The Early Word: Guerrilla Ice Cream
The Velvet Revolution on the left, the Red Corridor on the right.
Ice cream flavors are typically a pretty straightforward affair. Their names tend to be limited to their primary ingredients, with notable exceptions like Rocky Road, Moose Tracks, and Jacques Torres's Wicked coming out of the woodwork every so often to liven things up a bit. And now, thanks to Guerrilla Ice Cream, we have Red Corridor, 8888 Uprising, Libertação, and Velvet Revolution.
Founded earlier this summer by 23-year-olds Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar, the ice cream cart's flavors take their names from social uprisings across the globe. If the idea seems a bit glib -- human rights struggles being repurposed for American summer indulgence -- at least it seems that Frisch and Zohar's hearts are in the right place: According to their website, 100 percent of Guerrilla's profits "support marginalized populations in New York City and around the world." So while eating 8888 Uprising may teach you absolutely nothing about Burma's democracy movement, at least the $4.50 you're spending on it is most likely going to a worthy cause. This summer, proceeds will benefit the Street Vendor Project.
Also, even if you come away with no more enlightenment about the world than you would if you'd gone to the Mister Softee truck, you will come away having eaten good ice cream, as we did after finding the cart at Saturday's Hester Street Fair.
8888 Uprising's mango-lemongrass sorbet was bright and refreshing; Libertação's chocolate-port wine was thick, lush, and bittersweet; and the Red Corridor and Velvet Revolution, both of which are pictured above, boasted thoughtfully balanced flavors and dairy that had been churned to delectable heights.
Red Corridor -- which takes its name from an impoverished region of eastern India that is home to an active population of Maoist militants -- is chai masala ice cream topped with candied fennel and sliced almonds. The candied fennel seeds -- which at many Indian restaurants are the equivalent of an after-dinner mint -- are an inspired ice cream topping; given their bright colors and satisfying crunch, it's a wonder they're not used more often. They work well with the ice cream, which uses assam tea and spices like cinnamon, cloves, black peppercorns, cardamom, allspice, and ginger. All of which means that the ice cream has warmth, spice, depth, and dimension, not unlike an actual cup of chai masala.
The lemon-poppy seed ice cream in the Velvet Revolution, named for Czechoslovakia's nonviolent 1989 revolution, isn't quite as creamy as the chai masala -- it tends slightly toward iciness -- but it's an excellent antidote to the humidity. Garnished with fresh lemon zest and spice cookie chunks, it tastes almost exactly like a lemon-poppy seed muffin, only about 100 times lighter.
A small serving of each of these, toppings included, comes to $4.50 apiece. Whether you'll think about where your money is going, or whether you'll stop to consider democracy in Burma as you try to eat your mango sorbet before it melts, you will probably, if nothing else, feel grateful that another source of quality ice cream has appeared in the middle of the heat wave.
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