As an ice cream fanatic, I never need any prodding to dig into a bowl of my favorite frozen treat. But on a day when the sweltering sun was layered with a thick blanket of humidity, I was especially in need of a scoop of something special.
As soon as I entered Crema Café on Lyndale, I knew I had found it. The flavors tucked behind a case near the counter are far from ordinary. In addition to flavors such as wasabi, olive oil and sour cream (yes, you read those right) available the day I stopped by, Crema Café co-owner and ice-cream maker Ron Siron said he’s also made flavors such as blue cheese and mustard. Once the flavors are gone, they’re replaced with whatever Siron comes up with next — although he keeps a batch of crema, the café’s signature coffee-flavored ice cream, on hand at all times.
Siron said the unusual flavors are largely the result of his desire to try new things after more than 40 years of hand-making ice cream in the back of the small café.
“You get where you end up making so much ice cream, you kind of get in a rut. When you make the wild ones once in awhile, it helps,” Siron said, comparing it to a cook who experiments with a well-known recipe.
I’ll admit I was a little skeptical about some of the flavors, so I balanced out sample scoops of sour cream and crema ice cream with the slightly less daring flavors of chocolate cinnamon and raspberry chocolate chip. To my surprise, the scoop I found my spoon returning to over and over was the odd-sounding sour cream ice cream. The sour cream added just a hint of flavor while creating a fluffy, whipped texture. At the same time, it was heavy and left a slightly sour, creamy taste on the tongue long after the ice cream melted.
The flavor of the crema ice cream was hardly as subtle. I joked to my fellow taste-tester that it had such a strong coffee flavor that it must pack the same caffeine punch as a cup of morning coffee. Yet, lacing normally sweet ice cream with such a bitter taste of coffee offered a surprisingly refreshing change of pace. Regular customers at Crema Café must feel the same way, because Siron said they often come in looking for the popular flavor.
Another powerful flavor was the raspberry chocolate chip. Even a small spoonful of the heavily fruit-laced ice cream delivered a decidedly tangy raspberry twist. My fellow taste tester liked this flavor more than all the others, noting that the fruit took center stage. Siron said that’s his goal when making fruit-flavored ice cream, which he said rotates among whatever is in season. He anticipates he’ll have red and black currants soon and also lists strawberries and mangoes as fruit flavors that have showed up before.
The one flavor that Siron admits never goes out of season is chocolate. He said he tries to spice it up — which he had literally done when I was there by mixing up a batch laced with cinnamon — by creating new chocolate concoctions as often as he can.
“If we don’t have chocolate, people start throwing things at us,” Siron joked.
Adding cinnamon to the chocolate ice cream put the perfect variation on an old favorite. The warm taste of cinnamon blended perfectly with the cool, creamy milk chocolate ice cream.
For someone who thought they had ice cream all figured out, I was pleasantly surprised to finally find a place with flavors I hadn’t yet tried — or even knew existed. The only thing that took me aback more was hearing that Siron rarely ever eats the delectable concoctions he creates.
“I taste everything before it’s froze,” he offers by way of explanation, noting that he rarely indulges in the frozen treat. “I sit down and eat a scoop maybe once a year.”
I’m pretty sure I’ll be beating that record from now on.