Only five years ago, now-commonplace ice cream flavors like sweet corn or craft beer would have caught anyone off guard. But with the introduction of bacon to the dessert course a few years ago, the line separating sweet and savory was forever demolished. These 10 ice creameries craft artisanal versions of classics like chocolate and vanilla, but they also offer wacky one-of-a-kind flavors that will leave chefs and home cooks alike with a dose of inspiration.
Lucky for us, two of these 10 unusual ice creams were brainstormed right here in Arizona, specifically in Scottsdale and Gilbert. A Maine specialty is re-created locally in Phoenix, but only in July; the rest of the time, it has to be ordered straight from the source.
Humphry Slocombe Prosciutto
Surely, you've heard of bacon ice cream by now. Bacon desserts make a weird amount of sense since most Americans grew up eating thick, greasy slabs of it alongside buttery pancakes smothered in maple syrup, but this drier cured pork product is another story. The meaty ice cream was invented when a bag of prosciutto bones was dropped off at this San Francisco scoop shop by Cris Cosentino of Boccalone, and the ensuing experiment was meant to be a singular batch. However, it was such a hit that the prosciutto creation -- made by steeping the roasted pig bones in milk then seasoning with fennel and black pepper -- has been kept in regular rotation for four years and counting.
Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream Goat Cheese with Red Cherries
Goat cheese ice cream has been popping up in a few places lately, but the most no-holds-barred version comes from James Beard Award-winning cookbook author Jeni Britton. Others, like that of NYC's Luca & Bosco, pale in comparison. The ice cream by Jeni's is for serious fans of goat cheese only, as it's equally as rich as shoving a big ball of the strongest chevre in your mouth. The incredible flavor of the über-creamy base pairs well with the tart, whole red cherries. It's not too sweet, either, instead pushing the palate toward the savory end. But maybe the best part is not having to go to Columbus, Ohio, to get a taste; Jeni's Splendid is stocked by specialty stores nationwide.
OddFellows Ice Cream Co. Foie Gras, Peanut Butter & Cocoa
OddFellows has been unleashing new flavors nonstop since opening in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in June and garnering national acclaim right out of the gate. Several of the shop's off-the-wall options -- like caramel chorizo, celery sorbet, and Paracosm (rose and raspberry with pink peppercorn scent) -- would be home on this list, but foie gras, peanut butter, and cocoa could just be the craziest combo so far. Humphry Slocombe, first to add liver to ice cream, had to take its version off the menu last July when the controversial French fare was banned in California. But its was straight-up foie anyway -- a bit much for the average eater -- whereas OddFellows balances the strong flavor with dessert faves like peanut butter, cocoa, and caramel. And did we mention OddFellows makes the most flavorful waffle cone we've ever tasted?
Sweet Republic Honey Blue Cheese
Blue cheese is another distinctively strong cheese making its way into desserts. Remember Urban Cookies' entry in the Third Annual Pie Social, a scrumptious blackberry pie with blue cheese crumble? (We sure do.) But another local legend thought of it first: Scottsdale's Sweet Republic. The sheep's milk Roquefort-based flavor, sweetened with local McClendon's Select honey, has become such a huge hit since first introduced in 2010 that it's now a mainstay on the menu. Blue cheese has also appeared in a former Sweet Republic flavor, Cheese Course Duo (Roquefort with Medjool dates).
Sparky's Homemade Ice Cream Cicada
Delicacies are rare, and cicadas -- known to emerge every few years -- also are rare, but that doesn't mean cicadas are a delicacy -- or does it? Before you boast that you love dessert so much that you'll eat any wild ice cream flavor, take a look at Sparky's Cicada Ice Cream made in Columbia, Missouri, with whole insects, wings, and all. The creepy crawlies are thoroughly boiled before being turned into an ice cream mix-in, and they're also coated in brown sugar and milk chocolate to lower the revolting factor by one iota. The base is a simple brown sugar and butter.
Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium Lobster
It makes sense that this ice creamed crustacean was made famous in Maine, but it has been made locally thanks to a partnership made by Karen's Kreamery. Every July, it's carried at Pink Spot in downtown Phoenix. Alternatively, you can order some straight from Ben & Bill's Chocolate Emporium in Bar Harbor, Maine. Their version of this seafood ice cream is a butter base with pieces of buttered lobster folded right in.
Sweet Action Ice Cream Sour Cream and Chive and Roasted Green Chile
These two separate flavors are begging to be mixed together for one decadently savory scoop. In fact, honey mustard and garam masala ice creams have also graced the menu, so someone in this kitchen is obviously a fan of flavoring frozen desserts after sauces and condiments. Sounds like the perfect way to play with entrées, if you ask us. The roasted green chile ice cream, in particular, would enhance some of our favorite Mexican meals: tamales, sopes, and anything smothered in mole. The flavors change on a daily basis, so if you see something you like, snap it up ASAP!
Salt & Straw Arbequina Olive Oil
Olive oil is usually one of many ingredients in a dish, dip, or dressing, so if it's in ice cream, you'd expect some mix-ins like pepitas, fresh herbs, or both. Or, as some olive oil fanatics suggest (like local Queen Creek Olive Mill), a drizzle of EVOO can make an original sundae topping. But Portland ice creamery Salt & Straw is ballsy enough to make plain olive oil ice cream. "With sweet grass notes and floral undertones," it's great to enjoy alone -- Oprah even named it one of her favorite things -- but of course this flavor is begging for a pairing like Honey Balsamic Strawberry with Cracked Pepper, or one of the seasonal flavors like Melon & Prosciutto or Bone Marrow & Smoked Cherry.
Udder Delights Dill Pickle
No woman can get through pregnancy without hearing the pickle and ice cream joke at least once. But as commonly as we refer to these foods together, who's ever tried the odd combo for real? Udder Delights, the ice cream operation run by Superstition Farms, has offered dill pickle-flavored ice cream in the past. And since they use milk fresh from their own farm, we're thinking it can't be all that bad. Pickle ice cream has also been made by Dynamite Dill, although with a twist. To round out its Midnight Cravings cinnamon ice cream, dark chocolate chunks are swirled in along with pieces of the company's holiday cinnamon and clove-infused pickles.
Mount Desert Island Ice Cream Callebaut Wasabi
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Wasabi, the strong, spicy plant related to horseradish and mustard, is a must for sushi, but it doesn't sound like something we want anywhere near dessert. Yet something special happens when it meets up with dark chocolate and just a touch of sweetness. Mount Desert Island in Bar Harbor, Maine (yes, also home of lobster ice cream!) knows the secret and is using it to its full potential in a timeless chocolate ice cream that's followed by a mild kick of wasabi to finish off the flavor profile.
Cowboy Ciao may be a fine-dining restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale specializing in steak, but the in-house pastry chef Country Velador is known for crafting some pretty unique ice cream flavors, like miso brown butter and American oak. Best of all is an ice cream made with rendered duck fat. The effect is a mega-rich ice cream similar to traditional buttered rum, but the flavor is smooth and mellow like a simple French vanilla. It's the ideal à la mode option for the spiced apple cobbler it's paired with. Cobbler on Quack, as it's called, is a must-have dessert.