Christopher Elbow is eager to start what he refers to as “ice cream season” — and the announcement that his newest flavor is going to be available nationwide in supermarkets couldn’t come at a better time.
As he looks around the Glacé on Main Street, Elbow tells me about some unusual sorbet flavors that customers will get to try this summer, including jalapeno-lime and a carrot-ginger-pineapple that tingles on the tongue. “I’ve been on a vegetable kick lately,” he says.
But if you reach into the freezer case at many local Hy-Vee and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets and grab a pint of Häagen-Dazs Artisan Collection Spiced Pecan Turtle, a flavor rolling out this month, you’ll be trying one of Elbow’s signature chocolate flavors — churned into a decadent ice cream.
Elbow — owner of Christopher Elbow Artisan Chocolates, with stores in Kansas City and San Francisco, and owner of multiple Kansas City Glacé Artisan Ice Cream locations — was tapped over a year ago to work on one of six ice cream flavors in collaboration with the premium ice cream giant.
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“I think it’s a pretty great thing for KC,” says Elbow, who grew up in Liberty. “I kind of feel like I won a contest.”
Samples of 100 products were scouted, tasted and winnowed down to 20, and finally to a half dozen distinct flavors playing off of some of the country’s best dessert artisans.
The curated collection (suggested retail $5.29 for 14 ounces) includes:
▪ Tres Leches Brigadeiro (My Sweet Brigadeiro in New York City)
▪ Banana Rum Jam (Brooklyn’s The Jam Stand)
▪ Chocolate Caramelized Oat (San Francisco’s Clairesquares)
▪ Molasses Cookie (The Good Batch in New York City)
▪ Applewood Smoked Caramel (Praline Patisserie in San Diego)
What takes Elbow a day to whip up in small batches takes much longer on a mass retail scale, but as he and Häagen-Dazs began ramping up his batches, Elbow’s No. 1 concern was “making sure the end result honored the flavor and ingredients.”
He was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Häagen-Dazs research and development process is the same, regardless of scale. “All along the way, they were great to work for,” Elbow says
Elbow got to work on all phases of the recipe, including the caramel ribbon “inclusion” — a flavor that needed to swirl just so, so as not to overpower the base. He also worked with the spiced pecan/chocolate supplier. (Elbow’s own company could not have kept up with Häagen-Dazs needs for the “turtle” pieces.)
Just as his goat cheese, sweet corn and lavender flavors at Glacé are not for every palate, Elbow knows the spiciness of his Häagen-Dazs flavor — which is predominantly ancho and chipotle peppers and cinnamon in chocolate ice cream —“isn’t going to be for everybody.”
As a small-batch ice cream maker, Elbow already had a handle on how to translate his confection into another culinary medium. “You don’t just chop up the ingredient and put it in ice cream,” he says. “To get the flavor just right you have to deconstruct and re-create.”
Meanwhile, Elbow is happy to continue pushing the boundaries, creating unusual flavors for his loyal Kansas City base.
“A lot of people would turn their nose up at sweet corn ice cream,” Elbow says, “but if you think about it, you put butter on corn-on-the-cob. We eat cream corn. When I say that and they taste it suddenly I’ve got them saying, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’”
Jill Wendholt Silva is Chow Town’s James Beard award-winning editor, lead restaurant critic and blog curator. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org, @kcstarfood, @chowtownkc and on Instagram @jillwsilva.