Ices Plain and Fancy
Very rarely does a visit to a restaurant (or in this case, an ice cream parlor) allow me to "review" two separate subjects. The main purpose of this post is to discuss St. Louis' only nitro ice cream parlor, Ices Plain & Fancy. The secondary purpose of this post—and of my visit to Ices—is to test out an apparent miracle drug, Lactaid. While I do dabble in dairy, as seen by my plentiful pizza posts, consuming large amounts of ice cream has been known to make for difficult drives home. What better way to test Lactaid then to have a midday ice cream feast?
With its brightly painted facade, Ices is easy to spot in its Shaw neighborhood location. I park just outside (not too many people are eating ice cream at 2pm on a Wednesday) and head in, greeted by the smell of waffle cones being made. As a chunky youngster who couldn't handle his ice cream, waffle cones were my jam. Those were the days when coconut milk ice cream hadn't been invented, soy milk was still only in Asia, and people who were lactose intolerant were shunned by society. I miss the 90's.
I'm meeting Troika Brodsky, one of Ices' owners and formerly my camp counselor, for this feast. While he talks business with his partners, Max and Darla Crask, I peruse the much larger than expected menu. There are normal ices, like chocolate, vanilla, and rocky road, dairy-free ices made of both soy and coconut milk, Sump Coffee collaborations, and soft serve. There are two fancy ice specials: Campfire Smores and World's Fair Jelly Donut. I want all of these.
Oh, there are also very boozy ice cream cocktails. I cannot make a decision, so I defer all ice cream orders to Max and Troika.
The first ice cream we get is Mrs. Marshall's Old Fashioned. I assumed they had some kind of Old Fashioned concentrate that they would mix into the ice cream base, but that is not the case. Our ice cream artist literally is making an Old Fashioned and pouring it into the mixing bowl. A full cocktail's worth of Old Granddad bourbon, Strongbow Cider, vanilla, bitters, Luxardo cherry, and orange peel all go in and the mixing begins. Because they pour in liquid nitrogen, the alcohol actually freezes, meaning the ice cream you get has retained all the proof of the booze that went in.
Yes. You can get buzzed (or hammered, if you're really dedicated) from these ice creams. The result is delicious—it has all the flavors of your typical Old Fashioned, but it's edible. This is like something out of the Jetsons, a world where all foods can be consumed in ice cream form.
Lactaid update: I take the Lactaid with my first bite of ice cream, as instructed.
Max tells us he's going to whip up something special, but needs a few minutes, so Darla, the wonderful woman she is, brings me a dairy-free version of the boozy Ancho & Lefty: Ancho Reyes, Aztec chocolate bitters, ancho powder, chocolate, cocoa nibs. This is absurd. It is simply too good. I've always been a fan of Aztec chocolate—that mix of chocolate and the heat of ancho or cayenne—but this it out of this world. I stealthily push the Old Fashioned towards Troika and position my chocolate out of his reach. This is more ice cream than I've consumed in the last decade.
Lactaid update: I've had a hefty amount of ice cream in the last 15 minutes and still feel fine.
Max beckons me behind the counter and immediately creates a ball of fire using an aerosol can and a blowtorch. I ask him what he's doing (I'm not sure if this is for ice cream making, for fun, or both) and he explains that he's torching absinthe—it's Sazerac time! Templeton rye and Sirene Absinthe go into the bowl, then the final product is given another spritz of absinthe, a few drops of Peychaud's Bitters, and an orange peel. This thing would sell like beignets down in New Orleans! Troika and I work diligently to eat our three large ice cream bowls.
Lactaid update: Three ice creams in and I feel fine. I'm scared to drive home, though.
We finish things off by literally drinking the now melting ice cream cocktails. After three ice cream cocktails in a matter of about 35 minutes, I'm wildly impressed by Ices and I completely understand the massive lines that form in summer. There's something about the way the ice cream freezes with the nitrogen that gives it a much creamier, smooth taste that I love. Max said something about ice crystals, but I was 3 cocktails deep and all I started thinking about was what color lightsaber crystal I would pick if I were a Jedi. I recommend you go to Guerrilla Street Food for a late lunch, then head over to Ices. Win/win.
Lactaid Update: I hesitantly left Ices feeling perfectly fine, but well aware I had a 25 minute drive ahead of me. Then, of course, there was a car accident, changing my drive to one that took almost 45 minutes. I'm happy to say the Lactaid worked like magic. I'm back in the dairy game, baby!