Top Five Cold Desserts in Houston

I say "cold dessert," you probably say "ice cream!" If, however, you've eaten your fill of sundaes, cones and milkshakes this summer, there are other (near) subzero confections available in H-town. My five favorites:

5. Lemon Ice Box Cake (Zelko Bistro). Though not as cold as its name would suggest, the Lemon Ice Box Cake at Zelko Bistro is still very cool indeed. Graham cracker crust, lemon triple cream mousse and lemon zest are layered cylindrically, making for a luscious citrus dessert that is the perfect temperature complement to a preceding dinner of warm Cap'n's Fried Chicken.

4. Strawberry Bomb (Ruggles Cafe Bakery). "But how could a bomb, once detonated, possibly be cold?" I can hear you physicists snorting. If you can put aside your thermodynamics nitpicking, you will, I promise, enjoy one of Ruggles's newest desserts, which combines angel food cake, chilled mascarpone and juicy cold strawberries. A most soothing "explosion" on a hot summer day.

3. Granita Al Caffè (Giacomo's Cibo e Vino). Most dolci have a way of expediting your already swiftly approaching carbohydrate coma. The granita al caffè, shaved ice drenched with espresso and topped with a rich head of whipped cream, instead sharpens your senses, perks you up and refreshes your palate to the point that you're ready to eat just one more bowl of ravioli.

2. Blanc Manger (Philippe Restaurant). Leave it to Philippe Schmit to turn a few simple ingredients into something so exquisite. I adore this chilled mini-dome of meringue and sweet cream infused with almonds and flanked by fresh raspberries. Don't set your sights on the blanc manger if you're lunching at Philippe; it's a dinner-only dessert.

1. The Chocolatta (The Chocolate Bar). You don't have to fly all the way to Serendipity New York for an eyes-rolling-back-in-your-head hot chocolate. By combining its European sipping hot chocolate (and I do mean hot chocolate, not hot cocoa) with crushed ice and adding a crown of real whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, The Chocolate Bar transforms its decadent winter treat into a shockingly rich, delightfully cool dessert beverage.

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Joanna O'Leary