Ever since last September, I eagerly await the change of seasons in Houston, not because I'm waiting for that first cold front of the year (which right now feels like it may never come), but because each new season brings a new round of ice cream flavors at Cloud 10 Creamery.
The gourmet ice cream parlor in Rice Village has been churning out delectable and sometimes head-scratching flavors under the guidance of pastry chef Chris Leung. Leung is known for infusing Asian elements into his ice cream, resulting in combos like hazelnut-miso or the spring sundae, which featured red currant mascarpone ice cream and a green matcha cake.
A couple of weeks ago, Cloud 10 Creamery introduced us to the new summer flavors, and while not all were available when I swung by, those that were are pretty impressive.
Tomato ice cream, anyone?
The most interesting flavors to emerge this summer include sour cream with banana jam, pink peppercorn with strawberries, smoked corn, cardamom and cream cheese and tomato rooibos. The sour cream and banana jam is the current palette for the sundae creation, but they were fresh out of sour cream and banana jam when I paid the shop a visit.
"We sold out of that last night," Leung said apologetically, also noting that his favorite summer flavor, smoked corn was out as well.
The smoked corn is intended to remind people of backyard barbecues, and the smoky flavor is achieved through burning wood chips then extinguishing them with the milk that's used to make the ice cream.
A light, summery flavor that would likely be enjoyed by children as well as those with more adventuresome tastes is the pink peppercorn and strawberries. It's a vanilla ice cream base with a swirl of bright red strawberry and a hint of sweet, spicy peppercorn flavor. There's no crunch and release of heat like there is when you bite down on a whole peppercorn, but the mild aroma is definitely there.
"Pink peppercorn...I've always loved," Leung says. "It has that real nice sweet taste in addition to the peppery notes you get from it. Peppercorns and strawberries are just kind of a natural pairing. But instead of incorporating strawberries into the ice cream, we did sort of a candy swirl."
I was most interested to try the tomato rooibos ice cream. I love both tomatoes and rooibos tea, but, um, not together. I was also interested to see how the usually savory tomato translates to a sweet, creamy frozen treat. The answer? Surprisingly well, though I feel I should know better by now than to be surprised when one of Leung's unusual creations is a hit.
"We made a tomato bay leaf sorbet for a wholesale account, so then we thought we'd see what we could come up with in terms of tomato ice cream," Leung says. "And rooibos tea has floral notes and spiciness that goes well with tomatoes."
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It does indeed. It's not spicy in the same way that the peppercorn ice cream has a bite to it. It's more herbal with a mellow sweetness from the rooibos and a bit of acidity from the tomatoes.
I ended up with a pint of the cardamom and cream cheese to take home with me because while it doesn't scream summer like tomatoes or peppercorn, I imagine it will make for a pretty great midnight snack. Just classy enough (thanks to the addition of the cardamom) to keep me from feeling like I'm eating junk food in the middle of the night.
"We love cream cheese, so that ice cream contains two things that we really, really like here," Leung explains. "A lot of our inspiration comes from people who work here saying, 'I really like this,' so we're like, 'Why don't we make it?'"
Leung should be expecting to get my list of likes in the mail as soon as possible. Until then, I'm going on a mental summer vacation to India with my pint of cardamom and cream cheese ice cream.