to enhance composed desserts indicative of distinct seasonal sensations. "I've Got Sunshine on a Cloudy Day" is a nice, uplifting ode to spring's fickle weather, featuring a crisp corn pudding cake with winter citrus, cannoli crisps, and mascarpone ice cream. "How ‘Bout Them Apples" is a cheeky play on sugar, spice, and cider, with a cinnamon apple cider mille-feuille, Honey Crisp apples, and vanilla-salted caramel ice cream. And then there's the summertime essential, s'mores. Her rendition features dark chocolate ganache, marshmallow, Spanish peanuts, and graham cracker ice cream.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams (1505 N. Milwaukee Ave. and 3404 N. Southport Ave.)
Both Chicago locations of the Ohio-based company are packed with innovative, exciting flavors worth screaming about. One of my favorites is a breakfast-y flavor of butter and jam, erupting with nooks of decadent dairy and pockets of luscious berry jam. When you pair a scoop of that with a scoop of heady espresso ice cream, you've got breakfast in a cup.
Wood (3335 N. Halsted St.)
Everyone loves a good root beer float. One sip of this dessert masquerading as a beverage is enough to take you back to childhood dinners out with the family. Wood is updating the nostalgic template with their very own root beer float. They're upping the ante on tradition for this one by making their own root beer and ice cream in-house and augmenting it with a splash of booze, either Fernet Branca or Four Roses Bourbon. The root beer itself is aromatic, spicy, and complex, a naturally fermented and carbonated quaff made with natural sassafras, sarsaparilla, licorice root, cherry bark, wintergreen, molasses, vanilla, cinnamon, juniper and allspice.
Photos: Sepia, Dusek's, Pub Royale, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams