David Friesen removes a thin film of plastic wrap from an oblong metal freezer pan and offers a sneak peek at his latest ice cream taste sensation-in-the-making: Joe’s KC Burnt Ends & Sauce.
“Barbecue is just so perfect,” the owner of Betty Rae’s Ice Cream says of his homage to Kansas City’s No. 1 claim to food fame. “There’s no reason the flavor wouldn’t work.”
The barbecue ice cream — which won’t be introduced to the public until July 16 in honor of National Ice Cream Day — starts with a neutral cream base that is striped with a caramel made of Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que’s original sauce. Candied burnt ends are swirled in.
The result: a scoop that deftly balances the sweet and smoky notes and then adds a chewy, salty, almost bacon-like bite.
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“When people hear about it, they’re either intrigued or disgusted,” says Friesen, whose shop is at 7140 Wornall Road in the Waldo neighborhood.
Thankfully, Joe’s KC founder Jeff Stehney who is a soon-to-be Barbecue Hall of Famer was intrigued. He gave his thumbs up, and Cary Taylor, Joe’s KC chef and a facilitator of collaboration between other Kansas City brands, began delivering mail-order packages of flash-frozen burnt ends.
“I think a lot of people thought it wouldn’t taste good,” Taylor says of a recent taste-test with Joe’s employees. “They thought it was a novelty. But once they eat it, they forget what’s in it and recognize that it is good.”
In recent years, Kansas City ice cream shops and pastry chefs have been pushing the envelope far beyond the Baskin-Robbins 31 flavors created in 1945. They add vegetables, herbs and spices once considered too weird to be called dessert.
So why, oh why, haven’t we had a barbecue ice cream until now?
“Anybody can make any crazy thing,” says Friesen, “but you want it to be delicious.”
Case in point: In 2011, Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream — a Columbia, Mo., ice cream parlor where Friesen once worked and met his wife, Mary — decided to make cicada ice cream. Yes, the insect is edible. Sounds, um, odd? Certainly not delicious? Well, it was an internet sensation, and Time reported it tasted like peanuts.
Betty Rae’s ever-changing list includes 24 flavors. The Lavender Honey the couple created while at Sparky’s is always on the menu, but other unexpected oddballs come and go.
“I think way too much about ice cream,” he says with a laugh. “I sort of throw it all at the wall and see what sticks.”
The popular Goat Cheese Apricot & Candied Walnut started as a limited-time flavor, but has stayed on the menu due to popular demand.
“It’s like a cheese plate in an ice cream scoop,” Friesen says.
But Friesen thinks goat cheese ice cream has become fairly commonplace, so spring’s unique flavors included an earthy Morel mushroom ice cream and a zingy and a refreshing Mango & Tomatillo frozen yogurt, which is available on the current menu.
Past flavors have included Peach Papaya, Orange & Ginger With Almonds and Pear, Sage & Lemongrass With Candied Ginger. He’s currently working on a curry-flavored ice cream.
Customers can use sticky notes and crayons to post their flavor suggestions on a wall at Betty Rae’s.
Someone scrawled the words “meat juices” on a fluorescent pink sticky note. But barbecue ice cream wasn’t Friesen’s first foray into the meat-meets-ice cream genre.
Chicken & Waffles was a big hit last year: It featured a maple syrup base, waffle pieces and breaded and baked bits of fried chicken.
“Candied burnt ends and fried chicken would work relatively the same,” says Taylor.
And the results are so good Taylor doesn’t think it will be a stretch to get people to try it. “Their very good staff is going to get the guest to step outside the boundary, and once they do, I think they’ll love it,” he says.
But don’t wait, because Friesen doesn’t guarantee how long Joe’s KC Burnt Ends & Sauce ice cream will be on the menu.
Where can I try barbecue ice cream?
Joe’s KC Candied Burnt End ice cream will debut at Betty Rae’s, 7140 Wornall Road. Try it between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Sunday, July 16. Several food trucks, including Betty Rae’s new ice cream truck, will be on hand for the celebration of National Ice Cream Day.