We are used to this being the norm: we go to an ice cream parlor and ask for a tub or cone of cream and hazelnut, pistachio and lemon, coffee and vanilla, whatever it is, we always want our two flavors of ice cream. However, does it make any sense to eat ice cream like this? On rare occasions we eat the chosen combination at the same time, but it ends up mixing with unsatisfactory results. Some people think that eating one or the other we only manage to tarnish their flavors, but also those who defend that opting for two options makes all the sense in the world, as if it were a pairing.
“My ice creams are designed to be eaten on their own,” says Fernando Saenz, an expert ice cream maker and co-owner of the dellaSera ice cream parlor with Angelines González, in Logroño. “Combining two flavors and eating each spoonful is like making a milkshake, where both flavors are lost to form a new one that you don’t even know what it tastes like. But hardly anyone does it that way: we order two ice creams and we eat one and the other alternately”.
On the other hand, Massimo Pignata, creator of the Barcelona ice cream parlor DelaCrem, has a completely different opinion: “It makes all the sense in the world to mix two flavors of ice cream. It’s part of the experience in an ice cream parlor.” He says that the combination can be done, as in wine pairings, by similarity (hazelnut and pistachio) or by contrast (chocolate with citrus). “These are the same criteria that we use to pair different ingredients within the same flavor, as in our cashew nut ice cream with orange.”
What pushes us to choose several flavors? What stimulates consumers to order two at once is the possibility of being able to try two things for the same price. Saenz recalls that in his childhood, ice creams were not normally served two by two. “If you wanted one with two flavors, you had to order the largest, which cost twice as much. The only two or three flavors was the cut ice cream from the supermarket”.
Counter with different flavors of ice cream in Altea. Stefan Cristian Cioata (Getty Images)
For Saenz, the ice cream parlor “is the kingdom of flavor”. He explains that ice cream is a structure, a texture, where a flavor is introduced. His work, which he describes as detailed, consists of recreating and transmitting, for example, the most authentic flavor of fruit possible, so that it tastes in ice cream, just like when you take it from the fruit bowl. “We make flavor shine. But that is not why we are coercive and in the ice cream parlor we simply accompany the taste of the client, offering our advice kindly. We start from the basis that the people are sovereign and that nothing is written against tastes and, thus, 90% of our sales are always tubs or cones of two flavors (two and not three, that is our limit)”.
True to combinatorics, for Pignata the best combos are those that meet one of these two criteria: “those in which no flavor covers the other and, also, those in which one flavor makes the other stand out, although sometimes Many choose one flavor to alleviate the characteristics of the other, like adding lemon to clean up the sweetness of a dulce de leche.”
At dellaSera, the majority of customers take alone the most unusual flavors that have emerged from the good know-how of Fernando Saenz and Angelines González, such as their Sombra de higuera or their Paseo de Verano, since they understand that it is something special that deserves to be understood with its due time and space, without adding another flavor that can confuse the palate. “When they ask for combinations, it is usually the classic coffee and lemon or strawberry and vanilla. In our case, it doesn’t matter to mix a sorbet with a cream, because despite the fact that the sorbet does not contain any fat, we achieve a texture that is very similar to cream”.
Which ice cream is served first?
As for service, contrary to the urban legend that the cream ice creams are put first and then the sorbet, at dellaSera they do not have the two flavors in a special order, since instead of putting them one on top of the other they place them one to the right and one to the left. “It has nothing to do with densities. We only follow a specific order if the client requests it”.
On the other hand, in DelaCrem they always follow an order. “Both in the tub and in the cone, first we put the most forceful flavors, which will be left below, such as dark chocolate, coffee, citrus sorbet, which could limit the taste experience of the other flavor, which will go on top and be lighter or purer, like cream, yogurt or vanilla. It’s simple: if you try the cream first and then the lemon, there are no problems. On the other hand, if you start with the lemon sorbet, which cools your mouth and tongue, the experience with the cream will be less satisfying and the tasting level of that flavor will drop.
In the case of Esneu (Novelda), which only sells tubs from 600 milliliters through its website (and catering, from its other project, 33/35 Studio), the formulation of its various flavored ice creams is meticulously thought out: “Due to the design of our tub, we make sure that when the customer takes a spoonful from top to bottom, they almost always take the same proportion of flavors that we have proposed,” explains Rubén Álvarez, manager of the ice cream parlor together with Pilar Sánchez. For this reason, they believe that combining makes sense —”just like in a dessert”— and that the importance resides in the arrangement of the flavors and the proportion of each one: “If there is one of them that has more flavor power than the others, it can end up distorting the combination”. Thus, in Esneu they mix Jijona nougat with saffron, carob with Persian lemon and bergamot (in collaboration with the cook María Gómez from the Magoga restaurant) and roasted pumpkin with yogurt and ginger (in collaboration with the chef Ricardo Camarena).
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