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Foie Gras Ice Cream, Anyone?

August 18, 2017
Charles Passy
April 27, 2017

Would you like sprinkles on that scoop of foie gras?

Though summer may be weeks away, New York City already is gearing up for a busy season of devouring that quintessential warm-weather treat—ice cream.

And these days it is coming in every conceivable flavor imaginable, from plain ol’ vanilla to toasted hay to, yes, foie gras.

Two major events that celebrate the frozen favorite in all its varieties are planned for the coming months.

At Manhattan’s Bryant Park from June 1-3, the Scooper Bowl will give patrons the opportunity to taste unlimited samples from more than a dozen brands. Flavor offerings at the festival will range from Toffee Wife, a peanut butter-and-toffee concoction, to a dairy-free red-bean ice cream.

The $20-a-ticket event, which benefits the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, is modeled after a festival that has been held in Boston for the past 34 years and draws 50,000 attendees annually.

In October, the New York City Wine & Food Festival is planning its own ice-cream extravaganza as part of the event’s slate of culinary offerings. Celebrity chef Mario Batali will helm the ice-cream affair, which is expected to feature a number of prominent producers offering all kinds of flavors.

The Beatrice Inn in Manhattan offers foie gras ice cream. Here, it’s served with fried-apple pie, with apple and sage filling, drizzled with foie-gras caramel, and cracked black pepper. Photo: Nick Solares

Beyond the events, established ice-cream shops and purveyors in the city are looking to expand their brands—and product lineups. OddFellows Ice Cream Co., a cutting-edge brand that has shops in Manhattan and Brooklyn, is rolling out a new Garden Party collection of flavors, including strawberry with kale and basil swirl, and pineapple-ginger lemonade sorbet.

And after about a year’s hiatus, MilkMade, a New York company that offers a subscription service that delivers pints of ice cream to residences and offices, is set to relaunch in June. Among the company’s most notable flavors: Chinatown Chocolate (dark chocolate ice cream with Chinese spices), and Two Snaps and a Hay (toasted hay ice cream with ginger snaps).

Restaurants also are getting into the ice-cream game with their own flavor innovations. Brushstroke, a high-end Japanese restaurant in Manhattan’s Tribeca, occasionally offers a soy-sauce ice cream. And the Beatrice Inn, a chophouse in Greenwich Village, features a decadent pairing of fried apple pie with foie gras ice cream—topped with cracked black pepper, no less.

Beatrice Inn chef Angie Mar says diners talk up the foie gras ice cream constantly. “It’s got that unctuous, meaty flavor,” she noted.

Ice cream sales have grown modestly in the past half-decade, according to Mintel, a market researcher. In 2016, the category increased by 3.6% to $12.8 billion, for example.

But the numbers don’t tell the full story, say industry insiders and experts. They say brands that push the flavor envelope and emphasize an artisanal approach are seeing greater success than ever before.

It all ties in with the broader foodie movement and the growing American appetite for the new and unusual.

“I feel like it’s never been a better time for ice cream,” said Natasha Case, co-founder of Coolhaus, a national brand that is participating at the Scooper Bowl in New York.

Her latest flavor innovation? A Milkshake and Fries ice cream that indeed incorporates french fries.

Still, it is worth noting that in most surveys of ice-cream preferences, traditional flavors, such as chocolate and cookies and cream, come out on top. That is no surprise to Mark Thompson, co-owner of the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory, a shop that has two locations in the borough and will be participating in the Scooper Bowl.

At his establishments, “vanilla outsells everything,” he said.