Food for Thought
The ice cream machine that chefs covet and other frozen Houston secrets
Summertime brings back childhood memories of backyard barbecues that often ended with someone’s butt frozen.
We had this old hand-crank ice cream maker. Mom would pack the inner canister with milk, eggs and sugar then Dad would pack ice and rock salt around it. The lid went on, Mom put a folded dishtowel on top and one of the kids (often moi) had to sit down on it as Dad cranked the handle over and over and over again. By the time the delicious treat was ready to eat, my rear end was colder than Alaska.
In fact, when a waiter asked if Grossman wanted him to carry it back to the kitchen, chef wrapped his arms around it and quickly said, “I’ve got it.” Apparently there are only three people in the whole restaurant who are allowed to touch it.
So I recently had to ask Dad why we had to sit on it.
“Because the lid would come off if someone wasn’t holding it down and I had to use two hands to turn the darn crank,” he said.
But (no pun intended) it was worth it.
Nowadays there are much better ways to make frozen delights.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Pacojet.
For National Ice Cream Month (July has such fun food holidays) we swung by Branch Water Tavern where chef David Grossman showed off his baby. After filling us with divine sorbets and delicious creamy gelati, he carried the compact machine out to the table and explained how it worked, while gently stroking it.
“The beauty of the Pacojet is you freeze it first and then process it into the finished product so the quality lasts.”
Grossman bought his Pacojet about a year ago after hearing another chef rave about it. Once the concoction is mixed up, you just plug it in and out comes the most amazing creamy dessert, a little over a quart in just four minutes.
This is such a wonderful, simple machine that chefs become quite passionate about it. On the company’s USA website there are testimonials like, “Nothing comes between me and me Pacojet” and “I take it everywhere with me.”
In fact, when a waiter asked if Grossman wanted him to carry it back to the kitchen, chef wrapped his arms around it and quickly said, “I’ve got it.”
Apparently there are only three people in the whole restaurant who are allowed to touch it.
Which I can understand after tasting the product it churns out. Grossman changes flavors depending on seasonal offerings (hurry to catch the wonderful raspberry sorbet) and “whatever mood I’m in.” But the mainstays are the pistachio and bourbon creams because the pistachio goes on the sticky toffee pudding and the bourbon …
“We’re Branch Water Tavern,” Grossman said. “So we've got to have bourbon ice cream.”
But of course.
And there are other chefs out there having some frozen fun this month.
“For ice cream month we’re kinda going old school,” Benjy’s in Rice Village executive chef Joseph Stayshich said. “We have Amy’s Cream make up special flavors for us like the bourbon walnut and brown butter. We have such great Texas peaches this summer so I started to think what I could do and decided on Peach Melba.”
Not that he knew what Peach Melba was. But it sounded good and he researched it (read Google) and found out that the classic dessert was created by the great French chef and food writer Auguste Escoffier for soprano Nellie Melba. He must have really had a thing for her because he also created Melba toast in her honor. But I digress.
“It’s kind of like a sundae with our Brown Butter Ice Cream, local peaches and raspberries, raspberry sauce and cardamom cookies topped off with whipped cream,” Stayshich said.
Not exactly diet food.
Stayshich likes the dish but admits to a more simple guilty pleasure he makes at home: He takes a good vanilla (he prefers Blue Bell), drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. He says the flavor combo works on so many levels and after trying it I heartily agree.
Of course, if you want to do an ice cream crawl, I would suggest adding the South American-inspired ice creams of guanabana flavor at Samba Grille and TQLA is serving an orange Jarritos and vanilla bean ice cream float, served with Mexican wedding cookies.
It’s an incredibly light concoction that tastes like the orange creamsicles you used to get as a kid from the ice cream truck that played the music that so annoys you now as an adult.
“I wanted to do something with the Mexican sodas and this just seemed like the right idea,” chef Tommy Birdwell said. “At first we prepared it in the kitchen but it’s better when we add the soda tableside. One table will order it and then five or six will see it and order it.”
So go and scream for some ice cream, there are plenty of wonderful choices at Houston restaurants out there right now. And if you insist on making your own, please spare someone’s derriere.
After all, the incredible Pacojet can be yours for under five grand.