Beyond Vanilla

Flavored With Vegetables Or Topped With Cereal And Vinaigrette? That's Just The Tip Of The Frozen-treat Iceberg

July 22, 2009|By Kate McNaboe | Kate McNaboe,

There's nothing wrong with vanilla ice cream or a vanilla-and-chocolate frozen-yogurt cone.

But sometimes you just want something different, something more.

Some shops in the Baltimore area have taken that idea to a whole new level, offering frozen treats in wacky flavors or spicing things up, sometimes literally, with out-there toppings.

Some of the craziest cold concoctions: Dominion's vegetable ice cream, which comes in spinach, carrot, tomato, sweet potato and jalapeno; Mr. Yogato's peach yogurt with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette; Pitango Gelato's spicy chocolate, with crushed red chili peppers; Moxley's Old Bay ice cream, for that extra little kick; and Sylvan Beach's margarita ice cream, complete with salt and lime.

"I love innovative, funky foods like vegetable ice cream," said Julia Petrino, a student at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, while enjoying a cup of spinach, peanut butter and sweet potato ice cream at Dominion in Charles Village. "The jalapeno is actually really good; it's definitely got a kick to it."

The idea for vegetable-flavored ice cream came from owner Donna Calloway's obsession with healthy food.

"A food like ice cream can still be healthy," said Calloway, who spent one year perfecting all the recipes herself. "Instead of taking out sugar or fat, I just added nutrients from vegetables."

Baltimore high school students Donnishia McAfee, Areka Ware and Silvia Smith also tasted each of the unique vegetable flavors at Dominion while working on a marketing project for Kids on the Hill at the Johns Hopkins University, and were pleasantly surprised.

"It's not nasty like I expected; it tastes like vanilla," Ware said of the spinach flavor, called "Muscle Up," which is Dominion's No. 1 seller, Calloway said.

While each of these establishments makes standard flavors in addition to their more avant-garde creations, employees say the more unique ones are definitely the most popular.

"I've seen people cry over our Key Lime Pie ice cream," said Sylvan Beach employee Mike Prokop. "It messes up their whole day if we sell out of it. It's addictive - once you try it, you have to get it every day."

Sylvan Beach, "ice cream with a mission," in Mount Washington is also known for its liquor-flavored ice creams: Jack Daniels Chocolate, Bourbon Vanilla, Maker's Mark Butter Pecan, Chocolate Zinfandel, Champagne Sorbet and the award-winning Margarita ice cream. Two of its more daring creations were beer sorbet and sour cream ice cream.

"We have a lot of weird flavors, and they're endless because we make them ourselves," Prokop said. Sylvan Beach's most popular flavors this summer are Key Lime Pie, Honey Graham and Salty Caramel, which they often sell out of quickly.

Some of the more unusual flavors, such as Old Bay, may sound odd, but the combination of salty and sweet often has good results.

"Old Bay ice cream is slightly weird but a wonderful change of pace," said Joe Koenig, manager of Chili Man Weiners in Towson, the only place still selling Moxley's original hard-dipped ice cream. Moxley's ice cream also comes in Ghost White Chip, vanilla with white chocolate chips; Mom's Apple Pie; Toasted Coconut, and Bailey's Irish Cream - Koenig likes to check customers' I.D. before serving this flavor.

"People ask for the weird flavors here," employee Steve Quinan said.

Employees and managers of these Baltimore ice cream shops love to experiment with new flavors and even new toppings, especially Bria Murphy, general manager of Mr. Yogato in Fells Point.

"You have to have an open mind," Murphy said. "Salty and sweet is the bomb."

Mr. Yogato offers four types of fat-free, probiotic frozen yogurt and a myriad of toppings, including Cap'n Crunch, Lucky Charms and other cereals, balsamic vinaigrette, sea salt and wheat germ.

"This would be the perfect self-serve," Owings Mills resident Dan Demmitt said of his chocolate with caramel and sea salt after tasting Murphy's yogurt sampler of plain with Old Bay, peach with balsamic vinaigrette and extra-virgin olive oil, and plain with blue agave syrup and sesame seeds.

"It's spicy ice cream, it's fantastic," said his cousin Laura Demmitt of the yogurt topped with Old Bay.

Many of Mr. Yogato's toppings, including sprinkles, chocolate syrup and caramel sauce, are free.

"You can't deny the power of sprinkles," Murphy said.

Just across the street from Mr. Yogato is Pitango Gelato, serving genuine Italian gelato.

"This is very good, a little creamier than what we had in Rome, but still good," said Marge Garyantes, North Carolina resident who recently returned from a trip to Italy, of her Sicilian almond and chocolate hazelnut mix.

"We encourage people to try the more different flavors," said Pitango employee Michaela Pomeroy. While the spicy chocolate is popular for tasting, the best-selling flavors are green tea gelato and Mojito sorbet.

"It's our most refreshing," Pomeroy said of the sorbet.

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