Ici: More than just ice cream

The song that comes to mind when I walk into Ici in Berkeley is “My Favorite Things” from the Sound of Music.  When I finally walk inside the store after waiting (im)patiently in line thinking about the ice cream flavors I want to try, all negative thoughts have disappeared.  I’ve got a smile on my face and I’m ready to taste a few flavors before I make my final decision.  The store itself is so cute with beautifully packaged cookies and candies wrapped with clear cellophane and pink ribbons.  Yes, I feel like a little girl in a candy shop!

Mary Canales is the brain behind Ici.  It’s not surprising that she was a former Chez Panisse pastry chef.  Doesn’t everyone trained at that place find success?

Ici ice cream and everything else they sell is made by hand using local, fresh, and organic ingredients.   There are always 11 flavors of ice cream to choose from and many of them are an interesting mix of flavors.  Don’t be surprised when cardamom, rose, cilantro, earl grey, and bacon are part of the mix.  I love their earl grey flavor, but I tend to order something with candied fruit or nuts blended with another sweet flavor.

Ici has the best cones.  I still have a fond memory of my first time going to Ici which was almost four years ago.  I had eaten almost all of my ice cream and was starting to feel kind of sad.  I got to the tip of my cone, which surprisingly had been filled with rich yummy chocolate.  I was happy again.

Today I splurged and had two scoops.  I ordered a scoop of caramel caraway and a scoop of malted vanilla with chile pepita toffee.  The latter was the better flavor and very good.  I love the texture that the chile pepita toffee added.

Ici also sells ice cream cakes (aka bombes) and Baked Alaska which are great for parties.  These tend to be the highlight of parties that I’ve attended.  I didn’t even know what a Baked Alaska was before Ici.  A Baked Alaska is ice cream lined by cake and topped with meringue.  It’s white and shaped like an igloo.  You stick the Baked Alaska into a very hot oven for a few minutes in order to brown the meringue.  It’s the coolest thing and very tasty!

I heart Ici and am happy to be writing about it.  Did I mention their double chocolate chip cookies are to die for?

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Farro Salad

This is my second attempt to put farro on the map.  I wrote about farro in my very first food blog entry five months ago.  Farro can be found at Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl.  I inspired one of my friends to cook with farro and she found this recipe for Farro Salad with Peas, Favas, Arugula and Tomatoes on Epicurious.com.  I’ve been enjoying this recipe all summer long and this recipe continues to be passed on to friends and family.  This is a perfect dish for the season, as you can buy practically all the ingredients minus the farro from the farmers market.  Fresh English peas, fava beans, and tomatoes are key to the success of this salad. 

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups farro
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup shelled fresh fava beans
  • 1 cup shelled fresh peas
  • 2 cups fresh arugula
  • 3 tomatoes

You really have only five simple steps to this recipe: 

1)  Farro. Combine 6 cups water and farro in medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium. Cover partially; simmer until farro is tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

2)  Dressing.  Whisk oil and vinegar in a bowl. Season with salt.

3)  Peas and Beans.  After shelling the English peas and fava beans, cook the fava beans in pot of boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Add peas and cook for an additional minute. Drain. Cool in bowl of ice water. Drain.  The fava beans have a second layer of skin that needs to be carefully removed.

4)  Arugula and tomatoes.  Use a salad spinner to clean the arugula and set aside.  After rinsing tomatoes, chop them up in small pieces.  I like using grape tomatoes, so I just cut those in half.

5)  Mix.  Add all the ingredients in a bowl and toss lightly. Add additional seasoning to taste.

Roam Artisan Burgers

After reading Michael Pollan’s Ominivore’s Dilemma in October 2007, I made a commitment to make a small change in what I ate.  That change was beef.  I would only eat grass fed beef from that point on.  It’s getting close to three years now.  I eat much less beef  than I did before because its harder to find on menus and I have to buy and cook it myself.  I was so excited when I heard that a new burger joint was opening that served grass fed beef.  Roam Artisan Burgers located on Union Street in the trendy Cow Hollow district of San Francisco debuted last month.  They call it Roam because they get their sustainable meat from farms that allow the cows, buffalo, and turkeys to roam free. 

Roam is a very casual environment where you order at the counter, pay for your food, get a number, and find a seat.  You select a protein – beef, bison, turkey, or vegetarian and then you select one of seven styles they’ve come up with or create your own style. 

I was going for beef this time and I wanted to pick the most interesting style which I thought was the sunny side.  My grass fed beef burger would be topped with an organic free-range egg, aged white cheddar, carmelized onions, greens, tomato, and sweet chili sauce.  I thought it was really cool that they ask you if you want it pink or not.  Heck yeah!  I was with my sister and another friend so I ordered the Fry-Fecta  with truffle parmesan seasoning for us to share.  The Fry-Fecta is three sides – russet fries, sweet potato fries, and zucchini-onion hackstack.  Of course, I already knew they make their shakes from Straus ice cream so the hard decision was which flavor I would choose.  Again, I went for the most interesting which I thought was Blue Bottle Coffee.  When she asked if I wanted a “bruleed” marshmallow on top, I thought heck yeah! 

My sister ordered the salted caramel shake and my friend ordered the seasonal shake which was strawberry.  I tasted them both, but think my Blue Bottle Coffee Milk shake won the taste test.  It won before I got to the shake, my shake won when I bit into the marshmallow that was torched on a thin crisp wafer.  It was awesome!

The Fry-Fecta was a nice option for the first time so we could try the various sides.  The sweet potato fries were amazing and so were the zucchini onion hackstack, which I would describe as deep fried onion and zucchini shoestrings.  There was nothing very interesting about the russet fries, but maybe it was because the other two options were so great.

The burger itself was a quarter pound, which is actually the perfect size for me.  The egg on top was cooked perfectly.  I was afraid I would make a mess, but there was just enough runny egg yolk that it did not spill out.  It was a good lean burger topped with plenty of goodness.  My sister ordered the Chalet which has cremini mushrooms and swiss cheese.  My friend ordered The Classic which comes with house-made pickles. 

What I appreciate the most about Roam Artisan Burger is their drive for quality in every ingredient and kudos goes to the owner Josh for making that his mission.

To add to my storytelling, the owner Josh came around to me and commented about the photo I took of the three milkshakes.  I told him about my blog which he further inquired about.  I also let Josh know that I may have spoken to him a few weeks ago on the phone before they opened.  I happened to be browsing their website a few days before they were publicized to open and it said “Now Open.” It was a Saturday and probably easier to get into the City than a weekday, so I decided I was going to go out there.  I thought I should call them first to double check.  It was Josh that answered and he indicated that they weren’t opening until Monday.  I told him about the website and he apologized and said he would contact the webmaster.  He also noticed my 510 area code and commented about coming from so far away.  Josh did remember speaking to me and went on to explain what had happened.  After we spoke on the phone, he called his webmaster who told him he was testing the page and had the “Now Open” posted for five minutes. 

Well, no doubt Roam will be my first thought when I crave a burger and I hope they will be so successful that they will roam over to the East Bay someday soon.

Mango Sticky Rice: Party Style

My favorite desserts typically have French or Italian influences.  Pot de crème, crème brulee, chocolate souffle, and a berry crisp topped with ice cream are a few of my favorites.  Although I love all types of Asian food, I don’t like very many Asian desserts.  Mango Sticky Rice is a Thai dessert and an exception.  It is a simple dessert and my sister in law, Autaiwan (aka Kay) taught me how to make it for our party.  Kay likes to cook without measurements so I am doing my best to provide the amounts, but tasting is always important. 

Ingredients:
3 cups of sweet rice
4-6 mangos
1 can of coconut milk
2 1/2 cups of sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt

 Important Equipment:
*Thai steaming basket
*Thai steaming pot
Sharp knife

 *You can order the steaming basket and pot on the Internet

Soak sweet rice in a bowl of cold water for at least 4 hours.  If you don’t have that much time on your hands, you can actually soak the rice in warm water for about an hour.  When you are ready to cook the rice, boil a few inches of water in the steamer pot.  Drain the rice and pour the rice in a steaming basket.   Place the steaming basket on top of the pot, cover the top with a lid, and steam for about 15 minutes on medium low heat. 

In another small pot, heat up the coconut milk with sugar and salt.  Continue to stir under medium low heat until the sugar melts and the liquid thickens.  This is where tasting is essential and you can add more or less of the ingredients. 

When the rice is ready, remove it from the basket and place into another pot. Slowly pour in the coconut milk mixture.  We poured half of the liquid first and then added enough additional milk to barely coat through.   We ended up using approximately 3/4 of the milk mixture.  Stir with a large spoon and ensure that you are mixing it well enough to coat every piece of rice.  You want to try to separate the rice as best as you can.  Cover the pot for about 20 minutes. 

After the 20 minutes have elapsed, transfer your rice onto a platter. 

Cut the skin of the ripe mango (orange ones) with a sharp knife.  This takes precision and you need to hold the mango lightly or it will mash.  Cut through the mango right above the core, and slice them into even pieces.  Place the sliced pieces of mango on top of the sticky rice.  Turn the mango over and cut through the mango on the other side on top of the core, and slice that half into even pieces.  Place the sliced pieces of mango on top of the sticky rice.  We used about 6 mangos.