Memorial Day serves as a time to commemorate those who died defending our freedoms, and for centuries ice cream has done its bit for the war effort. Its well-known that an army marches on its stomach, and ice cream is usually on the menu.
During World War II, ice cream had risen to such prominence that the frozen treat was deemed vital to the war effort, right up there with chocolate bars, chewing gum and tobacco. While the U.S. War Department couldnt issue ice cream with its standardized C-Rations, it did the next best thing by creating an ice cream barge. The Navy spent $1.1 million on this floating ice cream parlor that it sent to the Pacific in 1945. The floating barge, in essence a 265-foot cement ship that had to be towed around by tugs, was capable of creating more than a gallon of ice cream a minute.
Phil Keeney, who served in the Philippines as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, remembers well those wartime ice cream servings.
Most of the ice cream in World War II for overseas consumption was made from dry ice cream mix, and you reconstituted it with water, recalls Keeney, who retired as a lieutenant and will turn 90 in February. The flavor wasnt always the best, but it was cold and sweet. Thats kind of what everybody was wanting more than the old ice cream factory flavor part.
Keeney went on to become a professor of food science at Pennsylvania State University, which in 1892 had created the first course in the country devoted to ice cream-making. Keeney oversaw Penn States Ice Cream Short Course for more than 30 years. He was such a popular professor that when he retired in 1985, the school honored him with his own ice cream flavor that features chocolate chips and vanilla beans. Its called Keeney Beany Chocolate. The ice cream that he ate in the Pacific didnt even come close to that in flavor, Keeney says, explaining that it came in one flavor an artificially colored vanilla.
While vanilla continues to reign as the most popular flavor in America, according to the Washington-based International Dairy Foods Association, those seeking to satisfy their ice cream cravings in the Miami area can experience the exotic as well as the traditional. There are flavors that range from the sophisticated (grapefruit champagne) to the sensational (Superman) to the sizzling (Mexican hot chocolate that comes with a cayenne kick).
Those who dare can be transported by taste to Mexico with La Michoacana Paleterías elote, which is made from sweet corn, and Whip n Dips chipotle chocolate. For those who want to recreate memories of Cuba, theres Azucars Abuela Maria, which mixes guava and cream cheese, and Miami Coppelia, which serves up a succulent mamey. The Frieze celebrates the cultures of several Latin American countries with its signature dulce de leche. Chill-N evokes images of Italy with its biscotti. And for a decidedly decadent United States, Serendipity 3s gold-plated Golden Opulence is hard to beat. Of course, you could opt to go global with Walls Old Fashioned Ice Creams Super Hero that will turn your lips and teeth blue.
The following provides just a sampling of the many varieties of ice cream the Miami area has to offer:
• Chill-N: N is for nitrogen and newfangled.
From its menu board that looks like the intro to Breaking Bad with its reliance on the scientific shorthand of the periodic table of chemical elements to its menu that includes only-in-Miami favorites dulce de leche and coffee made with real Cuban coffee, as well as the old standards vanilla, chocolate and strawberry, Chill-N seamlessly melds the old with the new.
Although chefs have been using liquid nitrogen for years to enhance the dining experience, there remains a sense of alchemy when the folks at Chill-N create a dish of ice cream on the spot in a puff of smoke. Actually, its more like fog, as little sprays of liquid nitrogen with a cool temperature of -320 degrees Fahrenheit fast-freeze each bowl of basic liquid ice cream mix that has been individually flavored. The result is a rich ice cream that has the taste and consistency of gelato.
Nitrogen will bring them in the door, but consistently good ice cream will keep them coming back, says Chuck Woodard, who along with Danny Golik, opened Chill-N in Pinecrests Village Plaza two years ago. At the time, Woodard was a 20-year-old entrepreneurial wunderkind and a sophomore at the University of Miami. Both he and Golik are alumni of the Westminster Christian School, and Woodard graduated from UM earlier this month.
While relying on a technique popularized in the 21st century, Woodard is not above borrowing what works for the more established ice cream shops.
We started with vanilla and Googled the most popular ice cream flavors, he admits. Aside from vanilla, there are 10 standard flavors to choose from and special holiday flavors such as pumpkin for Halloween and red velvet cake for Christmas.
In keeping with Americas tastes, Chill-N sells more vanilla than any other flavor. Nutella, a hazelnut-flavored chocolate sauce popular in Europe, is a close second. Patrick Silva, a 12-year-old who lives part time in Miami, explains why he likes Nutella with bananas and marshmallows: Its the perfect flavor in every spoonful.
• The Frieze Ice Cream Factory: flavorful and nontraditional.
An image of the Statue of Liberty raising an ice cream cone instead of a torch decorates one wall in The Frieze Ice Cream Factory in Miami Beach. It represents owner Lisa Warrens way of commemorating the companys founding on July 4, 1987.
When The Frieze turned 25 in 2012, Warren celebrated by inaugurating a new flavor: Bosh Frieze Frenzy, named in honor of Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh. Initially, a percentage of the sales went to the forwards foundation, Team Tomorrow.
The Frieze has more than 100 other flavors such as Grapenuts n Raisins, Peanut Butter in My Chocolate, Jamaican Blue Mountain Chip and Jacks Maple Walnut (which amply employs bourbon-soaked walnuts). The shop also makes and sells kosher ice cream and vegan sorbet made from real fruit, such as mangoes from India and South Florida.
Compact and funky, with a plywood window banquette, The Frieze is a hangout for models and Miami Beach locals. It is also a magnet for tourists. Named for an architectural feature used frequently in the art deco-style buildings of Miami Beach, The Frieze is a meeting place sort of like the observation deck of the Empire State Building. People gravitate there some arriving in tuxedos and gowns after a wedding, or as an affirmation of life after cancer treatment, says Warren, who runs the day-to-day operations with son David. Like many of his customers, David, 29, grew up at The Frieze. He was just 2 when the store first opened.
Today parents bring their children there as a rite of passage. Earlier this month, Victoria Baudoin of Islamorada brought her 9-year-old daughter Maya, who pronounced her helping of Get Down Boogie Oogie Cookie just perfect.
David and Ariela Kuppermann came from Boston to introduce their 11-month-old daughter, Amelie, to her first ice cream experience. After an initial moment of the dreaded brain freeze, Amelie couldnt get enough of her fathers Lychee sorbet. Shes licking the spoon, says David, who adds, This is delicious. You can taste the fruit.
Miami Beach local David Sontag echoes his enthusiasm for the Cappuccino Chip.
This is the best ice cream Ive ever had in my life, Sontag says. I used to be a Häagen-Dazs man, and now Im all about The Frieze.
• Whip n Dip Ice Cream Shoppe: time-honored tradition.
The oldest of the ice cream shops featured here, Whip n Dip in South Miami appeals to presidents and Olympians alike. Former President Jimmy Carter enjoyed a scoop of Apple Pie ice cream when he visited on Jan. 18, 1995. Theres a picture of him by the door. U.S. diver Brittany Viola stopped by and left an autographed photograph. She loves Whip n Dips Chocolate Peanut Butter ice cream.
Founder George Giampetro Sr. once was director of admissions at the University of Miami, and some of his best customers go to the school.
Weve got UM kids who cannot get through finals without us, says George Giampetro Jr., whose wife, Anne Marie, comes up with the extraordinary flavors. A favorite is the Bulldog Blitz, a neon-blue ice cream laced with cotton candy and named in honor of Riviera Day School, which her children had attended. You dont have to go to Riviera to enjoy it, George Jr. says. Anyone under 4 feet tall and under 13 loves it.
Then theres Hummingbird Cake, Monday @ the Chocolate Factory, Snow-Capped Andes Chocolate, and Banana Nut Chip. And who could say no to a low-calorie, no-fat, no-cholesterol Lite Cream flavor such as chocolate-covered strawberry, German chocolate cake or salted caramel or toasted coconut?
On Valentines Day, Anne Marie makes ice cream with rose petals or cinnamon-flavored Red Hots. We call it Red Hot & Sexy, George Jr. says. On patriotic holidays, such as Memorial Day, she might make Apple Pie, with candied apple chunks, graham cracker crust and a vanilla bean base.
Staffed by teens and 20-somethings, the shop exudes an enthusiastic energy. Customers often call with requests or to inquire about the menu, which changes weekly. People are very serious about their ice cream, says Phillip Aitken, between serving a crowd that suddenly filled the store one Saturday in May. Regular customers stop by after school or following sporting events.
Carlitos Lavernia, 6, came in dressed in his bright yellow soccer uniform. His team had just won a game and Carlitos was savoring the sweet victory with a cone of chocolate ice cream covered in sprinkles. After school this is his favorite, says his father, Dr. Carlos J. Lavernia, a local surgeon and medical director. After every soccer game I have to do it if he plays well. Good thing they have low-fat.
• Azucar Ice Cream Company: Cuban classics and more.
Its hard to miss Azucar, what with the sculpture of a huge waffle cone overflowing with five scoops of ice cream occupying the façade of the building facing Calle Ocho.
I had this made, says owner Suzy Batlle. Go big or go home. I needed to do something amazing on this building. Batlle used to be a banker who handled the loans for the landlord, Bill Fuller, and he signed off on local artist L Yanet Canes creation.
Most visitors to this bustling shop across from Domino Park come in for the perennial Cuban favorites, some to be reminded of home, others to be transported to a land they might never visit. Theres the signature Abuela Maria, a creamy vanilla base laced with ribbons of guava and cream cheese and crumbled cracker, named for Batlles maternal grandmother who regularly made ice cream at home and indirectly inspired the creation of Azucar. Other Cuban favorites include café con leche (Cuban coffee and Oreo), El Mani Loco (literally, crazy peanut) and Mantecado (Cuban vanilla a nutmeg infused, egg-laced vanilla that instantly brings to mind the happiness of Christ-mas).
If youre more adventuresome, you might try the Elvis (peanut butter and banana), Beam Me Up (bourbon-Heath bar) or Thai Me Up (a wildly flavorful Pad Thai rendering with a Sriracha hot sauce kick). And of course, theres the owners favorite: the Willy Cherrino named for Cuban salsa singer Willy Chirino and infused with bourbon and two kinds of cherries, maraschino and dark.
The magazine Cooking Light devoted an article to Suzy Batlles avocado ice cream recipe. Soon, Cuban food aficionados will be able to make Suzys Mantecado ice cream in their own kitchens. Ana Sofia Peláez, writer and great niece of famed avant-garde painter Amelia Peláez del Casal, plans to include the recipe in her upcoming cookbook, The Cuban Table. The book is coming out in October, Batlle says. She ends it by talking about my grandmother.
Today Azucar provides ice cream and sorbets for the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Sergios restaurants, Bongos Cuban Café in Miami and Larios on the Beach in Miami Beach. The business has been so brisk that now she is looking for a second location in Little Havana, where she plans to make the ice cream for her store. Weve grown a little too fast, which is great news, she adds.
ICE CREAM ORDERED FROM OFF-SITE
La Michoacana: authentic Mexican treat.
Images of characters from the popular TV sitcom El Chapulín Colorado painted on one wall provide a clue that visitors are in for an authentic Mexican treat at La Michoacana Paletería in Little Havana. There are other clues, such as the statuette of the Virgin of Guadeloupe atop a refrigerator or a miniature Mexican flag hanging over a doorway. But the biggest clue is the menu board. There are exotic-flavored ice creams, as well as paletas, which are popsicles made from either fruit-infused water or cream.
One of the most popular ice cream flavors is elote, made from whole kernels of cooked sweet corn. Before you wince at that choice of ingredient, remember that none other than Ben Franklin reportedly stated that tomato was his favorite ice cream flavor. Other exotic flavors include chongos (sweet milk curds), guanábana (soursop) and tequila (made only with the liquor, not the worm). But not to worry: The less adventuresome can always fall back on the vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream that are also available at La Michoacana, which means a girl or woman from Michoacán.
Claudia Miranda and her 16-year-old daughter, Carolina, came expressly to Miami to learn as much as they could about the products because she plans to open a similar shop in her native Brazil. She raved about the fruit-filled flavors. I want to open a place like this in Brazil, Miranda says, between bites of a strawberry paleta. She was also intrigued by the tuna flavor, which turns out not to be fish. Its actually cactus, which has a very sweet, kiwi-type flavor and large seeds that can either be spat out or swallowed.
Oliveyda Prado says her husband keeps the freezer stocked with goods produced at an ice cream factory in Homestead.
• Miami Coppelia Ice Cream: evokes memories of Cuba.
Coppelia is synonymous with ice cream for millions of Cubans. So its no coincidence that Miami Coppelia is a magnet for Miamis Cuban diaspora seeking the sweet taste of home.
All Cubans identify with that name, says Ramón Santana, who along with brother-in-law Juan Nuñez, owns and operates Miami Coppelia. Coppelia is like Häagen-Dazs in Cuba.
Miami Coppelia has no affiliation with its Cuban namesake, Santana says. In fact, Santanas ice cream parlor produces six more flavors than the Cuban one did in its heyday. The 26 flavors offered when the Havana ice cream parlor opened in 1966 apparently were a great source of pride for Fidel Castro, who wanted to produce more flavors than the big American ice cream parlors.
Miami Coppelia offers a choice of 32 flavors, including such Cuban favorites as almond, coconut, coconut-almond, guava, lime, malt, mamey, mango, and montecado. Visitors are encouraged to select multiple flavors to create special treats such as Ensalada de Helado, which literally means ice cream salad and includes five scoops of your favorite ice cream, or Pico Turquino, named for Cubas highest peak, found in the Sierra Maestra mountain range: It features two scoops of ice cream with a slice of cappuccino cake in the center, as well as syrup and marshmallows.
• Walls Old Fashioned Ice Cream: 1950s vibe.
From the red-and-white sun umbrellas shading outdoor tables to the mini-theater painted on an outside wall on which Tom and Jerry cartoons are projected after sunset Tom McKinneys shop evokes a bygone era, a time when things were simpler.
Im building memories for the next generation, McKinney said, explaining that the theater started after he brought in an old TV and began running reruns of I Love Lucy and Leave It to Beaver.
Then his wife, Carol, had the brilliant idea to take it outside. My wife brought in Tom and Jerry cartoons from the Cracker Barrel and said, Try these. So, he projected them against an outside wall, and customers began watching the show with their children while eating their ice cream. The theater Carol had painted not only includes a screen, but also images of the zoo that once existed on Key Biscayne, the former Parrot Jungle site, and the old Holsum Bread Bakery, where the Shops at Sunset now are.
Everyone was just having a hoot, McKinney says. I think people enjoy it with their ice cream.
His South Miami-area store displays 28 different flavors at any one time, including ice cream and sorbets. While he wont disclose the name of the ice cream factory that makes its products all according to Walls recipes McKinney acknowledges he personally makes all the fudge sold at the store.
The old-fashioned family atmosphere keeps James Ochoa of Kendall coming back. Its not your typical Miami place, Ochoa explains. Its more like New York. Its a mom-and-pop shop. They make Coke floats, which is a rare thing these days. He says he was introduced by a friend and earlier this month was playing it forward by introducing another friend to the experience.
• Serendipity 3 : Ice cream parlor with a twist.
Serendipity 3 in Miami Beach is the last word in ice cream decadence. Auric Goldfinger would get his just desserts here. The James Bond nemesis who loved everything that falls under Au on the periodic table of chemical elements definitely would have approved of S3s Golden Opulence Sundae.
Where else could one eat ice cream wrapped in edible 23-carat gold leaf? The recipe actually calls for five scoops of Tahitian vanilla ice cream wrapped in gold leaf and a dozen gold-leaf almonds and several sugar flowers gilded in gold, as well as seven ounces of Venezuelan chocolate, a tablespoon of Grand Passion caviar with passion fruit and blood orange soaked in Armagnac, a tablespoon of candied fruit, four French marzipan cherries, and four white and dark chocolate truffles. It comes with a mother-of-pearl spoon for the caviar and a 24-carat gold spoon to savor the rest. The Guinness Book of World Records pronounced this $1,000 excursion into the exotic the worlds most expensive sundae.
Weve sold a few, says Jane Moynihan, the Lincoln Road restaurants manager. You have to order it 48 hours in advance.
One can only imagine the occasion the perfect setting to pop the question or ones last meal on earth.